Learning to Say Yes

People talk about learning to say no all the time. You don’t have to volunteer for every school fundraiser, be on every work committee or give money to every walkathon. It can be really hard to say no, which is something I had to learn to do. But it’s even harder to say yes. I’m not talking about saying yes to running the school bake sale or hosting a benefit. I’m talking about saying yes to help.

yes

Most of us have had a crisis in our lives, whether it is a death in the family, a car accident or an illness, and have heard the question “what can I do?” from our friends and family. They might even be more direct by offering meals, to go to the store for you, be a taxi for your kids or even clean your house. And we often say “no, that’s okay” or “I’ll be alright.” But you know what, it’s not okay and it’s not alright. There are times we need to just say yes.

My son Joey was diagnosed with a rare cancer called Langerhans Histiocytosis when he was 10. He had to undergo major surgery, spend months in a wheelchair and receive steroid treatment. Dozens of people offered to help and I often found myself saying that we were okay. But the fact is, we weren’t. Luckily there were people who insisted on helping anyway. They brought food, games to keep Joey entertained, took my daughter places and helped however they could.

histio warriors

Histio Warriors Supporting Each Other

In September of 2015, my step-son was in a terrible car accident and spent three months in the hospital. He was in critical condition for the first three weeks, two hours from home. My husband and I stayed in the Ronald McDonald House while my two teenage children were two hours north trying to maintain some type of normal life.

helping hands

This is when I learned to say yes. I knew we needed help and luckily we have tons of friends and family who were willing. People took care of our kids, brought them meals, sent us meals, made sure my kids got to school and my daughter got to work, and did absolutely anything we asked of them. People who we didn’t even know very well helped our family. It was truly amazing.

It was hard to accept the help at first but we quickly realized that we had to. We also learned that people weren’t making empty offers. They truly wanted to help us and they didn’t expect anything in return.

Whether you have a child in the hospital, a parent who passed away, or surgery for yourself, say yes when friends and family offer to help. And when they ask “what can I do?” be honest. Tell them you need someone to go to the grocery, do your laundry or make a meal. Learn to say yes.

Slow Cooker Freezer Meals Making Life Easier

You may remember the post I wrote a few weeks ago – “My ‘First’ Meal Prep.” My son Joey and I prepped 10 crock pot meals in two hours using a meal prep plan from Stockpiling Moms. This was a great money and time saver! So we tackled another meal plan and prepped 20 slow cooker meals in 2.5 hours.

prep

The 20 meal plan stated it would take 4 hours but between Joey’s help and the things I learned with the first meal prep, we were able to save 90 minutes. We enjoyed all the meals from the first prep but found that some didn’t go as far as we had hoped or didn’t have enough meat. We wanted to be able to have dinner for four (two teenagers and two adults) and lunch for two the next day. So I do suggest increasing your ingredients if you’d like it to go a little further.

The Healthy Beef Stew was fantastic but had more veggies than meat so next time I will add more meat. Honestly, we found the Cheeseburger Soup a little bland at first but I just added a can of Campbells’ Cheddar Cheese Soup and it was perfect! The Sausage with Peppers and Onions was our favorite. I did add a jar of Classico Tomato and Basil.

Joey, my 15-year-old decided to tackle the 20 meals on. Unlike last time, I printed and looked over each recipe before we started. Since I am the only person in my house who will eat Mushroom Barley Stew or Stuffed Peppers, I decided not to make those. Instead I replaced those with a couple recipes of my own. The stew and peppers sound delicious though so I will make those for a few friends some time. Looking over the recipes first also allowed me to substitute a few ingredients to cater to my family.

This time I purchased all of my meat from Premium Elite Food (also known as Buck’s) in Latonia. Buck Buchanan, the owner, hand selects all of the meat he sells. I received excellent quality meats and it was actually cheaper than buying it at Kroger. I do suggest calling Buck’s at least three days in advance so he can prep your order. I placed a Clicklist order with Kroger for the rest of the items. I did increase, sometimes even doubled, the meat and ingredients for each meal. I spent about $120 on meat and $60 for the other ingredients (I did have most of the spices, which I get from Colonel De’s). Each meal will have six to eight servings. That’s about $9 per meal.

joey-prepping

I picked up my Kroger order on a Monday and my meat order on a Tuesday. Tuesday night I reviewed the recipes one more time and put them in categories according to the type of meat it called for. I then labeled all of my bags with the recipe name and cooking instructions. I placed the printed recipe on top of its corresponding bag, which also helped a lot during the prep. This was much easier than having to constantly look at the computer. We prepped the meals on Wednesday night.

