10 Years of Cow Appreciation!

We don’t have a ton of family traditions for our little herd, but one thing we do enjoy doing every year is Cow Appreciation Day at our favorite restaurant- Chick-fil-A!

This was a big year for us to participate because it makes TEN years that we have dressed up and gotten free chicken.

We have so many fun memories from this annual outing. It’s fun to watch as one child outgrows a cow costume and another sibling inherits it.

This year Z wore the cow costume that I have worn the past few years. At the rate he is growing he probably won’t fit in it for long!

This Baby Gap Cow dress is what SJ wore her first year, and it was also worn by my niece, and by Elle when she was a baby.

 

The toddler cow costume was worn by the three youngest calves when they were a year old.

And how could I forget the two years I was a pregnant cow (but don’t even think about calling me heifer!)

We’ve always had fun coming up with frugal ways to make cow costumes and this paper plate cow mask tutorial that I made has been a hit on my blog!

We almost didn’t make it this year. Because of my recent car wreck that totaled my van we don’t currently have a vehicle that will fit all 6 of us. In the end, we decided to load up two cars and keep the tradition alive! We met several of our friends there and had a great time. I am really glad we went.

 

In honor of our 10th year here is a look back at all of our Cow Appreciation Days.

 

That’s all the fun for now, but I plan to keep the tradition going… ’till the cows come home’.

By | July 10th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Trusting God With Your Story

I love stories. I love reading, writing, hearing, and sharing them.

I haven’t been secretive about the fact that I am working on my own memoir. I’ve written dozens if not hundreds of pages already. The thing about my memoir is that I don’t know when or how it will end. The writer in me is anxious to tie up this latest season of our life with a great big bow and call it done. Don’t we all do that? We want a conclusion. It doesn’t have to be a fairy tale ending but there has to be some kind of closure right?

I am the closure queen. I will try to make plans all day long thinking I can force resolve in whatever area I feel is left undone. This has really backfired when I made snap decisions rather than having patience.

Last year I read Brene Brown’s book “Rising Strong” and it talks a lot about how we make up stories.  This insight has absolutely revolutionized the way J and I  fight dialogue. It is a simple phrase that changes accusations from arrows to question marks. Instead of trying to point fingers and lay blame we take our offenses and say “The story I am making up”. There is a whole book about it, so I am going to oversimplify here with an example.

Wife: Why didn’t you get home at 5:30 like you said?

Husband: I got caught up in a conversation with my boss and felt like it would be rude if I left.

The wife could go on a tirade about how he always does this and she can’t trust him to stick to his commitments at home. Another option is for the wife to really search for what is bothering her and what it is that she believes about her husband without claiming it as a fact. That’s where The story I am making up comes in.

Wife: The story I am making up is that you are using work as a way to escape your family and you like it better than being at home.

The reason this method dramatically changes the conversation is because we are owning the fact that our brain really does make up stories and a lot of times they are fictional stories! When J and I say “the story I am making up” we are much less defensive and ready to untangle the feelings that each of us are dealing with.

There is a whole science behind what our brains will do to bring closure to help us feel better about a situation. Brown explains it saying

“Our brains reward us with dopamine when we recognize and complete patterns. Stories are patterns. The brain recognized the familiar beginning- middle- end structure of a story and rewards us for clearing up the ambiguity”.

I don’t know about you, but as the “closure queen” I do not like ambiguity. Knowing that our brains find relief in these patterns helped me realize why I was trying so hard to push the plot line of my own real life story. I recently heard someone on a podcast say he always thought his life would have more of a narrative arc. That’s me! I subconsciously like to live in a novel and sometimes I think I can even write it, which couldn’t be further from the truth. I make decisions that can affect the outcome, but God is writing my story and I would be better off trusting him and learning how to float rather than swim aimlessly.

