The Healing I Never Saw Coming

These days having a daughter who is deaf is a part of our norm. We don’t dwell on it. We don’t even think about it for the most part. SJ is deaf and it does make life different for her than for a hearing person but she has proven over and over that it isn’t going to hold her back.

Although, looking back 6 years ago to when she was diagnosed, it wasn’t that simple. It was pretty devastating to be honest. If you’ve followed my blog for a while you know the story. My husband was a worship leader in Texas when we felt God calling us to Kentucky. We left our home and our ministry to see what He had in store. Only two months later when we had no job and were living with my parents we learned that our daughter had profound hearing loss.

Everything we had built together as a couple was shaken.

The very first time I ever saw Jeremy he was leading worship, singing and playing the guitar. Music was an enormous part of our lives and we felt the Lord had blessed us with the gift to lead others in bringing God praise through music. Finding out that your child is deaf is a big shocker for most but when what you feel is your calling revolves around being able to hear it is especially tough. We felt so lost. It was like being stripped of our identity.

That wasn’t in the forefront of our mind at the time though. My biggest concern was figuring out how to communicate with our baby girl now that I knew she hadn’t been hearing me for the past two years.

I had already taught her a handful of signs that I learned from a baby signing curriculum my parents got for our first born. Now it was time to really dig into sign language.

I devoured everything I could find that taught ASL. I contacted friends that signed or that knew anyone who was deaf. I wanted to learn all that I could.  I bought books about ASL. I watched videos about ASL and I integrated into our home daily. It was SJ’s first language. One of the things that really helped me in that season was worshiping in sign.

I will never forget the first song I learned. It was Matt Reman’s We Are the Free. I practiced over and over. No one saw me except my Heavenly Father.

I started learning new worship songs and I would occasionally sign in church while we sang, but for the most part it was something I did privately. It got me through that difficult season and it also helped me become more familiar with ASL so that I could continue moving forward with finding a language for SJ.

Fast forward 6 years and SJ now has cochlear implants.

She can hear music now and has learned to speak. Also, Jeremy is leading worship again. It’s been a long journey to get to this point but the Lord has recently brought even more healing to my soul.

When I found out that deaf singer-songwriter Mandy Harvey (the golden Buzzer winner from America’s Got Talent) was going to be a special guest at our church I was ecstatic. I was also told that the pastor wanted me to sign during worship. The idea of interpreting worship songs and expressing my love and adoration to God through this beautiful signed language made my heart so full. I dove right in.

As I started working to interpret the songs panic set in. I would be signing in front of a lot of other people on the platform for the first time and some of those people would actually be deaf and use sign language to communicate! This terrified me. It’s one thing when it’s just me and Jesus but this was a whole new ball game. These are just some of the thoughts, fears, and lies that went through my mind.

You can’t do this. You aren’t qualified. What if you accidentally sign the wrong thing? What if you forget the words? What if people think you are showing off? What if the deaf community thinks you are foolish? What if they find out your daughter has cochlear implants? You know how cochlear implants are perceived. They are going to hate you and see you as a fraud. What were you thinking to agree to this? Back out! Back out now!

I let the anxiety cloak me and I texted my friend who grew up signing because she is a CODA (child of deaf adults). She was going to help me but I tried to cancel. I told her I was “chickening out”. I typed out the words “I don’t think I’m strong enough or fast enough”. She texted me back encouraging me and told me why she thought I needed to do it, but also told me I could decide after meeting with her and going over the songs.

That Sunday I stepped up to the x on the stage and as the band began to play I took that music that I heard and I formed it into a visual with my hands. It was incredible. The beauty behind American Sign Language is amazing to me.

I was completely overcome with emotions as I felt the Lord healing me in areas that I didn’t even know it was needed. He did though. This was a full circle moment that I would have never envisioned in a million years. I let my hands sing as I signed the words

“I am chosen, not forsaken. I am who you say I am. You are for me, not against me. I am who you say I am.

Who the son sets free is free indeed. I am a child of God, yes I am. In my father’s house, there’s a place for me. I am a child of God yes I am”

I mentioned that when we were in that dark place after leaving our home in Texas we felt lost and confused about who we were. When we had to choose how to help our daughter by either fully emerging in the signing community or having the cochlear implant surgery we felt lost and confused about who we were. When I was asked to sign but felt completely unqualified those same emotions were back but as I motioned my hand back and forth to form the words “I AM WHO YOU SAY I AM” I knew it to be true.

No matter what obstacles or lies we are up against we can stand firm on the truth about what His word says about who we are and who He has called us to be.

I am chosen!

There is a place for me!

I am a child of God!

Who knew how this story would play out. The daughter of a worship leader profoundly deaf did not receive the supernatural healing prayed for.

It sounds bleak, but instead, God took us on a faith journey like no other. A journey that at times seemed so dark I felt like I was going to accidentally stumble into a pit. I had no idea where we were headed.

That Sunday as I stood next to my husband while he played the guitar and led the congregation I interpreted the words into sign language and it was like I had an aeriel view of the journey and I saw how God’s hand was at work all along.

I have had several more opportunities to sign since then and will be worshiping in sign this Sunday as well. I have had such generous feedback from my church family and I appreciate the kind words. Whenever someone told me that it was powerful and touching I wanted to share with them the story of how I got to that place and how it was all because of God. This little testimony took over a thousand words to type out though so instead all I can say is: Thank you. I feel the same way.

 

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By | October 5th, 2018|Uncategorized|1 Comment

Inspiring Mom Kadi Spurlock

Kadi and her husband David dated for a little while in high school. They both moved from Texas to Colorado separately in college to pursue their creative endeavors. That is where they reconnected and fell in love. They married in January of 2004 with no plans of children anytime in the foreseeable future, but when Kadi found out she was pregnant only 3 months later, their plans changed. From that point on they’ve watched all of their plans change… a lot. It’s been through many tests and trials that they have learned now more than ever to lean on the Lord and trust that His ways are perfect.

