Friday, August 30, 2019

Friday Pizza Movie Nights


Several years ago, Peter and I began a Thursday night tradition that has transformed literally our week and our marriage. Thursday date night is a time we look forward to every single week. It’s our motivation to hang in there and make it through the first part of the week. I’ve shared before my tips on how to make it doable and affordable, and it’s been so fun as the years have gone by to hear from friends who have taken our idea and now have their own weekly date nights. Just yesterday a therapist proudly told me they’ve successfully had 3 weeks of date nights and her husband was so thankful I encouraged her to give it a try.

Well I’M BACK! This time to motivate you again and hopefully spark an idea into your family routines. Fridays have become just as sacred as Thursdays, a “can’t miss” kind of tradition in our home. Friday Pizza Movie Nights is the one night of the week our kids look forward to and talk about throughout the week.

It doesn’t have to be fancy - we keep the whole evening incredibly simple and it may seem obvious and boring to an outsider. But trust me when I say it’s a highlight for our family. Dinner is always pizza, mostly homemade, although I’ll admit some weeks I’m just too exhausted and we find a coupon for takeout. We eat, chat it up, clean up, lock the doors, close the curtains even before the sun has gone down, put on our pj's, and pull out the bucket of blankets. 

Friday nights feel like a sacred evening of hiding from the world and just being together. Our kids chat throughout the week about what movie is next and look forward to the evening as much or more than we do. Now that we’ve been at this a while, we’ve gone through so many movie series’ together - Harry Potter, all the Marvel movies, just to name a few! Much to my excitement, we’re currently introducing our kids to the Star Trek movies. (Sci-fi nerds over here!) 

I could get all sappy and talk about how the years are flying by and before we know it there won’t be all 6 of us on the couch and under blankets watching a movie together. We all know life is so busy and moves at what feels like lightning speed. For our family, Friday pizza movie night is our “stop the crazy and just be together” kind of tradition.

Here’s just a fun fact about how important these nights have been for our kids - there have been MANY weeks where my kids have TURNED DOWN events with friends because missing Friday nights at home is that important to them. That tells me we’re on to something here. Give it a try! Honestly, these nights have become as non-negotiable as Thursday date nights. We’ll make it happen. 

So here we go. It’s Friday! I still need to buy yeast for the dough and a few toppings. And don’t try to contact us. Our phones will be off, curtains will be pulled, and it’s Star Trek Insurrection for us tonight!

I can’t recommend enough trying a weekly family evening at home. Phones off, no distractions, time with the ones who matter most. Show them how important they really are to you!
Monday, March 18, 2019

The BEST Teddy Bear Ever. Hands Down.

Take one step into Zachary's bedroom and you will quickly notice buckets and shelves filled to the brim with brightly colored baby toys. Head to the living room, and a wicker basket once used for clean laundry is now bursting with numerous Fisher Price Beatbo toys, trucks with buttons, and even a bright yellow minion that giggles and *ahem* farts. Our almost 8-year-old special needs little man can't get enough of toys with loud noises, music, and lights. I'm pretty confident we have gone through more batteries with Zachary's toys than probably all 3 of our other children combined!

Toys with obnoxious songs on repeat may drive you mad if you hang out in our living room for even 30 minutes. But to be quite honest, the music and noises have become the soundtrack of our home and we hardly notice it anymore. I really wouldn't trade it for anything. I've said it many times - who else is blessed with the gift of having a baby for almost 8 years?

I have been so excited to share with you our newest favorite toy for Zachary. There may have been a moment of tears when we turned it on after it arrived on our front step last month. It's absolutely perfect.

I should probably back up a little and explain a bit more. For those of you that don't know, our precious Zachary was born with Lowe Syndrome. He is very developmentally delayed, has many medical concerns and complications, and is mostly non-verbal. I wrote this blog post on a day when I was reflecting on the lack of vocalizations from our boy. Thankfully at almost 8 years old, he's progressing and has sounds and mini-words we are starting to somewhat understand. And as you will see in a video below, God is taking those sounds and tiny words and using them to literally worship.

For the past couple of years, almost every night Zachary has fallen asleep to the music of Scripture Lullabies. To hear God's Word beautifully sung over my fragile child as he falls asleep is nothing short of powerful. I'll never forget the evening we noticed he was trying to sing along! If you follow me on facebook you may remember this video that still brings tears to my eyes.