This analogy of swimming was brought to my attention recently since my youngest son is learning to swim. You can’t learn to swim if you can’t learn how to float and you can’t learn how to float if you can’t learn to relax. Holding your breath and propelling yourself underwater will only last so long. I’ve watched him in this struggle. He can dive for items in the shallow end and swim underwater like a champ, but he can’t come up for air unless it’s shallow enough for him to stand up. I have been anxious to teach him the skill of floating as it could potentially save his life. So I had him lay on his back on the water and I held him in place with my hands on his back. He kept wanting to lift his head up. It was a natural reaction for his body to want to resist going under water. I told him to trust me and let go of all the tension in his muscles and really lean back and look at the sky. I felt his abs contract and said to him “The more you struggle the more you are going to sink.” That’s when it hit me: that has been me lately. I have been swimming around without direction and it is tiring. As much as I want to work out all the details of this next chapter in my life story, God is teaching me to be still and wait on Him. Relax.

So I am working on that trusting HIM with total control of my story and I guess I am still learning to float.

By | July 8th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Everyone is Fine but…

I know so many of us have received that dreaded phone call that informs you that someone you love was in an accident. Nothing can make your heart drop faster. That is why when I got into a serious car wreck last Friday I knew to start the phone calls with “Everyone is fine, but…”. 

The week before this happened we had driven from Ohio to Texas. We spent our vacation playing cards with family, overeating, swimming in the pool, and getting caught up on each other’s lives.

The morning we planned to head home, J’s sister treated the kids and me to see Toy Story 4. I drove the kids because I wanted J to sleep in as long as possible in preparation for the long drive ahead of him. Afterward I followed behind J’s sister’s truck on the highway as we headed back to the house. Everything was fine until a semi truck suddenly pulled into my lane. I don’t want to give details in case I have to go to court. I hope that’s not the case but I am going to play it safe until all the dust settles with the insurance companies.

SJ was in the third row next to the window and Ezie was in front of her in the second row next to the passenger window when that side of the car was sideswiped by a semi truck!

I ricocheted between the truck and a concrete barricade. The windshield and passenger window glass was smashed out of the car. The side view mirror landed in the front seat. Mirrors, and lights, and compartments were crushed. The airbags were deployed.

I heard the smash and my van soon came to a stop. At that moment I honestly didn’t know if the accident was fatal. Time stood still and I felt like my whole world went dark for half a second then I cried out, “Are my babies okay!?”. I unbuckled the seat belt and shattered glass fell off of me as I went in between the front seats to reach my children. SJ was screaming, and Z was crying. I was able to look and talk to each one of my children as I dialed 911. The biggest injury was SJ’s elbow which was scratched and bruised but not severe. I got a little scratched and bruised too but we were all okay. It was a miracle!

Then a white truck pulled up behind me and a man ran to the back of the van, but couldn’t get the door all the way open.

I squeezed through the opening and abruptly asked if he could tell the dispatcher where I was because I had no idea. I gave this older gentleman my cell phone and without thinking I wrapped my arms around him as if I could transfer all of my weight and all of the pain onto him. I started sobbing uncontrollably for a moment. I knew my kids were okay and something in my gut needed to feel rescued by someone more grown up than me. I couldn’t speak, but I was so grateful he was there to help and that we were all alive.

At that point I climbed back into the van with my four children. “I love you. I love you. I love you.” I sputtered as I gasped for air. “I am so glad you are okay. It’s going to be okay. Thank you Jesus for saving us.” Then my sister in law showed up after crossing through traffic while on the phone with J directing him on where to find us. An off duty nurse also arrived and we got the van turned off and exited onto the side of the road. No one saw the driver for a few more minutes and we worried that it was a hit and run, but eventually he walked back to the scene of the accident. The cops had lots of questions and for the most part I was able to speak clearly but I started to lose feeling in my legs and my breath kept getting heavier.

Eventually, my van was towed away and the kids rode back to the house with J while my sister in law took me to the ER to get treatment. I couldn’t stop reliving the moment. I would see flashes of the trauma in my mind and then I would shake uncontrollably. I felt fear pumping through my veins. When we arrived at the hospital and I felt far away from the scene of the accident I could finally calm down. The doctors gave me prescription pain meds and muscle relaxers for the inevitable soreness that comes when you wreck a car on a highway where the speed limit is 75.

