2017-01-02-08-04-06

Every Missionary Loves Hump Day!

This week I have been working hard getting ready to send off a missionary package for Dylan because guess what day it is?  That’s right….HUMP DAAAAAAYYYY!

Friday morning I got up and saw a memory on Facebook.  I saw pictures of us dropping him off at the MTC.  It was a weird sensation, because I was thinking about how it seems like he’s been gone forever, but at the same time it seems like he barely left.  Some days I really miss him a lot (okay…so I miss him a lot all the time but I don’t sit and dwell on it most of the time), but I’m not the type that sits around and cries about it.  Until Friday.  I cried a little bit.  I’m not sure why, but I think it’s because I looked at the picture of me hugging him and I could actually remember in detail what it felt like.  I remembered the texture of his suit coat, and the rough feel of his hair on my face.  It seemed like a lifetime ago…and yesterday.

True to my procrastinating nature, I put off getting his package ready for this momentus event until the last minute.  It’s not like I had a year to plan for it or anything…  It left me scrambling a little bit (especially since the van thing happened on the same day I was supposed to be shipping it) but I got it done.

Hump Day naturally calls for camels…and lots of them!

I intended to fill a box with goodies and things, but Dylan is trying to eat healthier and the last time I sent him a box filled with candy he wasn’t all that happy with me.  So my goal when I went shopping was to pick things that weren’t quite so bad, but weren’t boring either.  The other requirement was that I would need to open them all and reseal them without him knowing.  This is what I got:

food

Now…I’d like to pat myself on the back a little here and tell you that those packages all look new and unopened in that picture, but they are actually NOT.  Using an exact-o knife (and being very, very careful) I opened them all and emptied out half the contents (halfway done…get it?)  I threw a camel joke or saying into each one and then resealed them with rubber cement.  I tell you what–I could be a first rate food tamperer if I wanted to be because to look at those packages, other than the fact that they looked sort of empty, you could not tell they had been opened.

A special warning about camel jokes

I’d like to pause here and throw out a warning about camel jokes.  Please don’t go searching for them on the internet unless you want a serious eyeful of distasteful humor and downright vulgarity.  Apparently, the word “hump” is pretty conducive to foul humor.  Who’d have thought.  I managed to find about five that were suitable for a missionary (or halfway decent human being) to hear and that was about it.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Here are the strips of paper I printed out with the clean but stupid camel jokes that I found:hump-day-notes

I can almost feel the strain of Dylan’s eyes rolling as he reads them and shakes his head.

How missionaries are like camels

I found this really great comparison of missionaries and camels and printed it like a story:

camel-is-a-seasoned-missionary

Hopefully he will find it  encouraging and useful because I loved it!  I’m hoping he will hang it on his wall where he can read it often.  I was going to buy him a stuffed camel but decided against it.  I’m trying not to send him a bunch of things that are bulky and take up room in his suitcase.  Instead, I made him this:

camel

I cut him out using my Cricut and he’s pretty big.  I sent him an email and told him I expect to see some “Flat Stanley” type pictures showing up with him and his new friend.  I hope he will comply.

Then came the cookies::

camel cookies

When I started out making them I had grand visions of them wearing those fancy rug type saddles on their backs, but it was midnight and I was tired.  They ended up just being a basic brown camel.  Hopefully they arrived fresh and edible.

Let’s keep it positive!

Last but not least (for the camel portion of our package) I wrote a poem about Hump Day.  A lot of emphasis gets placed on the whole “halfway done” part of hump day, and I was looking for something a little different.  I wanted to concentrate on the year that’s left and the amazing opportunity that it provides.  There were poems on the internet, but nothing that really caught my eye so I decided to just write one myself.

missionary hump day poem

And, of course, we have to include some more halves of things

A while back as we were getting ready for a yard sale, I wrote Dylan an email and joked with him about selling his precious guitars while he’s gone.  I was joking of course, and Dylan, of course, was not amused.  His response was classic and I’ll never forget it.  He said “Regardless of distance or time, this relationship is never going to change, is it?”  My answer:  “Nope.”  So I just wouldn’t be me if I didn’t include some dorky things just to make him roll his eyes at me.  I opted for a new partial wardrobe:

half-a-wardrobe

In case you can’t tell, that’s a half a shirt (let’s just call it a halter top, shall we?), a half a tie, and the bottom half of a pair of black socks.  After contemplating whether or not to send just one full sock, I decided cutting both of them in half was just way funnier.

Half a letter to a missionary is a cruel, cruel thing

The other thing I sent him half of, was an envelope of letters.  Everyone in the family wrote him a letter.  I folded them up, cut them in half (the long way) and stuck them in an envelope.  Not wanting to be completely cruel, I put the other half in a separate envelope to mail later.  I figured he doesn’t really have enough frustration out there in the mission field, so why not provide some by sending him letters he can’t read?  So I threw all this in the box along with a sign on top with the camel from the commercial making his hump day announcment.

Many better moms than me decorate the box flaps.  I’ve done it before, but as I stated earlier, because of the van thing I was a little under the gun.  I chose not to worry about it and just hurry off to get it shipped.  I was so proud of myself that I actually got it out the door when I planned I almost wanted to throw a party for myself.

Fast forward two days

This is the part where I tell you what a complete dork I am.   Friday morning bright and early, I woke up and the first thought to pop into my mind is… THE LETTERS!  I had intended to send the other half the next day so he wouldn’t be left waiting for them and I had forgotten.  I jumped out of bed to get the envelope addressed and get a stamp on it so I could get it off right away.  The only problem is… where were they?

After getting home from the FedEx office, I had been getting ready for the van thing and decided to clean my house up.  That meant cleaning off my junk counter.  It was the last place I remember seeing the envelope.  I SWEAR I didn’t throw it away. Why would I throw it away?  I would pick it up and know exactly what it was and NOT throw it away.  But it was gone.  I have scoured my entire house searching for it and it hasn’t turned up.  I can only come to two conclusions:

  1.  In my haste to run off to the FedEx office, I accidentally put both envelopes in the box.  Which is super lame.
  2. I threw them away.  More lame.

I will not know until I hear from him whether or not the second half of the letters was in the box.  For the letters from his siblings, it’s an easy fix.  They typed them, so it would be easy to reprint.  Patrick’s, on the other hand, was written.  He said he’d have to have Dylan send it back so he could reconstruct it if we can’t find the other half.  Either that or just let him wonder for the rest of his life what the letter said.

