Backyard Chickens: 4 Days In

About two years ago, my almost six year old decided she wanted a pig.  Not like a teacup pig to love and treat like a pet.  No, she wanted a legit pig to name “Bacon” and to sell for meat.  Yeah, I thought it was a little weird too.

Also, obviously we’re not vegetarian.

Please remember that our kiddos have quite a bit of Mid-Western farm blood in their veins.  They both love their Great Grandpa’s farm in Missouri but my youngest daughter especially has a love for all things farm-related.  Alas, however, we live in a neighborhood right outside of a southern college town so pigs are not a viable option.  (At least not the type of pig she wanted).

As a consolation for us not letting her have a pig, my husband and I (or maybe I finally convinced my husband) decided the girls could keep a small number of chickens in the backyard.  We have a decent sized backyard and live outside the city limits, so there are few if any limits on keeping chickens.

We toyed with the idea of chicks but finally found a small family owned hatchery a few hours away that would sell us six 5 and 1/2 week old pullets that were ready for their coop.  Last Friday, we brought home one Rhode Island Red, one Black Australorp, and four Buff Orpingtons.

Disclaimer:  I am NOT a chicken person.  Any information I have learned is from other people I know who have chickens and/or the Internet.

In the last four days I’ve figured out quite a few things that my friends/the Internet didn’t prepare me for. 🙂

They stink.

Seriously.  There’s only six of them.  How is there that much chicken poop and that much stink from only six tiny birds?

They’re sassy.

I knew hens could have quite an attitude but I wasn’t expected the sassiness to happen quite so early.  Although as the parent of an 8 year old, I’m not sure why this surprises me. 🙂

I’m becoming increasingly impatient about when they’re going to lay eggs.

I’m just going to have to get over this one because we’re not going to have any eggs until late summer at least.

Owning chickens makes you want to buy ALL the chickens things from Etsy.

I did not account for this in planning my chicken “budget”.

They’re oddly entertaining.

My lawn chairs have now migrated to the chicken coop area of the yard.  When your neighbors notice you’re sitting in the yard and just watching the chickens, you may have a problem.

The MS Chronicles: Helping Kids Deal with a Parent’s Chronic Illness

Eight years ago I became a parent for the first time.

Ten years ago I was diagnosed with relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis.

Simple math will tell you that I’ve been parenting with MS for my entire parenting experience.  I don’t know what it feels like to parent without a chronic illness.  In my head, I have this idea that parenting would be completely different without my multiple sclerosis but who knows if that’s even close to the truth.

What I do know is that my multiple sclerosis changes how I parent my children, both emotionally and physically.  Since I’ve had MS their whole lives, there was no point where I ever sat them down and had the “this is what Mommy’s doctor diagnosed her with today” talk.  It’s just been part of their life for the last 8 years.  Our discussions about my brain and it’s dysfunctions are a common source of conversation (and occasionally laughter) around our home.  However, there are some intentional decisions I’ve made to help our kids process the information and create an environment where they don’t fear my disease and it’s implications.

Educate

A couple of years ago, our whole family watched the ESPN documentary called “Catching Kayla”.  If you haven’t ever seen it, you need to!  It’s a great story of Kayla Montgomery, a state champion track runner, who was diagnosed with MS in high school.  The beautiful part about her story is that her coach would catch her at the end of every race.  It did a great job explaining MS and gave just a beautiful picture of how this young girl persevered though so many obstacles.  My girls STILL talk about it and was one of their first introductions to MS as a disease.

Another resource that might be especially helpful when helping kids deal with a diagnosis is Keep S’myelin, a publication from the National MS Society.  We haven’t ever used that with our girls, but the materials look great!

Be Honest, Yet Age Appropriate

My girls see me take my medicines every morning.  When they first started noticing me taking them, they were curious what they each were for and why I had to take them.  My response?  “Well, these are Mommy’s brain medicines that help my brain tell my arms and legs what to do”.  If I was self-injecting a medication like I used to, I’m sure there would be even more questions and possibly fear to deal with it.  Thankfully, my disease modifying drug is a simple pill along with other medications to help manage my symptoms.