That night back at my in-laws house J wanted me to play dominoes to get my mind off of things and I tried, but I couldn’t finish the game. The anxiety was overwhelming. I excused myself and went to bed and I woke up 16 hours later. 

We took a couple of days to rest per the Doctors instructions and finally headed home. I knew getting back in a vehicle and being on the highway again would be difficult for me. J got a beast of a car so that I would feel safe. When we first started out I would gasp and close my eyes a lot but I managed.

At night though when it was dark all you could see was semi trucks and their headlights all around us and they felt terribly close. Ezie and SJ started crying. It felt so scary like being in a black ocean with sharks and whales all around ready to swallow us. I turned around so that I couldn’t see out my window and I held their hands. Ezie said “but mommy that truck is getting so close to us. I’m scared of a wreck. What if…” I cut him off. “I want you to close your eyes and sing with me.” I sang Your name is like honey on my lips… one worship song after the other… You’re never going to let me down… we cried out Through it all, through it all my eyes are one you… and they joined me as we Raised a Hallelujah louder than the unbelief!  I could sense a shift in the atmosphere. I could barely sing out the words as I wept through the lyrics- You make me brave. You make me brave. No fear can hinder now the Love that made a way. Then they were asleep. I gently let go of their hands, turned back around, and looked straight ahead into the deep dark sea of uncertainty in front of me.

I have had to trust God for every ounce of strength I have needed to get through this. I usually see myself as a courageous mama bear, but this wreck has left me feeling as crumpled and banged up as the van they had to tow away. Thankfully I have an army of friends and family willing to fight this battle with me. I feel their prayers.

We are going to get through this. No fear can hinder the promises He made.

By | July 2nd, 2019|Uncategorized|2 Comments

SJ’s First Year in a Mainstream School

This time last year SJ had just graduated from her deaf school. Her graduation was one of the greatest moments of my life for sure, but followed by a little anxiety and trepidation about what was next. Her whole life SJ had been in an environment that catered to her needs as a deaf child and she was about to be going to a school that was built for hearing children. This is one of the reasons we chose to have her repeat second grade at her new school.

I have had a lot of people ask how her transition went and what the first year was like, so here is a recap of life since graduation for SJ.

For starters, she got her first cochlear implant upgrade, the Nucleus 7, which has been AWESOME. I really can’t think of a big enough word to describe what these new devices are like for her. To think if they improved her cochlear implant processors this much in 5 years what will they be like when she is in high school?! As much as it is an added burden for her compared to hearing kids and it’s always a little scary to have a bionic anything on your body, it is also such a blessing. I am so grateful for her sound processors and the tracking device on the iPhone has come in handy!

She had several milestones last December including being a part of the church Christmas services, her first deaf alarm clock and her first journal.

She also had her 6th hearing anniversary!

The little film that she was a part was released on International Women’s Day and she did a great job.

Her first field trip at her new school was a success. She was so excited, she had an extensive checklist leading up to the big day.

Looking back I am moved to tears as I read the words I had typed out last year when I was anxiously awaiting her first year at a mainstream school:

“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.”

and now she has done all of those things! She is crushing it and my heart could soar. She definitely knows how to navigate her own equipment. She made this little tutorial for pairing the mini mic with her devices.

She won an award for star student one month and got free Chick-fil-a for lunch! She loves reading chapter books now which was never the case before.

 

Were there days she struggled? Sure. She’s had a great year though and I owe an enormous thank you to her team at her public school. Not only did they support J and I and walk us through the process when we chose for her to repeat 2nd grade, but they went above and beyond to meet all of SJ’s needs as a deaf student. I hear horror stories all of the time about IEP meetings and schools not being able to accommodate the needs of disabled students but my experience has been the opposite!

At each meeting they addressed every little concern that we might have and at first this was hearing at recess and lunch when it’s loud. They recommended we have her audiologist adjust her implants to allow her to change the settings depending on the environment (which we did). They also said the intervention specialist might need her own mic instead of just having her teacher wear one (and they had it for her in no time). They also got a “Pass Mic” because the students at each table work together and discuss things often. This allowed the students to talk into a microphone so that SJ could hear them better with all the background noise. The list goes on. I love our school and I do not take it for granted.

