Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Drink one up it’s an anniversary!

Here’s to anniversaries…as of yesterday, Jeff and I have officially been married 19 years. It’s been a great 19 years – we’ve been together for over 22 and it just seems like yesterday that we met, more evidence of time flying by. I’ve told him that he truly is my Prince Charming…corny I know, but seriously, I knew the moment I laid eyes on him across a crowded bar. He took a little longer to convince!

December 28, 1991 - Jeff & I with my family (Brother Ed, Dad, Mom, Sister Cathy) and Sarah our flower girl and Justin our ring bearer

I’ve often said we are product of both of our parents…my dad was Navy. My mom was sitting in the officer’s club (insert “bar” here), with her parents no less. My Dad was dared by the young men he was with to go up and ask her to dance…which he did and soon they will reach the amazing milestone of 47 years married . Jeff’s folks met and were married within six weeks of meeting; they were married for over 52 years, something I'd like to aspire to! Well, I met Jeff in a bar…I picked him up to be more precise. He didn’t know what hit him that night! He and I met Thanksgiving weekend in 1988…Justin was born in October, 1989. I’ll let you do the math (that's that part that matches Jeff's folks, in case you didn't catch that reference). Needless to say the rest is history – our history…and it’s a great one, our history that is…our beautiful, sometimes challenging, always exciting adventure of life together.

He never ceases to amaze me at the support he has provided to our family, but more specifically to me, over the years; when I volunteer for things; when I tell him I’m giving everything up to go back to school; when we’ve had to drop everything for a sick child; when life has handed us lemons…we’ve always managed to make great lemonade together.

On December 28, 1991 I said "I do" to my best friend and our friendship just continues to get better with each passing here’s to the next 20, 30 and 40+ years of our life together…

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


So where have I been? I started this thing and I’ve dropped it like a hot potato! It’s been a busy month, I can use that as my excuse…but I know it’s a lame one. I’ve been reading some other blogs, really good blogs I might add…and suddenly I am feeling pressure. Pressure to write well, pressure to take a ton of really awesome photos…I need to just GET OVER IT and do what I do and see what happens. Before I began this blog I had so many ideas but for the past few weeks I’ve been so busy most of those ideas have just gone out the window. I often think of great things in the shower – I need to invent something to write with or record with while showering, so when I have those great brainstorms in the shower they can be remembered because they are usually forgotten by the time I turn the water off.

So now I just keep asking myself, where did December go anyway? We all know that time flies when you’re having fun, but I have decided that it has nothing to do with having fun, it has everything to do with getting old! December came and went, more like the month of March for us here in Great Falls weather-wise – 15 inches of snow later! Unbelievable, no one new to town believes me when I tell them that this is unusual for us. We haven’t had a white Christmas in years. I keep telling Jeff if this continues I won’t have any hair left by March…warm weather I dream about you!

Christmas, wow…love love love it. I’ve always been a Christmas-aholic. Hmm, seems I’m a lot of ‘aholics’, maybe there’s a 12-step program for me, naw…I don’t want to be cured of my ‘aholic’ issues…I love books too much, I love Christmas too much, I love the Hallmark Channel in the month of December too much, far too many things in life I enjoy that aren’t bad for me – I refuse to give in, give up, go without! I’ve been reveling in this season so much I’ve forgotten everything else (obviously), I get lost in the magic.

Speaking of magic, my dear boy Jared, 19-year old that he is, still very much believes…and I am thrilled with it! It is so exciting to still have real magic happen in our house every Christmas. I pray he never ceases to believe…because I still very much do too!

I’m not usually one to make New Year’s resolutions, but for 2011 I resolve to be better about blogging. Random thoughts maybe, pictures maybe not (maybe occasionally), but blogging in some therapeutic fashion!

As I dance my way out of this year, the end of this first decade of the 2000’s and ring in the New Year, this new decade brings promise, excitement, and adventure…I look forward to it with anticipation, let the New Year begin!

Monday, November 29, 2010


The table that Jared set, awaiting our feast!
Another Thanksgiving has come and gone, as happens every year. I can remember when the boys were younger telling them on the first day of school that the next day was the last day of school, as time passes by so quickly.

We’ve been doing Thanksgiving for years, and we had it down to a science, Jeff handled the bird and I took care of everything else.  It's worked for us.  But this year’s Thanksgiving was a first in many ways for us. Due to Jared’s diagnosis of having Celiac two weeks before Thanksgiving we ventured toward having our first official gluten free turkey day. The turkey was purchased before the diagnosis and as a result we even had to call and make sure our Butterball was gluten free, as apparently many store bought turkeys are not. It’s making me think we might be switching to locally grown Hutterite turkeys for future holidays.

