Back to School Backpacks

As I’ve mentioned a million times, all 4 kids have different schools/schedules this year.

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Elle has no school so she stays home with me of course and she doesn’t even need therapy anymore.

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Ezie is in a preschool (afternoons) Monday through Thursday down by where we used to live.

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SJ starts 2nd grade and this will be her final year at her deaf school which is in a nearby city.

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Z is going into 4th grade at a local public school.

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There were so many unknowns as to how all of this was going to pan out. Today is the first day of school for the boys and I am so happy to report that everything is falling into place perfectly.

Ezie has the same teacher he had for speech therapy last year and she is great. He will also be riding the bus for the first time and he is so excited about that. Lastly, he was given a barely used Ninja Turtle backpack. Ezie loves Ninja Turtles and needed a backpack, so that was such a blessing. Now I can officially check all of those concerns off of my list.

SJ will also be riding the bus for the first time. I’ve met the bus driver and she’s so sweet. SJ is super duper pumped and talks about riding the bus all the time. I already know all of her teachers and it’s a fantastic lineup. As far as a backpack, my mom got her a Shopkins one because that’s her favorite. More little details crossed off my list!

Lastly, Z is starting a new school. The faculty and everyone has been great. There are even two boys in his class from his old school. This is unheard of, but a huge relief for the new kid. Since the little kids are riding the bus I will be able to drive Z to and from school and still get back in plenty of time to be at the bus stop for Ezie and SJ.

Whew, I can wipe the sweat off of my brow. Awesome teacher? Check. Transportation? Check. Backpack? Check!

I keep on mentioning backpacks because it’s a big deal. When you have a large family on one income, starting out the school year can be tough. Over the years we have had to humbly accept help in different areas, like the free lunch program or supply fee waivers. Thankfully we aren’t in that place anymore, but we aren’t totally out of the woods yet. Z still gets a discount on school lunches and for the past 5 years has received a donated backpack.

I mention this for two reasons. Some of you are probably donating backpacks and there are probably a few of you that are receiving them. If you are struggling to get supplies for your family because you have limited resources there is no need to be ashamed. It is okay to ask for help. I know what it’s like to sit in church and watch the backpacks come in for those “poor needy” kids knowing that your child is secretly one of them. You don’t have to be in a homeless shelter to need a little assistance. Did you know that for a family of 5 you can make up to $53,000 a year and still qualify for reduced lunches? What is a reduced lunch? It’s a lunch for your child that cost 40 cents and you can get breakfast for 30 cents!

It costs hundreds of dollars to send our kids to publicly funded schools. This year we will pay $150 in supply fees and that’s not including backpacks, supplies, shoes, clothes etc. For some of us that is a lot of money, especially all at once. And believe me, I am not complaining. I love our schools and would pay more for my kids to go there. It’s my desire to make big donations to the schools and teachers one day because it’s worth it. What they do for our children is invaluable. However, I am not at that place right now. We are a one income family with special needs children and we are doing everything we can just to make ends meet from month to month. To get that free back pack with almost all of the supplies in it is something that helps lift some of the burden around this time of year and I am extremely appreciative. When Z accepted his plain Walmart backpack from the school office the other day he marveled at all the pockets. He was so grateful for the donation and he will take good care of it. When his sister saw it she said “Wow that is a cool back pack!”

So if you need a backpack or assistance for your kids to go back to school I hope it is encouraging to know that you are not alone. I can assure that this is only a season. And if you donated a back pack or school supplies this year. Thank you. You have surely been a blessing.

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By | August 16th, 2017|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Visits From Friends


This summer has been full of visitors! My in laws from Texas came twice, then my best friend from Michigan came down, then some other friends from Texas, and lastly some MORE friends from Texas. Our house isn’t huge, but after living in a tiny rental it feels plenty adequate.

When this last group came through they brought a very sweet hostess gift, a beautiful ceramic serving bowl.

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Not only is this bowl lovely and practical, it’s special because it belonged to granny who passed away a couple months ago.

The family that visited were the Lewistons (grandchildren and great grandchildren of Heidi) and they said that she would want me to have it. Heidi loved to cook and I love to entertain as well, so it was the perfect fit.

The Lewistons and I go way back. Peter (Heidi’s grandson) and I were friends in Highschool and even went to prom together twice. One year for spring break some friends and I made a list of 5 things we’ve never done before as a way to spice things up right? We were teenagers so they were really silly and fun like dye our hair purple or eat Lengua de vaca (cow tongue). One thing on the list was to have a picnic ON TOP of a car. So we went to the Lewiston’s and actually spread a table cloth on top of Peter’s car and ate a full blown meal. I honestly don’t know if he ever even found out that it happened.

