joyOn Tuesday I cried out of sure joy. You see, Juliana started walking last week. Her teacher had been telling us how she was manipulating her way around the classroom. We hadn’t seen that level of activity at home so her teacher recorded it and sent it to us. I was baffled and excited. So we talked about how we might be able to get her to duplicate her efforts at home. She did just that.

We started out on last Thursday just trying to get her to commit to two continuous transitions; one from the kitchen to the garage; the other from her room to the stairs. She mastered them easily and we were so shocked. By that Friday, she was walking all over the house and not just during her scheduled times. Then Saturday, she took off. We went to Home Depot to get supplies for Juliana’s new bed and that’s when she let it loose; up and down the aisles exploring tools and hardware.

My husband Lamar and I talked about the excitement of Juliana’s walking. He posted the video to his Blog and we spent the day texting, calling and emailing family and friends to let them know that we were calling it: Juliana is officially walking! That night we talked more about this much awaited time and what it meant to us and our family. I told Lamar that one of our friends asked me how happy I was and how much I cried. I told her that I had not cried. Hmmmm. Odd. I cry at everything. So when he asked me again about crying I told him that I was so overwhelmed with emotion that I couldn’t cry.

Fast forward to Tuesday morning. As I sat at the computer sipping my coffee and waiting for the snow to fall, I noticed that Lamar had placed her debut walking video on the desktop. I opened the video and watched it about five times in a row laughing so hard at each viewing. Then the tears started to flow. Sheer joy and praise filled my heart. I thought about the rough day I had on Monday when Juliana had a big BM accident. And then I remembered that as I washed her from head to toe in the tub, I told her that it was okay that she had made a mess; that I was put here to take care of her and I would do just that. With the ups and downs of all this, the good things still overshadow the things that are not so good. I sit here now thinking of my heavenly father and what he has done in my life through my children and especially Juliana. I think about the grace he extends me each day when I am a mess and when I mess up. He loves me when I am not kind and when I’m short and snappy. I am overwhelmed to think of that.

Have you experienced true joy? I hope so. Happiness is fleeting, but joy is in your spirit and it stays there through thick and thin. I’m not writing this to get on a religious soapbox or convince anyone of anything. My faith is a part of me and each person decides their own spiritual path. I am just in awe of the turns of my life because we were open to take on the challenge of parenthood. What are you taking on? What is bringing you joy? And if there is nothing you can name at this moment what will you do to help joy come?


Learning to Pause for an Emotional Purchase

So next month Juliana will be turning four. We are pretty excited about it; excited to see more maturity and movement come as she gets older. The other thing we are excited about is her transition to a toddler bed. When we purchased Juliana’s transitional crib some seasons ago, we had every intention of taking it from infanthood to a full size bed. Well as we all know, life changes and we must change with it. So while the crib can indeed function in this way, we know it won’t work as is. That means we’ve got to open the wallet to accommodate her need for another bed. We are all for purchasing whatever we need to make Juliana’s life better, but as I started to make plans for the bed, I began to re-think our initial idea and we have changed course a little.

Juliana is quite active at night. Her routine includes a course of rolling, jumping, walking, tossing her animals out of the crib and then hide and seek with those same animals. For her to be safe, we have to have a bed that keeps her enclosed. Her crib has endured a lot and it’s still going strong. Initially, we started looking for twin bunk beds that we could modify into a safe surrounding environment. We have friends who did this and turned their daughter’s bed into a sweet little cottage. It looks like a little house and her bed is on the inside. So a while back we decided that was the route we would take. We had already enlisted friends to help us build it.

bedThen, this weekend something changed. I hadn’t had time to even start looking at bunk beds. The plan was to scour Craigslist, find a set and then modify it from there. So my husband Lamar took the lead and started the search and I plowed through a sea of bunk beds both reasonably and unreasonably priced. I started to get a little frustrated. We have been talking about this forever and now it’s time to make a move. The idea is to have the bed ready for her birthday on February 11th. Maybe I was left with my thoughts for too long, but the project started to feel off.

