Feeling Vulnerable, 3 Years Later

Three years ago I wrote about an experience that I had one day when my youngest daughter was but a wee babe. As mommy to a new baby, and a new baby diagnosed with Down syndrome, I was thrust into a new world that I previously hadn't known. Aside from dealing with getting to know a new baby, any new mom will tell you it can be a stressful time postpartum. It's been a wonderful world, but one that you aren't given a road map for so it took some time for me to adjust and find my footing a bit. I was learning about a new person, learning about what Down syndrome was and how it affected her as an individual, and what this meant for me as her mom.

Looking back I struggled in a way that was a bit different from other parents, perhaps, in that I wasn't heartbroken or distraught over her diagnoses. I loved her. She was adorable, and squishy, and this tiny little thing that fit in the crook of my arm. I loved her with a passion, but was unsure how to express that in a way that other people could understand because when they looked at her they saw Down syndrome first. For me, I saw "baby" first, and Down syndrome was just like a complimentary Sundae after dinner. A perk. I didn't have the vocabulary at the time to express it. I had to grow into this new person that I am and find my voice for her. And in those early days, my way of coping was avoidance of public for a bit until I was comfortable in this new space and more confidant.

So here we are three years later, and I can tell you with confidence that I'd have some different responses to how people react to my daughter when they express anything other than delight in her. She is absolute sunshine. Most of the time. We are experiencing the typical terrible-two's/three-nager stage, so some of her behavior is pretty typical for her age. Even more delightful! I crack up, inside, every time she throws herself on the floor for a tantrum.

Most of the time people are delighted by her. She says hi to everyone. She laughs heartily.  Sometimes at church, she'll escape me and go running up the middle aisle in the middle of a packed house. At first I was a little embarrassed that she was causing a ruckus. But as time has gone by, I've let go of that expectation for adhering to typical rules. She's small for her age, so more often than not it is assumed that she is about half her age, rather than 3 yrs old. No one seems to mind, especially when they hear her belly laugh as I chase her down, as she yells "Hi!" and waves with all her might to the priest in the middle of his homily. I might get some hate over the fact that I actually have really enjoyed the extended baby-dom. Isn't it what we mom's lament over, that baby's don't keep? We've been blessed with an extension of it to some degree, and it's been nothing but lovely. Don't get me wrong, I love to see her accomplish new things and to hear her speech develop. But the extended length of time that it's taken has been nothing but delightful, and makes the goals reached that much more sweet to celebrate.

 Some of the struggle for me now comes not from strangers that I may encounter for a few moments, but when I go through needing to discuss the details of my children with other people, like behavioral issues, or needs they might have that typical children may not have. This can be a little harder than the chance encounters. I like to be respectful, but there are those times when it's easiest to dismiss a chance encounter. There is a sort of internal struggle that goes on with deeper conversation, say like with medical professionals that you would expect to know more. On the one hand, we need for the supports to be in place to help them succeed and so we have to talk about the struggles. And on the other hand this can be so incredibly difficult because we also want to share how wonderful and what a blessing our child is to our family and community at large. We need the struggles acknowledged but not to be the focal point of who our children are. I admit that the struggle is more pronounced at times because of the societal stigmas and misunderstandings that still abound from outdated information. But what I've learned from that perspective of a society still catching up is much like what I had to learn as a new parent.
  • Education and respect are essential. 
  • Sensitivity is greatly appreciated.
  • Acknowledging your own ignorance without being offended and being open to new information is good. It doesn't mean you are dumb because you don't know something. It's called being humble. 
  • Educating with love and respect is my goal. I don't want to make anyone feel dumb with the manner in which I share information as a parent.

There are definitely still times when I struggle because someone said something insensitive out of ignorance, but I don't take it so much as a personal affront to myself or my daughter. If anything, it says something about the other person.

Much love friends.


In The Midst of Lent

Here we are in the midst of Lent and the days pass, and the mundane carries on. Yet, I'm feeling drawn to something more. Did you choose things to work on during this season of Lent? I wanted to work on my blog a bit, and refresh and renew it. Alas, there isn't much that I can share in the way of exciting and new. All those things of the day-to-day pull at my apron strings, begging for my attention. It seems that no matter what my desire to inspire might be, the toll of this time right now draws me to all the things that are not what I'd like to be doing. The soldiering on, the tackling of the task list, the bringing up of little demanding souls, the paper work of life. 