I also try to discuss my physical limitations with them in age appropriate ways.  Sometimes I really have to humble myself to tell them why I might not be able to do something.  For instance, I might tell them that I can’t play outside with them because it’s too hot but when they come back inside we’ll do a game, etc.

What I don’t do is use big medical words that may sound scary.  Unless they ask, we don’t talk about what might happen in the future with my MS.  We don’t discuss whether someone might find a cure soon.  There will be a time and a place for those big conversations.  It’s just not at 8 and 5 years old.

Be active when and how you can

I’m probably never going to be able to run a 5K with the kids.  I probably won’t backpack through a national park with them (although let’s be honest- I’m not doing that without MS either).  What I can do is serve the runners at their school’s 5k or enjoy vacations and road trips along side them.  I can go on walks through the woods or jump in on a backyard game of baseball or soccer on a cool day.  It just takes a little more intentionality and creativity.

My 5 year old told me the other day that I was really “good at being an inside mommy”.  I won’t lie- that stung.  Then I realized that she didn’t mean for it to hurt- it was a compliment.  She then went on to tell me all the things she likes doing with me.  They were all activities that weren’t limited by my MS and in only a way a 5 year old can, she was speaking some serious truth to me in that moment.

While in many ways MS has limited me, I believe it has helped teach my girls to show empathy to those with limitations.  They’re quick to pick up things off the floor, open doors for a stranger, or just realize that we’re all created with a different set of skills and physical abilities.  Hopefully, they’ll look back as adults and realize that there were lessons they learned from seeing both the effects to my MS but also learn from how I deal with it.  Which encourages me on a daily basis to be both tough and gentle with my abilities, give and accept grace, and live the life God’s given me to His glory.

And if one of them wanted to grow up and become the neurologist that cures multiple sclerosis…..Well, that’d be great too. 🙂

 

 

5 Strategies to Prepare for the Week Ahead

The last few months I’ve felt like I’d fallen off the wagon.  You know, the being prepared, having a meal plan, not flying by the seat of my pants bandwagon.  As someone who thrives on routine and deal with some pretty significant cognitive issues on occasion, this is not a good place for me to be.  On top of that, I’m a working mom who desperately needs my weekends to be productive.

Since the start of the year, we’ve battled multiple rounds of sickness and a busy schedule along with a fair dose of laziness on my part.  This had ended me up in a place where I was exhausted (more than usual), my house was a disaster, and we just weren’t eating well.  I had also ended up spending above the norm for the girls to buy school lunches simply because I wasn’t prepared to send one from home.

This past weekend I reached my limit.  My husband took our girls to their sports practice and I stayed at the house waiting on our Internet/TV guy to come and install some new devices.  This gave me HOURS of time to tackle mountains of laundry, declutter, and clean some parts of our house I just hadn’t made time for lately.

Once my house was somewhat clean and picked up, I spent some time prepping for the upcoming week.  Even though I didn’t end the day yesterday with a perfectly clean house or completely empty laundry baskets, it was amazing how great it felt to go to sleep last night ready for my Monday.

There are only a few major areas of our home/schedule that I have to make sure to deal with on the weekend in order to be more prepared for my week.  Some weekends, I bust into Monday with them all done and I feel pretty good about myself.  Sometimes this does not happen because I choose to spend all day Saturday resting, doing something fun with my family, etc.  And that’s okay.

What I have learned, however, is that the more of these that I can get done on the weekend, the smoother my week will go and the less stressed I am about my home.

*This post contains affiliate links*

#1.  Meal Plan/Grocery Shop

I rarely start out a work week without at least some idea of what we’re eating for dinner that week.  On a good week, I’ve got a plan for both breakfast and dinner but my bare minimum is to at least have a list of meals that I can pull from throughout the week.  I write these in their designated spot in my planner and cross them out as we eat them.  I grocery shop once every two weeks so I will usually grocery shop and/or write my grocery list if I’ll be doing that at some point during the week.  For instance, I know that I’ll be getting groceries later on this week so I’ve already made my online grocery order for my Walmart grocery pickup.  Which, by the way, is the best thing EVER!  I literally cannot tell you how much I love making an online order, paying online, and just driving up to my local Walmart and having them load my car.  For FREE, y’all!