In  2013 Kadi was pregnant with their 4th child, a little girl they named Charley Mae. She was born healthy weighing 6 1/2 pound but there was something different about her. She had extremely low muscle tone and because this was Kadi’s 4th child she knew that she wasn’t hitting all the milestones at a normal rate.

Charley Mae was a happy, easy going baby but she didn’t even roll over until she was 10 months old. Of course the Doctors were doing everything they could to pinpoint the problem, but they ruled out muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, and all of the main causes of low muscle tone. By the time Charley Mae was 3 Kadi had taken her to see more specialists than they could count but they still lacked a diagnosis.


Kadi was feeling completely discouraged. Reflecting on that season she says “at that point, I didn’t care what it was. I just wanted to know how to help her. I wanted answers.” So finally a developmental pediatrician ordered a panel of blood work and a referral to see a geneticist. That’s when they started getting clues to what was going on. Charley Mae’s panel came back with a rare abnormality caused by a deletion in her chromosome 11. She is missing a tiny fragment of that chain, and only a handful of people in the world have been diagnosed with this condition. It doesn’t even have an official name.
Kadi and David were informed that this condition, along with low muscle tone and other minor issues, causes cancerous tumors that can appear between the ages of eight and ten years old. These tumors would develop in her neck, chest, and maybe even brain area.

Even though this wasn’t great news they were thankful to have some answers and were ready to take the next step to help their daughter.
Kadi met with the genetic counselor and learned that the condition thrives in high altitude. That means that low oxygen is not healthy for Charley Mae and it was recommended that they move. Kadi said that in that moment she immediately started thinking of moving to another area within the state that would be lower altitude.


Colorado was their home. It was where they fell in love and got married and it is all their children had ever known. This was more than just their address. It was their dream.


That’s when the geneticists informed Kadi of the severity of the situation. She looked at her and told her, I’m sorry, but I’m not talking about a lower altitude in Colorado. You all would need to move to sea level.


A shock went through Kadi’s body. She was alone when she met the geneticists assuming they would discuss treatment options like diet, medicine, and more bloodwork. This news came from out of nowhere and now it was up to her to share it with her husband. She called him after the appointment expecting that he would not respond well to the news because he loved Colorado even more than she did. After going over all the details with David, Kadi held the phone in silence allowing David to respond and then he said “Okay. Then we are moving”. He didn’t even hesitate.

They prayerfully felt that the Portland area would be their destination. They didn’t have any connections there. No big safety net or job transfers that would make for a smooth transition. They had something better than all that, the peace of God.

Kadi says “Things moved quickly once we knew what needed to be done. It was as simple as that.  There was  nothing that was going to stop us from making sure Charley Mae has the best life possible.”

So they immediately finished remodeling, and put their house on the market. It sold on the first weekend. Ironically they had already tried to get their house on the market before because they wanted to live in the country, but things kept preventing them. Kadi said that once Charley Mae got her diagnosis it all made sense WHY things weren’t working before. It would have been a disaster if they had just bought a house and then had to relocate again.

When the genetic counselor did a follow-up call to see what they had decided, they told her that the plan was to fly out to Portland in a month and buy a house. As soon as she heard that she was thrilled because she was going to recommend a specialist that was a colleague of hers that was in Portland! This was such a miraculous setup that made the whole transition go extremely smooth.

When they went to Portland to look at houses they prayed “Lord give us a clear yes or no” and house after house seemed to be a definite NO. They were starting to run out of time and it was getting dark, but that’s when it happened. They rolled up to a tiny little tiny house in Washington with a barn and chicken coop and they instantly fell in love! This was it!

It was what they wanted when they were in Denver but had never worked out. Now was the time. When they first walked through the 1920’s  2 bedroom house with the tiny porch on 5 acres, they had no reservations!

Maybe some would call them crazy considering their dream house was nowhere near move in ready.  It was originally a bunkhouse to the ranch hands that worked on the dairy farm. It was 1,100 square feet and it looked like all the electrical would have to be pulled, walls torn down, sheetrock replaced. There had been multiple remodels with 6 different layers of flooring that would all be ripped out. It was so nasty (Kadi’s description) that they bought a cute 1950’s Spartan camper and lived in that for the first 7 months while they gutted the place.


They wouldn’t have it any other way though. They are a true fixer upper couple with enough talent to make Chip and Joanna Gaines marvel at their work.


It’s been a year since the big diagnosis and in the time that they have been in Washington they have seen dramatic results in Charley Mae’s health and development. Her muscle strength has improved and her geneticists at the Portland’s Children’s Hospital has encouraged them that she’s on the right path. It is a lengthy process though. Charley Mae is in physical therapy, speech therapy and they will continue to reevaluate and assess her as she grows.
The biggest change aside from the move has been their new diet.

The specialists have recommended that Charley Mae be on a no processed food diet. They said it’s okay if she goes to a birthday party and has a piece of cake but on a day to day basis she does not need to eat anything that cancer could feed off such as gluten, dairy, and refined sugar. Living on farm land and eating homegrown foods as certainly helped with this process!

    

 

Charley Mae just turned five and while it hasn’t always been easy Kadi knows that they are giving her the best quality of life possible.

Kadi said, “We’ve been here a year and watched God put all the puzzle pieces together. It has been amazing to see it all fall into place and makes us excited for what’s next. We know God has a plan for Charley.

I want her to know what God has done and is doing and constantly be able to share that he has made her for a special purpose. I know God is using her in a big way.”


Kadi’s days are full as she now has SIX kids and homeschools almost all of them. They have created a beautiful home for themselves in Washington, just north of Portland Oregon.

Kadi has one of those Instagrams that you scroll through and drool over.

