Inspiring Mom 004: Tiffany Williams

This month’s inspiring mom is a guest post from Tiffany Williams. She has a such a phenomenal story of heartbreak, strength, perseverance and most importantly triumph. It is my pleasure to introduce you to this truly inspiring mom.

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When Ken and I met it felt like perfect timing. I had already finished getting my master’s degree in theatre arts and Ken had a very successful career in technology sales. Life was grand.

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Our favorite dates were spent eating out at fancy restaurants, traveling to fun locations, going to concerts, or just riding around in Ken’s BMW.

After tying the knot the next logical step for us seemed to be to start a family. So on our 1 year anniversary we decided to start trying, and I got pregnant right away. Panic set in. I wanted to be a mom in theory but I was really scared. I had a ton of dreams and goals for my life. One of my biggest core values is to live life to the fullest. New experiences, fun, and adventure are high on my priority list. I wanted to travel. Like everywhere. I wanted to star in a movie. I wanted to eat food from every continent. I wanted to salsa dance on Friday nights. I wanted to start a ministry. I wanted to speak to women on large stages. And though I liked kids, I liked them for short periods of time. And I really didn’t love babies. I pretended to. But let’s face it. I hated being spitup on, their piercing cries were deafening, and they couldn’t have a conversation or play a game with me=no fun. But after we lost our first baby to a fairly traumatic miscarriage, it was a like a switch flipped inside of me, and I was desperate to be a mom. I didn’t care about the extra work, the extra weight, the extra responsibilities. I just wanted a baby.

We had our first child, who had severe hearing loss and also some other significant special needs. My world was rocked. Life suddenly got really serious and really hard. A year later, I was pregnant again. My water broke with baby #2 8 weeks early. I spent 2 weeks on bed-rest in the hospital and then my sweet baby was in the NICU for weeks after that.


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Life was HARD with two tiny babies, both with differing needs and neither who slept through the night. Then, one day it occurred to me that I ought to think about getting pregnant with our third and final baby soon—so that I wouldn’t be having the baby during the big spring musical I was directing. I thought, “I guess we could get pregnant this month or I’ll have to wait 6 more months.” On a whim, we decided to try to get pregnant that month.

WELL, much to my shock, it worked! I dropped that pee-ridden, positive pregnancy test and ran to look at the calendar. Wait a minute, does this mean…oh no. I am going to have 3 kids in 3 years! Tears streamed down my face. “I am not cut out for that, God,” I cried.

I will never forget looking at that first sonogram during my 12 week doctor’s appt, thinking to myself “3 kids in 3 years? Tiffany, you are going to die.” And then I heard my doctor say two little words that would change my life forever. “IT’S TWINS!”

My head went completely blank and all I could remember was the countless times that I had specifically told God, “whatever you do, please don’t give me twins.”

I was going to have 4 kids in 3 years. ME! The non-baby person. The person who wants to live life to the fullest. The person who slept til 11:40 every Saturday morning. I was going to have 4 little kids. What was God thinking?

Thankfully, I was reminded of a scripture early on in my pregnancy that says “2 are better than 1.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9) I kept telling myself that God must have a plan. This was not a mistake. This was not a setback. This was a promotion. I told myself that until I believed it. And I actually got excited about what was ahead.

 

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My twins pregnancy was straight out of a Stephen King novel. Horrific at best. Everything that could’ve gone wrong did. I will spare you the gory details, but look up “worst case scenario” in the dictionary, and you will find my story.  In and out of the hospital 7 different times, trying to keep the babies from coming WAY too early, all kinds of nerve pain and PUPPS and anything else you can imagine. In the end, they came right on time, were healthy as horses, and weighed 7.5 lbs each. Yeah, I got huge. Eight days after I had them, though, I was rushed to the hospital, only to find that I was having heart failure. You heard me right. Congestive heart failure due to pregnancy. It is so rare that it took a few days for my doctors to even figure out what the heck was happening. I will never forget a doctor waking me up to tell me what was happening. I’d finally dozed off 17 straight hours of gasping for every breath. Not sure if I would be able to make it for one more second. The doctor said, “you won’t be able to have any more kids. And let me tell you that the odds aren’t in your favor. 33% of the women who have this don’t make it. 33% of them survive but have major issues—like heart transplants, a pace-maker, or other life-altering changes ahead of them. And 33% of the women will make a full recovery.” “What would it take for me to be one of the lucky 33%?” I asked. “You’ll have to rest your heart for the next 3 months. You will need someone helping you take care of your kids 24/7. You can’t sweep, mop, or lift children.” And the list went on. I smiled and said, “hey doc. Are you going to pay for that?”