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I’m the one in the middle, on top of the car.

Eventually, I married J and Peter played drums and caught the garter at our weddding. A couple years later he met Hannah. Not to brag, but I was somewhat instrumental in encouraging them to consider a relationship. Call me match maker because now 15 years and 5 kids later they are still going strong. Hannah was one of the first ones I told when I was pregnant. In fact we had been on a walk that day and she immediatly loaned me all of her maternity clothes. Then I gave them all back a couple of weeks later when she found out she was expecting as well.

So we were both due just weeks apart, both expecting boys, oh yeah and we are both photographers.

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Current photo of Hannah and I from their visit.

 

It made sense to us that this called for a… PHOTO SHOOT!

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Fast forward to now. Since the Lewistons were in town and the boys are about to turn ten I suggested we do an update to our maternity session from 2007. This one was not nearly as coordinated or planned, but we had fun trying to recreate the moment.

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A lot has changed in the past decade! The 2nd photo shoot was just random. They were in town so why not? As I was editing the photos I decided to look at the file info on the original picture and had to do a double take. The first was set was taken on July 31, 2007 and the current one was  July 30, 2017.

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I know it’s a day difference, but pretty stinkin’ close to being EXACTLY 10 years! We couldn’t have planned it that well if we tried.

 

It was great to have them and all of our out of town guest. I will look forward to next time.

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By | August 1st, 2017|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Our Favorite Summer Learning Activities

Last year I wrote about the benefit of creating an environment that cultivates learning year round.

Let me be clear. Like most moms, I do not have the time, energy, and resources to focus on all kinds of fulfilling enrichment activities all summer long. However, I am pretty passionate about the fact that they need some kind of mental stimulation here and there when they are out of school in the summer months. Every little bit helps in avoiding the summer slide and giving a jump start to the new school year.

A Johns Hopkins study of Baltimore Public Schools notes that low-income youths “lose more than two months in reading achievement” over summer vacation, while their middle-class counterparts make small gains in reading achievement. Regardless of income level, most students lose “two months of grade-level equivalency” in math skills every summer.

So here are a few of our favorite learning activities from this summer so far.

SCIENCE

Science experiments

Lava lamp and bubble sock are two of our favorites.

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Nature Center

These pics were some my dad took of the Homosassa Nature preserve in Florida.

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Aquarium

This is when SJ went to the Cincinnati Aquarium with some friends.

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More pictures from my dad of their tour of Mammoth Caves in Kentucky

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WRITING

Writing notes to friends and family

Most recently they made cards for their dad whose birthday is TODAY!
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Story Cubes

This is a game where you roll the cubes and make a story out of the pictures. It’s so much fun. You could practice writing stories or just formulating ideas and telling them out loud.
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Playing School

This is one of those incidental learning situations. I am sure it wouldn’t go as well if I iniated it but when the older kids teach the younger how to write everyone is practicing and it’s great! The chalk board marker board I got for $4 at the thrift store was money well spent.

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Writing out instructions for Science experiments

A lot of boys (like my son) really love science but writing isn’t their strong suit. For several years Z has kept a private Science blog which is a way to incorporate writing with his favorite subject.

Last year Z’s friend did a guest post for me with his slime experiment and I hope to have Z do the same next week with a lava lamp tutorial.
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READING 

We always participate in the Summer Reading Program at the library and the kids win prizes. You can imagine how thrilled I was to walk in and see this one night! A book lovers dream.

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Here are some new books we discovered this summer

  1. Mustache Baby Meets His Match 51cai1qnbvl-_sx258_bo1204203200_
  2. A Hole in the Wall unknown
  3. Let’s Sing a Lullaby with the Brave Cowboycvr9781442442764_9781442442764_lg
  4. Wonder (for 3rd grade and up)wonder_cover_art

MATH



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A classic game that takes counting, addition, and even some multiplication.

Math apps on the iPad

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Our favorite is Monster Math and it has levels for all ages.

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I actually really enjoy this game. It’s so easy too. You just roll the dice, add them up, and turn over the number that you end up with. So if you roll a nine you can turn the 9 tab, or a 4 and 5, or the 8 and 1, or the 4, 3, and 2. The goal is to get all of the numbers turned over. When you have no more options you add up what is left.