I started the adventure by toasting and drying tons of gluten free bread to make stuffing. I’ve never made stuffing from scratch before; our family has always been one to prefer the Pepperidge Farm variety. I reminded Jeff, who likes to actually stuff the stuffing inside the turkey while it cooks, that he also had to have gluten free bread as he couldn’t put gluten inside the turkey. So I toasted and toasted and toasted a lot of bread.

Jeff showing off the beautiful bird.

The piece de resistance!

Licking his chops!

One of our holiday traditions, for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter morning has always included having a loaf of homemade banana bread for breakfast. That and cinnamon rolls. Before you get the idea that I’m some type of domestic goddess, the cinnamon rolls have always been Pillsbury. Obviously, that part of our holiday tradition was also going to have to change. I found a recipe for gluten free banana bread online using our own Montana grown Timtana (gluten free of course) flour and went to work with it. It wasn’t my Great Aunt Florence’s recipe that I’ve been making for 25+ years, but everyone agreed that it turned out delicious.

Amazingly delicious banana bread!

Diggin' in...
The cinnamon rolls I’m still working on, we purchased two gluten free types and neither one was a hit…so homemade for Christmas it will have to be! We’ll have the fun of taste testing various recipes to see what fits.

Next up was the challenge of the dinner bread. I’ve been baking the same dinner bread recipe every holiday since I was 14, a recipe I picked up in my 8th grade home economics class. The few attempts at holiday celebrations where I made a different bread recipe the old one was demanded, so it’s been a hit and we’ve stuck with it. Obviously, this year the recipe had to change, as Jared is the true bread boy and he would have been very upset if there were not any bread on the table. So I made a loaf of Timtana bread and I must say it turned out well.

I can’t say our feast went off without a single hitch; the gravy was a bomb – a bomb as in bad, not ‘the bomb’ as in good! I used cornstarch and it was not a success. Good thing we had au jus to use in place! I have a few weeks to play around and find something delicious for us for our Christmas feast. The great thing about mistakes in the kitchen is all of the fun you have trying out various recipes to see what works and what doesn’t…let the kitchen experimenting fun begin!

The wine is poured, the table is ready, the food is hot, time to dig in!

Sunday, November 28, 2010


My heart drove away again today…Justin has been home with us for a week now, but he drove away this afternoon to head back for classes tomorrow. Other than Thanksgiving and decorating for the Christmas season it wasn’t an out-of-the-ordinary, excitement-at-every-moment week. Life went on as normal with me and Jeff heading off to work as usual each day while Justin was here. But he was able to relax and enjoy a little down time, rejuvenate himself for the final three weeks of this semester (finals are right around the corner). I take comfort in the fact that he’ll be home again on the 17th, for almost a month.

But it’s hard each time he drives away…I woke up this morning with the kind of stomach ache one gets from riding a roller coaster, that queasy, up & down feeling that doesn’t pass until a little while after you’ve gotten off the ride. The weather isn’t helping ease my nerves at all. The snow hasn’t stopped falling all day, after being dumped on for several days in a row earlier this week. I know that Justin is a very capable and safe driver, but I worry about all of the other nuts out on the road. Today’s roller coaster ride induced stomach ache will ease when I know that Justin has arrived safely in Missoula.
View from outside our front door - Today

But this is just one of many rides we parents take…as a parent I know that my job is to raise my children so that they can grow their own wings and one day fly away. The reality is that we spend less time in our lives with our parents than we do outside in the ‘real world’. If we do our job right, most kids spend the first 18 to 24 years (or so) living and being supported by their parents, to spend the remaining 50 to 75 years out exploring the great beyond.

I know in my case I moved out of my parents house when I was 19 years old, moving just a few blocks away to an apartment and my first taste of ‘adult’ freedom. I didn’t give a second’s thought to my mom and what she might have been thinking or feeling, but I also know that I lived very close and remained a frequent visitor to my parent’s house.

Four years later, in 1990, Jeff got out of the Navy and we announced to my parents that we were packing up and moving to Missoula, Montana. I’ll never forget the look on my mother’s face, or the tears in her eyes, as I backed my car out of her driveway to begin that journey. Again though, due to the excitement that existed about the adventure that lay ahead, I wasn’t thinking much about how she must have been feeling with one of her children moving so far away. It’s an interesting contrast too, I grew up in a Navy family and we were always packing up and moving every two years, we rarely lived anywhere near our relatives. It certainly wasn’t the last time I saw my mom (she’s still alive and well), we wound up living in California again (and with my folks no less) for a time in the mid-90’s, but I’m just recalling that I never gave much thought to how it feels when you watch your child drive away.