We had no family within 2000 miles, but somehow, God provided enough help for us and I made a full recovery. My heart has never been better. God showed up for us in miraculous ways. Friends put together schedules and people would show up at my door with food, babysitting help, toys for the kids. I had several God-dreams that kept me encouraged. I even had an experience (during the worst part of the heart failure) where I went to heaven and heard heavenly music. It was 4-D. It breathed and was full of color. I have never seen or heard anything like it. God proved to me over and over that he was very real and he wasn’t going to let me down.

But then the real work began.  Raising 4 tiny kids. There was a time about a year into it that I literally collapsed and said, “I cannot do this for one more day. I have absolutely no more grace to be a stay at home mom of 4 tiny kids. One with significant special needs, another who is a freaking genius, and two twin babies.” People like to say stupid things like “God won’t give you more than you can handle,” but I just don’t think that’s true. There are lots of times in life where we’re confronted with more than we can humanly handle. But hey, that’s where God comes in. He says “my power is made perfect in weakness.”

In this time when I was so incredibly stretched beyond anything I could rationally do, I learned to rely on God like I’d never relied on him before. And he never let me down. He turned up again and again. In the midst of that time, I didn’t feel victorious. But looking back, I can’t believe what all I was able to accomplish. We traveled! Not often and it was mostly horrifically stressful, but we did it! I started my own successful business! I wrote a blog, I made new friends, I took my kids to playgroups. I SURVIVED! There were tons of stuff I didn’t do well, too. I always had mountains of laundry in our guest room, I never really cooked dinner. I wasn’t able to work out like I used to. Or ever. And I was far too addicted to caffeine. But I also learned to let go of the ridiculous standard I’d managed to set for myself and just do my best each day. At the end of the day, my best was enough.

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The thing that really surprised me is that as hard as that season was, it was just that—a season. It didn’t last forever. It left almost as quickly as it came. This year, my 4 kids are all in school full-time for the first time ever. I blinked and suddenly, I went from changing 4 kids’ diapers every day to having 6 glorious me-filled hours every day to do all kinds of adventuring. My latest triumph is I’m attempting to eat at all of the restaurants that I’ve wanted to try for years but couldn’t because they didn’t have a drive through (and you know I was NOT going to drag 4 little kids into pretty much any restaurant. Too stressful!). So far, I’ve tried 12 of them!

You know how it feels when your hand goes numb but then the feeling slowly returns? That’s kind of how I’m feeling these days. Creativity, innovation, and space to dream are slowly returning to me. And then I’m oh so happy to see my kids’ faces when I pick them up every day at 1:55.

Another thing that people say that used to make me mad is this, “enjoy every moment while your babies are little. It goes by too fast.” I usually wanted to throw a poopy diaper into the person’s face. I think a better way to say it is this, “each season is complete with something to celebrate and something to grieve.” As we enter motherhood, we are excited to get to know our baby! We are so blissfully blessed at the privilege of being a mom. But at the same time, we are grieving the loss of our former self. Our freedom. Our abilities. The relationship we had with our husbands. It’s a lot of change, and that’s hard. It is true that it is important to enjoy every moment. We MUST find something to enjoy every day, even the ones that end in tears, or we will regret it. But at the same time, we must also recognize what it is that we’re grieving and give that attention too. Or else we will become bitter and we can even take it out on our kids! But the trick is to spend more time enjoying than grieving. Because seasons always change. They go so fast. And they can be so good.

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By | September 18th, 2017|Uncategorized|0 Comments

How to Make a Nerf Party Cake

How to Make a Nerf Party Cake

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As promised, here is the Nerf Party Cake (modified version of the archery cake featured on showerofroses.blogspot.com).

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You will need

A box of cake mix and two 9″ round cake pans

2 cans of white frosting

13 KitKats or 4 of the XL size you find in the candy aisle of the grocery store

42 oz Party size bag of M&M’s

Nerf Dart

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Instructions

Bake the two round cakes according to package instructions.

Let cool for at least 15 minutes and trim the tops  with a knife to make them flat.

Place one round cake on your cake pan and frost the top.

Add the other layer (trimmed side down, smooth side up to make frosting easier).

Frost the entire cake liberally. It doesn’t have to be pretty because it will be covered with candy.

Separate the red, yellow, blue, and brown M&M’s.

You will need approximately

22 yellow

70 red

110 blue

50 brown

41 kit kat sticks trimmed to fit the height of the cake

Start your dart board design with adding a rim of brown m&m’s all the way around the diameter of the cake. This gives you a frame to line everything up with.

Next add approximately three more rows of blue M&M’s in a circle.