#2. Laundry/Lay out a WEEK’s worth of clothes

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m fairly particular about how I do laundry.  I generally start laundry on Thursday in an effort to be completely caught up by the time Monday rolls around.  Sometimes I’m more successful at this than others.  For instance, this past weekend I got about 80% of our clothes washed and put away.  I’ve still got a few loads to catch up on and a decent amount of clothes to hang up this afternoon when I get home.  The important this is that it’s a manageable amount.  I also always make sure my kid’s clothes are near the front of my plan of attack for my weekend laundry.  The reason is simple- I want all their clothes clean and put away so they can lay out their clothes for the week.

You’ll notice this isn’t all neat and tidy. Please also note that I totally don’t care that it isn’t. They’re taking responsibility for getting ready and having some control in the process. That’s a win in my book!

We have organizers similar to these in their closet and at some point in the weekend, they pick out five outfits for the week.  I give limited amount of direction on this and as long as it’s weather appropriate and that they don’t look completely ridiculous, I don’t really care what they wear.

Note: Exceptions for picture day.  Well, at least fall picture day.  I’m lucky if I remember when spring picture day is…

#3. Create a master to-do list for the week

On the left side of my planner, I create a master to do list for the week.  This may include household tasks that need to get done at some point, phone calls to make, or things I simply need to remember.  As I go throughout the week, I’ll move these things to an individual day’s task list.  These are things that need to get done at some point during the week but aren’t date-specific.

#4. Fill up the lunch cart

Ah, the IKEA Raskog cart.  It has changed my life forever.  We have three of these in our house and if we had ten more, I’m certain we’d use every.single.one.

I had fallen off my lunch cart system for awhile but am so glad it’s back.  My kids can choose from foods on the cart, pack their lunches, and all I need to add is a sandwich.  (If I’m feeling really industrious, I can make and freeze their sandwiches.  This has not happened in quite some time however…)

#5. Clean out the fridge

Most weekends, a simple fridge clean out and wipe down are enough to make room for prepared lunch foods, meat that may need to thaw for your meal plan, or simply just to let you know if you have any viable leftovers for your Monday lunch at work.  Much to my husband’s dismay, I tend to remember to do this on Sunday afternoon when he’s already cleaned out the trash for the weekend….whoops….

My favorite storage containers– clear and leak-proof!

As you can tell, it doesn’t really take much to get yourself prepared over the weekend for the upcoming work week.  Yes, I also try to clean my house, spend quality time with the family, and do any needed school work over the weekend.  However, I know that if I can do at least a few of these things between Friday afternoon and Sunday night, my week will be much less stressful and we’ll all be happier!

Freezer Food: The Beauty of Pre-Cooked Ingredients

My overall goal when it comes to cooking, cleaning, or organizing is to work smarter but not harder.  As a working mom, there aren’t enough hours in my day to spend loads of time preparing dinner, packing lunches, or making the hundreds of tiny decisions that every mom (working outside or inside the home) makes every day.

My deep freezer is one of my all time favorite purchases that we’ve made since we got married ten years ago and it’s essential for me to work smarter in the kitchen.  During the summer, I spend countless hours filling it with premade casseroles, baked pastas, and other quick meals so we can survive high school football season.  I also use time in the summer and throughout the school year to fill my freezer with pre-cooked ingredients such as cooked ground beef, shredded chicken, etc.

Why do I freeze pre-cooked ingredients instead of a full meal or raw ingredients/meat?

Because it’s faster.

Taco Cups!

If I’m making taco cups for instance like I did the other night- I simply pulled two packages of precooked, frozen meat, thawed it and mixed it with the taco seasoning.  Easy.  The time I saved not having to brown the ground beef could be used to empty the dishwasher, supervise homework, or just simply take a minute to sit in peace and quiet (if that’s really a thing).

While I certainly do still have full meals in my freezer, having the pre cooked meat also gives me flexibility in what I chose to eat.  If I have a two cup container of shredded chicken, I can use that chicken for soups, casseroles, or a number of other meals based on other ingredients that I have on hand or what I feel like eating that particular day.

So what are the best foods to cook and freeze?  Here’s a few of my favorites-

Ground Beef:  An essential in my freezer.  Buy in bulk (I rarely buy less than 2.5 lbs of ground beef at the store), brown in a skillet, drain extra grease, and then freeze in two cup freezer bags.