Justin - October, 1989

Justin - 2008

Now, as a mom, with my oldest getting closer to the age when he will one day officially fly away I am realizing how precious time is and just how quickly it passes us by. Every moment that Justin is not living under our roof I feel as if I walk around with a lump in my throat, regularly experiencing that queasy stomach feeling. The reality is, with Jared, we will have one of our children with us for a while. Jared regularly says that his dreams for his future include a wife and a place of his own. Jeff and I want to see those dreams come true for him, so one day he will venture out on his own and we will officially become ‘empty-nesters’. But, in the meantime, I am very aware that I have an advantage and get to enjoy the ride a little bit longer than most parents.

I hopped on this roller coaster 21+ years ago and it’s been a fantastic ride, I don’t regret one moment of it. I just wish sometimes the ride would slow down.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Why Ask Why?

I have always been an eternal optimist; I’ve been known to call myself an annoying optimist because I always look on the bright side. Annoying as it may be to me at times, this trait has served me well in life; knowing that life was going to be fine when Jared was born is just one example of my optimism at work.

I am also one to drink up knowledge; I’m that lady in the commercial when you bring up a subject I am the first to jump to the internet and learn what I can within a matter of moments (however I still prefer Google).

Jared was born in 1991 before the internet was in every home or on every phone. He arrived at 3:15 in the morning and by 12pm the next day I was working on my expertise in Down syndrome. I was asking the social workers in the hospital to give me everything they could find, I was calling local family groups trying to connect with families, I was recalling my life experiences working with an individual with Down syndrome and watching Life Goes On. It would be wrong to say I was an expert within 9 hours, but I was on the right path.

In my journey to be educated I came across many inspirational tidbits, Welcome to Holland by Emily Perl Kinglsey would be one good example.
I created a file that held all of these little inspirational tidbits. There were moments where I had what I referred to as a ‘Why me? day’. Thankfully these days were few and far between but if I was having a day where I felt I needed a boost, I would pull that file out and read through those tidbits – as a result that file became known as my ‘Why me? file’. It always worked at alleviating any impending slump, my spirit would be renewed and I would once again be ready to tackle any challenge presented.

I can remember when Jared was approaching the age of five we were getting ready to pack up our household and move back across the country (from New Jersey to California this time around). My girlfriend, Cami, was over with her kids; the kids were keeping themselves busy while we were packing a few things. Cami started working on packing my desk up and she came across my ‘Why me? file’. She asked what it was and I explained. She started to read a few of the items and was moved by what she read. As Cami was reading through the file the realization came to me that I couldn’t remember the last time that I had pulled that file out and read through it. What a good feeling that realization brought.

It has now been years since I’ve pulled out my ‘Why me? file’, in fact it’s been so long I can’t remember when I last pulled it out. I know that we moved into our house in 1999, I moved the file here and placed it on a shelf but I don’t recall looking into it at anytime in the past 12 years. Another realization that brings good feelings, it’s nice to know that life truly does go on and I don’t even have to question why.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Some Weeks May Come and Some Weaks Must Go!

Some weeks we’d rather not live over again and this past week has been one of those for me; it’s been weak and I’m just glad it’s over! I am an eternal optimist, but I was having a hard time finding the bright lining in this week, needless to say I’m very glad that it’s over and thrilled that I’ve been granted the opportunity to start anew!

It all began last week Thursday with Jared being diagnosed with Celiac – that’s okay, not a big deal, some adjustment but we’ll manage and get used to it. Moving forward already!

Monday comes along and we have our usual Monday-morning-get-back-into-the-routine morning. I arrive at work and an hour later I am without a PC – it’s a less than two-year old HP and its ‘fried’, as the technician says. Again, that’s okay, not a big deal, I’ve got a laptop (my personal one, but this is an emergency) so I can still get a few things done!