Almost There

So that’s the story of Dylan’s Hump Day Package.  It was delivered exactly on time.  I wish I could have included some kind of audio device that played that camel’s voice from the commercial because that would have been awesome!  But I think it turned out pretty well either way.  Even though I didn’t want Dylan to dwell on the “halfway done” portion, I’m kind of dwelling on it myself.  I’m so happy that we’re more than halfway done and I can’t wait to get that hug again when he gets home…one year from now.

2017-01-02-08-04-06

“…And Mine Angels Round About You, To Bear You Up”

There are times in our lives when angels appear, performing miracles and making a difference in indescribable ways.  This happened yesterday for my family.   To properly understand the significance of the event, you need to know some important things about us first.

24 years ago my husband and I had our first child and our lives changed forever.  Our beautiful boy, who had been oxygen deprived shortly before birth, also suffered a stroke.  The two incidents left him with severe brain damage and a seizure disorder that started when he was five months old and froze him in time from that moment forward.  I have written Braden’s story before in another location and I will tell that complete story again another day, but for now, the important things to know come way later…about 18 years later.

Braden

Because of Braden’s disabilities, he is uncomfortable and in pain a lot of the time.  He has cerebral palsy, which strains his muscles in an unnatural way, and scoliosis, which gets worse and worse every year.  We never had a vehicle that would accommodate his wheelchair for a couple of reasons– first, it was outside our budget and second, because it just wouldn’t work with the rest of our family if a large part of our family car was dedicated to wheelchair tie downs and the space he would take up.   Our method of taking Braden anywhere was to put him in a car seat and then break his wheelchair down to put it in the back of our car.  It was a ton of work, hard on Patrick’s back, and meant that every single time we got him out of the car we’d have to reassemble the chair.  Not fun at all.  As Braden got bigger, the car seat got more and more uncomfortable for him.  Imagine sitting in a hard car seat unable to even shift your body weight from one cheek to the other, or in any other way rearrange yourself.  We felt sorry for him, but our sympathy didn’t solve any problems.  Over the years you could see his ability to tolerate traveling in the car waning and we started to foresee a day when we would not be able to travel with him at all.

That day came about six years ago, one day in July (my birthday, to be exact) we loaded him in the car along with the rest of the family and headed to my parents’ home–one hour away.  Up until this day, we’d been able to take him anywhere that was about 45 minutes away before he’d hit his limit and start screaming in protest.  On this particular day, those odds changed and suddenly it was the 15 minute period that he was okay, and the 45 minute period that he spent screaming so loud glasses were breaking all across the valley.  By the time we got to my parents’ house we were all on the edge of sanity.  The worst part about it was that we would need to somehow get home that night and looked forward to that ride with dread.

Our trip home that night was like living a nightmare.  Despite all our attempts to make things better, nothing worked and he lasted approximately ten minutes before the horrible screaming and thrashing started.  By halfway home the rest of my family was having a collective breakdown.  That night, Patrick and I made the determination that this was the last time Braden would travel with us.  From that moment on, unless he had a doctor’s appointment, we didn’t take him anywhere. He went to school on the bus, but loading him in the car became a thing of the past.

Not being able to take your family anywhere really puts a damper on things.  Suddenly, there was no going to relatives homes for Thanksgiving or Christmas, there were no summer picnics or swimming trips that included the whole family,  no going for ice cream or out to eat.  We brought food home, we took turns going to our other children’s functions, and when it was time for family vacations we had to arrange for respite care if we wanted to take the whole family.  Getting respite care was never easy, required a lot of advanced planning, and many times fell through.

2014-05-21-11-56-35-4Two years ago, when Braden graduated from school, it was time to find something new for him.  We investigated every available day program in the valley for him.  There were some very good programs with kind, caring people, but nothing we found was going to meet his needs.  One of the largest concerns was transportation.  Because of our location, there was no program that would transport him from home.  It was too far, and they spoke to us of sending him on a flex bus, something that we would never be willing to do.  I started to face the realization that if we couldn’t find a program for him, he was going to be trapped in our house 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with nothing to break up the monotony of his day.  And if he was trapped, so was I.  No trips to the grocery store, no going to the gym…no going anywhere.  Add to this the realization that our other kids, the built in babysitters that we had relied on, were all growing up and moving on.  Soon there would be no one left but the two of us.

That is when we had to make the nearly impossible decision to move him into a Care Center to live full-time.  It was about the most difficult decision we’d ever made, and it was more difficult for Patrick than it was for me because I am typically the practical one while Patrick thinks with his extremely large heart.  We both cried the day we moved him.  Since then, Patrick spends every day missing him and feeling guilty, like he has somehow abandoned him (I miss him too, but my practical self tells me that we made the right decision for the entire family) and he likes to bring him home on weekends.  This requires him to go through the process of loading him in the car.  There is no car seat anymore, so he just straps him in with the seatbelt–extremely less than adequate and probably completely unsafe.  He can’t bring his wheelchair home because we no longer have a vehicle big enough for it. and it doesn’t break down like it used to.  So it’s back and forth, every weekend, breaking his back, risking his life traveling in unsafe conditions, all because he loves this boy with all his heart and can’t let him stay away.

The day Braden moved out. Patrick carried him around like this everywhere.
The day Braden moved out. Patrick carried him around like this everywhere.
Braden's newest chair would no longer break down to be put in our car, so it had to be hauled in a truck.
Braden’s newest chair would no longer break down to be put in our car, so it had to be hauled in a truck.

The miracle I speak about started to take shape for me about four months ago when a letter arrived.  It was from a man named Al Ackerman–a person I had never met but my husband knew well.  As a regular guest at the Alta Peruvian Lodge, where Patrick works, he had gotten to know him over the course of the past 19 years and had heard stories of our family and Braden.  Al owns a company in New Jersey called Fun Truck ‘n Mobility where he rents, sells and services wheelchair accessible vehicles.  The letter told me that he had acquired a van that he wanted to donate to Patrick, that he would be doing all the modifications we would need, and when it was finished he would drive it out from New Jersey to surprise Patrick with it.  That began the process and was the biggest secret I’ve ever been able to keep.

This is the picture Al sent me of the van before they started doing body work on it.
This is the picture Al sent me of the van before they started doing body work on it.