Shredded Chicken:  Also one of my favorites.  Sometimes I may cook a whole chicken and pull the meat off or I may just boil chicken breasts or thighs and shred.  I also freeze these in two cup containers.

Along with shredded chicken, I’ll also cook up a bunch of seasoned chicken tenders to use for quesadillas or enchiladas.

Pulled Pork:  Buy one (or more) large pork roasts, cook and shred.  I store these in large freezer bags without sauce.  When I get ready to eat it, I’ll thaw and then warm the thawed meat in the slow cooker with my favorite sauce.

Ground Sausage: I usually cook and drain ground sausage to use in casseroles or on homemade pizza.  Depending on what I’m using it for, I’ll usually store them in one cup containers.

Obviously, the greatest benefit is that you can prepare a meal faster but I’ve also discovered that pre cooked meat thaws much quicker than raw meat that I’ve stored in the freezer.  It also makes clean up much easier because I’ve done the browning and draining of the meat already.

Vegetables such as celery, peppers, and onions can also be chopped and frozen.  Be aware that the freezer does change their taste and consistency slightly so I usually only use those in soups or casseroles where I don’t notice it as much.

What are YOUR favorite kitchen hacks?

The MS Chronicles: Seeing Work as a Blessing

I’ve been teaching special education for 15 years.  That’s 15 first days of school, 15 Christmas vacations, and 14 last days of school (I’m SO ready for #15!).  I’ve taught countless kids at 7 different elementary, middle, and high schools.  99.9% of the time I love it.
My mom chaperoned so many field trips back in my middle school teaching days!
 There’s never a dull minute in special education.  It’s full of ups and downs and everything in between.  But this post isn’t about the warm and fuzzy of teaching.  When the dust settles, this is also my job.  It helps put clothes on our backs and food on our table.  It keeps the lights on and the water running.
And I learned a long time ago to not take work for granted.

Merriam-Webster defines “work” as:

 to perform work or fulfill duties regularly for wages or salary 

to perform or carry through a task requiring sustained effort or continuous repeated operations 

OR

 to exert oneself physically or mentally especially in sustained effort for a purpose or under compulsion or necessity.

Years ago, when I was in the middle of the diagnosis process, so much was unknown.  Surprisingly though I didn’t think much about work or a job.  I wasn’t married so I was worried about marriage, babies, and whether I’d walk or roll in a wheelchair down the aisle.  My future as a teacher didn’t really cross my mind.  In hindsight, that’s probably a blessing since that might have been what sent me straight over the crazy hill.
A trip to Nashville right after a hospitalization for “probable MS”. My official diagnosis followed a week later.
In a few short weeks, I’ll be TEN years post diagnosis.  I think about my work often these days.  That definition of work has several words that are a huge struggle for me on a regular basis- exert, sustained, effort…
Which always causes me to wonder…
Will I be able to retire from this? 
Is disability in my future? 
Will I have to change jobs in order to salvage what I have left of my physical strength? 
These are big, scary questions for me and I try to not dwell on them too much.  I have come to see work as a blessing though.  A blessing I have right now and one I don’t want to take for granted.  Many of my friends with chronic illness aren’t able to work and I realize that I may not always be able to either.  When I choose to see my current ability to teach as a blessing, my whole perspective changes.
Storybook character day at one of my elementary schools I worked at.
Right now, I have the chance to bless others right where I am.  Hopefully, I can inspire someone else to keep pushing when it’s hard and to not take the skills you have for granted.  Work keeps my mind sharp and forces me to keep on my feet as much as I can.  Teaching keeps me engaged with people and kids who have an innate inability to keep you laughing!
I’m not sure what the next ten or fifteen years hold.  I do know, however, that I can teach RIGHT NOW and God is in control of it all.  That now matter what the next months or years hold for my physical status, I can make a difference right where I am.
Career Day with Bennie Cunningham. 🙂

Favorite Things: February 2018

I don’t know about where you are, but February has flown by in our house!  Between work, school, a family wedding, and SO.MANY.SICK.DAYS we’ve been going non stop since the month started! Here are a few things I’ve loved this month!