Then add three rows of red M&M’s.

Lastly, make a bullseye circle in the remaining space with yellow M&M’s.

Lining the cake with KitKat bars is easy. Just trim about a half inch off of the bottom of all the bars with a knife then stick them to the edge of the cake. They should stay in place without any trouble.

Then top off your cake with a decorative nerf dart. Just remove the M&M’s in one spot and gently push the Nerf dart into place.

I cut the cake servings with two Kitkats per slice. This meant that cake made about 20 servings.

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It was festive and delicious. Most kids and adults will love it!

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The candy is the priciest part and sorting the M&M’s was a bit time consuming, but the good news is I used the blue and orange for another side dish and I also plan to use the leftover green and brown for my other son’s party next month which is Ninja Turtle.

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I would definitely make a cake like this again! I loved it. Next time maybe I’ll try a different pattern like a number or a flower. Oooh, now my wheels are turning!

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By | September 15th, 2017|Parties, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Weaning Feelings and Other Big Emotions

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Elle has been weaned from breastfeeding for almost one week now. She is still a little restless at bedtime as she transitions into a new routine, but for the most part I think we’ve completely crossed over. And to put it bluntly I’m all dried up, so that ship has officially sailed.

I am done having babies and nursing. The goat picture will make sense in a minute.

I was talking to my friend with 5 kids, the one who has walked this motherhood journey with me from day one. I was there with her when her first daughter was born and vice versa. She asked me sympathetically how I was feeling, knowing that Elle is our last baby and I will never breastfeed again. I told her I was sincerely fine with this change.

I’ve been pretty vocal about our family planning on the blog, mostly because it’s something that a lot of people don’t talk about and sometimes it’s a random blogger on the internet that makes you feel a little less alone. I know this because I’ve gotten comments and emails from women who have opened up about the confusing emotional decision to not have anymore children.

In our case,  I knew Elle was the last one when I was pregnant with her. Shortly after her birth we took the leap into having a permanent birth control procedure. We would love to adopt some day so that makes our finality of being finished having kids a lit more murky. Do I save that cute little dinosaur costume in case we adopt a toddler? But back to the topic of breast feeding, that’s something I know I will never be doing again.

I was ready to be done with breastfeeding. It wasn’t sad for me. I nursed each of my four babies for well over a year and Ezie and Elle were basically two years. So I have paid my dues. I was even starting to resent it a little. That’s how I knew it was time to wean Elle. She’s definitely old enough so that’s not the issue. At this point it is a matter of comfort and bonding. For me I was very uncomfortable being woken up at 2:oo am and I don’t think a disgruntled mother scowling  and murmuring is the most positive bonding experience either.

I worked on a goat farm a long time ago and remember watching a not so tiny kid try to get to its mothers teat. As the mother was trying to back away from her child she would turn and bleat. She was done and the kid was old enough to stop. I feel ya momma goat. Even in the animal kingdom some kids need a little extra push and sometimes mommas gotta bleat.

As far as Elle turning two soon. I’m okay with that too, but I am a little wishy washy in my emotions about no longer having a baby. On the one hand I get sad thinking about aging and grown kids. I reminisce about how cute and innocent those precious early years are.

It’s the end of an era, and even with all of the exhaustion it brings, it is a sweet and delightful era.

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After I had Elle I was so hormonal watching her daily changes and rapid growth that I was really grieving the thought of not experiencing any of that ever again. So I made a list. A tangible list. I wrote down dozens and dozens of reasons why I look forward to having older kids and no more babies. Eventually those sad emotions just went a way and I swung the other direction. I started counting down the years until I would no longer need a babysitter to leave the house for a moment. I dream about running in and out of stores alone.

I had a conversation with friends recently that made realize how lucky I am to have four really awesome empowering pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding experiences. Still, after spending the past decade pregnant or nursing I am just ready for this next chapter. It’s time.

I have so many more thoughts on this transition, but I’ll just have to do part two, or three, or four even, because I may feel different after Elle turns two. I may feel different again when she turns three and I’ve crossed the threshold for longest time I have gone without being pregnant. Sigh. I’ll just keeping feeling and blogging.

Onward we go, upward they grow. Thank you God for this incredible journey.

By | September 11th, 2017|Babies & Toddlers, Motherhood, Pregnancy & Birth, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Indoor Nerf Party

Z’s 10th birthday was a bullseye with this Nerf Party.

I love making printables and Z helped me with my designs this year. He also spent a lot of time coloring and making his own Nerf theme signs to hang up around the house.

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Even little brother helped set up.

As each guest arrived we had a sign in sheet where they wrote their name, gun model, and number of darts. This made everything so much easier!