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For the younger learners, I recommend anything Leap Frog. This isn’t really summer learning fun, but I couldn’t think of anything else math related. Math is a toughie.

Those are just some of things we’ve done. I would like to be a little more proactive as we get closer to the new school year. Hopefully some of these give some helpful ideas for those wanting to bridge the summer gap in a fun way. 

By | July 21st, 2017|Uncategorized|2 Comments

Inspiring Moms 004: Shana Deemy

When I asked Shana if she would be willing to be interviewed for my Inspiring Moms blog series she said “I guess… I am afraid I probably am not all that inspiring as I just wing it for the most part.”

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Shana who is a teacher by trade has always had a passion for working with children. Between foster parenting, adoption, and two biological children Shana and her husband Tony have parented 17 children in the course of their 22 years of marriage. They have also run several companies of their own including a construction business and bilingual preschool. In 2015 they left their businesses and their completely remodeled historic Texas home to pursue their dream of living in Honduras.

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They are currently raising three incredible young men (Vinton age 15, Reuben 14, and Naaman 7) at their new home in Honduras and their oldest daughter Mikayla who is 19 is finishing up her Senior year at Evangel University in Missouri. Mikayla plans to continue on with her Masters at Texas A&M and feels called to eventually move to Spain and work with Project Rescue (a group that takes women out of the sex trafficking).

That’s Shana’s motherhood journey in a nutshell so far. Winging it or not, I would describe it as pretty darn inspiring!

From infertility to adoption, to attachment disorders and self-employment, there are so many things I could sit and talk to Shana about all day long. For the sake of this particular piece though, I thought we would focus on moving overseas with children.

It wasn’t until 11 years ago that a spark was ignited for the country of Honduras. It happened after Tony and Shana took a cruise to Roatan and fell in love with the island and the people over there.

When most people take a trip to a Caribean Island and talk about going back and never returning, they don’t really mean it. However, Tony and Shana Deemy are not like most people. When they say they are going to take in drug babies they do it. When they talk about starting a business they make plans and launch it. When they chat about moving to a tropical third world country to raise their family they are actually crazy enough to follow through! And they aren’t deterred by inevitable set backs either.

They moved to Roatan 6 months after their trip with 4 young children in tow. Shana taught 1st grade in a bilingual school and Tony did construction. Shana said

“It was a tough year but by the end we were totally in love with this country and the freedom it allowed us in raising our children.  Kids could be kids here.  They can explore without fear, they can walk to the local bodega (corner store) by themselves, and they can even ride in the back of a pickup truck!  The kids were free to use their imaginations.  No fancy playground equipment.  Balls and jump ropes.  If those are not available, plastic bottles and lids to kick and play with.  It was the childhood I had and one that does not exist in the US anymore.”

Unfortunately, after a year in Honduras, their home back in Waxahachie still had not sold and they were forced to return to the states. It would be another 9 years before the house would sell. In the mean time their oldest daughter had graduated from high school. They also had a new addition to the family (an unplanned pregnancy after 13 years of infertility!) and sadly they also lost a little girl that they had adopted.

“All of this was God ordained as we see it now looking back,” Shana says “but we were very frustrated and a little homesick for the country that we had fallen in love with. I began a bilingual Preschool and Kindergarten in the states. After our 2nd year we were able to sell the facility and with the money that we made we were able to purchase our home in Honduras.

The home was one that they had wanted to purchase the first time they lived in Honduras but couldn’t afford it at the time.

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It was back on the market and with the sale of the preschool, this was now a reality. They flew to Honduras and never even looked at another property. They knew it was the one. Three months later things fell into place for their historic home to finally sell too. So they packed up and moved back to Roatan, Honduras. This time with no property remaining in the states. Within 6 months they had their residency which is us unheard of. They have gradually had their truck and two 20 foot containers shipped down to the island.

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Reuben and Vinton when they went to school in Honduras the first time.

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Vinton and Reuben back at school in Honduras ten years later.

I asked Shana about some of the biggest cultural differences and if there were things she preferred about living in Honduras or if there were things she missed about the US. This was her response:

I love the Honduran way of life. It is a lot more laid back than the US. If you get one thing done on your list for the day, it is a very good day. Learning to sit and just be has been one of my biggest challenges. Sitting in the hammock and reading a book on a Wednesday morning, I felt sooo guilty doing this and still kind of do.

Cooking and cleaning are more challenging here. Hiring a housekeeper/cook/nanny is very common and not at all expensive. Common labor is 200L to 300L a day. That is about 10 to 15 dollars. My issue is that I am a control freak and I do not want another woman taking care of my stuff and my family. The bread they have here tastes like Styrofoam so I make my own sandwich bread every Monday. I bake and cook everything from scratch. We can get a lot of supplies now that we could not 10 years ago. However, they are a ridiculous price so I make most everything from scratch. I have to say that the entire family misses fast food. There is no fast food. Even the places that have express written in their name take at least 20 minutes for food. Pizza is awful here. So I make my own for our pizza night.

I feel that my children are very safe here. Actually safer than they were in the states. We can go to the store and I have my seven-year-old run back to the car for my grocery bags while I continue shopping. The older boys can walk anywhere here.

Schools are safe. No school shootings. No innocent lives being taken. There have been 3 people murdered on our island since we moved here. All were mixed up with the wrong people on the mainland. All were hits. We have not had any break ins. I am praying that continues. There are thefts on the island but usually the items are found and returned as we are on an island and there really is nowhere for them to go.

My kids are exposed to not only Hondurans but people from all over the world. Some of their best friends right now are from South Africa originally. We bought our house from a man from Australia and know people from Europe.

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As I mentioned before, because the children are safe, they are free to play and to explore. We can enjoy crazy fun activities without having to sign a bunch of legal forms saying we will not sue if the child gets hurt. The children are ours and we are free to raise them as we see fit. We can also pray in the schools. In fact, there are Bible classes in schools.

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7 year old Naaman learning to Kayak at sunset.

On that note, there are dangers and they are very real.  There is sin all over the world.  There are 9 and 10 year old girls who are pregnant and sex trafficking is very real. Aids is very high in Honduras.  This is a Caribbean island that we live on.  People come here to party.

 

Lastly, I asked Shana her advice for a family dreaming about moving overseas and she responded with a hearty “DO IT! The US is not the end all. Taking your children to another country opens the world to them.  They can go anywhere and do anything.”

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Her children were hesitant and a bit worried about leaving the US at first, but now they love it. “Giving your children a world view is a tremendous gift,” Shana says, “and I am excited to see where all of my young ones end up!”

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Shana’s advice to moms overseas or not “Live life and enjoy the people around you. Stop allowing things to run you and your family into the ground. I am still learning this bit of advice. I still have a workaholic personality, but I am striving to live each day as it comes.”

By | July 10th, 2017|Uncategorized|1 Comment

Messy Mom Contributors

I love true stories. It’s almost an obsession. I have read dozens and dozens of memoirs/biographies. And my hands down FAVORITE podcast is How I Built This becuase each week you hear a story from a succesful entrepeneur. Anyway, it’s been such an honor to be able to integrate this interest into my own blog by inviting others to share their stories via How We Met and Inspiring Moms. Note to self, I need to get landing pages for those series.

By the way, the next Inspiring Mom is a friend of mine who has been a mom for 19 years and has so many different stories that she could share; each one is  just as phenomenal as the last. Her latest adventure involves moving with her husband and 3 of her school aged children from Waxahachie Texas to Roatan Honduras.

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She looks so young it’s hard to tell whose who. This is Shana-

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She is going to give us a glimpse of what it’s like making such and dramatic change and potentially whet the apetite of those who have considered living abroad.

You can look forward to that this coming Monday, but today I wanted to share a few little creative collections of sorts from previous Messy Mom contributors.

First off, my dad shared his story back in 2015 of how he met my mother (sounds like a TV show). He mentions how  he met Nancy in High School when he had his pilots licence so he was able to fly her around the mountains of Vermont.

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Now,  40 years later she is the one flying him around thanks to her flying benefits from working for Delta.

She is also flying all of her grandkids around. It’s been a tradition to take each grandchild on a trip when they turn 5 (give or take). Ezie is almost 5 and just recently had his first plane ride to Florida. My dad caught this video of his reaction and it is the SWEETEST. It truly encapsulates that child like wonder that we all can only hope to get a tiny taste of as adults.

The next year in 2016 Melissa Mulvany shared how she met her spouse. She was a black jack dealer at a charity table at the bar where she met Ian. You can read the whole story here, but (spoiler alert) they have now been married for 18 years, have 3 awesome boys, and are serving the Lord together as a family in their home and community.