Not only does she have a gorgeous family but she is an extremely talented photographer with an equally talented husband who does carpentry like you wouldn’t believe. Oh, and they can both make the most incredibly exquisite food. What is really beautiful though are their hearts and their faith. They are committed to putting Christ first in their marriage and family. It is evident that His love radiates in their little farmhouse.


Kadi’s words in the midst of the storm are both encouraging and profound. She says: “When something is so completely out of your control you are either going to panic or you just have to let go. I prayed for an answer and we got that answer. I prayed for peace and He gave us peace. We know deep down that God has this. It’s in His hands and so we trust Him. “

 

 

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By | September 27th, 2018|Uncategorized|1 Comment

Back to School

The kids have been back in school for almost a month now. It’s a really cool feeling to be able to have them all start on the same day and have the same days off! I am especially looking forward to fall break next month. In the past, they were all at different schools. Ezie and Z had the same start day because at least they were in the same ISD, but since SJ’s deaf school was private it had its own schedule.

So far having them all in the same school is everything I dreamed it would be. Don’t get me wrong, they are not on the same daily schedule. Ezie is still half-day kindergarten, add to that the fact that Z has a weekly robotics club so I have to pick him up an hour later makes for a lot of back and forth.

Sometimes I need to hear from moms of grown children reminding me to cherish these times. It genuinely does help. I love the toddler and preschool years, but now that I am on my twelfth year as a MOP (mother of preschooler) I am salivating at the idea of getting to go exercise by myself or run some errands quickly without having to mess with buckling and unbuckling car seats and screaming parking lot safety lectures all the way into the store every single time. I want to meet up with other women from the church someday or become a two income family. Sorry, I am getting off topic with my daydreaming again. I promise you I do not resent my children! They mean everything to me and the fact that we are finished having babies allows me to see the temporary state of things and makes me want to be present even more because I know that this is it.

That was a huge tangent though. We’ll discuss my new stage of transitioning from a mom of babies to a mom of kids another day. This blog post was supposed to be about the first day of school!

We started practicing our school routine a week beforehand.

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This is a great way to adjust sleeping schedules and tweak the routine. For the past four years we have practiced our school routine by literally getting dressed, packing lunches and getting in the car to go to school even though we really go to the park or to get groceries or something.

On the real first day of school we allowed even more time than usual because we had to do the obligatory school photos.

We even went to our next door neighbors house because they have so many flowers. Our landscaping isn’t nearly as nice, but J did plant some Zenias for the first time and they are in full bloom right now.

 

I also treated the kids to a special animal toast breakfast inspired by something I found on Pinterest.

 

The kids each got a note and a special animal. They turned out so cute and boy was I proud when I saw that my oldest had written me a note and made me an animal toast that is of my favorite animal!

I loved it! It gave me a flash back to when we made this fruit creation before he was even in school.

J came with us the first day and we prayed over the kids together and I did tear up a little.

Z is in 5th grade now. I already mentioned robotics. That is the thing he is the most into this year. I am sure you will hear more about this during competition
season. He just had his eleventh birthday. We went bowling with a couple of his buddies and he got a robot kit and the Indian in the Cupboard book series as gifts. They know him so well!

SJ is in 2nd grade. She has been thriving at her new school. I have been moved to tears many times because of her enthusiasm and how well she fits in. She has been really excited about reading chapter books for the first time. She truly understands them and eagerly tells us all the details. This is a major jump for her. We recently had another IEP (individualized education plan) meeting and discussed some of the times where hearing is most difficult for her and ways that the school can be as accommodating as possible. I am overwhelmed with how they go above and beyond to help each of my children succeed. I love our school!

Ezie is in Kindergarten. He rides the bus in and then I go pick all of them up in the afternoon. Ezie used to have an IEP for speech therapy but in May the preschool decided he no longer needed it which is fantastic. He is doing really well and just lost his two front teeth! Such a big boy.

Elle is about to turn three believe it or not and she is potty training. We’ve been diaper free for over a month now! She never wets the bed and hasn’t had any accidents at church, or in her car seat, or at the park, or on the go. So that’s great news. Except her big obstacle is the POO! She refuses to poo in the potty. I have never faced this problem before but I know it’s not uncommon. It is tiring, but having this issue with my fourth child isn’t so bad because I do realize that eventually she will get it.

 

They are all growing and changing so much I can’t keep up! As far as goals for the year, Zion will learn to code on a greater level. SJ will learn to adapt to mainstream schooling. Ezie will learn to read. Elle will learn to poop in the toilet. That’s a pretty wide range of skills we are working on, but I wouldn’t change a thing. It’s going to be a great school year.

By | September 10th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

The Nucleus 7 Sound Processor

After 5 and 1/2 years with the same Cochlear Implant Processors SJ got her first upgrade in June! It was so exciting. I describe CI upgrades to cell phones. It’s like having an old banged up cell phone that won’t stay charged anymore and doesn’t have the latest features but you still have to hold out until you are eligible for your next upgrade. Except imagine your phone is 10 times more expensive and that your hearing depended on it. So it’s a pretty big deal.

This was the day SJ got her new CIs. Those two big boxes she is carrying are what the processors come in. There are quite a few extra pieces that come in the full package.

It was amazing to see the difference between the first time SJ got her CIs activated and this time. When she truly heard for the first time she was three years old. She still didn’t really care about hearing and she didn’t have any ownership of her equipment. In fact, for the first couple of years we had to convince her that she should wear them. When she was in preschool we tried taping them on, using headbands, decorating them with stickers and covers, whatever it took. I remember dreaming of the day that she would want to wear her CIs and could actually put them on herself.

That day has come! Not only can she put on her own batteries and equipment but she has been really excited about her new gear and motivated to learn about how it works! She takes pride in her CIs and is becoming more and more responsible and independent. She knows how to take off the batteries and charge them at night and how to plug into the FM system or audio cable at school. I’m so proud of her. She now knows more about all that stuff than I do!