Tuesday comes along and we are headed out the door to start out day. Our usual morning routine is Jeff making Jared and I breakfast and Jared’s lunch while Jared and I go about the business of attempting to make ourselves presentable for the day. We devour our breakfast and race out the door (sometimes we do these things simultaneously). We were fine on time (for a change) and all was well – now, mind you, even when/if we are running late (which happens often) I’m not one to speed, I just figure we’ll get to school and work when we get there and I’d much rather we arrive in one piece. I’ve annoyed a few folks because I tend to be the one who stops at a yellow – I see no point in racing through when the likelihood is that I will wind up stopped at the next light right beside the car that raced through. Our usual route of travel is 10th Ave South (one of the busiest streets in the state – but Great Falls has NOTHING on LA freeways, even though there are plenty of GF residents who seem to think so) to 15th Street (a one-way) where I proceed to turn left and head toward Central where Jared’s school is located. So on this particular Tuesday morning Jared and I are going about our business and since the light on 10th Ave S is in my favor to make a left turn onto 15th St, and the closest oncoming car is still four blocks away, I proceed to turn left onto 15th St. Almost immediately a police officer pulls out of a parking lot and turns on his lights. I pull over (he doesn't, which I found odd) and I proceed to roll down my window, he stays in his car. I start to yell out my window, “What did I do?” I know I wasn’t speeding! He slowly heads toward my car and proceeds to tell me that since I turned onto a one-way it is illegal to turn into the outside lane (which I did) as another oncoming car may have wished to turn right at the same time and it would have/could have caused an accident. I attempted to explain that the closest car was four blocks away and I could assure him that I would not have turned if there were any chance of a vehicle being closer than two blocks, turning or otherwise. Besides, my little, yellow, happy-face covered car would never hurt a fly!  He wasn’t buying anything I was saying, he simply informed me that what I had done was illegal – I guess he made the decision that I was the chosen one to be made an example of for the morning. In the time I have been driving (VERY scary to say that it’s approaching 30 years!) I have received two tickets, both for speeding, one during each of my two pregnancies (just FYI - there is no way that I am pregnant now). I am certain that I have been driving longer than this police officer has been alive! I’m irritated by the fact that this ticket – my first in 20 years – isn’t for something more worthwhile, something ‘real’, something like speeding!

Wednesday managed to sneak by without issue…sigh.

Thursday rolls around and Jared is complaining of an ear ache again. Miraculously, we’ve managed to go two years without ear issues and to say that is a blessing would be an understatement – not sure what we were doing right or how we were doing it but we’d somehow managed to keep him healthy. This year he’s going three for three…an ear infection in September, one in October and now November rolls in – BAM, another ear infection. He and I are sitting together relaxing quietly and we hear a strange noise (sounded like when someone pinches their nose during a sneeze). I asked him if he’d sneezed and he replies, “No that was my ear!” Yikes! And we have drainage! Jared and I had been planning on heading over to Missoula with Jeff for the weekend, but everything was up in the air at that moment.

Friday rolls around and things finally start to look brighter – it’d been a week…Thursday to Thursday and I was ready to start anew! We were still trying to decide if we were going to Missoula or not, but Jared – the trooper that he is – headed off to school and I to work. I had the excitement and pleasure of acquiring a brand new computer for work – I picked it up at 11:30am and headed back to the office for my last hour of work and started the fun of getting it up and running (more fun to look forward to at work on Monday!). I left work at 12:30, picked Jared up from school and headed straight to the doctor’s office. Sure enough, his right ear has burst (no surprise there). We made the decision to head off to Missoula, armed with lots of medicine!

So here we are relaxing in Missoula; getting ready to head to our favorite place for lunch, the Good Food Store and afterward taking in a little caffe at the local cafĂ©. Ahhhh, this is just what the doctor ordered…here’s to weak endings and new beginnings!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Life Goes On...

I have always been a firm believer that there is a reason for everything, we may not always know what the reason is when we are going through something, but there is always a reason. 

When I was a senior in high school I started working at my church one day a week, teaching kids with special needs.  I was assigned to teach a 10-year old girl with Down syndrome.

Flash forward a few years to 1989 and the show Life Goes On started airing on TV.  I enjoyed the show and was a faithful viewer. 

In 1991 when I gave birth to my second son, Jared, and he was diagnosed with Down syndrome I knew that we would be okay.  Life truly does go on...

Jared, 1991

Now 19, Jared has two best buddies that we get together with on a regular basis.  Michael John, Kristen and Jared have been hanging out for the past five or six years.  In addition to our weekly bowling gathering, we make a point of hosting the families for dinner on a regular basis.  When having these dinner gatherings we have learned to accommodate the dietary needs of Michael John's mom, as she has Celiac disease. 
Kristen, Jared, Michael John
Summer, 2010

Jared has always been our 'bread boy'.  He thrives on routine and one of the comforts for him is to have the same foods for his breakfast, lunch and snacks each day - he'd have the same thing for dinner every night if everyone else in the house were willing to oblige.  His breakfast regularly includes a bagel.  His favorite lunch includes a sandwich, made out of a bagel.  His afternoon snack includes a big, hot pretzel (he refers to it as his big PR).  His preference for dinner has always been pasta and he requires a roll with his meal each night.  Bread has been one of the main staples of Jared's diet.  He has earned his nickname!