*Note:  Amazon affiliate links below.*

Meal Prep/Bento Box Lunch Containers

I bought these initially to cut down on the number of sandwich bags I was sending in my kids’ lunches and to “encourage” me to pack their lunches completely the night before.  I don’t know about you, but I always seem to pack a lunch faster if it’s all in one container instead of 6 different baggies and food containers. It’s probably all psychological manipulation but whatever works, right?  It was working well until my 5 year old decided she didn’t like her sandwich touching ANYTHING else in her lunchbox.

Well, there goes that idea.

Initially, I had thought that I had wasted my money but then I started using it to meal prep for our adult lunches and freeze individual meals.

Now?  They can keep their sandwich bags!  These things are mine! 🙂

They’re easy to open, freeze like a charm and are a great size for the lunch bag I bring to work each day. So far, I haven’t noticed any staining from food and they’re doing great in the dishwasher.  I got the pack of 12 so I had plenty to prep ahead of time.

Fiesta Dishes:

Ten years ago when we got married, we registered for dark green Fiesta dishes from Belk.  Because if you’re from the south, you know that you HAVE to register at Belk or your grandma will either hurt you in person or turn over in her grave.  So, dark green dishes.  Not sure what I was thinking but right after the wedding we exchanged all those dark green dishes for sets of Fiesta dishes in scarlet.

We’ve used them pretty much every single day since then with zero regrets.  I love the red but we have other serving dishes, bowls, and plates in several of their other colors. They’re heavy and big enough for our purposes, they’re my favorite color, and they integrate well with my holiday dishes and my grandmother’s china I use for special occasions.

Love my Fiesta canisters too!

Last week, on a trip to the mountains, we stopped several places with discounted and discontinued Fiesta colors and I was stoked to realize the value these dishes still have.  We will definitely NOT be swapping out our dishes anytime soon!

Paper Mate Flair Pens (But only in Black!)

I love any kind of paper mate flair pen. They’re hands down without a doubt my favorite.  I love using them for both my bullet journal and my new planner but I didn’t always want to use tons of different colors.  Don’t get me wrong- I love using different colors if I’m color coding something.  However, if I’m writing in my planner, I want all the colors the same.  And by the same I mean black.  Yes, I’m weird.  This is no shock to me.

The colored pens always seen to be swiped by little girls who have very important things to write!

Anyway, I loved it when I found this pack of all black Paper Mate Flaire medium tip pens on Amazon last week!

Mrs. Grass soup mix

During the winter, our family eats soup at least 1-2 a week.  Depending on the weather and our schedule, sometimes it’s more.  We used to be able to find these Mrs. Grass brand beef vegetable soup starters in our local grocery store but now I’ve only been able to find them online.  Back in the late fall, we bought this 8 pack of soup mix and enjoyed them throughout the winter!  Add some stew meat with water and the mix to the slow cooker and dinner is served!  Even our girls will eat this soup and that’s saying something!

That’s all for me this month!  What are some of YOUR favorite products right now?

Why I Broke Up with my Bullet Journal

In early January, I wrote about how  I ditched my regular planner after discovering the bullet journal.  From October until a couple of weeks ago, I used my bullet journal faithfully and it worked like a gem.

After the holidays, my school and home schedule started to pick up and I started to notice that my bullet journal wasn’t working quite so well.  I also had noticed some fine motor difficulties from my MS that were making bullet journaling much harder.

Spring semester is always a bear for special education teachers- our paperwork and meetings kick into high gear. School events, rec ball practice for our kids, and other end of the year dates are also seemingly never ending this time of year.

One of the basic elements of the bullet journal is the future log.  Because you’re creating as you go, the future log is where you keep track of events beyond your current month.  As I began to schedule meetings and such several months out, the sheer quantity of what I needed to keep track of just didn’t work for the bullet journal.

Note:   This post is NOT sponsored in any way.  I’m simply passing along information about a product I love!

So I turned to Clever Owl Paper in search of a personalized planner with the elements of the bullet journal I loved with the benefit of a pre-printed planner.  I’ve ordered two other planners from Clever Owl so I knew I was getting a high quality, highly personalized product at a reasonable price.  Their website allowed me to start the planner in March and add three additional months so the planner will keep me through the end of next school year.

Two of my three Clever Owl planners!