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Melissa posted a photo on Facebook a couple days ago that made me laugh outloud. I asked permission to share and she said yes. These two women (Melissa on the left) were best friends in college and 17 years ago when they were new moms they took this photo together holding eachother’s babies.

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They recently reunited and decided to try to recreate that same photo. The results are hilarious.

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I love how the teens cooperated to the point that they even try to mimic their faces and hands. The young man in the photo is Melissa’s football player son towering over all of them. What a difference 17 years makes! One of my best friends from my college years is coming to Ohio in a few weeks and I am hoping to do this same thing with her. I’ll definitely reveal the photo afterwards if it all works out!

Last but not least, for this most recent How We Met series Emily Williams shared about her husband Colton’s esophegeal cancer diagnosis moved them from Kentucky to New York City for immuno therapy and clinical trial treatment. Colton has stage IV cancer and a year ago the doctors were ready to give up. They wanted to pursue palliative care for Colton, but this couple did not quit! They keep fighting, and praying, and linking arms with their loved ones and believing for more. It’s been a roller coaster but we’ve seen miracles along the way.  For their whole story you can follow Colton and Emily on cure.coltonwilliams.com and for their love story you can read Emily’s guest post for How We Met.

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So what I wanted to share from Colton today is this incredible moving poem. Now that you know a bit of his back story you can see the depths of where Colton is coming from when he speaks these truths. It is so raw and so powerful; I hope everyone watches it and that all of us would be shocked into being thankful for life.

 

By | July 5th, 2017|Uncategorized|2 Comments

Birthday

I like New Year’s. I like anniversaries. I like birthdays.

They all represent a fresh start and a clean slate for me. I can start out the new year looking back and looking ahead. I also usually set goals, but then I start to loose momentum. Lucky for me half way through the year I have a birthday. So I get to cheat a little bit and have another “new year”.

 

Looking back at being 34 I feel it was a productive year. Certainly a year of transition, but it was also a very difficult year. I faced many hurtles and gut wrenching decisions.

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Looking forward to what life will look like at 35 I am pretty excited. I will celebrate 10 years of motherhood which is wild to me (A.K.A. Z’s birthday, but let’s make it all about me, ha!). I will celebrate 17 years of marriage (also kinda crazy), and last but not least I will celebrate SJ graduating from her deaf school.

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Lots to celebrate, but it will also be an intense season with three out of four kids in three different schools with three different schedules.

As far as the actual 35th birthday celebration itself it was awesome. As an adult I don’t really make a big deal of my birthday, but some stuff fell into place this year for us to have a party at our new house.
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After learning that we would be hosting a cook out for 22 people utilizing only the little fire pit in our back yard my family all began scheming privately to get a grill for us.

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Now this a pretty lofty gift in my book, but they justified it by making it a housing warming present, a birthday present for me, and a birthday present for J whose birthday is less than a month away.

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The day of the party J was busy flipping burgers over the open flame when he turns to spot my brothers sneaking the new grill onto the patio.

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Sure they could have spared him the labor with the fire if they told us ahead of time, but it all happened pretty spontaniously and that made it made that much more fun.

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The next day J and I went out for a special date night. Here are a few pics from that.

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Funny story. I shared this picture on Facebook with the caption “We are trying to up our PDA game because last time we went on a date the server asked us if we were on seperate checks”. Seriously.

 

We had such a great time. The whole birthday was pretty special, but the week’s not over so I’m still making excuses to eat junk food and sleep more. Hey it’s my birthday!

By | June 29th, 2017|Uncategorized|3 Comments

No One Ever Cared for Me Like Jesus

hnI have shared a lot about Heidi recently. First when I interviewed her for “Inspiring Moms” then when she passed away, and then I recorded a song for her memorial.

Heidi encouraged me in so many ways including in worship. One day she approached me about singing a special solo in a Sunday service. Now you can’t just go requesting any song you want sung by any specific individual any time you feel like it. But my husband was the worship leader, and Heidi did get special privileges as the church member who was shall we say “most advanced in years”.

The song was “No One Ever Cared For Me Like Jesus”. The thing about this song was that she wanted to hear me sing it while she was still around and then sing it at her funeral when the time came. I’m not the best singer and there are plenty of girls who are more qualified on a performance level, but I don’t think Heidi cared about that. She cared about the words and she cared about the heart in which those words were delivered. The fact that she thought I would be the best person for the job is beyond humbling to me. Since then I moved away and had more and more kids making it extremely difficult to hop on a plane and fly in for the memorial service. I tried, but flying standby in the summer is definitely a gamble. It was really tearing me up inside. So Heidi’s family (some of my closest friends) suggested I send in a video.