This upgrade included a lot of new improvements and accessories that we were really looking forward to. SJ went from having the Nucleus 5 to the Nucleus 7. One of the things we dreamed about with the new cochlear implant is the “find my processor” feature. We actually haven’t had to use this tracking device yet, but there have been countless times it would have come in handy in the past! It’s reassuring to know it’s there.

Another cool thing that I didn’t expect was that the cochlear implant instruction manual is all digital.

This has been really neat for SJ because she loves to watch the videos and for that reason she is more aware than ever of how her cochlear implant works. Her brother Z  has also watched the videos and both kids have been instrumental when troubleshooting. When we were in Michigan SJ couldn’t find any batteries that were working on her CI. They were brand new so I didn’t know what could be going wrong! That’s when Z chimed in “Didn’t the manual say that the Aqua Plus accessory only works with rechargeable batteries and not disposable ones?” He was right! Problem solved.

Speaking of the Aqua Plus, I can’t say enough good things about this waterproof cover. Before now, if SJ wanted to swim she had to put the CI in a special order disposable baggie and then hope that it would stay in place which it hardly ever did so she would just take it off and swim without any hearing.

Now her CI can go into a form-fitting reusable cover with a waterproof cable. This has allowed SJ to be able to really swim and hear for the first time.

 

This photo is from the first time she wore her Aqua Plus. You can see how happy she was.

I’ll admit I was terrified when we were in one of the great lakes and she had her Aqua Plus, brand new CI and Nammu hat. I pictured her CI floating off into the sunset never to return, but thanks to the clip that tethers it to her swimsuit it wasn’t an issue.

You can barely see the invisible string that is keeping her CI connected to her.

She even went for a ride with a professional kiteboarding and they went really fast on the water. Still, her CI stayed on! Thank goodness!

 

 

Lastly, SJ has a new accessory called the mini mic.

 

This thing is awesome because I can clip the little mic to my shirt and my voice goes directly to SJ’s CI’s. This has been a huge help at the park where there is tons of background noise. It’s also great when we go on walks or bike rides. SJ can’t hear when a car is approaching but thanks to the mini mic I can warn her with ease. She also used it at sports camp over the summer. The coach gladly clipped it to his shirt.

Can you spot the mini mic in this photo?

It came in handy again when she went rock climbing with my brother and sister in law too. Whoever was belaying SJ would wear the mini mic and could direct her as she climbed.

The mini mic is very hard to see in this photo but SJ’s climbing coach a.k.a. Aunt Lindsey is wearing it.

She did a great job advocating for herself and making sure the right person was wearing the mic! The cool thing is that I can talk to her when she is behind the glass at the Chick Fil A playland. One time I had a mom asking me how I was doing that. Ha! I feel like an FBI agent sometimes talking discreetly into my little gadget. I’ve seen people do a double take at the grocery store when SJ is ahead of me at the other end of the aisle trying to grab a bag of candy and I quietly say “Put the candy down now.” into my mic and she startles a little and puts the candy back. BUSTED!

One feature that the Nucleus 7 has that SJ hasn’t had need for yet is Bluetooth technology. When she is older and she wants to stream the audio from movies, music, or her phone straight to her CIs she can!

We’ve had a few accidents though as we have learned the ins and outs of how it works. One time J called me and I couldn’t hear him. That’s when SJ came into the room to announce that her dad’s voice was in her head! The call was being transferred to her devices via Bluetooth. A similar blunder happened when SJ went on a road trip with my parents. The couple of times she has taken a trip without me I have had the caregiver sync their iPhone with her CIs. That way they could use the lost processor feature or the remote control if they need to.

 

This is one of the many screen shots I have taken to use as a tutorial for someone who needs to pair their iphone.

 

This is a snapshot of all the stuff (minus the actual processors) that goes with SJ when she travels.

Anyway, so my parents were on their way to a children’s museum that they have never been to before and they have a van full of kids and Sedona starts shouting- Turn left! That’s when they realized the phone was accidentally set for the GPS to go directly to SJ’s CIs! She was having to dictate the directions to my parents! It’s so futuristic I can hardly wrap my brain around it. Don’t worry we’ve gotten most of those kinks worked out since then.

It’s exciting to think that if technology has improved this much in the 5 years that she has been implanted what will it look like when she is an adult!?

Needless to say, we (including SJ) have loved the new Nucleus 7 sound processor. We are thankful for the technology, the doctors, the insurance and of course God’s provision that allows all of this to happen. SJ is a pioneer when it comes to some of this hearing technology and it certainly has its challenges, but we are aware of how blessed we are. She had such an active summer between rock climbing, camping, kayaking, sports camp, fishing, and kiteboarding. Her hearing loss didn’t slow her down one bit!

I’m so glad the Nucleus 7 can keep up!

 

By | August 28th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

The Decision to Retain Our Second Grader

About a month ago I got a lengthy comment on an old blog post called Crunchy VS Soggy. The reader was responding to the part of the article where I talk about the decision to have our infant sons circumcised. Her response was cordial but she was obviously opposed to circumcision. At the end of her comment she wrote

” We can’t go back but we can make changes for the future, sometimes it’s good to break traditions when they are unethical, or permanently alter someone else’s body without their consent”

I responded to the comment with an equally lengthy and equally cordial reply in which I mentioned

“Parenting is full of so many hard choices that we have to make on our children’s behalf day after day.”

I can’t think of anything more awkward to start off this blog post than a circumcision debate but I promise I am going somewhere with this.

Some people let their children drink Koolaid and eat Lunchables and they are judged. The other end of the spectrum is judged for not vaccinating their children. Some moms swear by homeschooling, others condemn it. From breastfeeding to working outside of the home, the mommy wars go on and on. However, I think for some of us moms, the real war is within ourselves.