Mother Teresa often talks of doing small things with great love. I try. I try hard. Sometimes I find myself with a preference to live in Instagram-World, where everything is beautiful and lovely all the time, but that's not really the truth. I have to remind myself of that often. Everything perfectly curated takes its toll on hearts as well.  Truth is more relatable when it comes with a little dust and grime, don't you think? There are some beautiful women that I've been following on Instagram and Facebook, who I've become friends with through their joys and struggles. The authenticity of how we share with one another is how we'll get through our life successfully, don't you think? When we're open to sharing that darkside of this beautiful life, in all it's dust, in all the dirty dishes, and the laundry that sits unfolded, and in the struggle to parent without losing our marbles completely. Doing the small things with love....The folding of the laundry and piling it on the ends of beds so that the clothes are there to be worn when the weary, sleepy eyes open in the morning demanding our attention to yet a new day of growth. Will we ever get it perfectly right? It's a journey that we have to keep training for. Let's uphold one another. 

My goal for Lent might seem silly to you. I have a few. Or had a few. I'm a work in progress, so the tasks I chose are as well. Goal #1 was to keep the dining room table cleared off so that we could eat together more easily. The struggle is real, folks. I don't have a desk/office/work space, so my work sits on the table in organized piles. It would require shopping for organizing items to remove it from the table, which would mean shopping (which I loath) and spending money which I don't have on something that ultimately seemed to come down to an insurmountable mountain. I know that that is a lie, and that it really is something that I can still accomplish. I just need to be more creative about it. At least the lego's are no longer acting as a centerpiece, so we've made progress!

The other task I chose is much more intense and personal. And even though I've worked at it, it is sitting quietly waiting for my attention. This is hugely personal, my friends. My second goal was to put aside my embarrassment and hurt and try to accomplish healing through completing the tasks for my Annulment. The Catholic Church requires much reflection and explanation of very deep and personal information. I know now why some choose to avoid it, or skip it altogether. It is a huge process of gathering the messiness of your life together in a single place for others to review. Why am I sharing this? I'm not sure really, except that perhaps I can encourage someone else who's struggled with avoidance of this issue to soldier on, and seek healing through the process. I know that once it is complete I can theoretically move on from this place within myself and enjoy the freedom that can come with answers and insight from an outside, and removed-from-the-situation source.

One way or another, I know that this Lent will accomplish much even if it is just pushing me outside of my comfort zones. Growth is good. In the spirit of doing small things with great love, both accomplishing tackling my mountain of paperwork for the enjoyment of eating together as a family, and the completion of Annulment paperwork for renewing a sense of peace and self understanding...well these are acts of love in that they are acts that will bring renewal in one way or another to my family.

Prayers for my readers this Lenten season.


A Month of Menu Plans

Isn't it the way it goes? We get caught up in this and that, and rush out to the store to grab whatever happens to sound good at meal time. I do that sometimes. Towards the end of this past year, I was doing a lot of that. The kids had a lot of things going on, and I was spending the majority of my day driving around. Menu planning wasn't exactly on my radar, nor was I really in the mood to cook much.

I'd like to at least start out with some ideas to keep spending under control. Though it is a bit more work to actually cook something other than a frozen dinner, it can save money and everyone will eat a healthier meal.

Below are about a months worth of menu ideas that I'll be coming back to. Some are kid favorites and some of just good hearty meals.  I like to buy chicken and other meats in bulk when I can to get a more reasonable price. Other items are a staple in the pantry like chicken broth, flour and sugar, and various pasta types.

Perhaps you can take away some ideas for your own menu.

Turkey Meatballs, Rice, Veggie
Bean and Cheese Burritos 
Baked Ziti and Salad
Chicken Enchilada Bake
Risotto with Wild Mushrooms
Baked Chicken, Garlicky Pasta and Carrots
Ranch Chicken, Potato Casserole, Salad
Shepards Pie
Meat Loaf, Rice and Veggie
Balsamic Chicken with Brussels Sprouts, French Bread
Crockpot Beef and Broccoli, Rice
Pancakes and Sausage
Szechuan Chicken Pasta with Veggies
Alfredo with Chicken and Salad
Chili and Cornbread
Fried Rice and Pot Stickers
Ham, Cheese, Broccoli and Rice Casserole
Corn Chowder and Biscuits
Sausage and Beans
Sloppy Turkey Joes and Tater Tots, Veggie
Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese 
French Bread Pizza
Chicken Parmesan and Salad
Black Bean Soup and Quesadillas
Chili Baked Potatoes
Ham and Kale Quiche
Taco Bowls
Chicken Pot Tie
Orange Chicken and Stir Fry Veggies

Now to actually shop and cook! Wish me luck.


Shining in the Dark

 It's been raining cats and dogs, going on more than a week now. As grateful for the rain that we are, everyone I've run into has expressed a desire for a little bit of a break. There has been flooding and mud slides. People are facing disaster. 

The other night I had to run out in the evening for milk. It had stopped raining and I was grateful not to be getting soaked. I rushed in the store, and out again in a hurry. And then it struck me, really struck me, that it had stopped raining. I looked up, and though there were some clouds here and there, I could see the stars shining brightly.  I stopped in the middle of the parking lot and stared at the sky. And then someone else walked close by and looked up as well. 