On top of all that, SJ had a best friend at her deaf school who has a twin sister and she was in SJ’s class! This friend was even at SJ’s birthday party the year before so they knew each other and their relationship blossomed from there.

When we go to events at SJ’s old school the twins are there and when there parties and things at her new school the twins are there. It has been a wonderful bridge for SJ during this transition!

3rd grade is going to be a big jump but now I feel like she is totally ready. I have no regrets about any of our decisions. Cochlear implants, private school and therapy, summer school and an extra year of 2nd grade are all tools that have allowed her to speak, understand, and flourish.

This first year at mainstream school was an answer to prayer. To quote SJ’s journal “I had joy everywhere in my heart”. I can’t wait to see what is next for our shining star.

By | June 17th, 2019|Uncategorized|1 Comment

Cute Things Elle Says

After writing updates last week I realized I had too many adorable photos and stories of Elle and I was definitely going to need to do another post just for our 3 and half-year-old.

 

First of all, Elle is very tender and affectionate. If you give her a hug she will say “I love you too”.

Almost every day she asks for a pony and I deliver! The catch is that she is really asking for a ponytail. We have communicated it this way for so long that I forget the literal meaning. We will be out and public and she starts crying “Mommy I want a pony! Why can’t I have a pony!?” and I’ll say “I know. I heard you. It’s coming”.

 

While watching Football with her dad she asked why all the players have tails.

 

Good question. 

Elle is super particular about what she wears and I think she has some mild sensory issues when it comes to clothes. There can’t be a wrinkle in her leggings or tights or she will go bananas. One day she described the crinkle in her sock in the cutest way. She said, “Mom I just don’t like it when there is a hill in my shoe!”.

She also calls polka dots bouncy balls. It took me a while before I realized what she meant when she requested “bouncy ball dress” or “bouncy ball pajamas”

Her love of fashion results in her changing clothes several times a day but she calls it changing her mind. It kind of makes sense until she says “I think I’m going to go change my mind” and then switches outfits.

She’s super sassy and when she gets mad at her brothers or doesn’t get her way she shouts “Fine! I’m not going to be your brother anymore!”

One time while traveling one of the boys had to pee and we weren’t going to be near a bathroom anytime soon so J had them pee in an empty water bottle in the car. Later, after we had made it to our destination, J noticed the lid was off of the bottle. He lined up the kids and with a wild look in his eye interrogated each one in an attempt to find out who had tampered with the bottle. Z shook his head no. Ezie said not me and SJ crinkled her nose in confusion. Then J turned to Elle and asked “Baby girl, did you take the lid off of this bottle?” Without hesitation she responded, “That drink is ESCUSTING!” That’s when we knew.

 

One day I called Elle a “Love muffin” and she said “I do love muffin! I love nanna bread too.”

 

One final Elle story that happened recently,  I was using the bathroom that is in my room and Elle comes barging in while I am on the commode. I said “Elle! I would really like some privacy” She seemed to genuinely understand as she apologized. “Oh! I’m sorry mom” she said and then she shut the door, with her inside the bathroom with me. All I can do is shake my head and laugh. I am a mother four, privacy went out the window a long time ago.

 

She definitely keeps us all smiling. That’s our little Elle Belle.

By | June 12th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Another School Year

The kids are one week into their 2019 summer break and it has been wonderful. I love new beginnings because it lends the opportunity to reflect and have closure along with vision and dreams for what’s next. The past school year was significant because we went from 3 different schools (Z elementary, Ezie preschool, and SJ private school) down to one. I often found myself making plans throughout the year for Christmas break or other holidays and wondering about scheduling conflicts only to remember that all of my kids had the same days off! That was a really special treat that has never been the case in the 5 years that we’ve had school-aged children. I’ve also watched the three older kids bond over these newly common experiences like mindful music, what was for lunch, the school carnival, talent show, and more. There have certainly been ups and downs throughout the school year, but I would definitely say it was a success. Here is a look back at some of the fun memories, milestones, and growth I have witnessed during the 2018/19 school year.