I ordered the “My Life Planner” from Clever Owl and added labels for each aspect of my life that I needed to keep track of.  These were each areas that I was previously handwriting in my bullet journal.  I also ordered extra note pages for the end to keep my faculty meeting notes, freezer inventories, and extra lists.

Overall, I took what I loved about my bullet journal and put into a pre-printed personalized planner.  I’m really glad I tried the bullet journal for several months because I think it allowed me to know what worked for me and how to personalize a planner that is the most helpful for me.  Between my fine motor issues and cognitive struggles, having a quality planner is essential for my day to day quality of life.

However, I still LOVE the concept of using a bullet journal.  Your planner/calendar/digital tool should be something that works for you and should help your quality of life  and not make it more difficult.  Creating an organizational tool that does exactly what you need is at the core of bullet journal and I wholeheartedly buy into that.  I’ve simply used an online personalized planner to do for me what all those empty bullet journal pages were previously doing.

One thing I’ve learned is that any tool is only good for the time that it works for you.  Sometimes it’s only a season but knowing when to cut bait and try something new is a skill I’m still learning!

Have  you ever found a great home or organizational tool that only worked for a season?

The MS Chronicles: When Taking It Easy Isn’t an Option

It’s been pretty quiet (well…..actually silent) over here at the blog for the past week or so.   Last Monday, my oldest daughter got the flu and my younger one got some kind of respiratory infection and a REALLY impressive case of pinkeye.  On Tuesday, I got sick.  Bless my sweet husband who babysat all three of us and for some understanding principals and teachers since we were all pretty much home for most of the week.

And then on Saturday…..

MY BABY SISTER GOT MARRIED!

Melissa got engaged back in the fall to a surgical resident at a local hospital who is originally from Cairo, Egypt.  They had a beautiful Coptic Christian Orthodox wedding on Saturday afternoon.  Thankfully, we had all recovered (for the most part) from the flu and our other various ailments.

As I was resting on Sunday (i.e. while I stayed on the couch or bed ALL DAY LONG), I thought about how my multiple sclerosis had dictated so much of my week.

95% of the time I’ll take it easy before participating in a stressful or demanding activity, I’ll figure out a way to change or modify it for me, or I’ll just not participate.

Well, sometimes there are things in life that just aren’t optional. 

My sister’s wedding is a once in a lifetime event.  I was the matron of honor and mother to the two most excited flower girls on the planet.  This was big.

But I also recognized that I’d have to work in time to recover because I knew it’d be a long couple of days.

What I wasn’t counting on was everyone in my house getting sick the week before.

The truth is that sometimes you just need to push through the pain and fatigue.

And this past week has been one of those times.  But now it’s Monday afternoon and with the exception of losing my voice and being a fairly tired, I’m back at work and good to go.

So how did that happen?

1. I had a plan.  

Before everybody got sick, I knew that the wedding weekend would be long and tiring.  I’ve had MS for ten years.  The fatigue and pain after overdoing it rarely comes as a surprise anymore.

Weeks before the wedding, I had found a replacement for my Sunday morning responsibilities at church and had planned on going to a later service.  When everyone got sick and then the wedding events started, I realized I wouldn’t be able to attend church at all and made the necessary arrangements.  Had I not had a plan in place and anticipated what problems I would experience after a busy weekend, I would have been caught by surprise and it would have made everything much worse for not only me but also my husband, kids, and the people who depend on me in church.

2. I made sure I made good use of my primary care doctor.

Within a few hours of taking my kids to the pediatrician, I used my doctor’s office online system to send an email to my nurse practitioner.  I told her the symptoms I was beginning to have as well as letting her know that one of my kids had the flu and the other was also ill.  I am immune suppressed  due to my medication so I knew getting the flu would NOT be a good situation and potentially dangerous.  She started me on a preventative course of Tamiflu and let me know what symptoms to watch out for and when to get back in touch with her.  I also made sure to take my over the counter medication regularly and not get behind on fever or pain medication. And I’ll be 100% honest and say that I am NOT a good medication-taker- the fact that I even took the OTC medicine is a credit to my husband.  Also of note- he makes a really good cup of hot tea with honey. 🙂

3.  I had help. 

My husband is a trooper.  He jumped right in and handled so much of the caretaking tasks on the days I was sick as well as the recovery time.  I had a sweet friend who sent over some food and both of our parents helped us out.  We also ordered a fair amount of takeout and cooked whatever was most convenient.  (Hello Chick Fil A!)