Al solicited help from other guests that are regulars at the lodge in the form of donations to help him cover the costs of the modifications.  He sent out a letter to about 40 people, who in turn sent it to more people and donations started to come in.  When all was said and done, he had more than enough to cover the cost of the work that the van needed.   The generosity of people can be so overwhelming!

As for me…keeping that secret was hard.  I told only the people that actually needed to know in an effort to keep Patrick from finding out.  I was in communication with Al occasionally over the course of time as I had to get the insurance taken care of, and he sent me pictures of the progress.  It was sometimes hard to believe it was really happening.  The end of August, Al and his wife Cathy left New Jersey on their way here in the finished van.

The finished van, ready to head west.
The finished van, ready to head west.

My real role came in to play yesterday as it was my job to make sure Patrick was home when the van was delivered–a quest that I nearly failed at when he got up in the morning and announced that he had too much to do at work and couldn’t take the day off as planned.  This left all of us scrambling as we tried to figure out how to get him home after he’d left and took some serious coordination.

In the end, all it really took was making him think I was mad that he’d ditched me for the day.  I don’t like making him feel guilty, but sometimes you do what you have to do.  We made plans to go to a movie that started at 3:45 (I picked it strictly for the time–they were planning to arrive with the van shortly after 3:00)

He finally came home shortly after lunch, and all the plans were in place.  I called the Care Center where Braden lives to make sure they had him ready to go (and they were so nice and accommodating).  We decided that Patrick’s mom would meet Al there to sign Braden out and they would bring him here with them.   More people from Fun Truck ‘n Mobility flew in yesterday as well, so arrangements needed to be made to pick them up as well.  My parents wanted to be here, so another scheme was concocted to explain their arrival.  It was an awful lot of lying on my part, but finally it looked like all the gears were working in the correct fashion.

When Al showed up and rang the doorbell, Patrick opened the door.  His response?

“Hey, Al!  It’s good to see you.  We’re about to leave here in a minute…”  to which Al said “no, you’re not” and asked him to follow him outside.  Patrick was pretty confused until he saw Braden in the van, and that’s when he knew what was going on.  (I still find it really humorous that he opens the door to see someone he knows all the way from New Jersey and his response is “hey, sorry, I’m leaving…catch ya later”… Whaaaaattt?)

It was an incredible experience…so incredible that I walked outside and left my camera sitting on the table.  Sometimes I’m lame like that.  Luckily my mom had hers out while I went back for mine.

img_4222

Al had a frame, ready for a picture, with all the names of those that had helped and donated their time and money to this cause.  Patrick was overwhelmed and emotional, but he managed to hold back the tears.  Since receiving this gift yesterday, Patrick has expressed to me more than once that he feels there are other people more deserving  than he.  I know that no one deserves it more than he does.  Sometimes I am pretty sure Braden requested Patrick as his father before he came to this earth, knowing that he would be the best father in the world for him.  Having this vehicle to help him bring his forever little boy home is possibly the best gift Patrick could ever receive.  It will change his life forever.

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I have spoken often of the challenges and blessings that come from having a disabled child.  Sometimes the challenges seem like they outnumber the blessings, but it’s also true that the blessings outweigh the challenges. One of the greatest blessings of all is the people that have come into our lives, performing miracles, committing acts of service and love that we never expected.  They are as angels doing the Lord’s work.  It is proof to me that the Lord truly is aware of our circumstances, He knows each of us by name.  He has a hand in our lives at every turn and He blesses us in monumental and surprising ways.  These blessings always come through good, kind-hearted people that see our needs and find a way to meet them.  I have met many of them over the last 24 years.  Most of them stepped into our lives for a small moment and then moved on to other things, never fully comprehending the ways they have changed us and helped us, but I know there are great blessings awaiting them for the good they have done.  At those times in our lives when things seem dark, He sends His angels to lift us.  Through these experiences, I more fully understand what the Lord meant when he said:

“And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face.  I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.” (D&C 84: 88)

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Seeing the actions of Al, his coworkers, and all the friends that donated to help make this happen, I am reminded again that there really are good people in the world.  There are no words to express the appreciation I feel for this amazing gesture.  My family has been truly blessed.

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2017-01-02-08-04-06

Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

 

banana-cake

I’ve never been a super huge fan of cake.  I think it’s because cake that comes from a boxed cake mix is dry and crumbly.  Several years ago I learned how to doctor up a cake mix and that made it so much better!  Then I learned how to make cake from scratch.  I’m still working on that because it can be difficult to get it just right.  This cake is nothing fancy, but it sure is delightful.  It all came about because this happens in my house way too often:

Nasty black bananas

Believe it or not, the picture really doesn’t do justice for exactly how black these bananas were when I used them.  I actually like bananas when they are slightly green.  You’d never, EVER catch me eating a banana with even the smallest of black spots.  And definitely never like this.  I also can’t stand the flavor or super ripe bananas in smoothies.  That being said, it’s sort of a cosmic joke that every time I buy them I carry them through the door and they instantly start turning black.  Almost before I can even set them on the counter.  I swear there have been times I’ve heard them laughing at me.

What do you do with black bananas?

Because of the unusually high occurrence, I’ve learned to be creative with black bananas.  I love banana bread (and have an amazing recipe that I will share one day but not right now).  I’ve also stumbled onto some great muffin recipes that call for overly ripe bananas.  I’ve used them for chunky monkey pancakes.  All of these things are delicious, but this CAKE takes the CAKE.  (See what I did there?)

I found the original recipe here.  But there were other recipes that I read too, so using my oh-so-powerful abilities to deduce what I liked about each recipe, I made some adjustments and came up with this cake.

Do you have a scale yet?

kitchen scale
This is the scale I use. I love it.

 I’ve talked about the importance of a kitchen scale before in this post here.  If you still don’t have one, I encourage you to read my reasons why I think it’s important and then get yourself one.  It will change your baking forever.  That’s it.  I will get off my soapbox now.  

The cake recipe will have both measurements and weights for the ingredients, and either will work just fine.