There was a comment on that Facebook video that has stuck with me to this day. I don't even remember who said it, but they said something like "Zachary probably understands more of God than we ever could." I sure do know that our loving Heavenly Father has had his arms wrapped around that kiddo since before day 1. It's SO very evident.


Okay back to this amazing purchase I made with Zachary's Christmas money. Meet the Scripture Lullabies TEDDY BEAR! You guys, I can hardly slow down enough to type without messing up I'm just so excited to tell you about this bear. This fluffy grey teddy bear plays Zachary's favorite songs - songs straight from the Word of God with the press of a button. AND, it has lights and music. We still grin ear to ear when see him with this bear. He LOVES it. Just like the album, those words are being sung over his medically delicate, physically and mentally delayed body. Words like "Be still and know that I am God." "He is watching over you. Ever faithful ever true." Come on! I just want to fall on my knees in worship. I need those sung over me every day, friends!


The details? This bear plays 6 Scripture Lullabies songs with a simple press of his right foot. Press the left foot and choose from 4 different nature sounds including a heartbeat. The right hand powers on/off and the left hand has low, medium, and high volume controls. The controls are super easy for Zachary to navigate all on his own. We've had stuffed animals before that make sounds but he typically isn't strong enough to turn them on by himself due to lack of strength. Thankfully he has no trouble with this bear. Maybe just as exciting is that this bear doesn't take batteries! The zipper in his back opens to a USB cable for easy charging - NO batteries. Hallelujah!


Visit the Scripture Lullabies website to check out all their music and get your own bear! (Zachary's favorite album is Hidden in my Hear Volume1)


Of course, we had to dress up Mr. Teddy Bear in a pair of Zachary's old glasses! :) I think the Scripture Teddy is going to be my new go-to baby shower gift.

Let me know if you get a Scripture Lullabies Bear of your own! Check it out HERE.

Jessica
Monday, March 4, 2019

BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches

Raise your hand if you're in need of a quick and easy dinner idea! Just the other day I was reminiscing about the years gone by when I had time to bake bread and fancy dinners. I remember  spending the day with my two little ones at the beach and come home, clean house while the kids napped, and make a nice dinner. Ah, the good old days. Ha! Life moved at such a slower pace 15 years ago.

While I wouldn't change anything, there's definitely not the amount of free time in my day anymore. Working multiple jobs, running kids to school and back, and taking Zachary to therapy and doctor appointments literally daily don't really allow time to bake bread let alone clean the house and make a fancy dinner. And don't ask me about the laundry situation around here! :) 



This Costco creation is delicious and tastes like I spent all day cooking a savory roast when in reality it was 10 minutes until it was on our plates. The closest thing to homemade today was the barbeque sauce and that's just because we ran out.
(The sauce really is delicious and uses ingredients you probably already have in your pantry. Let me tweak and perfect the recipe a bit then I'll share!) For the bread, we are currently loving the Canyon Bakehouse gluten free 7 grain bread but you could totally pick up some buns to put this on as well. Let me know if you give this a try! Here's a picture of the package of meat to look for.


BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches

Costco Shopping List

Sweet Kale Gourmet Salad mix
Slow-Cooked Pork Carnitas
BBQ sauce
Bread (or buns)

That's it! The meat cooks in 6 minutes in the microwave.
We toasted the bread and topped it with the meat, salad mix, and bbq sauce.
Serve your sandwiches with that affordable veggie tray from Costco and call it a meal!
So flavorful and easy peasy. Let me know if you give it a try.

Monday, October 15, 2018

A LETTER TO OUR LOWE SYNDROME FAMILY

This month I had the privilege of writing an article for the Lowe Syndrome Association Fall newsletter. This is my letter to all our Lowes families who also walk a similar journey. We are so thankful for you all!




Seven years ago when we raced to the hospital to welcome our 4th child into the world, my gut told me this time it would be different. Even as he was growing in my womb, I just knew something wasn’t the same this time around. 

You probably all have somewhat similar stories and emotions from when you received the life-changing diagnosis. Our Zachary saw his first specialist at 3 days old and it was almost 3 years and countless doctor visits before we received the diagnosis of Lowe Syndrome. I’ll never forget where I was that September afternoon when I received “the call” from the doctor that changed our world. I cried lots of silent tears on the phone while listening to the Genetics Counselor explain the test results and began to learn what was next with a diagnosis like this.