The external voices are loud, but as a mother of 4 in my mid 30’s I no longer have the time to care diddly-squat about what other people say about my parenting. That doesn’t mean I feel like I know what I’m doing though. Like I said- parenting is full of so many hard choices that we make on our children’s’ behalf day after day.

Sometimes it’s cut and dry, like when you’re one year old wants to pick up a cigarette butt off the ground and see what it taste like. That’s a clear N-O. What about when your one year old wants to sleep in your bed? That might be clear for some people but there are a lot of different opinions out there about which choice is the “right” way. We have to assess, and pray, and consult, and research, and discuss and in the end we go for it. We make decisions for our kids because they are relying on us to raise them and we love them but dang it, sometimes it is draining.

Our deaf daughter has been all across the map when it comes to developmental delays. Cognitively she is fine. She has no other health issues, but because she hasn’t been hearing as long as other kids she is automatically delayed in speech and for that reason she has bounced around in terms of what grade level she is on. I was always on the edge of my seat waiting for her teachers to suggest that she should repeat a grade. The deaf school that she attended was Montessori style so grade level didn’t really matter, but eventually she would be mainstreamed.  At the end of last school year as we prepared for her to mainstream into the 3rd grade my husband was extremely reluctant and proposed that she should be retained. I pushed back.

Would she be made fun of for being the oldest? Would she hate us later? Am I keeping her from reaching her full potential? The questions went on and as her parents, we had a lot of heated discussions.

I wanted to hear what the experts (the teachers and therapists at her school) thought. One day I missed the school bus and had to drive my daughter to school. While I was there I walked up to the receptionist desk with my super messy bun, unbrushed teeth and gross old flannel and leggings. I figured since I was there already I might as well make an appointment. It turned out the people I needed to see were available to meet right then! I wasn’t really prepared for a meeting but this was my chance. I sat my butt down, gave some paper and pens to my two little kids that were with me and set my phone to record the conversation so that my husband could hear all the details later. They showed me assessments and shared what some of the other families were doing. As they went on I realized they actually agreed with my husband. They were all for retaining her. There were several reasons for this and as they explained their thoughts it made total sense to me and I was completely at peace with the decision, relieved even.

A few weeks later we had another meeting. This one was with the public school that she would be going to and my husband was with me. Thank goodness I didn’t look like such a hot mess this time as all these different specialists and professionals filed into the room for our daughter’s IEP meeting. As we discussed all the details someone mentioned 3rd grade registration and I froze. I interrupted to explain that actually she would be repeating 2nd grade. There was some confusion among the team and not everyone in the meeting was comfortable with that idea. I understand why. In a lot of cases there are so many options to help a child get caught up rather than hold them back. This situation is unique though because she is going from a very small school with acoustically sound walls and often times 2 to 1 student-teacher ratio and will be transitioning to a large school with a cafeteria and a gymnasium and lots of noise and distractions. She was already stuck on a first grade level with some of her school work so to suggest that she would adapt to her new school environment socially and get caught up academically was risky. Everyone agreed the jump to 3rd grade is a huge one, even for typical students.

As the discussion continued I suddenly wasn’t so sure I was making the right choice! I wanted to do whatever was best for my daughter. My mind flashed back to 6 years before. She was two years old and taking the ABR test to determine whether or not she could hear. She had to be completely still for hours. At two years old this meant that she needed to be ASLEEP! She had just recently been potty trained and weaned from the pacifier. Part of me wanted to go back to diapers and a pacifier to ensure she wouldn’t get restless. However, there was something inside of me that determined then and there that I would NOT baby her. If she had a disability we would face it head on and teach her to push through obstacles and not allow anything to stand in her way.

As I looked around me in that moment I was humbled to be surrounded by these caring professionals that all took this time to meet together for the sake of one little girl. I knew they wanted to do what was best for her too. I told them that I didn’t want to do anything that would make her feel like she was failing or incapable. I was embarrassed about the tears streaming down my face.

In the end, after further discussion and deliberation, we made the difficult choice to retain her.  This gives her the entire year to get caught up academically and to adjust to the dramatic changes that come with leaving behind the school that she has known her whole life. She will go from only being around students who are deaf to being the only one who is. She will experience recess on a big outdoor playground. She will hold a lunch tray for the first time. She’ll begin reading chapter books and walking the same halls as her brothers and hearing announcements on an intercom. She’ll learn to use an FM system so that she can hear her teacher. She’ll learn to adapt and be an advocate for herself.

This week is her first day of 2nd grade at her new school. I am nervous, but I know she’s ready and I feel good about the choice we made. I know that God has her in his hands. These life-altering decisions are not easy. I always tell my children if they are trying their best that’s enough. I guess it’s true for parents too.

By | August 14th, 2018|Uncategorized|1 Comment

Inspiring Moms

Inspiring Moms is an original Messy Mom series that features a different mother (or mother figure) each month to tell their story. The reason I chose that name was because in this context it fits perfectly as a verb and an adjective. The goal is for this to be a community of mothers that come from all kinds of diverse walks of life to inspire one another.

The series launched in early 2017 and since then we’ve had so many moms with different ages and backgrounds share their unique testimonies. Being able to feature these powerful heroic women is one the most anticipated reads on Messy Mom. Some of the moms featured have big platforms and successful fulltime careers, other moms have walked through heartache or overcome obstacles. Being an Inspiring Mom is all about showing up and putting your heart on the line for your children and your family. Here are some of the stories that have been highlighted so far:

 

April 2017- Suzanne Sorenson shares what it was like surviving a tornado and having to start all over as well as having a son with a rare disability.

May 2017- Heidi Lewiston Talks about her experiences as a Navy Wife, a mother of four, and reflects on some of her favorite memories from Isreal. At 96 years old Heidi had a lot of wonderful advice and insight. *

June 2017- Susan Shipe had adventurous tales of being a single mom and encountering the Lord while… smoking pot!?! She even worked for Donald Trump. Her story may sound bazaar but it is a testimony of provision and restoration that will increase your faith!