We started by setting up all of our can goods, spices, vegetables and measuring tools. We started with the chicken meals, then the pork and then moved on the beef. This allowed us to keep the meat safe in the refrigerator until we were ready for it. Joey ran meals to the downstairs deep freezer as they were prepped. I also had Joey brown the ground beef while I prepped other meals. That was a huge time saver.

chicken

My family just finished the Maple Bacon Pork Loin. This is a pork loin wrapped in bacon and covered in a maple honey sauce. It was absolutely amazing!! It was seriously delicious and the house smells so good. Everyone gobbled it up along with peas and homemade mac-n-cheese.

bacon-wrapped

Preparing freezer meals saves my family time and money and cuts down drastically on eating out and picking up fast food. Stockpiling Moms offers several Meal Plans including vegetarian plans, crock pot meals, oven-ready dinners and even gluten-free plans.

Do you have any meal prep tips to share?

 

 

Spice 101 with Colonel De

I fell in love with Colonel De Herbs and Spices during a Tasting event at the Kenton County Public Library a few years ago. The Colonel and one of his chefs served barbecue made with their spices and sauce. It was so good that I convinced them to teach me how to make it and a few days later I visited the Findlay Market location to purchase the items needed. I made a huge pot of it for a party and it was a huge hit. I was sold.

So I was obviously very excited to find out Colonel De was opening a location, that would also offer classes, in my hometown of Fort Thomas, Kentucky. The newer store is considered head quarters for Colonel De’s, which offers thousands of spices, gift sets, teas, sauces, oils and more.

col-teaching

Colonel De teaching Spice 101

I loved going in the store to enjoy the smells and the food (he often has samples) but I was somewhat overwhelmed and never knew what spice would be best for what dish. The Colonel and his staff are always more than happy to help with those decisions but taking the Spice 101 class at the Fort Thomas store was the best thing I could do.

We discovered how to use spices, match flavors, what are the Top 10 spices or blends that every kitchen should have to prepare a meal for any occasion, how to properly store and care for spices, quality, freshness, where each spice is from and how to recognize each. Chef Matt allowed us to taste several spices in the appetizers he made for us to sample.

One of my favorites was bread dipped in the the French Fines mixed with Olive Oil. It was so yummy I had to buy some of the Colonel’s oil and French Fines. I really liked the Adobo spice mixed with anything but the Colonel suggests using it as a dry marinade with chicken, beans or pork. We also learned how long each type of meat should be marinaded for.

my-shopping-bag

My shopping bag

Colonel De Herbs and Spices mixes all of it’s own spices in store. There is something for everyone, including those with gluten, onion or nut allergies. Nothing is cross contaminated. Anything with a nut product is locked up separately from the other spices. One of the things I really like is that I don’t have to buy an entire jar of anything. I can buy by the ounce so I don’t have to worry about waste or freshness. It also seems to be cheaper per ounce than our local grocery stores.

De’s also offers classes on baking cookies, choosing the right salts, menu planning, easy appetizers and kitchen hacks. Check out the Facebook page for upcoming events. Most classes cost $20 per person. I am looking forward to attending future classes and improving my skills in the kitchen.

col-des

Disclosure: I attended the class at no charge in exchange for review purposes. All opinions are my own. 

Running off with the Circus

Joey Holt, a 14-year-old Fort Thomas resident who is an 8th grader at Highlands Middle School, is running off to Germany with the circus this summer. My son Joey really is an extraordinary kid who has defeated a rare disease called Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis. The cancer attacked his hip bone causing him to need a bone graft and making doctors wonder if he would ever walk again. After months in a wheelchair, years of physical and occupational therapy and counseling for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, not only can Joey walk, he can perform in a German Wheel and do tricks on a cable wheel.

joey german wheel2

Joey met Paul Miller, owner of Circus Mojo, and some of his team at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital while waiting to see doctors in 2010. Joey enjoyed their entertainment so much that he asked me to schedule his appointments for when they would be in the waiting room. They taught him to balance a feather on his hand, spin plates and a little bit of juggling. The next year was quite a battle for Joey. He was in a wheelchair, doing therapy, dealing with nerve pain, in and out of the hospital as an inpatient all while trying to go to school. He was a fighter though.

joy wheelchair

joey walker

joey hospital

The next summer, 2011, I won a week of camp to Circus Mojo from a local blogger. Joey was ready to go learn more tricks but was using a wheelchair and crutches again due to pain. Paul said they would work around it and to send him to camp anyway. Joey was so determined to be able to do the silks, German wheel, cable wheel and everything else the circus had to offer that by the end of the week, Paul was balancing the wheelchair on his chin and Joey balanced the crutches in his hand.

joey balance

Joey fell in love with circus that summer and has been working with Mojo ever since. He trains every Saturday, performs for the public every chance he gets, attends summer camps and practices constantly at home.  His hard work has paid off. Circus Mojo is taking Joey to Germany this summer to train with Circus Pimparello for a few weeks. His trip is estimated to cost approximately $2000. Joey is for hire to perform at parties, teach kids circus tricks, babysit, take care of pets and do other odd jobs. All money earned will go toward his trip.

joey flyer

You can also help give Joey a chance of a life time by sponsoring a portion of his trip with a tax deductible donation. Donations can be made to Circus Mojo’s Foundation, The Social Circus Fund, at https://socialcircus.wordpress.com. Just click on Donate Here. Donations can also be mailed to the Social Circus Foundation, 326 Elm Street, Ludlow, Ky., 41016. PLEASE write in the memo or comments that the donation is for JOEY HOLT’S Germany Trip.  Please contact Gina (gina5620@gmail.com) or Nick Stegner (nstegner68@gmail.com) with questions or to hire Joey.

Note: Learn more about Joey at http://local12.com/news/local/circus-helps-teen-recover-from-rare-disease

Prepare for the Big Bumps in Life

be thankful

I was walking out of select soccer registration on September 27 when I noticed my 16-year-old daughter Andi sent me a text to call her immediately. I was trying to dial as another text came through from my husband Nick telling me the same thing. I immediately felt sick to my stomach. I knew something had to be seriously wrong. In the five seconds it took me to dial, I wondered if something had happened to my pregnant stepdaughter, if a family member had passed or something had happened to one of my stepsons. Both of my bio children were safe at home. Nick answered the phone with a shaky voice. “Joel has been in a car accident in Elizabeth Town and has been air cared to a Louisville Hospital. I’m not sure if he’s okay, I’m not even sure where he is.”

My heart sunk. Joel was 19 at the time and just started his first year at Eastern Kentucky University. I thought he was spending the weekend resting in his dorm so my first thought was they were wrong. They had the wrong kid. But then it sunk in. He was on his way back from visiting his girlfriend at Murray – a five hour drive. I don’t even really remember driving home from soccer registration. I just had to get to my husband.

I quickly packed a few basics and we jumped in the truck with his brother Chris, picked up my step-daughter and started the two hour drive to Louisville. It was a long drive. I remember thinking “don’t throw up, just don’t throw up.”

That night was the beginning of a three month stay in hospitals. I watched my step-son fight for his life and win. Doctors were baffled on how he survived but he did. He is still in recovery but is going to be as good as new. Family support, prayer, friends, amazing health care providers and his determination made him survive.

This wasn’t my first experience with hospitals and praying that a child can overcome the odds. My now 14-year-old son Joey was diagnosed with Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis almost four years ago. He had to undergo a bone graft of the hip, spend months in a wheelchair, years in physical therapy and lots of a counseling for PTSD. He is doing amazing now (I have to give partial credit to Circus Mojo in Ludlow, Ky, for that. They have kept Joey physically fit and give him something to look forward to).

joey german

Joey’s diagnose changed me for the better. I became much less of a worrier and my anxiety reduced tremendously. Although this is the opposite of what most people expect, it really was a natural reaction. It took that diagnosis for me to realize that there is no reason to worry over every little thing and life and really the only thing that matters is our health.  That didn’t mean that I didn’t lock myself in the bathroom and cry about Joey’s condition sometimes. Of course I did. This is my son and I wanted him to be okay.

I shed many tears over the last 3-1/2 months worried about my step-son because that is normal. But I have also regained perspective. Life is valuable and it can be taken from you at any moment. It’s important to surround yourself by positive people who build you up and don’t focus on petty bumps in life because the positive people in your life are the ones who will help you get through the big bumps.

 

optimistic

 

Don’t Feel Sorry For Us; We’re Pretty Lucky

Between Joey having Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis, residual pain from the surgery and his PTSD, as well as Andi’s migraines, along with a recent concussion, we often find ourselves visiting the doctor and the hospital. Friends and family constantly make comments to me like “if it wasn’t for bad luck, you guys would have no luck at all,” “life is so unfair,” “you guys can’t catch a break,” “your family has had it rough” and “you must fund your doctor’s vacations.” The thing is though, well other than the last one, I don’t feel like any of that is true.

My son was diagnosed with a life-threatening cancer at 10-years-old. We were told he may never walk again. At 13, he has beaten LCH, runs, walks and rides a bike like a normal kid and even performs in Circus Mojo doing a variety of acts that use his legs. He didn’t die. He can walk. He is funny and caring. I think that is pretty lucky.

joy wheelchair

After surgery in 2012

joey german

2014

 

Andi has suffered from migraines since she was 9 with no real explanation. She will be 16 this month. That sucks but they aren’t caused by epilepsy, a tumor or a serious disease. They are most likely hormonal and will eventually be under control. That is lucky.

Andi has suffered from a concussion since April 19 and has had a heck of a time with it. She was hospitalized for two and a half days, she can only attend half days at school, she is nauseous all the time and definitely doesn’t feel herself. A girl, who was less than five feet from Andi, kicked the soccer ball so hard that when it hit Andi in the face, it knocked her to the ground. She didn’t lose consciousnesses. The pediatrician told us the only thing that would make this concussion worse is if she was knocked unconsciousness. I think the fact that she didn’t is pretty lucky. When neurology admitted her at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, they told us she could be there two to six days. She wasn’t even there for three full days. That was lucky.

my cutie kids

my cutie kids

She is still dealing with the concussion. It is hard on our family. She can only go to school half days, which requires a lot of juggling. However, we have awesome friends and family who are helping us with that. We are so lucky to have those people in our lives.

We are also lucky to have Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, one of the number one hospitals in the country, 15 minutes from our home. We are lucky to have one of the top two LCH doctors in the country 15 minutes from our home. We are lucky to have one of the best children’s neurology teams in the country 15 minutes from our home. Really, what more could we ask for? Well, maybe for better health insurance or someone to pay our medical bills. Ha!

We’re good. Don’t feel sorry for us. We are pretty lucky!

family shot (2)

A Familiar Place

family shot (2)What was once a very scary and confusing place is now a familiar and comforting place for me and my family. “I know this place like the back of my hand,” my 15-year-old daughter Andi said after telling me where the closest water fountain was at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center main campus. I giggled and reflected on the last three years.

Three years ago, we could barely find the ER when needed to or the neurology department on A8, which we had just been introduced to a few years earlier. We would often find ourselves lost in the building if we had to park in a different part of the garage or use a different entrance. But not any more.

Almost three years ago, my son Joey who is now 13, was diagnosed with Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis, a rare disease that doctors argue over whether or not it’s cancer. His white blood cells ate his hip bone causing him to need a bone graft, months in a wheel chair, steroid treatment, months with a walker and then crutches and years of physical therapy (read stories posted HERE for information about LCH and Joey’s battle).

In those three years we have gone from barely being able to find the ER when needed and neurology for Andi’s migraines to knowing where the cool art is in the building, where to find a water fountain, the best items on the lunch menu, where oncology, orthopedics, physical therapy, blood draw, radiology, the emergency room, behavioral medicine, a quiet outside area and so much more are located. We can give directions to those new to the hospital. We are no longer shocked by some of the things we see like children with missing limbs, those in body casts or little ones with burned bodies. We are still saddened but no longer shocked.

We now have favorite nurses in several departments. We know staff members by name, and they know us. We know which techs are better at drawing blood and giving shots. We know which clinics have the best coffee and hot chocolate. We even know most of the valets by name because when you have a kid in a wheelchair or pain, you let someone else park the car. We know how to get massages for the patient and mom, how to get discounted meals and where to get a breath of fresh air without worrying about the neighboring community. We know what days we can find Circus Mojo performing and in which clinics.

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital is so big and complex that it used to be a scary place to my family. Now oddly enough, we find comfort being there. We seek out our favorite art piece, a framed quilt (read about it), when we need a good distraction. We go outside near Alvin and the Chipmunks when we need fresh air. We bring our favorite nurses cookies from time to time and stop by to see our favorite doctors or staff members just to say hi between appointments.

I think the reason it brings so much comfort is because before Joey was diagnosed and in pain, we were lost and frustrated. We needed answers and it was Dr. Neil Johnson at Cincinnati Children’s who gave us those answers and put Joey on the road to recovery. Dr. Johnson is a hero in our eyes, along with all the other doctors, nurses and staff who helped us along the way. The doctors at Children’s have also helped Andi with her migraines. Everyone there is so kind and reassuring.

We’ve learned things aren’t always as scary as they seem and sometimes the places that seem the scariest might just be where you can get the most comfort.