I told them that considering my brother has a professional video/music studio I think we can pull a little something together. So I texted my brother and he agreed without hesitation.

It all went well and I was blessed by the positive feedback from Heidi’s family, including those I have never met.

Then on Sunday, my dad shared the video on Facebook with this caption

“Allow me to be a proud father this day… It is so rare to get this girl to sing publicly. Thanks Mrs. Lewiston for stretching her.”

A lot of people were commenting about how shocked they were that I could sing and they had no idea. Like I said that doesn’t mean I am a superstar with a phenomenal range and ability. I don’t have a secret desire to be a singer at all, but it did rekindle the love I have for music and worship and collaborating with my husband.

Just a couple days ago I was listening to a podcast and one of the guests talked about growing up in a musical family. It got me thinking; when Z and SJ were born I would have described our family as musical. Their dad was full time worship leader and their second home was a coffee shop with open mic night and musical festivals. Then we moved and SJ was diagnosed with profound hearing loss and life got crazy. Ezie and Elle haven’t really been exposed to that musical side of our lives at all since they have been born. I talked to J about how this made me kind of bummed and how I really liked working with him on a song for the first time in over 5 years!

Now that our lives are finally finding a steady rhythm again (no pun intended) I am inspired to cultivate a culture of music in our home once more and I have Heidi to thank for that.

No One Ever Cared for Me Like Jesus – Jeremy and Natalie Busch – Heidi Lewiston from Brandon Weaver on Vimeo.

By | June 22nd, 2017|Uncategorized|1 Comment

52 Commands of Jesus for Children Book Review and GIVEAWAY

Last year we did Advent at Christmas time. My kids loved it and learned so much from it. I wanted to ride the wave of their enthusiasm for the Word and made it my NUMBER ONE new year’s goal for 2017 to do weekly devotions with the kids. So I started the year doing what I typically do; wing it. We went through the fruits of the spirit and I had them cut out fruit shapes as we studied each of the nine attributes over the course of 9 weeks.

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They also learned the sign language for 5:22-23 which was awesome (too bad I can’t get the video to load).

Then we moved into the Lord’s Prayer and now we say it as a family almost every night.

I’ve really wanted to keep this up, but we’ve been lingering on The Lord’s Prayer for a while and I wasn’t sure where to go next. That’s when Susan Shipe of Hope Heart Home put out a request for bloggers to review her new book 52 Commands of Jesus for Children-    A One Year Devotional with 52 Coloring Pages I jumped at the opportunity.

This is exactly what I had been looking for, a one year devotional-journal for parents to use with their children. 

The book goes through 52 commands and character qualities of Jesus. One for each week of the year. I can’t think of anything better than unpacking the things that Jesus taught us and to really focus on them one at a time. I love it so much I could just about forget the children and keep it to myself. Just kidding, I can share. I want to share! I really want my kids to get this and it’s something that you can use over and over.

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If you do want to reuse the book or if you have more than one child and don’t want your children to color on the pages you can print copies of the individual images and graphics from Susan’s website (here).

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In the introduction of the book, Susan says “The 52 Commands of Jesus, found in the Gospels, each teach a character quality and it is that which offers the great lesson- how do we instill these characteristics in our children? This devotional is a simple place to begin the journey”

Just a few examples of the character qualities covered in the book are virtue, determination, justice, and contentment. Remember when I talked about choosing two main character traits for your family to focus on as core values? My husband and I chose compassion and self-control and those are both covered in the book 52 Commands of Jesus for Children (day 21 and day 7) so I can’t wait to go over them with the kids.

I know I am talking about character when the book is about the commands of Jesus, but each command is paired with the character trait. Commands and character go hand in hand which is a lesson in itself. Jesus gave us lots of instruction, but he was clearly most concerned about our hearts. He taught that obedience must be from the heart rather than just technical observance of the law (Matthew 5:21-22, 27-28, 31-32, 33-34, 38-42, 43-44, etc.) This is why I really love how Susan did put a character quality with each command. What a great way to teach kids this valuable lesson that you can’t just follow the laws because you are determined, but because Christ changed you. If you LOVE him you will keep his COMMANDS (John 14:15).

I’ve looked over the book and obviously gotten excited about the 52 Commands of Jesus for Children, but since my oldest son has been out of town I decided to wait for him to get back to get started. I’m sure I’ll have more to say and follow up once we all go through it.