July 2017- Shana Deemy was a teacher, foster parent, and founder of a bilingual preschool before she and her husband picked up and moved their whole family to HONDURAS. Life is very different on the Caribbean island but they wouldn’t have it any other way.

September 2017- Tiffany Williams shares what it was like having 4 children ages four and under and all in diapers not to mention a traumatic postpartum heart failure experience. Her testimony is powerful!

October 2017- Jen Hill is homeschool mother of six. Her world was turned upside down when their three-year-old son was in a lawn equipment accident that left him as a double amputee. Their family motto: Jesus is enough.

November 2017- Amanda Huffman shares her experience as an air force veteran who had been deployed to Afghanistan and a husband who currently still serves. Lots of wisdom from this heroic mother of two.

December 2017- Angie Keith experienced the worst heartache any mother could face when one of her twin daughters passed away during a nap on Thanksgiving Day. Just when you think there is no way God could turn this tragedy around He does and it is incredible.

January 2018- Monica Ramey is the author of Walking in Dominion, which is her memoir of going through the vicious cycle of abusive broken relationships and even having her own son kidnapped and taken to another country and how God still never gave up on her through it all.

February 2018- Lora Kendrick opens up about what it is like having a daughter who is the recipient of a heart transplant and how they have kept their family together throughout the trials of life.

March 2018- Christen Dierken wrestled on a men’s wrestling team and was an Olympic hopeful. She is a mother to one beautiful baby girl and is a true model of strength and perseverance.

April 2018- Lauren Béa is a singer, songwriter, and recording artist that is married to a professional football player. She shares how to keep family first while being in the spotlight.

May 2018- Tiffany McNair and her husband adopted a little girl from Congo after they had three biological children. They thought the bringing her to the US would be the hardest part but that was really only the beginning.

June 2018- Kristi Capel has her dream career as anchorwomen on an award-winning morning news show. Her greatest job of all though is being a mom!

July 2018- Kerry Howard tells her heart-wrenching story of surviving an abusive impoverished upbringing and turning things around after adopting her 5 year old niece when Kerry was only 18!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Only a few weeks after writing the piece and talking with Heidi on the phone about how much she loved the article Heidi unexpectedly and peacefully passed away in her home. I believe the Holy Spirit orchestrated the timing of this interview and it was an honor to share this glimpse at Heidi’s precious life from her own perspective.

By | August 6th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Beach Camping with a Large Family

 

We just recently got back from Tawas Point State Park where we camped with our friends for three nights. We have 4 children and they have 5 making a grand total of 9 kiddos ages 2 to 12.

I had never even been camping with all of my children so I did a lot of research online before we left.

We didn’t actually camp on the sand for the record, but we were right next to Lake Huron.  I pinned all kinds of hacks for the beach and the camp. Some of it worked, some of it didn’t.

I thought I would share the results here in case it’s helpful to anyone else considering a similar adventure with their family. Keep in mind I didn’t have a camera with me (other than the one on my phone) and I was busy watching kids and enjoying my time away. How some of these bloggers can have families and produce magazine quality photos of their food and crafts is beyond me! Anyway, pictures or not here are some Pinterest things I tried

 

  1. Hobo Meals

We did the campfire classic and it was a hit… with the adults. The good news is for the kids a weenie roast is always an easy substitute so that’s what we did in this case.

 

2. Walking tacos

This wasn’t a total success either. The Walmart we went to only sold an big pack of assorted snack bags so we couldn’t buy a bunch of individual bags of just fritos. We ended up buying a couple big bags of fritos instead along with disposable bowls. It was tasty and everyone loved it, they just weren’t the portable “walking taco” we had envisioned.

 

3. Skillet dessert

We had smores pretty much every night and those are always a treat, but one night I ventured out and tried this cast iron skillet recipe I found on Pinterest. It was yummy. One of my own accidental hacks was uisng sugar packets. I had them for coffee, but when I realized this recipe called for a 1/4 cup of sugar I was glad a few packets to sprinkle in.

4. Kings Hawaiian Sandwiches

The crowd went wild for this easy utensil-free beach meal that can feed a large crowd. I highly recommend this lunch hack for multiple occasions.

5. Sled

 

I pinned this beach tip where you use a sled to drag your stuff through the sand because I thought it would be better than strapping a wagon to the top of the van (like we did last year).

In the end the sled doesn’t really work for us because our beach includes a walk that would not be conducive to a sled. It’s a beautiful walk by the way. You even have a view of a Lighthouse.

Luckily we had several able-bodied little soldiers to help us get stuff out to the beach.

6. Story Cubes

This is a game I‘ve mentioned on the blog before. You roll the cubes and share a story inspired by all the images on the cubes. The kids loved doing this at night. We also had a cow mask that we packed. One night we gathered all the kids around the fire and I told a “legend” about a cow-man that has been spotted at Tawas point. At the end of the story J came out wearing the cow mask. I made sure it wasn’t too scary. We had tons of fun that night.  Campfire stories will always be a great way to keep the fun going after sundown.

7. Icecream in a bag

I haven’t tried this one, but I have friends who did. If it’s not convenient to make your own ice cream hopefully you are camping near a local ice cream shop like we were and then you can still put a smile on EVERYONE’s Face!

8. Rain Backup Plans

It rained a little bit off and on the whole time we camped. It didn’t ruin the fun, but I did put PONCHOS on my list for things to bring next time we go camping. Thankfully we had a tarp to put over the food area. We also had cards and games to play when some light showers passed by which was actually really special.

9.  A sheet

I saw an idea on Pinterest where you use a fitted sheet to keep sand out.

All I could do was laugh out loud when I saw this because with our rowdy clan I guarantee you sand would still get in the sheet! I still like the idea of bringing a sheet to the beach though. Sheets can be used for blankets, forts, a knapsack, or even a swimsuit cover. They are light weight and always come in handy!