Elle isn’t in school yet so she gets to tag along with me all day.

I don’t do any formal lessons with her but we read, draw, and sing… Elle knows all of the basic shapes and colors. She is starting to count and say her ABCs. Elle also turned three years old!

Ezie started his first year of elementary school. He went to afternoon kindergarten so he is easing his way into this whole school thing. Ezie is the friendliest, most outgoing child I have ever known so I was worried about him being a distraction in class, but he actually did really well.

He learned to read and write and he lost a lot of teeth!

He also went on his first field trip and got to milk a goat.

It was an awesome first year for Ezie!

 

SJ completed 2nd grade in her first year at a mainstream school! We were all nervous going into it but she did great. She became a lot more independent this year because at her new school she is completely responsible for her own hearing devices. I’ll share more about all that in a separate post because I have had a lot of people ask how it went. There have been a lot of cool new things that happened this year.

This was her first time to go to a daddy daughter dance. It was the end of October so it was a costume party.

Her art was selected for the school district art show.

Since she turned nine she has been able to be a helper in the church nursery (we have two services so she doesn’t miss her own class time).

We are also thrilled that she started gymnastics lessons. She LOVES it and is really excelling. She can do a roundoff, one handed cartwheel, the splits, backbend, and she is working on a handstand and back walkover.

Z is the only one of the bunch who already went to this school last year so he was already adjusted and fitting in fine.

He has so many friends that my extraverted heart could burst. He is adored by all of his teachers.

 

This was his first year to be on a robotics team and he was in his element!

The team didn’t win anything and ended up not advancing, but they’ve already been able to have one meeting to discuss plans for 6th grade!

Z has definitely had a growth spurt. His feet are bigger than mine now. I am clinging to the one year he has left in elementary school and the last few months of children’s church.


Speaking of church, Z has recently started filling in on ProPresenter in the adult service. He enjoys being a part of the tech team and I love how he is using his giftings. 
So there you have it. I am so proud of each of them. Mom brag over.

By | June 7th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

What I Want Moms to Know

One cool thing about my job as a mom blogger and even a pastor’s wife is that moms feel like they can open up to me. I don’t take that for granted and it lifts my spirits to have the honor of encouraging other moms or being able to pray for them. On top of that, between the various series I have written like “Lots of Hope for a Little Home” “How We Met” and “Inspiring Moms” I have been able to interview dozens of moms and get a special peek into their lives. It’s fascinating how no matter what cultural background, social status, or number of children a mother has there are always so many similarities. Sadly many of these similarities are unnecessary insecurities. I think all moms struggle with a certain amount of guilt from time to time, I know I do. Sometimes it helps to know that you are not alone! That’s why today I have decided to talk about three LIES that I’ve noticed most of us mom can fall prey to.

Most moms…

  1. Most Don’t Believe They Are Inspiring

Almost every single time I approach a woman about being featured as an Inspiring Mom the request is met with “I’d love to, but I don’t think I’m Inspiring”. My reaction goes something like Really!? You adopted 5 children with special needs from various countries all over the globe! If that’s not inspiring what is? This a real life conversation I had by the way. I haven’t done the interview yet, but hopefully I will get to. It is so hard for moms to see the value in what they do because it’s a job that rarely gets praise or appreciation.

What I want to say to moms that feel this way is that you what you do, even the messy and mundane, is significant and that God has given you this great calling and privilege of motherhood. You have a voice, you are a light, and you are seen. Most importantly your story matters!

2.  Most Moms Feel Like an Imposter

This is a big problem in the social media age. From what we see on our screens it looks like everyone else around us is doing it better or doing it right. We try to keep up, but we are secretly worried that we’ll be exposed. These are imposter comments I see frequently in response to compliments.

“Wow girl, you don’t age!”  “Oh no, that’s just the filter, trust me!”

“Thanks for bringing those cookies to the school event” “Well, I totally cheated and just picked up a package from the store”

“Your house looks so clean” “Ha! That’s because everything is shoved in the closet”

“The IG video of your family was so sweet. #Goals” “There is a reason I didn’t include in sound in the video. You wouldn’t say that if you heard my children bickering!”

