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

Cincinnati Date

For my birthday my amazing husband J took me out for a little daytime date in Over-the-Rhine. We’ve lived in the Cincinnati suburbs for 5 years now (and I am from Cincinnati) but we rarely get a chance to go strolling along the streets with just the two of us, so this was a really special time. I thought I would give a brief overview of what we did in case anyone is in the Cincinnati area looking for stuff to do.

 

The first thing we did was pay for parking. It’s not hard to find a place to park and after that you are set because everything is within walking distance.

 

We don’t do hardly anything without fueling up with coffee, so our first treat was iced latés from Coffee Emporium.

Coffee Emporium is one of our favorite coffee shops in Cincinnati. Their menu has tons of options and the old historic building has plenty of space with comfy furniture if you want to hang out. My top three drinks are

  1. Bumble Bee with a Buzz
  2.  Java Jive
  3. Peanut butter Mocha Blended

From there we went walking without too much of an agenda. There are some really neat murals and fascinating shops all around.

 

When we found a place called The Rook we headed inside to discover what this “board game parlor” was all about. We had appetizers and Ale-8-Ones (a local soda that I’ve been drinking since I was a little girl) and searched for what games we wanted to play.

The walls are lined with board games all perfectly categorized by type. Some of them were just fun to look at, like the “Clarissa Explains it All” board game in the novelty section. We mostly stuck to the classics. We played a giant version of connect four, an old school memory game, and a dice game. J gets bragging rights since he beat me two out of three times. It was such a unique and entertaining experience. I would definitely love to go back sometime.

 

 

Afterwards, we did some more walking and shopping. We found an adorable little boutique called Mica 12/v where they have local and regional art along with handcrafted gifts.

J got me a mug with Charley Harper artwork on it. I love Charley Harper. He was a Cincinnati artist and I first discovered his work at the library four years ago. Since then I keep learning more about him and his work. I love my new mug.

 

Last stop was Quán Hapa an open-air restaurant serving Asian street food, namely RAMEN!

They had anime playing on screens in the bar area and a chilled glass bottle of water on the table along with a jar of chopsticks. I got the Chicken Katsu and J went with the Kalbi Loco Moco. This was definitely our kind of place.

 

Graeter’s was right next door and I do love their ice cream, but I was stuffed and we were ready to head back and relieve the babysitter.

 

So how did I feel about our little escape to Over-The-Rhine?

Let’s just say I was over the moon.

 

For more date night ideas check out “Epic Shows You Need to Catch in Cincinnati” There are some really awesome suggestions, one of which I plan to check out for our next date! I will keep you posted.

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By | June 29th, 2018|Uncategorized|18 Comments

Inspiring Mom: Kristi Capel

Today I am so honored to share my interview Fox 8 Cleveland’s co-anchor Kristi Capel!

Kristi and I met at Heritage Academy, a small private Christian school, where we were friends and classmates. With a smile that could light up any room she had always been interested in Pageants. She was extremely comfortable and natural in front of large audiences. She went from Heritage Academy to Evangel University in Missouri to pursue a degree in Broadcasting and communications. From there she went on to win the title of Miss Missouri USA and actually competed in the 2006 Miss USA Pageant! We all watched it on TV growing up so it was really exciting to see Kristi on stage. In 2008 Kristi accepted a job as a weather forecaster and in 2012 became morning co-anchor of Fox 8 News in Cleveland Ohio.

Aside from all of her accomplishments in her career, she is also a wife and a mother of two adorable young children.

It’s obvious that her family is her top priority and they bring her the most joy in life. Kristi is a wonderful example of following your passion without compromising your values and priorities. I am so excited to share this interview, so let’s get right to it.

Mess Mom: How does your family feel about having a mom/wife on TV?

Kristi: It’s funny because just the other night my husband Hal and I were at home and he said, “Hey look there’s your promo” and I laughed and kept cleaning. He said, “Remember when we used to get excited about seeing you on tv and now after almost 13 years, it’s just another day, just another commercial.” We had a good laugh. Of course I never take it for granted. I’m blessed to be able to do what I love and get paid for it. My husband has always been my biggest supporter and number one fan! He’s become used to the fact that I’m on television but has always treated me the same as when we met in college, and for that I’m grateful.