 

 

 

10. A Good Attitude

I don’t have any more ideas for how to have a good beach/camping trip because the fact is, the kids were destined to have the time of their life whether or not I used any Pinterest tricks. They play at the beach, eat by a fire, AND sleep in a tent.

How adventurous!

How Cool!

What a fun time!

I’m sure they are going to treasures these memories forever. Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect camping with 9 kids. I’ll admit I was a bit fearful! In the end though it went great. One night all of the kids went off to their own sleeping bags in their own tent and one after the other put themselves to bed! Even the two and four year olds! I don’t know about your kids, but with my brood this is unheard of! All of the adults got to hang out and talk around the fire. It was awesome, until the skunks arrived. Actually, it was still awesome. They ended up scurrying along without leaving any stench. We all had a good laugh about how frightened we got and we made some great memories.

After all that research I did online what I learned most is that camping with kids can be an incredible experience. I would definitely do it all again!

By | August 3rd, 2018|Uncategorized|1 Comment

Inspiring Mom Kerry Howard

Kerry Howard’s childhood home life was what nightmares are made of.  She describes her stepfather as a monster who was both verbally and physically abusive up until she was 15 years old.  Kerry reflects on those darks time and shares,

“He was more abusive to my mother than to me and my sister but either way it was awful.  We were slaves in our own home”  When Kerry was only 8 years old she was expected to have a full course meal ready on the table when her parents got off work. When she was a teenager she was forced to pay rent to live at home. She started working as many hours as she could from the time she was sixteen. She finally escaped the nightmare by moving out just days after she turned 18 and knew that she could live on her own.

Soon after Kerry left home she married her high school sweetheart Brett and moved into their first home. They are about to celebrate their 20th anniversary! They have three children, ages 24, 16, and 13.

They also have a 5 year old granddaughter, a 7 month old grandson and one grandson named Brayden in heaven who passed at 19 weeks gestation.

 

Kerry keeps busy with two boys who are active in sports.

She also has a thriving career, volunteers and is very involved at her church.

Kerry’s favorite pastime is boating! She along with her husband and family love being in their boat out on the water in the summer months.

So how did she go from being in a toxic environment where she was told she would never be good enough to go to college or make anything of herself to living the abundant life that she has today? There is a lot that goes into it, but it all comes down to two words. She persevered.

It certainly wasn’t easy. When Kerry was 14 her mother finally left her abusive husband and they moved into a battered women’s shelter. Kerry was in middle school and was desperate for change. She felt a flicker of hope when her mother told the workers at the shelter that they were going to move into their own apartment! Finally, they could start fresh. Unfortunately, all of Kerry’s dreams for a new beginning were shattered when she saw her stepdad waiting for them at the apartment complex. Just like that, her mom went back to her abuser.

A year later Kerry’s sister became pregnant at only 15 years old. Kerry sister was 16 when she had the baby and Kerry was 11 months younger. Since Kerry’s sister was in and out of the house Kerry was pretty much raising her niece Kiley the first three years of her life.

Eventually, things got really complicated for her sister. She had three babies in a short amount of time and they were all taken by child protective services. Kerry who was only 18 herself (but was more mature than most 25 year olds) was ready to fight for her sister and her nieces and nephew. It was a long road that ended with her getting custody of her niece Kiley when Kerry was 19. Kerry says:

“I would’ve never dreamed of starting a family at 19 especially starting out with a 5-year-old ready to head straight to school.  Not to mention one dealing with being separated from her parents and siblings.  It was rough. We spent a lot of time commuting to visits with siblings and a lot of counseling visits but we did it.”

Even with being a young bride and mother Kerry still managed to beat the odds. Kerry was the first one in her family to go to college and graduate with a degree. She and her husband Brett bought their first home at 19, they are also doing an incredible job raising their two teenage boys. Kerry became a grandma when she was only 35.

She loves her grandbabies to pieces and is one cool Nana!  

It’s all pretty miraculous how Kerry has overcome so much and changed her family legacy. What is even more miraculous is how later in life her stepdad had a true encounter with the Lord and became a completely new person. Unfortunately, he also became very ill and ended up in the hospital. At the time Kerry couldn’t care less about his well being and had no intention of forgiving him or rebuilding the bridge that she had burned long ago. Yet Kerry describes this voice inside of her that kept telling her to go to the hospital, at least to be with her mom.

While Kerry was there the Doctors ordered an emergency surgery for him. She struggled with being there but she stayed to support her mom. Her stepdad came through the surgery but came out on a ventilator. Kerry’s mom needed to head back home to take care of pets and make arrangements at home. While hesitant Kerry heard the gentle voice again prompting her to stay. She spent the next 35 days there at the hospital. She worked from the hospital. She ate and slept at the hospital, only going home to shower. During this time they didn’t see a miraculous healing on the outside, but the healing of reconciliation was one that only Christ alone could do. Her stepdad apologized to her every day for her childhood and said I love you and thank you every single day.  It all happened around Christmas time. Kerry describes the scene:

“We decorated his hospital room with a little LED Christmas tree and when he felt up to it our boys would play connect 4 with him.  Now, remember he wasn’t in our lives so they really didn’t know him and I wasn’t sure I wanted them to but they grew to love him.  They got to know a great man, not the man I grew up with.  God had changed his life.  I never thought anyone or anything could change him.  Those 35 days changed my life too.  A huge weight of hatred was lifted off my shoulders.  He signed a medical power of attorney over to me to make all decisions for him and we discussed at length what decisions to make if the medications stopped working.”

It wasn’t long before they had to make that decision and he went to be with Jesus on January 1st of 2017.