Several years ago Jared started to throw up, regularly.  He would eat something and 10 minutes later he'd be in the bathroom throwing it up.  For a time it became an almost daily occurrence.  I was extremely concerned and we addressed this issue with several doctors.  The decision was that Jared was throwing up simply because he was eating too fast. 

Several months back, Jeff and I started to make some dramatic dietary changes for ourselves.  We began to remove the vast majority of breads and refined sugars from our diet.  We determined that Jared could also benefit from a reduction in bread.  We started off slowly for him by removing his daily big, hot pretzel.  We switched from eating pasta four or five nights a week to eating chicken.  We managed to remove the roll with dinner too.  At this point, he is now eating a small bagel for breakfast every morning and a regular bagel with his sandwich for lunch.  That is about the extent of the bread in his daily diet now.

Last week he headed to the doctor's office for his annual physical.  Annually he has his thyroid levels checked as he's been on thyroid medication since he was 6-months old.  Having attended the National Down Syndrome Convention in Orlando in July, Jeff and I were a little better armed with knowledge this year.  We asked the doctor to check his Vitamin D, Iron and run a Celiac screen on him.  A few days later the phone rang and the doctor's office was requesting to meet with us to discuss Jared's blood test results.  Turns out Jared's numbers for Celiac are through the roof and he is anemic as well!

I'm grateful for Jared's friendship with Michael John (and as a result, Michael John's mom) as we already know a great deal about what to anticipate.  I'm grateful that we'd already started to make dietary changes therefore changing the remainder of Jared's bread habits will not be as challenging as it might have otherwise been.  I'm grateful that we attended the NDSC convention this summer and learned about what annual blood tests should be run.  I'm grateful that both Celiac and anemia are going to be easily resolved (and very likely the throwing up issue will disappear as a result). 

As has happened so often in my life, my theory that there is a reason for everything is again proven true!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Page Turner

To say that I am an avid reader would be an understatement.  The fact that I have raised two readers as well is something that I am very happy about. Like their mother, Justin and Jared are voracious readers.  While growing up, trips to the library with my boys were a weekly occurrence.   From the time the boys were about 6 & 8-years old their favorite gift for birthdays and holidays has been Barnes & Noble gift cards.  To say that giving one of us a gift card to a book store has been like giving crack to an addict would be an understatement.  I raised my boys with the phrase ‘eat a good book everyday’.  I admit we are book-aholics and I'm darn proud of that fact!  

In every home we’ve lived in I’ve had Jeff build us bookshelves.  When house hunting in California I knew the place that became our home was made for us when I walked into one of the bedrooms and there were built in bookshelves…it was meant to be!  We moved into our home in Great Falls in 1999 and Jeff began construction.  Both of the upstairs bedrooms have floor to ceiling bookshelves, designed for the boys; after all these years those shelves are overflowing.  
Jared's bedroom shelves and the piles of books on the floor in front that just don't fit in!
After setting the boys up, Jeff headed down to my office and built an entire wall of shelves for me.  Bliss, rapture, delight, sheer joy!  After all these years we’ve managed to pack those shelves to the limit!


Several years back, Justin moved downstairs into the larger, former guest room. It was one of the few remaining rooms without any shelving.  He recently installed his first set of bookshelves…I’m certain it won’t be the last set of bookshelves he installs in his life!
Bookshelves built by Justin

From romance to biography, science fiction to history, mystery to humor my bookshelves are filled with every imaginable genre.  It’s hard to name my favorites, as the list is far too extensive.  In recent years some of my favorite fictional authors have included Nora Roberts, Ken Follett, Audrey Niffenegger , Mitch Albom, Janet Evanovich, and Nicholas Sparks. 

Due to the nutsiness that is fall in our household, back to school, football season, organizing a Buddy Walk®, etc. the pile of books on the floor by my bed has been neglected a bit lately.  It’s almost like rabbits, it keeps multiplying! I’ve cut myself off, I am not allowed to venture into a book store until I’ve managed to take down this pile (oh, and the night stand behind the pile is also full of books too)! Hmmm, perhaps I shouldn’t have started a blog right now and tackled my reading pile…time to get reading.