Ya’ll…this flu. It’s not pretty.

4. I knew the fatigue and pain would only be temporary.

After 5 days of having sick kids and being sick myself, I was exhausted.  Wedding events on Friday and Saturday, while fun, were also exhausting.  But I still had an amazing time and enjoyed every minute of my only sibling’s wedding. I had a plan in place to recover so I was able to push through and really enjoy myself instead of worrying about what I was going to do the next day.

Normally, if someone asked me how to avoid the consequences of overdoing it with multiple sclerosis I’d tell them to “just say no”.  Avoid the situation that causes the fatigue, do the minimum, or find ways to modify the activity.

But life doesn’t always work that way.  Sometimes we just have to push through.  Sometimes we jump into the situation that’s going above what we can comfortably do.  In those moments, we realize the consequences and plan for them instead of running away.  Let the laundry and the cooking go and enjoy the things in life that are most important.  Like snuggling a sick kid or celebrating your sister’s wedding.   Those are things you’ll never regret!

The MS Chronicles: A Letter to My Pre-Diagnosis Self

Dear 25 year old Heidi,

Welcome to what will be the greatest and hardest year of your life.  You’ve just lost your grandmother and your dad’s death followed a week later.  I know you’re taking life one step at a time but yet still feeling like you’re barely making it.  On top of that, you’re dating this great guy but not sure how all that’s going to work out if your brand new neurologist doesn’t figure out what’s wrong with your brain.

Hiking at a state park in Georgia. I’m still not sure how I walked all those steps but I did!

I know it all started years ago with trouble walking.  This mysterious set of symptoms have come and gone for years but now they’re coming but not going.  You’ve finally found a neurologist who seems like he’s not going to give up on you and you’re hopeful that maybe this is the one.  The doctor who won’t think you’re crazy but that there’s actually something causing your numbness, pain, and trouble walking.

And he will.  He will figure it out.  He’ll do  MRI’s and spinal taps and he’ll come back with those two words you’ve heard for years- multiple sclerosis.  Your diagnosis will come six weeks after your wedding.  You and the new husband will learn all about auto injectors, disease modifying drugs, and the awful noise that the Rebif injector makes when you use it.  It won’t be easy.  But it won’t be the death sentence you imagined.

You’ll keep walking.  And falling. Even once you’ll fall head first into a clothes hamper.  But you’ll keep getting up.

Eventually, you’ll get through two pregnancies and while you’re busy growing those babies, the FDA will approve the first oral medications to treat multiple sclerosis.  The day you take that first pill instead of an injection, you’ll feel like you’ve won the MS lottery.

My first Walk MS event

Bad days will still come and they’ll be times where you’ll feel like they’re all bad days and no good ones.  You’ll battle fatigue, memory issues, and the intense South Carolina heat in August.

But you’ll keep putting one foot in front of the other.  And remembering that God’s grace is sufficient. Just like it was yesterday, it will be enough for tomorrow.

Wedding photo cred:  Jacob Dean Photography

My freezer challenge is DONE!

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After weeks of eating only from my freezer and pantry, I finally went to the grocery store today!

Back at the beginning of January, my freezer looked like this-

Today it looked more like this-

I still have a little bit of food including several bags of pork tenderloin,  but overall it’s pretty empty! We’ve eaten much better than I originally thought and haven’t had any completely random meals.

I’ll also be making a big batch of apple butter and canning it soon with my bags of frozen apple slices.

The Instant Pot has been helpful for several recipes involving frozen chicken. Two of my favorites were a chicken and noodles recipe and a chicken Parmesan casserole- both were really yummy!

I didn’t save as much as I hoped but still came under well under budget. Most of what I bought this month were breakfast and lunch items- we seem to go through those much quicker than meat and dinner items!

Molasses Cookies for the freezer!
Taco Night
Breakfast for Dinner!

Now that my freezer isn’t empty anymore, I’ll be spending time over the next few weeks filling it with precooked ingredients and whole freezer foods! I’m looking forward to sharing some of the recipes soon!

Happy Grocery Shopping Day!