My four year old daughter Kyndal is starting to understand where Mommy works. We were in the waiting room at the doctor’s office and one of my promos came on and she said, out loud, “Look Mommy there you are!”

I may have slid a little deeper in my seat and put my hat down over my face a little farther, but I also realized that she was proud of Mommy and that meant the world to me. My son Duke is not even two years old yet and obviously has no idea. He just loves his Momma.

The viewers have enjoyed watching both my children grow up. They have been so giving over the last several years since my first child was born showering me with beautiful gifts. Some of my favorites are family pictures, or jewelry that have my children’s names or pictures on it, and the beautiful homemade blankets our viewers have poured their hearts into.

MM: That sounds like a nice perk! Are there times you want to blend in and have some privacy though?

Kristi: Yes, we have had to set boundaries to keep certain parts of our lives to ourselves and try and keep things “normal” for the kiddos. Hal is very good at making sure that happens. He’s very protective. At the same time, we appreciate all the love from the community on a daily basis.

MM: This is a question I have to ask myself or any mom out there juggling a busy schedule: How do you balance work life with home life?

Kriti: Balancing work life and home life can be tough. Wakeup call is 1:30 am with 2 hour naps in the afternoon, along with squeezing in time for the gym to get that baby weight off, and making sure I have the energy to keep up with a 4 year old and 20 month old little boy who’s always on the move. So my answer to that is my husband. He is a HUGE help! With his job, he can make his own schedule which is a blessing because mine is so crazy. I have a husband that helps out with laundry, cooking, and cleaning! If that’s not an answer to prayer, I don’t know what is! It’s not the best schedule, but together we make it work.

 

MM: What advice would you give to a woman (or even your own daughter) considering a career similar to yours?

Kristi: My advice to those who want to get into this career is, have some thick skin. This career can be tough when it comes to egos, jealousy, and outside noise. I learned pretty quickly, you’ve got to have your own back. Learn to enjoy what you do though, it’s television! Figure out what your interests are, weather, news, maybe entertainment and hone your skills in that area. It may be a tough business, but its also very rewarding.

MM: I understand. I’ve been given the thick skin advice as a writer. That’s something that doesn’t come naturally to me! I know you love what you do though and it’s so fun seeing clips of you on the morning show.

You guys seem to have a blast! I even shared your recent video of you dancing with legendary choreographer Derek Hough.

Can you share with us your all time favorite TV moment?

Kristi: I have three favorite tv moments and that’s when Hal and I announced we were having a baby Live on the show!

For Kyndal’s announcement, we surprised the other anchors with making cupcakes on the morning show and creating a mess leaving powdered sugar splattered on everyone! Then we served milk in baby bottles to wash it down. My second favorite, I can’t forget when one of the most beautiful buildings in the country, the Terminal Tower in downtown Cleveland lit up pink when I revealed the gender.

We now have a framed photo of it hanging in her bedroom. It was a total surprise! And my third favorite is when Dr. Oz revealed the gender of our second child!

What a cool moment we’ll never forget. I love how the station I work for, Fox 8 News in Cleveland, embraces our families.

MM: That’s so awesome! It’s been really exciting to watch you on this journey Kristi. Because I’ve known you and your family for such a long time I know how you love Jesus and are truly a light in your community. My last question for you is How has your faith impacted your career?

Kristi: My spiritual walk has always played a part in my journey to where I am now. I remember praying before going out on the Miss Missouri USA stage saying, use me for your glory. Let me be a light and example of you. Then I won and I was just as shocked as everyone else! I truly believe God opens and shuts the doors. I was looking to leave a certain station and job opened up in Denver. I knew it wasn’t what I wanted, but I was desperate so I said yes. As we were packing up our apartment my agent called the next day and said they took the contract off the table. My agent at the time, a big NYC agent with national clients said she’s never in her 20 years seen that happen. I knew it was God and I was relieved, but I didn’t know where I was going to find another job. In the end it all worked out, but it goes to show the workings of the Lord are always going on. You just have to be willing and open to where he’s taking you. One of my favorite verses and I even have it painted on my wall at home is Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

Thank you so much for sharing your story with us Kristi. You really are an Inspiring Mom and I know there is still so much more to come.

By | June 19th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments