Christmas 2018 – Seven Differences

I love Christmas. My husband would tell you that sometimes I go a little too crazy with the cleaning, baking, gift-wrapping and preparations. And he would be right. But the joy of a family gathering together makes it all worthwhile.

Our Christmas was different this year. Very different. In fact, I can think of seven differences right off the top of my head.

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The ornament that commemorates our first Christmas in 1976

Difference #1 – I didn’t go crazy decorating this year. I put up and decorated our Christmas tree. And that’s it. And I didn’t even hang ALL of the ornaments. No garlands and lights. No wreaths. No candles, or anything else lurking in the bins marked “Christmas” in my storage area. I didn’t even put out Christmas napkins or plates.

And, you know what? I still loved it.

img_1603Difference #2 – Less Sugar. LOTS less sugar. My children and grandchildren have grown accustomed to favorite home-baked cookies and candies being stacked one atop the other in a special set of aluminum stacking trays I inherited from my mother-in-law. Every year each of five layers of trays included our favorites: Snowball cookies, candy cane cookies, chocolate fudge, peppermint patties, and soft ginger cookies dipped in white chocolate.  Eyes would open wide whenever I’d bring the tray full of goodies out of the 3-season porch (our second fridge in the winter). Everyone knew yumminess was contained within those five layers.

This year, we’re all more conscious of sugar and what too much sugar can do to the body. I made one sweet treat and skipped baking Christmas cookies (with the exception of a batch of gluten-free snowball cookies for my hubby). There also weren’t candy dishes throughout the house filled with M&M’s and chocolate candies.

We still enjoyed Christmas – sans the sugar high.

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A back pack – Miss V’s all too grown up gift choice prompts her beautiful smile

Difference #3 – The guests. The people gathered were a sweet mix of family and friends. Our daughter and her family were part of the usual cast of characters at our celebration, but our son and his family could not come because they were using this time off of work and school to go on a family vacation. This year our gathering included our new friends and adopted family of the heart Herim and Waldely, and their sweet daughters Fabiana and Alexa. If that weren’t blessing enough, as a bonus, our celebration also included Herim’s visiting cousin Anna and Anna’s nephew Luigi.

In addition to hearing a lot of Spanish floating around the room, our little family relished spending time with our new friends as they shared with us more about their country of birth, Venezuela. We learned about the similarities and differences in customs, and laughed together over the cultural differences that one stumbles upon when being immersed in the language and traditions of the United States. Waldely shared the humor she found when Americans are introduced to a new food  they don’t particularly like. We don’t just come out and say, “I don’t like it.” With a little raise of our eyebrows, we say, “Mmmm…interesting.”

I only wish I had taken pictures!!

Difference #4 – The meal. It was an early lunch, rather than an evening meal together to accommodate everyone’s schedules for the rest of the day. It was rather simple fare with ham and cheese sliders on the menu, rather than the egg-laden brunch casserole I had originally planned. There were a few equally simple go-withs such as deviled eggs, a little fruit tray, a few cut-up veggies with dip, potato chips, pickles/olives, and the like. Waldely added quesillo, a delicious traditional Venezuelan flan to our buffet spread. Oh, so yummy! Estaba delicioso!

GF Wisconsin Buns

Difference #5 – Gluten Free Options. In our family, we traditionally enjoy what we call “Wisconsin Buns” on Christmas Eve.  It’s a recipe handed down to me by my mother-in-love.  She made it almost weekly in their family, but I reserve making this special (highly calorific and very bad for you) “coffee cake” for Christmas Eve morning (and will also make it as the birthday treat for any family member who requests it). This year I also made up an experimental batch of gluten-free Wisconsin Buns. Not the same by any stretch of the imagination, but a surprisingly tasty alternative treat for my husband, who now finds allergies to be a daily struggle.

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Papa helping Charlie crack open his gift – new geodes

Difference #6 – The shopping. All of our shopping was done by Wayne on-line this year – mostly via Amazon. No trudging around in malls. No being tempted by impulse purchases placed strategically at every check-out line. The kids and grandkids made lists on their wish-lists and the purchased gifts came to our door only needing to be wrapped. I love watching the faces of each grandchild as they open a gift they really wanted.

Christmas + 3 grandsons = LOTS of Legos

Difference #7 – Momma was here, but absent. Though our house was full of people laughing and the sounds of children playing, Momma pretty much missed all of the Christmas activity as she retreated to her room and slept throughout the day. Last year she was able to join us in the family room and watch in delight as her great-grandchildren opened gifts. This year, Alzheimer’s has noticeably taken away her delight in all things social. Her inability to participate in our celebration was a little sad. In spite of that, I’m glad her number on the wait-list hasn’t come up at the memory care facility we have reserved for her. It brought me peace of mind being able to peek in on her in our home.

If Momma had a wish-list for next year’s Christmas gift, heaven would be at the very top of her list. No more tears or confusion. No more memory problems. No more excruciating knee problems. And together with her Lord and Savior FOREVER!

Now, wouldn’t THAT be an AWESOME Christmas?

I Know Who Holds Tomorrow

Happy New Year, friends!

This morning Facebook brought up a “memory” for me to enjoy with this post from four years ago today:

Janurary 1, 2015

In helping my mom with paper clutter, I found the family cookbook compiled for the Peet family reunion in 2000. Mom’s not doing much cooking lately, so I took it home to explore some of the recipes. Found a story on one of her recipe submissions that I’d never heard my mom tell before.

I loved the last bit where she reminisced about her own mother, sharing,  “My Mom was a good cook and if you arrived unexpected at dinner time she always had room at the table and enough food to go around.” Mom added her own memory of the first time she made this recipe, reminiscing, “This is the first cake I tried to make after I got married. In fact, the date was January 1, 1955.” (I think it was probably 1956, as mom and dad were married in July of 1955.) She added, ” there was no cake – all bottom or top – depending which way you look at it. I had copied 1 1/2 tablespoons instead of 1 1/2 cups. It took me three tries before I got it right.”

It’s kind of hard to believe that four years ago today, this woman who, as of the past few days, can no longer tie her own shoes was living on her own and still doing simple meal preparation. Because the effects of Alzheimer’s had been noticeably present for quite some time, I was making frequent visits to help her out, often making meals for the week that she could warm up in the microwave. She may not have been cooking much, but she was still driving, doing her own grocery shopping, going to a weekly hair appointment. She was having trouble walking, but was still busily working in her garden, oftentimes worrying her neighbors because she’d spend the whole day out there with very few breaks. Now, she can hardly walk the 10 or so feet from her bedside to the bathroom. Back then she was still doing her own laundry – much to our dismay because that required going up and down stairs with her very unreliable knees. Now, she has a hard time figuring out how to fold a washcloth or towel.

In 2015 we knew that significant changes were on the horizon. We just had no idea how many changes there would be. Looking back, it’s easy to see how God was at work, guiding our steps, giving wisdom for decision-making, protecting Momma when we couldn’t be there, providing help when help was needed, and making each of us ready for the changes ahead of us.

It’s now the first day of 2019. We are seeing changes in mom’s physical and mental health almost daily. Mom now needs our help for nearly everything. One advantage of having walked through some difficult places in the past few years is the knowledge that our God was faithful in meeting our needs in the past, and He will not stop caring for mom in the days ahead.

We don’t know what 2019 holds for us, but we know who holds tomorrow.

Check out this video on YouTube:

Finding Joy

I’ve been working on sorting through some of momma’s old photos so that my daughter can help me get them into a memory album for my mom (and for me). I thought of this blog post from almost three years ago. As I read it once again I was reminded of how God has faithfully guided each and every step my husband and I have taken in caring for both my mom and my brother.

Barefoot Lily Lady

 Facebook Journal Entry – February 2, 2016
Today could have been a very discouraging day. It seemed the Enemy was definitely intent on throwing into my path every obstacle he could muster as I tried to minister to my mom and brother.
It was obvious to me that from the moment mom awoke, her state of confusion was worse than I had ever seen it. As she stood in the middle of the kitchen of the home she and dad had built in 1962, she looked at me and said, “I’m really in a fog. I can’t remember where anything is. This doesn’t even look like my kitchen.”
My heart sank. Mom’s dementia was on the move again, claiming another piece of her short-term memory – and maybe even a little bit of her long-term memory as well. Together, we made it through the morning, enjoying one another’s company…

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Photos – Preserving My Family Story

Baby Charlotte Louise Peet
My mother as an infant in 1934

Nearly three years ago, several large Rubbermaid bins filled with photo albums, loose photos, pictures in envelopes, boxes and tins made the move along with my mother from Milwaukee to Fitchburg. As time and energy allows, I am sorting through these photos – some of them from several generations before hers. Though it slows my progress a bit, Momma enjoys flipping through the photos and “helping” me sort them too.

Photos of mom’s childhood and early adult years will sometimes prompt a story or two. Alzheimer’s keeps her from remembering the name of the city where she had lived for the past 60 years, or even what she had for lunch, but she can remember the names of aunts and uncles she hasn’t seen in years, along with a few of the details of events from her childhood. Continue reading “Photos – Preserving My Family Story”

Tuesday Caregiver Tip: The Christmas Letter

It’s a dilemma you might face as a caregiver. The one you’re caring for customarily sent out Christmas cards. How do you help them now when they can barely sign their name? Continue reading “Tuesday Caregiver Tip: The Christmas Letter”