This journey you and I are on as we fight for the best life for our boys is hard. The appointments are endless, the fear of the future is terrifying, and I feel like it’s not going to get easier. Zachary has reached some huge milestones in the past year! He learned to walk around his 6th birthday, made it through a very tough double hip surgery, and is now walking better than ever before! We are so proud of his fight and determination.

While we celebrate the walking and the fact that his eyes and kidneys are currently stable, life seems to be getting harder in other ways. It’s the “other side” of parenting I didn’t understand until now. The language barrier with Zachary not being able to speak is so very hard. The ugly behaviors I’ve feared and known would come are showing up and countless behavior therapy appointments have been recommended. The feeding pump errors, beeps, and wakes me up throughout the night. Are you tired? I’m exhausted. 

But oh the amazing miracles we’ve witnessed in 7 years! Amidst all of the hard things we face, don’t you feel like as parents of a Lowe Syndrome boy that we’ve been given a gift? Who else gets to celebrate as big as we do when our son holds up his head or learns to sit and crawl? You and I get the opportunity to recognize the simple and celebrate the beautiful that parents of a typical child often miss.

Truthfully? I don’t know if I would change a thing. Absolutely, I would love for Zachary to live life the same as other 7 year olds - playing on the playground, reading and writing, having play dates with other kids his age, the list goes on and on. But the joys our son brings each day are massive, and our family of 6 wouldn’t be who we are today without our beautiful Lowe Syndrome boy. Which means I’m thankful for, yes, a difficult syndrome. 

I don’t think I could be as strong as I have been without all of you, our Lowe Syndrome family. With social media as the glue keeping us together, it’s a beautiful thing to have someone who understands just a click away. We pick each other up with a simple Facebook comment, share photos of our beautiful boys, and link arms when this life we live gets really really hard. I’m thankful for each and every one of you!


We’ll get through this. Together!
Friday, October 12, 2018

MY FAVORITE BIBLE STUDY TOOLS



We've all seen the beautifully staged photos with the perfect amount of sun peeking through the window onto an open Bible. There is usually a steaming hot cup of coffee, a vase full of soft pink flowers, and maybe a cozy white blanket nearby. Paints a picture of the perfect morning doesn't it?

If your reality is like mine, that image looks nothing like a typical morning. Even when I get out of bed as early as I wish to, the true reality is that I stumble into the kitchen with a greasy face, my old yet trusty glasses, major bed head, and trust me when I say there's nothing picture worthy over here. I do start the coffee immediately, but I find myself scrolling through Facebook while the coffee brews. I stumble to the overstuffed recliner fully expecting to start my quiet time right away but either my mind doesn't know where to start and I just give up, or I instantly get distracted on my phone and before I know it I need to start packing the kids' lunches and waking everyone for school.

I'm guessing I'm not the only one who has wrestled with the habit of rising early to meet Jesus regularly and wanted to share with you my favorite tools and apps for Bible study. These are my current favorites for stopping the scroll and defeating the "I don't know where to even start" struggle.


1. ABIDE APP


I LOVE this app. When I first downloaded the Abide app I wasn't quite sure. Trust me when I say this is nothing like I was expecting. I begin my morning moments by turning on this app and listening to someone reading/praying over me. The Abide app guides people in Bible truth and personal reflection. I found this app so valuable that I used my birthday money to subscribe.


How do I use it? 
Abide has a new daily meditation/study each day on the home page. While I often will listen to these later, during my morning quiet time I head straight to TOPICS -> MORNING, and I'll select the STREAMING option and listen to a few prayers. There are SO many categories in the topics section to choose from but this is just where I always choose to start and it completely sets my mind and heart to be ready to start my quiet time.

Want to go a little more in-depth on this app? They have GUIDES that are like a daily short study to listen too. I've loved the 30 Day Prayer Challenge guide.

Side note - this doesn't relate to my mornings, but the SLEEP option is amazing. Abide has several Bible stories that are read to you quietly. I love turning these on for my kids when they are falling asleep at night.

2. BIBLE APP + A CHEAP NOTEBOOK



Pretty much everyone knows about the YouVersion Bible app. In fact, I'm sure most of you have it installed on your phone right now. The daily verses, reading plans, and options to open different Bible versions with a single click are amazing.

This is the second part of my morning quiet time. Once I've listened to a couple prayers and set my mind on Christ, I open my study plan and my cheap spiral notebook. I have grown to really love writing out Scripture. If it seems overwhelming, start with a small book like Philippians or Ephesians. I like to use the LOVE GOD GREATLY plans as they have reading plans that take about a month to go through an entire book of the Bible. I write down the verses for the day in my notebook and use the accompanying devotions. This is a super easy way to get started when you don't know where to begin.