Even with all the battles that Kerry has had to fight in life she looks back and says she believes that everything happens for a reason. “My childhood made me who I am today.  While I wish I never endured it and never wish we were poor, lived in a homeless shelter and later a battered women’s shelter, or that I didn’t suffer abuse, it made me the parent I am today.  My children don’t know what it’s like to be beaten. They don’t know what it’s like to worry about the electric being turned off or where they might lay their heads at night.  They don’t know what it’s like to have the soles of their shoes torn apart and taping them together and they never will because I have done everything in my power to make sure they don’t go through what I did.”

 

Kerry could have let her heart become hardened. She could have decided to become successful for personal gain. She could have decided that she’s put in her time for others and chosen to live for herself, but she didn’t. Kerry chose to love and because of that, she persevered.

By | July 16th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Tea Party 5th Birthday

Yesterday I shared the tea party decor, but that’s not what really makes the party. The party is all about the kids and watching their faces light up as they become royal princesses privileged to have the fanciest of parties! I LOVED seeing them enjoy all of the activities I had worked so hard on. You never know what kids are going to get excited about and they are not shy about telling you one way or the other. So I was prepared for any reaction, but what I got was sheer joy! Here is what the afternoon entailed- 


As soon as everyone arrived the girls immediately went back to the “Tea Party Boutique”. SJ’s older brother made the sign for the door. 

The sad face is because he wasn’t invited. He was a trooper though. Oh, and Siri helped him spell boutique. 

There were several beautiful gowns to choose from and a treasure chest full of hats, gloves, pearls, purse and best of all, stick on earrings. 

 

 

I’m telling you, it was the cutest thing ever. 

 

After they were all dolled up they sat down at the table and decorated their own teacups

 

They each had their own teapot too filled with apple juice. 

 

Then we tried our first flowering tea which was really interesting. 

 

You just place the “bulb” in the tea pot and pour hot water over it.

 

The flower unfurls into it’s own unique blossom right before your eyes.
 

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The girls were enamored by it. 

 

 

After that it was time for cake! SJ had 5 sparkling daisy candles on top of her cupcake and she grinned the entire time we sang Happy Birthday to her.
During the party I had a slideshow on the TV of familiar characters in birthday or tea party settings.

 

I figured the kids would get a kick out of it and I was right! 
 
After cupcakes it was present time and thanks to all the input from you readers I went with Fancy Nancy Tea Party for her special book this year.
 I also found some Fancy Nancy playing cards to go along with it. I knew I was taking a risk on shipping, but I did not wanted to pay for express. I figured if she got her book late it wouldn’t be the end of the world, but guess what? The package came right after the party started! I grabbed a box and some tissue paper and threw it on the gift table right then. What a blessing. It was all perfect. 

 

That was pretty much the end of the party, but the girls went back to the “boutique room” and played with SJ’s new presents. 

 

I came in to discover that the stuffed animals got in on the action too! 

 

 

 I know I’ve gone on and on about the party, but it was so much fun for me to plan and throw. I really got to go back to that place of childhood where imaginations are big and the world is full of wonder. I am really happy with how it all turned out. It was a wonderful 5th birthday!

 

 

 

By | July 13th, 2018|Uncategorized|1 Comment

Tea Party Decor

 
After weeks of planning and hours of preparation, the day finally came for SJ’s birthday party. Of course I wasn’t nearly as organized as I thought I was, despite my best efforts. We were still frantically setting up when the first guest arrived and I didn’t manage to get all of the decorations out, but I should know by now that those things happen. The party was still a huge success and everyone loved it, especially the birthday girl. 
 
Today I am going to show you some of the decorative touches and tomorrow I will reveal all the cute photos of the girls having a blast with all the party activities.
 



I got this chalkboard at Michael’s and had the best intentions of learning to do some killer chalk art. Did that happen? No, but a homemade printable works just fine. I used the same teapot clip art throughout the party prints and you can find it for free at Pixabay .

 
This old door used to be the headboard on our bed, but we never got it set up in our apartment so it’s just been propped up in our hallway. I decided to decorate the door with a pennant banner, a wooden S that I embellished, and one photo of SJ from each year. 
 
 
Part of what started the whole tea party idea was this tea set that my mom has from Thailand. It’s never been used and we’ve always talked about having tea time with the girl’s when they were old enough. Even though it was there for the adults, it was a lovely addition. I even had sugar cubes, cinnamon sticks, and mint leaves. Oh so fancy!  



The best part of the Tea Party were the special guests that attended. I shared all about them when I wrote “Her Toy Story“. Each of the stuffed animals were propped up using pillows, boxes, and even baby highchairs. 

 
 Some of them dressed up for the occasion, and the bunny even had fake cochlear implants (two of the girls at the party are deaf). They each had their own playtime tea set as well.   
There was snow everywhere outside, but inside we were surrounded by a flowery whimsical atmosphere. Most of the items for the place settings came from Hobby Lobby. Their spring items were 50% off so it worked out great. I also borrowed a lot of stuff. Each girl had a teapot full of apple juice! 


 

The birthday cake was a tower of cupcakes decorated with flowers, sprinkles, and butterflies!

 
I posted the DIY cloud icing recipe HERE
 
Nothing says party like a tissue pom poms. Keeping with the theme of imperfection they were not the Martha Stewart fluffy flowers you might be used to, but they were festive. 
 
 
Most of them I borrowed, but I made a couple and bought one that I never managed to use (go figure). 


 
Lastly, I made place cards using some of the info in a tutorial on Style Me Pretty. Then I printed out the same name tags for the goodie bags. The bags were clearance from Valentine’s Day so they cost 19 cents. With SJ’s birthday being on March 4, I don’t know if there will ever be a year that her party doesn’t have something from a Valentine’s clearance rack.  
 
 
That’s most of the decor, although I didn’t even have time to get pictures of it all. As always you can follow me on Pinterest to see where some of the inspiration comes from. The board “SJ’s Tea Party” is where I pinned ideas for this party. 
 
By | July 12th, 2018|Uncategorized|1 Comment