"Look, they're still there!" the person stated. Indeed, they weren't going anywhere. We'd been walking around with our heads down for a while now, and it was nice to look up. The next morning it was overcast again. 

Isn't it interesting that sometimes, the things that are brightest that we don't appreciate enough, only really get appreciation once it's dark?



 Trust can be hard. But what if the one you are supposed to trust has proven time and again that he is trust worthy? Then trust becomes easy. 

Once you choose to trust then you can have peace and confidence in the future. 

 Grab your own copy of this quote from Hilary of Poirtiers and make it a prayer to trust. 


Beautiful, Like You and Me

Over the last few months I've been enjoying working more with my watercolors. I've done a few commissioned pieces, family portraits and some verses. I've not mastered the art of including calligraphy and lettering into my works like some people I've seen. Just do a search on Instagram and you'll find some amazing work. If there were more hours in the day I might have more time to spend practicing, but I'm enjoying it when I get to do it. 
The verse above from Song of Solomon jumped off the page at me the other day. I decided to write it out, and then caught myself when it was all done. I made a little *bloop* right in the middle of the page! How fitting, actually. God's love surpasses our bloops. The verse is still beautiful, even with my little mistake. You and I are still beautiful despite our mistakes and imperfections. 
Really think about it though...God calls you beautiful. You. And me. Let that soak in for a few minutes. You are beautiful
Humbling, isn't it...

Now....to fix that little *bloop*.


A New Year ~ 2017~

Here we are ringing in a New Year. I'm content with quietly welcoming it from my chair, sipping my coffee and letting my children sleep in. I'm relishing in the quiet. It's so rare, and I've found myself craving it a lot lately.

This past year was a whirlwind of change and conflict resolution, challenge and conquering fears, finding more of my voice, and trusting God is taking my hand and leading me in everything. My kids have watched the movie Chicken Little about 20 times too many and their recent prayers include "Closure" for some of the things we have faced this year. It makes me chuckle. But it is a magnificent prayer as well, especially when it includes God's will for our lives.

This year ahead will include much of the same, but much more as well. My resolution is to find peace amidst whatever comes our way. I realize I can't control certain aspects of life, parenting, and the actions of others. But if I seek peace, surely I'll find it.

Wishing you all peace and joy in the year ahead,


Advent Countdown

Advent us upon us! It's just around the turn. Having a visual count down to Christmas helps me and the family to prioritize. 

Click to download the printable version
A blessed journey to Christmas, friends!


Psalm 145 Printable

This printable coincides with today's readings for

Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

Please enjoy your very own download to print of Psalm 145:13.


Apple Cranberry Spice Bake

All I can say about this is....get on your stretchy-waisted pants.  
Really, though, you are going to want to eat this whole pan of deliciousness. 
This was a happy accident that resulted from wanting to use up some apples and cranberries I had on hand. They were both starting to go and I needed to save them with something delicious. 

I had previously made a crumble of sorts with both apples and cranberries, and it was really yummy too. But I wanted to try something a little bit different. We are huge fans of Pull-Aparts. Or as everyone else calls them, Monkey Bread. I had heard of someone adding apple pie filling to them, but I was curious to see how it would turn out with the addition of the cranberries. We were in a for a sweet surprise.

I did make use of the microwave for this recipe. As I do with my apple pie filling, I pre-cooked my filling so that the baking time was shorter. 10 minutes in the microwaves and it was smooth sailing putting everything together after that. When you do this it can cut down on your baking time by a pretty big portion of time. This is great for the holidays when you have several different things to bake.

Here is the recipe, and please take a look at the video for look at how it all comes together!

  • 3 Large Granny Smith Apples, Peeled and Chopped in 1/2 inch 
  • 1 12 oz bag of fresh cranberries, picked over
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1/4 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cinammon
  • 1 1/2 tblsp corn starch
  • 4 cans of Pillsbury Biscuits, the small rolls
  • Butter, to butter your pan
  • 1 cup powder sugar
  • 2 tsp milk
13x 9 inch baking dish

Heat oven to 350 degrees. 
In a large microwavable bowel put your apples, cranberries, spices and cornstarch. Mix to coat your fruit. Microwave for 5 minutes. Stir. Repeat, for another 5 minutes. While your fruit cooks, butter you pan and set it aside. Open one can at a time of the biscuits, and cut them into small bite sized pieces. I like to use kitchen scissors. Spread the pieces evenly in the pan repeating with each can of biscuits. When your fruit it done cooking, it should be soft and have a slightly thickened juice. Carefully spread it over the top of the biscuits in your pan. Bake for about 35- 45 minutes, until the biscuits are cooked through. Set aside.

Mix your powdered sugar and milk to make a drizzle for the top. Add more sugar or milk to get the consistency that you like. Drizzle it over the top.

This is best served warm.

A video posted by Celeste Bowen (@artisticceleste) on


This is definitely on my to-make list for Christmas morning!


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