Give Scripture writing a try. I'm pretty sure you won't regret it!

3. ECHO PRAYER APP



Prayer is so critical to our walk with the Lord and staying connected to Him. The Echo prayer app has been an essential addition to my morning routine. This app will help you keep track of your prayers, gives you the ability to set reminders to pray throughout the day, and even has a way to share prayers with others. I often cut and paste prayers from the Scripture I'm writing or from devotionals I'm working through - prayers that I want to pray over myself or my family. I like to end my God time scrolling through the prayers and lists of people to pray for that I've saved in my app. Of course, this app isn't for just morning - how awesome that we take our phones with us everywhere we go, which means we have our Bible and prayer app with us at all times to open and use!


I filmed a Facebook Live video this week where I shared more about these Bible study tools and how I use them. You can watch it HERE. If you're curious about Hello Mornings, which is where this whole getting up early and spending time with Jesus got real for me, visit their website. You'll be glad you did!

What are your favorite tools for studying God's Word? I'd love to hear.

Jess
Friday, October 5, 2018

PUMPKIN SPICE OATMEAL


Here's the thing...my husband has hidden talents you may not know about. Peter is amazing in the kitchen and has mad dishwashing skills. He's frequently offering to do the dishes and clean up the kitchen while I take care of Zachary or do other household chores. Yes, I know I lucked out with that guy. 😍 While I could continue to gush about Peter for plenty of paragraphs, instead I'm here to share the most recent Fall recipe that he has been working on perfecting. Peter and I have oatmeal literally every other morning for breakfast. With the Pumpkin spice craze right now, we wanted to make a good breakfast twist on a Fall favorite.


Let me introduce you to Peter's Perfect Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal! 


Yep - we had to get his name in the title. Here's why. Peter said it's finally time to redeem his name. 

For instance - have you seen the Peter Potty at your store? Yep. HAHA! It's a flushable toddler urinal! :) 

Or our most recent discovery that our kids thought was hilarious? 
The new game on Amazon or at your local Walmart - Pimple Pete

So to redeem his name - here is Peter's most AMAZING oatmeal that is PERFECT FOR FALL.

Peter's Perfect Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal

"Peter Peter pumpkin eater..."

Shopping List
(Makes 2 servings)
1 3/4 cup water
Large pinch of salt
1 cup oats
1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 cup canned pumpkin puree

Bring water and salt to a boil. Once boiling - add oats, turn down to medium heat and cook for 5 minutes.
While cooking, add spices. With 1-2 minutes left, stir in pumpkin.

Here's our favorite oatmeal toppings:
Nonfat plain greek yogurt
A sprinkle of brown sugar or sweetener of choice 
(Peter prefers brown sugar, I use this sweetener from Trim Healthy Mama)
Nuts of your choice (pecans would be especially tasty!)

Enjoy! And feel free to share this recipe so my husband can have his name remembered for an amazing 
Fall recipe and not toilets or pimples! :) 

Happy Fall, 

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Hello July!

How in the world is it July 2018 already? 
For our family, July is filled to the brim with doctor appointments, surgery prep, big decisions with Zachary, major travel for Kaylee and Travis, and I'm sure many hours of fun in the pool! I've kept pretty quiet here and on social media for the past few months not sharing much about our lives - partly because some things have gotten harder and I haven't know if, how, or when I wanted to share. God has also been making it VERY evident that He wants me to get back to writing and sharing, yet I haven't know where to start. I've logged in, opened up the "create post" page, and stared at the blank screen many times without words coming out to fill the page. The video camera that once recorded our days has sat in the same spot on our counter for months. 

All that to say, much more to come. I'm ready to open up a bit again and share the tough stuff, the family fun, the big God moments as we experience them, and hopefully be an encouragement as we walk though the months ahead.


But first, lets set our hearts aright as you and I begin a new month, a blank canvas.

It is the Lord who goes before you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or abandon you. Do not fear or be dismayed. - Deuteronomy 31:8
Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. - Philippians 4:7
You will keep in perfect peace
all who trust in you,
all whose thoughts are fixed on you! - Isaiah 26:3

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are. - 1 Peter 5:8-9
You are my refuge and my shield;
I have put my hope in your word. - Psalm 119:114