Don’t get me wrong, I am ready for Juliana to climb into her own bed for sweet dreams. Right now, I almost need a ladder to lift her over the side of the crib and aim for a safe landing. Whew! But I felt we needed to slow down with what we were doing. As I looked and looked at more and more beds, they didn’t look much different from the crib she already has. When I told Lamar he said “Why don’t we just use her crib?” Duh, then I thought “Why not?” It made sense. If we’re already planning to modify a bed that looked like hers why not just modify her existing one? And I know I hadn’t thought about it before because I was thinking of the bed from an emotional point of view. I was all caught up in that cottage. But when Lamar and I sat down together to talk about next steps, it seemed that we could do something more reasonable. With a few modifications, we can easily turn Juliana’s transitional crib into a safe toddler bed for her. Problem solved and at far less than half the initial cost estimate.

As parents, we want the best for our children. And much of that comes at a cost. Sometimes it’s financial, sometimes it’s paid in other ways. But wouldn’t it be great if we could just pause for the big things. In a special needs life, there’s always a purchase of something else, something more, something necessary. We have a lifetime to manage this, so I want to be a good steward of our resources and make every dollar count. We could have easily plowed through with our original plans and I’m sure it would have turned out fine. But, by taking a few minutes to pause, we have saved a lot and we still have a solution for Juliana’s sleep needs. Now, as she grows we will see what’s needed next and then go from there. Who knows, a nice big cottage house may still be in her future.   

How to Be Gluten Free on a Tight Budget

gluten free moneyIt’s the New Year and that means we all give more consideration to healthy living and making things better for ourselves. In my previous post Goals, I talk about my goals for 2014 and of course one of the goals includes a healthier lifestyle for me and my family. This year will really be just an expansion of what we already do. Juliana has been on a Gluten Free (GF) diet for over two years and this year our entire family is going GF. We decided to change her diet when she continued to have progressive gastrointestinal issues as she ate more and more “regular” foods. We still feel that this was the best choice for her and I’ve become quite good at providing her healthy choices without going broke. Despite the naysayers, I don’t feel that a GF diet is any more expensive. Here are the things I’ve found helpful.

Keep meals simple. Choose the obvious choices of naturally GF foods staples like rice, corn, potatoes and beans as a base; then laden meals and snacks with fresh vegetables and fruits and even nuts. These should be a part of our diet anyway so you accomplish two tasks at once.

Limit the purchase of processed, commercial snacks and meals. This is the way to kill any budget and these types of meals are expensive. A lot of large mainstream food manufacturers are now beginning to include GF alternatives in their brands, but they will still be a little more costly. Because the GF diet is becoming more popular you can find just about any type of bread, pasta or pastry GF. Save the expense and make it yourself or use a substitute; which leads me to the next point.

Learn to cook Gluten Free. This may seem challenging at first, but GF cooking isn’t more complicated than regular cooking. It’s trial and error. You have to have an understanding of what is happening with the ingredients and what mix is necessary to get the same outcome as if you were using wheat flour. Cooking GF at home removes a huge expense of buying pre-packaged, commercial foods. And you don’t have to stress over whether or not it’s really GF because you are the one who added the ingredients.

Find a good all-purpose flour recipe. If you are looking to make any type of bread or pastry, this is a must. It was actually the cost of GF bread that lead me to baking. Before I started baking Juliana’s GF bread, I purchased a $7.00 loaf from a local GF bakery. It didn’t take me long to realize how expensive this would be. Now, with all my flours on hand, I can make as many loaves as I want at a fraction of the cost. And oh yeah, my home-baked version is so much better. I use this flour guide as my main reference. My go to GF flour can be found here.

Be open to experiment. Like anything new, a GF diet will take time to master. I add more recipes as I am able and continue to try different flours and alternatives to recipes. Don’t be afraid to try millet, quinoa, nut flours and many other options.

Be creative with your shopping. I shop at three different stores during the month based upon sales. I also buy in bulk from a local natural foods company and Amazon. While it might seem extreme to buy large bags of several different flours, you save more in the long run.

Continue learning, researching and having fun. To date, I have yet to purchase a GF cookbook. I keep saying I am going to, but I haven’t yet. Instead, I get most of the recipes from blogs. I learned what I know from scouring websites for all types of information. Now that I know what to look for, I can easily read an ingredient list to see if it will yield the result I want. What I enjoy most about cooking GF is that I can pretty much make anything I see in the store. So naysayers, please re-think the claim that a GF diet is so expensive. Eating GF can be done without breaking the bank. If you are following a GF diet or considering one, what budget friendly tricks do you use to keep your costs low?