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The “Armory” was a pegboard with hooks moved from the garage to the play room. The boys could hang their guns up there until battle time.

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We made these ammo pouches full of nerf darts as party favors.

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They were really little messenger bags from the dollar store that Z covered with black duct tape and then individualized with names taped on with clear tape.

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All the boys had a way to carry their own bullets and they all used them. It turned out so great.

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The first game was Whack-A-Villian which was a game that J and Z made for a Cub Scout carnival and then we played at Ezie’s 4th birthday party. Everyone used the same gun and had to see how many bad guys they could hit. The two boys with the highest scores were team captains for the nerf war.

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Next up was the Mess Hall (military phrase for cafeteria).

Of course, the food had to be Nerf theme which meant lots of orange and blue.

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We also bought some frozen pizzas and added our own toppings in the shape of a dart board.


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Then there were fun military theme touches like cheese bombs


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War Heads and Explosives (Pop Rocks)

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Gun powder (pixy stix)
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and more…

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The cake turned out amazing. I’ll be sure to post a recipe/tutorial for that soon.

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Lastly was the ultimate capture the flag show down. There was a blue team and an orange team. Each team got some face paint markers in the corresponding shades of their team color. I explained that this was their war paint and war paint started with the Native Americans who would apply paint to their face and bodies to prepare for battle. This was the print out for the war paint station.

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I turned a full length mirror on its side so that multiple boys could paint their face at once.

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The blue team was using the bathroom mirror.

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Then each team had 15 minutes to build their fort out of cardboard boxes.

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After that was the big moment. The Nerf War.

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The rules were the same as capture the flag and they had an orange shirt and a blue shirt as flags. If they were hit they had to go back into their forts. The final battle was a free for all and the boys went wild tearing down their forts, firing their guns, and making an insane amount of noise. It was probably not the safest most organized activity, but it can you imagine anything more fun for a group of 4th grade boys?

Yes there was some bickering about who was shot and who was cheating, but all in all they really just had a great time.

I have a lot of favorites when it comes to kid’s parties, but this one is going to be added to that list.

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By | September 6th, 2017|Parties, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Top 10 Things I’ve Learned in 10 Years of Motherhood

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I can’t believe I now have a decade of parenting under my belt. No more rookie status for this Messy Mom; I’m going Pro. Actually, I’ll save that status for mothers of teenagers, but I think I’m ready for semi-pro. Yeah, that’s me. One decade of experience. I’ve finally found my footing, even if it is on top of a few legos. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned along this motherhood journey so far.

1. You don’t need all the junk they market to parents.  

If I were stranded on a deserted island to raise my children and could choose three things to have with me I would pick

  • The Bible
  • A double stroller
  • Chocolate chip cookies

and I would have it all delivered by Amazon and repurpose the box. I could totally live with that.

2. Moms aren’t the only ones who can have an appreciation for mini vans.

They are also well received by the hundreds of cars that will NOT have their sides dinged by careless children abruptly exiting a vehicle. You’re welcome.

3.  There is no amount of admiration that compares to what you feel watching your precious angel child sleep peacefully…

and the most frustration you will ever feel is often the moments leading up to that point.

4. Don’t tell kids ahead of time when a fun thing is happening.

Do not, I repeat, DO NOT announce a fun upcoming activity until you are ready to listen to your child ask/talk about said activity incessantly until the moment the activity actually takes place.

5. Kids are fast.

Turn around for one minute and suddenly they’ve climbed on top of the counter and devoured half a sleeve of Oreos. They can run in the library at Olympic level speed while you “whisper scream” at them to walk. When I get tired of chasing my kids I hold onto the hope that it will all pay off someday in the form of some kind of athletic scholarship.

6. Kids are slow.

Forget what I said in #5. All of my dreams of a scholarship or college in general disappear when I see how slow my children move when we are trying to get out the door. Or when we are in public and someone needs to get by and says excuse me. I try to coerce the child who suddenly has a fascination with the ceiling and has lost the ability to understand English in that moment. Time to bring in the arm yank.

7 .Eating out at a sit-down restaurant is like going to the dentist.

It’s a great way to spend a lot of money on a painful experience.

8. Children aren’t afraid to tell it like it is.

Like when your four year old needs a new pair of glasses and you have a terrible experience at the eyeglass store. You walk away venting about how bad the service is and that you will never come back to that establishment again. Then an hour later when the frames are ready you go back in to pick up the glasses and the child shouts loud enough for the entire store to hear, “I thought you said you would NEVER come back to this place again!”

9.  Your “mother-age” is the age of your oldest child.

When you have your first child they are a newborn and you are a newmom. When your child is 5 you are a 5 year old mom. Keeping this in perspective allows us moms to cut ourselves some slack.  Now that I am a 10 year old mom I am starting to get pretty confident at this gig, but I’m still young. I’m still learning and I am also getting ready to go through a lot of hormonal obstacles, i.e. puberty!

10. Now I understand what my parents went through and how awesome they are.

Hopefully my kids will also have this same epiphany, even if it does take 20 years, give or take.

By | August 30th, 2017|Laughter, Parenting Tips, Uncategorized|1 Comment

The Extraordinary Mess

342999I just finished the book Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist and it really got me thinking. Her book about “leaving behind frantic for a simpler, more soulful way of living”  hit me like a ton of bricks. Unlike Shauna I don’t have ample career opportunities that I have to turn down. The problem for me is that sometimes I wish I did.

There is a chapter in the book called “Must Be Nice” where Shauna recognizes that she is struggling with jealousy toward a friend. She picked up on it when she realized that her constant refrain about her friends’ life was, “Must be nice”. It’s funny because as I read about Shauna’s life I think to myself “must be nice”. It must be nice to be able to hop on a plane and get away. It must be nice to speak with other women. I am not even talking about on a platform or a major conference! I’m thinking it must be nice to have an uninterrupted adult conversation on a regular basis or to be a paid blogger and a writer. Or to have a babysitter. That MUST BE NICE.

The irony of my envious thoughts is that the book was mainly about Shauna shifting her priorities to make her life more like mine! She wanted to stay at home with her kids more. She wanted to spend less time obsessing over the perfect condition of her home. She wanted to place her career in the backseat so that she could really focus on being a wife and mom.

As I read about her desires I recognize that as my world. I am a full-time wife and mom and I live a very simple life with the focus being on our home and family. I don’t resent it, but I do feel like I could be doing MORE. If only I could contribute more financially. If only I could be a better house keeper. If only I had time I would focus more on my dream career. The book really convicted me about my wishful thinking and allowed me to see that what I am doing is not only enough, but it’s priceless. Some of the most successful people in the world can’t buy what I am giving to my kids and that is a childhood that is rooted in a solid faith filled home with a loving family who are deeply connected.

It sounds really aspirational when I say it that way, but now back to the part where the grass is always greener on the other side.

You see, I have a little obsession.  If you have a chance to speak with me in person for any length of time you will hear me talk about the NPR podcast “How I Built This”. I love that podcast and second to that is Shark Tank. I’m the first to admit my fascination with entrepreneurs, business launching, and rags to riches stories is a little random. I think it’s my form of escapism. Most housewives watch the Bachelor or read romance novels to escape. I think all that stuff is gross. Instead, you may catch me reading about how to hustle your way to success while downing a bowl of ice cream and signing permission slips. To each their own.

I get so inspired by entrepreneurs that beat the odds! It’s my dream to launch something that could be revolutionary! I have so many ideas, but here I am in bondage in my own home, a slave to nap time and carpools. Melodramatic tone aside, sometimes I beat myself for not being able to accomplish more.

This book really helped me to see the value in what I am doing right now. I felt like it let me off the hook for not hustling enough while being at home with my kids.

Yesterday I listened to the latest episode of How I Built This. It was about the guy that started Edible Arrangements. It is an incredible story. Tariq Farid came from a family of immigrants. He worked three jobs at a time as a teenager and turned all the money into his family to make ends meet. When he was 17 he invested in a rundown flower shop and the story goes from there. I was blown away by his vision, drive, and success. “Must be nice”. But then there’s a part of the show where the host asks Tariq about his family and some of the sacrifices he made. Tariq says  “There is a price that you pay [directly referencing his divorce and children] I think the biggest thing that you look back at and you wish you did it differently is probably the children because I don’t think they understand.They don’t care if you’re rich or poor. They just want your time and they want your love” That part really convicted me. I was already feeling like there was confirmation through the book validating my personal choices as a stay at home. As Jesus said in Mark 8:36 What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, but forfeit his soul.

The tagline for my blog is “Making the best of what looks like a mess” and this quote from “Present Over Perfect” is about that very thing.

Shauna says “I was faced with a dilemma- one so many of us face quite often: I could either wrestle my life and my kids and my house and our Christmas into something fantastic, something perfect… Or I could plunk myself down right in the middle of the mess and realize that the mess is actually my life, the only one I’ll ever get, the one I’m in danger of missing completely, waiting around for fantastic.

I choose mess.

By | August 23rd, 2017|Uncategorized|4 Comments

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|1 Comment

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