Some important directions before proceeding to the recipe

First of all, this recipe bakes at a very low temperature for a very long time.  If you’re wanting this cake for a specific event that is happening at a specific time, you will need to plan ahead.  Not only does it bake for a long time, but it also has to go in the freezer for about an hour when it’s done baking.  It probably still won’t be completely cool at that time, so it will need to finish cooling before you frost it.  Then you will want to put it in the fridge to chill once the frosting is on.  I kept the cake in the fridge because it just tasted better cold.  All that being said, this was about the easiest cake I’ve ever made.  Be sure to use a pan that can go directly from the oven to the freezer without breaking.  That’s important.  The amount of time it take to make this cake is a little long, but mostly it’s just time waiting, so it’s not labor intensive.

banana-cake

Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

PRINT RECIPE

 

  • 12.25 ounces smashed bananas (1.5 cups–about 3 medium bananas)
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 12.75 ounces all-purpose flour (3 cups)
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 6 ounces butter, softened (3/4 cup)
  • 14.2 ounces sugar (2 1/8 cup)
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 12 ounces buttermilk (1 1/2 cup)

Start by preheating the oven to 275°.  That is right–275°. (I told you it baked low and long…) Prepare your 9×13 pan with spray or grease and flour it.

Mash your bananas and add the lemon juice, stir and set aside.  (The lemon juice will keep them from going brown while you’re working on the cake–helps it keep the lovely white color when it’s done too!)

Combine the flour, soda and salt and set aside.  If you don’t have buttermilk  you can make your own sour milk with regular milk and 1 Tbsp of vinegar.  If you’re making sour milk, start that now and let it sit for a few minutes.

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy–about 3 minutes.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating to combine, then add the vanilla.  Once it’s mixed well, add the flour and buttermilk, alternating and mixing well in about three batches.  Stir in the bananas–don’t beat them, just fold them in until well mixed.  Pour it in the pan.

Bake Time

I told you before, this cake bakes for a LONG TIME.  Start with 1 hour, 15 minutes.  Times will vary depending on your oven and altitude.  I found that I had to add minutes to the baking time because it wasn’t done.  When the time is up, insert a knife (not a toothpick) into the center.  If it comes out clean, the cake is done.  If not, add some time in five minute increments and keep baking until it’s done.

When the cake is done, immediately put it in the freezer for 1 hour.  I layered several towels and hot pads in the freezer to set the pan on.  Don’t cover it–just put it in there.  (Something to note here–if you are putting this is a stand-alone freezer that has ice in it, be aware the steam from the cooling cake may start to defrost it.  No one wants freezer ice dripping in their cake, so I wouldn’t recommend this method.)   When the hour is up, it should be completely cool.  If not, pull it out anyway and set it aside to finish cooling.  When it’s completely cool, it’s time to frost it!

For the frosting:

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 8 oz. cream cheese (I used the 1/3 less fat kind but you can use either.  I would NOT recommend fat free)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 4 cups powdered sugar

Mix all ingredients together until light and fluffy.  You may need to add a teaspoon of milk for consistency.  It will seem like a lot of frosting, but trust me and put the entire batch on the cake!  You’ll thank me later.  Once it’s frosted, put it in the fridge for the frosting to set up.  It’s probably best to keep the cake in the fridge for storing because it’s delicious when it’s cold.

So yummy!  Even if you’re not a banana lover, you’re going to love this cake!

2017-01-02-08-04-06

My Top 10 Disneyland Tips and Tricks

Hi, my name is Wendy and I’m a Disneyland addict.  I love everything about it, and even though we have taken the family and gone nearly every single year since 2004 I still feel that thrill of excitement when we enter the gates.  I love the early morning stroll down Main Street and waiting for the rope to drop.   One of my favorite parts of Disneyland has always been the Disney characters and I think my kids are more than a little exasperated at my desire to wait in line for pictures with each and every one of them.  I like to think that one day they will appreciate my picture-taking efforts, and maybe even carry on the tradition with their own kids.  Maybe they will bring me along as the official photographer.

Because of all the trips we’ve been on, I like to think we’ve kind of mastered the art of how to “do Disneyland” and make the most of every day.  In light of the fact that I just got back from a quick trip, it felt like a good time to write about it.  I’m definitely not an expert, but we’ve learned a lot!

1.  Disneyland’s PhotoPass Plus card is worth every penny.

If you’ve been to Disneyland, you’ve seen the PhotoPass people taking pictures and you may have taken some yourself and been given the free card to download your pictures.  The PhotoPass plus card is a prepaid card that allows you to get a CD with every single picture taken in the park,  both by the PhotoPass photographers and the photos taken on the rides.  For me, this is the best money ever spent!

Because of the PhotoPass Plus card,  there is no need to try and get the perfect ride picture with everyone smiling and looking happy!  Now, because you get every picture, you can do this:

 

Disneyland Space Mountain
If you get to have all the ride photos, it opens doors to funny poses like this!

 

Or this:

Disneyland Space Mountain
What’s that to the right?
Disneyland Space Mountain
Look at that over there on the left!

 

Recently they set up these really awesome scenes that you can get pictures of that we loved.  The Photopass photographer will take pictures with your camera, but because their camera is set up at the perfect angle, the pictures they take are better.  Like this one:

Disneyland California Screamin
Can’t get a picture in the loop? This scene was super fun and we got about a dozen photos of different people and poses.

Once you get home, you can log into the website and add all kinds of things to the pictures, like frames or character signatures.

Disneyland Cars Land
These frames for the Carsland pictures are some of my favorite.

 

Be sure to save them as a copy so you can have both the original and your fancy photo on the CD when it comes.

You can purchase the PhotoPass Plus card right in the park at the Photo shop on Main Street, but if you know you definitely want one and have at least two weeks before your trip you can save some money by pre-ordering it online.  You have to have at least 14 days before your trip because they will ship it to you–so don’t delay if you want to order!

2.  Stay within walking distance of the park.

There are about five million hotels in the Disneyland area and most of them have a way of getting you to and from the park.  In my experience, the ART shuttle has been awful–not because they are doing anything wrong, just because it’s way too crowded and sometimes you end up waiting through several shuttles just to be able to get on.  It’s easy to solve this problem by staying somewhere close enough to walk.

Candy Cane Inn
In front of the Candy Cane Inn. It sort of feels like home.

 

My hotel of choice is The Candy Cane Inn.  I’m not even sure how we discovered this gem of a place, but I love it!  They are right next door to the entrance to the park so walking is definitely an option.  They also have their own private shuttle, so when you realize you’re feet are done for, you can decide to take the shuttle and have no problem getting on.  The rooms are clean and well maintained, the staff is friendly, and they serve a nice continental breakfast every morning.

3.  Take a break in the afternoon.

We discovered early on that if you’re doing five days in Disneyland, by about the third day you will wake up with a whimper and feet that feel like they are on fire if you don’t take it easy, at least a little bit.  The best strategy we have found to make the most of the trip is to get to the park right when they open and plan to leave during the hottest (and most crowded) part of the day.  We go back to the hotel, which also seems sort of deserted because everyone is in the park, and just enjoy a bit of down time.  Usually everyone swims, we have lunch, and I, personally, take a shower and freshen up.  It’s even a good time for a short nap if you want one.

Along with this tip comes lunch.  In the beginning, we left the park and got lunch somewhere outside the park just to save money. Later on we learned that bringing our own food from home was even better.  It’s more than just saving money–it’s also about getting a break from all the junk, fast food, and heavy greasy food we tend to eat on vacation.  I take stuff for sandwiches, some chips, fruit, and yogurt and that is lunch every day.  The funny thing is, the first year I did it Patrick wasn’t too thrilled, and I was doing it more for the money than anything, but when we went back to the room and ate that sandwich I’m not sure anything tasted so good!

4.  Eat breakfast in the park at least once.

There is something fun about eating breakfast inside Disneyland.  Usually on the day we are eating breakfast in the park, we take a later than normal break and eat a later lunch and it becomes a two-meal day with ice cream or something in the evening.  Our breakfast of choice in the park used to be The Carnation Cafe in the past when they served cinnamon roll french toast (and yes, I could actually feel myself getting fatter while I ate it, but it was totally worth it) but they have since removed it from the menu.  Now I would highly recommend Flo’s V8 Cafe in Carsland, where they serve Brioche French Toast with salted caramel and bananas and it is FABULOUS!

brioche-french-toast
I didn’t take my own photo because I am a pig and I ate it too fast. This photo comes from Heather Sievers on the Dining in Disneyland food blog. Visit her post at the link below.

You can read more about Flo’s breakfast on the Dining in Disneyland blog here.

5. Don’t be afraid to wait in line sometimes.

I think sometimes we all get carried away with fast passes and trying to avoid the lines at all costs.  One of the great things about Disneyland is they really do know how to entertain people, and even the lines can be their own entertainment sometimes.  One line in particular that comes to mind is Star Tours.  If you’ve never waiting in the line, you’ve missed some of the really great effects they have going on there.  The droid that is screening luggage is really quite funny and if you spend time listening and watching the baggage as it goes through you’ll see what I mean.  While this certainly isn’t the case for all lines, and I would definitely use the fast passes when they are available,  having to wait in line is not always a tragedy.

6.  Take time to see EVERYTHING Disneyland has to offer.

Disneyland is so much more than just rides and there are many things that get overlooked.  For years Patrick was pestering me to go see Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln and I was avoiding it.  He finally got me in there and it turned out to be pretty awesome.  Not only was the show entertaining, but there is a lot of memorabilia from the old days of early Disneyland to see in there.  Another fun place to visit was the Blue Sky Cellar in California Adventures that gave a preview of upcoming attractions.  (It is closed currently but there are plans to reopen it soon.)  There is a bakery tour in California Adventures where you get a sample of freshly baked bread, and they also hand out free samples in the Ghirardelli chocolate shop.  Be sure to go slowly down Main Street to check out the window displays.  Currently they have  dioramas of Disney movies in the windows that change as you watch them that are amazing!

7.  Have a plan in advance.

I know there are a lot of people that say not to plan and just free wheel it.  We have found that this doesn’t work very well for us because we end up spending a lot of time standing around trying to figure out where to go next.  The calendar for the park is always posted weeks in advance, so we like to take a look at it and put together a plan.  This also helps us keep track so we are sure to get in everything that we want to experience.  If you want to see World of Color, you need to get in there and get your tickets as soon as you can.  Same goes for the Frozen show in the Hyperion Theater.  If you don’t have a plan and forget to get the tickets, you might miss it.  Check out the show times and schedule yourself to be in the right place at the right time so you get to see everything (see #6)

We take the planning stage a step further and check out the menus online before we even leave for our trip.  Deciding where you want to eat is really a big plus because it saves you from wandering around looking at menus and food trying to make a decision, wasting time, and arguing over who wants to go where.   If you have a schedule for what shows you’re going to and when, it’s easy to narrow down your food choices and plan ahead.  The wharf in California Adventures offers a small area with many varied selections, so it’s great if everyone wants something different.

8.  Don’t feel compelled to haul everything you own into the park.

I see people hauling backpacks, coolers (the kind you carry like a purse) and all kinds of paraphernalia.  The truth is, if you’re going in with a baby or toddler, you probably need to bring things specifically for them, but otherwise there isn’t a lot you need to bring.  There are drinking fountains around every bend, so no water bottles are needed.  I have found that a small purse or fanny pack works best for me–anything big enough for my wallet, my sunglasses and my camera.  In the past we have taken a backpack in, hauling snacks, shoes, and water and mostly it is just an inconvenience and eventually Patrick is sick of carrying it and we rarely even take anything out of it.  If you’re staying close to the park, and you plan to leave for lunch, it’s probably not going to be a tragedy if you forgot something anyway.

9.  If you can afford it, a character meal is worth the money!

Our character meal of choice at Disneyland was dinner at Goofy’s Kitchen.  I particularly liked this one because it was a buffet and there were tons of choices, so for all the picky eaters in our group there was still something for everyone.  Now that our kids are older we don’t do this anymore, but when they were young and thrilled with the characters, they loved this!  One of our funnest times was when the Mad Hatter joined us at our table.

Goofy's Kitchen Mad Hatter
Dylan really enjoyed his visit with the Mad Hatter

It was definitely an expense to add to our trip, and you have to schedule it in advance so you have reservations (especially if you have a large group) but it was one of our highlights in the early years of our Disneyland adventures.  Plan to be at the dinner for the full allotted time to take advantage of all the visiting time with characters and other activities that they have going on.

10.  Don’t forget the one of a kind treats!

So, it may seem like I am talking about food a lot and that is because I am.  One of the greatest things about Disneyland is the fun treats that you can’t get anywhere else.  We have always enjoyed Dole Whip at the Enchanted Tiki Room (this is now available elsewhere, but it just doesn’t have the same meaning as eating it outside the Tiki Room with the rainforest gods putting on their show) and the kids used to like Tigger Tails in Pooh Corner.  Patrick’s favorite treat of all is the beignets at the Mint Julep Bar in New Orleans Square (they are shaped like Mickeys) and he also enjoys the Bengal BBQ.  My sister and I managed to snarf down a giant raspberry/white chocolate chip cookie in two bites while all the kids were riding Splash Mountain one day and those were delicious as well!

I could probably go on and on…

but I won’t.  I love Disneyland!  It definitely is the Happiest Place on Earth…so much more than an amusement park, it is an entire experience and I never get tired of it.  Having an annual pass was one of those things on my bucket list, and now I have one!  Patrick and I have spoken often of always being able to go back and we plan on being able to take grandkids with us sometime in the future…so we can start the early years of magic all over again.

I know I’m still no expert and plenty of people have ways to enhance their Disneyland experience that I haven’t even thought of yet.  Please share in the comments below!

2017-01-02-08-04-06

How I Started My Miracle Morning

About a month and a half ago, I discovered something called the Miracle Morning.  The roundabout way I discovered it is kind of a quirky story, and actually might be something of a miracle in and of itself.

I started this summer with a lot of lofty ambitions, but as the days went by nothing seemed to be happening. I started to look around and realized that I was not doing a lot of the things that I wished I was doing.  Getting up later than I wanted to every morning, spending at least an hour staring at my phone wasting my time, and then talking myself out of going to the gym every single day became my regular routine.  I would set a goal that I would scrapbook, or start my spring cleaning, or do any one of a thousand things I needed to get done, but by the time I went to bed at night I couldn’t even check off a single thing that I had accomplished.

It wasn’t laziness—I think it was a mixture of depression and stress.  There’s nothing like having all your kids leave to slap you in the face, ask you what you’ve done with your life and make you feel like you’re needing some kind of a goal or you might as well start digging your grave.   I was eating my body weight in junk food, wasting a lot of time on Facebook, and watching my days pass before my eyes while I did nothing about it except make excuses.  I knew I needed to change but I didn’t know how.

Leave it to Pinterest to show me the way…

One day as I was sitting, wasting away on the internet as usual, pinning things I would probably never do, I found the answer.  A friend of mine had pinned something about a bullet journal.  Intrigued, I clicked on it and followed the link.  This led to another link, and another, and another.  I spent a whole afternoon reading about bullet journals and knew that this was something I would love.  I’ll save the bullet journal for another time, because it truly does deserve it’s own post, but I did have to mention it because it led me to The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod.

The Miracle Morning I read a book review of it on one of the posts about bullet journaling and it peaked my curiosity.  After seeing it pop up a few more times, it felt a little like I needed to investigate further.

I need to point out here that I am not a person that reads self-help books.  Patrick has a plethora of them lining our bookshelves but I have never had any interest in them whatsoever.  So for me to even be curious about this was it’s own miracle.

A few days passed and I kept thinking maybe I needed to read it.  I finally mentioned it to Patrick and (surprise!) he told me he already owns the book and pulled it out of a drawer.  Things were starting to get weird.  I sat down that day and read the entire book cover to cover (before you get too wowed by my feat, I should mention it isn’t a very big book.)

So what is the miracle morning?

It’s actually amazingly simple.  Here’s the plan in a nutshell:

  1. You commit to getting up an hour earlier than you normally do.
  2. The day begins with five minutes of silence. This can be either meditation or prayer, or a bit of both, which is what I choose to do.
  3. Daily affirmations are next. (Anyone in my age range is going to instantly think about Stuart Smalley staring in the mirror saying “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggonit, people like me!”  I think about this on a daily basis.  It’s sad that a hokey Saturday Night Live skit has tainted the idea of daily affirmations for so many of us because it honestly works.)
  4. Five minutes visualizing yourself accomplishing whatever it is you set as your goal. If you don’t have a goal, you make something up until you find one.  It doesn’t have to be all that serious, just something you’d like to accomplish.
  5. Spend at least 20 minutes exercising. It can be yoga or going for a walk—it doesn’t have to be intense.
  6. Read something…anything. I am choosing to use this time for my scripture study first and then another 10-15 minutes reading a personal development book of some kind.
  7. The last step is writing in a journal. This doesn’t have to be a long process–it can be a quick listing in your gratitude journal or a short paragraph in your regular journal.

The idea is to commit to doing these things for at least 30 days, so I made the commitment.  It has been six weeks for me now and I have only missed one day.

Three reasons we all settle for a mediocre life

Hal Elrod describes several reasons on the book why 95% of us tend to settle for mediocre instead of pushing ourselves for something better:

  • Rearview Mirror Syndrome.  Continuing to relive and recreate our past and believing that who we were is who we are and limiting our potential.  We want to do better but we don’t know how to see things other than how they’ve always been.   When faced with adversity we go back to our rearview mirror for guidance on how to respond.
  • Lack of Purpose.  We take one day at a time, focusing on just getting through the day with the path of least resistance.
  • Isolating Incidents. Mistakenly believing that each and every choice we make or action we take only affects that particular moment and has no effect on the larger picture of our lives.

We must realize that the real impact and consequence of each of our choices and actions –and even our thoughts–is monumental, because every single thought, choice, and action is determining who we are becoming, which will ultimately determine the quality of our lives. —Hal Elrod 

How the Miracle Morning changed my life

Yes, I am fully aware that this statement sounds really preachy and self-helpish, so I apologize for that, but it’s actually true…and it wasn’t even hard!  I actually rearranged the order in which I do the suggested activities (and end with exercise) but I am amazed at the difference it has made.  Following Hal’s suggestions, I tell myself before I go to bed each night that I will be able to get out of bed without hesitation and it has totally worked.  I find myself focusing on what I need to get done for the day and actually following through and doing it.  Motivation and energy that I haven’t felt in years has returned.  It truly is…a miracle!

Accountability is key

We all know it’s easier to do something when someone else is counting on you.  It’s why we choose to exercise with a partner or start a diet with a friend.  The same goes if you want to start your own Miracle Morning.  I’d love to hear from anyone that  would like to start (or from anyone else that has already discovered the Miracle Morning).  There is strength in numbers!  Feel free to comment or use the Contact Me form to send an email.

Here is my shameless plug (and affiliate link) for The Miracle Morning. Please know that I may receive compensation if you click on it, but I would never recommend it if I didn’t believe it was worth your time!

 

2017-01-02-08-04-06

The World’s Best Chocolate Chip Cookie

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

I am a lover of pastries and baked goods of all kinds.  I particularly enjoy a good cookie, but I also consider myself to be a cookie snob.  The really funny thing is, I have about a half dozen cookbooks of just cookie recipes, and I have pinned at least 500 cookie recipes.  So when it’s time to make cookies, where do I even look to figure out which ones to make? Coincidentally…I usually ignore all of those and go back to my favorite and make those.  I’m lame that way.    I really should try some other recipes, because my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe was not my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe until I discovered it, tried it, and loved it.

On that note, I should probably try some of those other recipes and see what happens.  But not right now.  Right now it’s time to introduce all my friends and family to the absolute best chocolate chip cookies. Ever.  There are many things about this recipe that makes them the best:

  1. They are soft, chocolaty and delicious.
  2. Using a handy-dandy kitchen scale makes them turn out perfectly every time.  No guessing/measuring=exact same result each time you make them.
  3. They don’t have to refrigerate overnight like so many cookies do these days.  (I mean, seriously, if I’m in the mood for cookies, I don’t mean tomorrow!)
  4. There are many variations, although, why you’d want to substitute something like craisins  for chocolate is beyond me.
  5. They are chocolate chip cookies….do I even need to say more than that?

chocolate chip cookie

I wish I could give credit to the person that sent the original wonderful recipe out into the universe, but, alas, I honestly have no idea  where I got it. I printed it out many moons ago and have used it so many times it’s wrinkled and covered in food.  That’s always a good sign when we’re talking about recipes, right?

So, before we delve into this recipe, a few housekeeping issues:

First of all, if you don’t have a kitchen scale, it’s time to get one.

Seriously.  I have measurements on the recipe too, but I’m sending out this disclaimer that your results will NOT be the same if you don’t weigh your ingredients.

This little baby to the left is the one that I use, and I love it so much I will shamelessly plug it with an affiliate link (for which I may or may not get compensation).  I’ve had it for years and it works great.  I don’t bake without it because everything turns out better when you weigh your ingredients.  There are lots of scales available, some of them cheaper than this one, so please don’t feel obligated to be just like me, unless of course you want to be awesome (we covered this in a previous post).  Just get a scale.  Any scale.  You will never be sorry.  This one can hold up to 11 pounds, so don’t try to weigh your turkey, but for a bowl of flour, you’re set.

A few other handy dandy tips

Forget everything you’ve ever heard about not over-mixing your dough.  There is a time and a place for caution, but that doesn’t happen until you add flour.  Go ahead and turn that mixer all the way on high and MIX! Once the eggs have been added, it’s time to calm down a little.

Use Unsalted butter if at all possible.  Salted butter will certainly work, but there is something about unsalted butter that makes cookies taste better.  Don’t be tempted to substitute all butter for the shortening in the recipe either–the shortening helps keep the cookies soft long after they are done baking.

Lastly…and very importantly…do not overbake these!  When they are domed and show a little browning (a very little browning) around the edges and a bit on top, they are done.  Remove them and  let them sit for a few minutes before removing them from the cookie sheet.  They will look slightly under cooked, and that is important.

chocolate chip cookie

All that being said, here is the recipe:

THE Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

  • 14.5 ounces flour (2 3/4 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 ounces unsalted butter at room temperature (1/2 cup)
  • 4 ounces shortening (I use butter flavored Crisco) (1/2 cup)
  • 6.5 ounces light brown sugar (1 cup)
  • 6.5 ounces granulated sugar (1 cup less 2 Tablespoons)
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 8 ounces milk chocolate chips (1 1/4 cups)
  • 8 ounces dark chocolate chips (or semi-sweet, but dark is better)(1 1/4 cups)
Instructions:

In a bowl on your scale, measure out your flour and add the salt and baking soda.  Whisk it together and set it aside.

Using the wire whisk attachment on your mixer (not the paddle) beat the butter and shortening together on HIGH for three minutes.  Believe it or not, when you beat the butter for a long time, it will actually start to lose it’s yellow color.  If you are using a hand-held mixer, it will work but you may want to beat it an extra minute.

Add both sugars and beat on HIGH for another two minutes.  The mixture should look pretty fluffy and soft.  Add the eggs and vanilla and beat again until fully incorporated.  Now you can remove the whisk attachment and switch to your paddle.  Add the chocolate chips and mix gently (notice this comes before the flour).  Add the flour all at once and mix on low until all the flour is completely mixed in, but don’t over do it.

The Touch Test

At this point, you’re going to touch the dough.  It should feel a bit sticky, but it shouldn’t really stick to your fingers. (This is where that handy-dandy scale pays off–if you weighed everything it should be exactly right.  If you measured things, you’re going to have to do some judging on whether or not the dough is ready)  If it is really sticky, add more flour–2 Tablespoons at a time, but be careful you don’t over do it!  If it is firm, dry, or crumbly, I’m sorry.  I honestly don’t know that there is a way to fix this.

Using a medium sized cookie scoop (one that holds about 1 1/2 Tablespoons) scoop the dough and roll it with your hands to form balls but don’t over-handle the dough.  Place the balls on a baking sheet (they can all be close together if you want to transfer them to a baking sheet for baking–that’s what I do).  Cover them and put them in the fridge for 30 minutes (that’s all–none of this overnight stuff!) 

When it’s time to bake them, move the oven rack to the second highest shelf in your oven.  Preheat it to 375°.  Once the oven beeps that it’s ready, wait another ten minutes before putting the cookies in.  Remove the dough balls from the fridge and bake them for 8-10 minutes.  Be sure to keep the balls that aren’t baking in the fridge until it’s time.  Cookies should be domed and puffy looking with a slight tan when they are done.  They might look like they aren’t done, but when they start to brown, take them out.  Let them sit on the cookie sheet for at least two minutes before removing to a cooling rack.

When done, stuff your face with at least one from each batch out of the oven, because that’s what I do.

PRINT RECIPE

2017-01-02-08-04-06

Parenting: The Hardest Part is Letting Them Go

Moving On

Oh, boy…I’ve done it now. I’ve become one of those stodgy old women that looks at you smiling when you’re in the grocery store with your screaming toddler.  You’re ready to rip the kid’s head off if they don’t shut up and you hear this quiet little voice that says “Enjoy them while they’re young because before you know it they will be grown and gone.”  In the back of your mind you say, “Yeah…right, lady.” while you smile back on the outside.Parenting Toddlers

I know all too well how this goes because I used to be the one with the toddler.  Now I’m the old lady.  When did this happen?  How often have you thought any of the following:

  • “My life will be so much less hectic when I don’t have so many school programs to attend!”
  • “I can’t wait until the day we are DONE  having to make Valentine’s boxes!”
  • “I’m so tired of chasing toddlers around!  When I don’t have to worry about them getting into things all the time, I will be so relieved!”

The list could go on and on, and I would know, because I have thought all of these things at one point or another.  Please don’t get me wrong, though, I have loved having kids from the moment they arrived to the present.  Not only that, but I have loved every single stage of having kids, including (and maybe even especially) when they were teenagers.  Every single stage of parenting has had it’s ups and downs, the pros and cons, and even though I had those moments when I was exhausted and ready to throw in the towel, I loved them all.  But over the last several years I have discovered the absolute hardest stage of parenting:  letting them go.

“I don’t want my son to leave.”

Around the time that Dylan was graduating from high school and we were getting ready for him to leave on his mission I started to see a change in Patrick.  He became a little withdrawn and quiet.  I was thinking about all the things that had to be done, and he didn’t seem to want to be involved with any of it.

Then one Sunday he told me he had an appointment with the bishop, so I waited for him after church and we rode home together.  He told me in the car that day how distressed he was about having Dylan leave, and those are the words he said to me. “I don’t want my son to leave.” I will never forget them, because in that one sentence he conveyed all the anxiety and heartbreak he was feeling.  It seems he was not able to come to grips with the idea that we were basically done raising Dylan at this point.  He would leave and eventually come home, but things would never be the same again.

Shortly after that, the whole dust-up with Dylan’s mission call happened (a story for another day) and all of Dylan’s plans got put on hold for an entire year.  At the time I tried to tell myself there was something for Dylan to do here before he left, or maybe there was something that needed to take place in the mission field before he needed to be there.  As I look back on it now, I sometimes wonder if his delay didn’t happen because Heavenly Father needed to prepare Patrick for the leaving.  Maybe we all needed the extra time to prepare.

Fortunately or unfortunately, they all leave.

Parenting College StudentsThis last week we moved Savannah off to college.  She is living close to where I lived when I was attending college, so it was kind of fun to remember those days. But as we moved her I was a giant ball of horribly mixed emotions and didn’t really know how to react.  On one hand, I am so excited for her to start this new chapter because my college days were the best ever, and I know she is going to have so much fun.  Then again, I am a little frightened for her too, because I know she will struggle and things will be really difficult at times.  It’s all part of the package–she will learn, grow, struggle and have the time of her life as she figures out who she is and where she is going.

But there is another mixed emotion for me as well–I am sad she is gone, but I am also happy she is gone.  The fact that she is excited to move on with life and feels the confidence it takes to do so tells me that I did something right.  They say that you know you’ve done your job as a parent when your child grows up and no longer needs you.  I hope she still needs me a little bit, but I also hope she has learned a lot of what she needs to know to make good choices and move forward.

Regardless of all of this, I apparently am not done worrying about her night and day just yet.

Her first weekend down there, she started her new job.  She had told me she was scheduled to work from 5 p.m. to midnight, and I was having a hard time with the fact that I would not know whether or not she made it home safely.  I asked her to please text me or call me when she was off so I wouldn’t worry all night.  I then plopped myself on the couch with the TV remote to wait it out.

Midnight came and went.  No messages or calls.  Pretty soon it’s 12:30 and still no phone call.  I start to wonder if maybe her phone is dead, so close to 1 a.m,  I called.  I figured if her phone was dead it would go straight to voice mail, so at least I would know.  It didn’t go to voicemail, but it did prompt her to text me to say she was still working.  I reminded her that I was waiting up and to please not forget to call.

Fast forward two and a half more hours:  I am texting her and she is not responding.  I have not received a phone call.  I am a mother.  These things all combine and form the perfect storm of panic, leaving me shaking and freaking out and crying on the couch.  I was sure that she had forgotten to call, had gone home to a dark scary parking lot alone, had been forced to park a million miles from her apartment, and on the walk in had been nabbed, dragged into the bushes where she was viciously raped and murdered.

While all of this was happening, Patrick was sleeping.  SLEEPING!!!  So not only was I worried about her, I was mad at him.  How can any respectable parent sleep while their only daughter is out being raped and murdered in some dark parking lot, her body just laying there is the dirt, soon to be covered up by the newly falling leaves as the seasons change?  I was ready to put my clothes on and go looking for her, but instead I woke up Patrick by storming around the bedroom throwing something of a mini-tantrum.

I told him I still hadn’t heard from her and finally he joined me in my panic.  He got up and called her phone, again to see if it had died.  This time she answered and she was mad.

“I can’t talk! I’M WORKING!”  That’s all she said.

At 4:06 a.m. I got a text that said “I’m home safe.  I love you guys.  I’ll call you tomorrow when I wake up.”

Apparently I need to work on my apron-string-cutting just a bit.

Train up a child in the way they should go, and when they are grown they will not depart from it.

Growing up in the LDS church, we’ve all heard this about a million times.  Sadly, as much as I want it to be true, sometimes it isn’t that simple. There are times when, despite our best efforts, our kids will choose differently than we wish they would.

I have a child that is struggling to find his way right now, and I know family members and friends that are experiencing similar times.  We ask ourselves often what we did wrong and how do we fix it.  We lose sleep as we try to find the one thing we can say or do that might make a difference and put them back on the path that we want for them.  I know that for me personally,  I have spent countless hours reviewing the past and asking myself what I might have done differently that would have made the difference for today.

Sadly, the truth is,  we all do the best we can, we all make mistakes, and our kids will too.  All we can do is love them and pray for them that they will find their way.  And even though we disagree with their decision, we still have to let them make it.  They will learn and grow and probably suffer a little (or a lot) in the process, and it hurts to watch, but it’s unavoidable.  I certainly don’t have this mastered, so if anyone has good advice on how to get through it, I’m all ears.

Enjoy your kids when they’re young.  Before you know it, you’ll blink and they will be gone and your parenting role will change.

There.  I said it again.  Go ahead and roll your eyes at me if you must, but treasure up every moment, because more good moments are coming, and I don’t know about you, but I’d rather anticipate what’s next than regret what’s over.