Now for some really fun news. Susan is giving away one copy of 52 Commands of Jesus for Children to one of you! If you have kids, teach Sunday School, homeschool, or are a caregiver you will want this devotion. Better yet, just go to Amazon for your guaranteed copy. The book is only $12.99 (or $6.99 for the ebook) and the information in it is sound Biblical teaching with invaluable impact.  


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I’ll announce the winner of the giveaway in one week.

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Also, if you missed my feature about Susan’s testimony you can check that out here and there is a fantastic interview with Susan about the 52 Commands of Jesus for Children over here at Life Letter Cafe.

This is such an exciting book launch and giveaway. I am so grateful that I get to be a part of it!

By | June 16th, 2017|Uncategorized|3 Comments

Inspiring Mom 003: Susan Shipe


Today’s Inspiring mom has been a mother for 48 years. She has 3 kids and 2 grandchildren. She blogs regularly at HopeHeartHome.com and is the author of 10 books, one of which is launching this week!!!!
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When Susan was 8 years old she gave her heart to Jesus. The Bible was her standard and life was very black and white. If only things could always stay so simple, but the path that had appeared so clearly straight as a little girl would eventually become more and more blurred.

When Susan was 12 her parents got a divorce and she was uprooted from Florida to New Jersey to be raised by her mom.

When she was 16 she decided that she was fed up with the rundown “hood schools” of New Jersey and quit before her Senior year.

When she was 17 she fell head over heals in love with a soldier who she married the day after he returned from Vietnam. She was advised not to marry but thought their love for one another would conquer all and for a long time it did.

However, after 11 years of marriage and three children, ages 9, 7, and the (surprise) newborn baby boy, Susan discovered the most devastating news she would ever hear. Standing in her dream home that she and her husband had built together she looked at the love of her life and was crushed by the words he was telling her. 

He was a police officer. He was supposed to be noble and faithful. He was supposed to be the head of their home and the protector of their family and here he was wounding her and tearing their family and dreams apart.

For months he had been having an affair and the horrendous details destroyed Susan. The pain felt unbearable. Susan says “My life stopped. I think I stopped breathing for at least three months.

So she left their home with her three kids in tow to find a small place of their own and make a new life, although not necessarily a better one. 

Susan had spent the past 12 years being the good wife. She sacrificed anything and everything for her kids and her husband without realizing that she was emotionally on a one way street that would leave her banged up from a head on collision with a husband who was going the wrong direction.

That’s when Susan decided to quit. She was done being the good girl. She rebelled and became promiscuous. She searched for approval from men. For the next several years Susan would burry all the hurt and insecurity and just live the worldly life that she thought would keep her numb.

In the midst of the hurt and confusion, Susan still had a young family to take care of.

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She was high school dropout who had never worked outside of the home and now it was up to her to provide for her family. She immediately took the G.E.D. test passing highest percentile in her class. As she got her certificate her sister hummed the song played during the graduation march. Then she was off to find a job.

At that time all the kids were in school except for her youngest who was about three years old. Susan saved gas by making her way around on a bicycle with her toddler in a seat on the back. Her first job was as a courier delivering paper files from one office to the other (this was before computers and email). When she was out of the office she would ride around on her bicycle and collect aluminum cans to recycle to buy groceries.  She saw life as an adventure.

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Eventually she would move up in careers and begin working for a magazine. For a while this dream job lit a fire in Susan because she knew in her heart she was a writer. Except in the end it was a woman’s lib magazine and a horrible fit for her. So she left that job and ended up working for a property manger. He asked her if she had ever run an office before. Susan confidently answered, “No but I’ve run a household”. With that she shook hands with the man that would teach her everything she ever needed to know about business. It was an incredible stepping stone and Susan learned so much from that career, but unfortunately there was some illegal maneuvering of funds going on so she quit and went to work for another company doing property management in Palm Beach.

This is how Susan ended working for Donald Trump. That’s right. Back in 1985 Susan worked for the man who is now President of the United States. For the record, Susan states “He was very nice and I can honestly report that he was always a gentleman.”

Susan may have lost sight of God but He never lost sight of her. One night she was camping in Idaho smoking pot around a campfire and the Lord gave her a vision of a triple yield sign and it involved her children. Susan said He basically was warning me to return to Him. I listened and began the “return trip.” He had a lifeline on me and gently, oh so gently began reeling me in. I’ve never looked back and I have NEVER gone back on the vow I made Him that very night. Yes, Lord.” 

As far as a second chance at love, Susan’s knight in shining armor rode into her life on a vintage Norton motorcycle and the two of them got married in a teepee and they have lived happily ever after…

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Well, that’s the short fairy tale version. In the real life version, there are struggles that come with being a step parent and having teenagers that are bucking heads. There were times that Susan certainly felt like quitting but she says five years into the marriage when she was whining to her mom about the blended marriage and all the difficulties. That is when her mom gave her what she says is the best advice she had ever gotten she said “Susan, when those kids grow up and leave, and they will leave. You will be at home and that man will not leave you.”

Her mother was right. Her kids are all grown up and have been out of the nest for a long time now.

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Susan has spent the past 29 years living on a gorgeous 14.25 acre ranch in North Carolina with the man that makes her laugh every single day.

20151227_142003 She has a heart of forgiveness and walks in freedom thanks to a God that redeems the broken hearted. Her “was-band” as she calls her ex is still a part of her children’s lives and when Susan sees him now she can thank the Lord for His mercy in the entire situation. She says “God had a plan and I’m living it. God redeems what looks broken and hopeless and uses it for His glory and our good. He is my hero and good, good Father!

Susan advice to women facing similar hurts and struggles is to learn from her mistakes and “Run as fast as you can into the arms of the Lord rather than away from Him!”

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I’d like to give a big Thank you to Susan for allowing me to interview her and share a snippet of her testimony. Come back later this week as I review the phenomenal 52 week devotion she wrote called 52 Commands of Jesus for Children. It’s a really fantastic resource and I am so excited to be able to give away a copy to one of my readers so definitley check back this Thursday to learn more. 

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By | June 12th, 2017|Uncategorized|4 Comments

Goodbye for Now Dear Friend

I was playing dominos with my family memorial day when I got the text. Our dear friend Heidi, a.k.a Granny, had passed away.

She was 96 years old so it might sound like it wouldn’t be shocking at all, except it was. She was doing great and I had just talked with her a couple weeks before.

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I interviewed Heidi back in March for my inspiring mom series. We talked at length about her life experiences, her passions and pursuits, her encounter with Jesus as Her Lord. It was a wonderful conversation that I felt priviledged to have. I cried when she told me to enjoy my babies while they were young and I was still evrything to them. It was sage wisdom and I needed the reminder.

Heidi was always an encourager. At our church in Texas she welcomed everyone and she would greet her special friends with a kiss on the cheek. I don’t do “friend kisses”, but Heidi was certainly an exception. One of the sweetest compliments she ever gave me was she said in her soft weathered voice “Whenever I see a pretty dress I think of you“. I’m not super girly, but on Sundays I do like to wear pretty dresses. In fact when I got one of those “All About Mommy” fill in the blank sheets for Mother’s Day this year one of the sentences was “My mom looks beautiful when ____________” and SJ wrote she gos to chrch (meaning goes to church). I know a lot of churches are casual these days and I am totally 100 percent cool with that, but I still have a section of my closet for my Sunday best. I think it’s precious that Heidi thought of me as the girl that wore pretty dresses to church and 10 years later so does my 7 year old.

 

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Although I have to admit Heidi’s passing has changed my walk with God in a dramatic way. It was less than a month ago that I published that interview with Heidi for Inspiring Moms. Just weeks ago she called me up raving about how much she loved the piece and it brought her so much joy to relive those moments and walk down memory lane. She lived life to the fullest and saw God’s faithfulness at home and abroad. At the end of our wonderful conversation she said “I think I am going to go read the story again”. It is an encouragement to me to hear so much positive feedback from Heidi’s friends and family that read this testimony that was so fresh from her heart, but even more so I am grateful that Heidi got to read it before she left this earth and to hear that it meant so much to her. What a blessing.

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It’s the timing of it all that blows my mind. We had absolutely no way of knowing that out of her vibrant 96 years that very month that I posted Heidi’s story God was going to call her home, BUT GOD KNEW! He knew. And I feel a tangible increase in faith knowing that I can hear from God. He is directing my path. It’s one thing to believe that, but to it’s another to see it in action. As a mother of four sometime it feels like I am under house arrest and it’s hard to hear anything let alone that still small voice. But because of Heidi’s story I was reminded that God is in control.

Those of us close to Heidi are all saddened by her abscence, but we know she is now living a life greater than any of us could ever imagine.

By | June 5th, 2017|Uncategorized|2 Comments