Again, these are all REAL examples! I am totally guilty of this, like when I shared this photo of some pumpkins with our family’s names on them.

My friend complimented me by saying “nice handwriting” and I said I cheated because I copied the font off of a website. Then another friend chimed in and called me out on it. She said, “Why don’t we give ourselves the credit we deserve instead of saying Oh I cheated so it really isn’t that good.”

She was right! We don’t have to feel like we are imposters ready to have our cover blown!

My message to you and myself is to stop comparing and own our choices without apology. Forget Pinterest!

3. Most Moms Think They Are Failing

This goes hand in hand with the last myth about motherhood (the imposter syndrome). Most moms feel like they are failing. I can hear Beverly Goldberg in my head right now…

I’m pretty sure mom guilt has been around since Eve but the introduction of television and then the internet has amped it up to the point that moms can’t pick out a breakfast cereal without feeling like they are failing. There is a reason #momfail is a hashtag and there are literally millions of posts online in which moms have labeled their efforts as failures. This has to stop.

Sometimes we do fail and it’s okay because we have to teach our children to fail too.

Not teach them to fail without consequence and revel in it, but to recognize that no one is perfect. Woody Allen says “If you’re not failing every now and again it’s a sign you aren’t doing anything very innovative”. Our failures are teaching some of the greatest lessons we can give to our kids. Sometimes failures teach us how to have grace, patience, or forgiveness. Other times it teaches endurance, flexibility or coping skills and then there are some failures that just teach us to laugh! I’ve posted this quote before and it has meant so much to me throughout the years. This was said by a pastor (and wonderful father) talking about his daughter

“I feel like I can protect my child from Hollywood. I can protect my child from crazy teachers, and soccer coaches. I can protect my child from anybody but me, because I will leave a mark, and I am a broken person, and as hard as I try I will fail her and she will have to learn to forgive me. She was wired to have a perfect father, and she has me instead.”

So my message to those who feel like they have failed is that you have failed and you will again just like the rest of us, but you are doing one heck of a good job at raising your kids! One other thing- not making valentine’s by hand for your kids class is not a fail, neither is posting your monthly newborn updates a couple of days late or not moving your elf on a shelf. So let’s dial back the expectations shall we?

In closing, if you have ever felt like you don’t have a voice, or that you are faking it, or that you are a failure, just know that you aren’t the only one feeling that way. Then recognize that those are all lies that the enemy wants to use to tear you down because mothers are such a threat. The truth is you are a masterpiece and you matter.

 

 

By | May 14th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Inspiring Mom Hashmareen Griffin

Imagine growing up on a small tropical island, an island full of hillsides and tea plants as far as the eye can see. Imagine tropical flowers to fill your senses and mango and guava trees to climb and play in. Imagine you could run barefoot all day long while monkeys watched you soak up every ounce of childhood at its finest. That was the life of Hashmareen Griffin.

Hashmareen was born in Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka, located off the southeast shore of India. The area where she is from is predominantly a Buddhist nation. Only 2% are born again Christians. Her Grandfather was saved at an Assembly of God missions church as a young boy. Hashmareen reflects on the story that transpired before she was even born. She has a deep sense of gratitude knowing that those missionaries obedience to spread the Gospel is what has changed her life as her grandfather went on to raise three generations of Christians to serve the Lord. 

When Hasmareen was a little girl her father managed multiple tea estates and they lived on the estates.

The cool tropical climate there was perfect for tea, which is part of the reason Sri Lanka is the second largest tea manufacturer in the entire world. Hashmareen remembers her days on the tea farm fondly. As a tomboy, she was always running around outside with her curly hair untamed and knobby knees covered in scrapes and bruises. She loved the animals that shared the land with them which including the native birds and monkeys as well as goats and chickens which were a part of the farm. Hashmareen loved playing outdoors but she knew she had to come inside at sunset. Her father told the children stories of a witch that would come out at night and turn the sky red. When you saw the blue sky begin to turn yellow then orange, and red you knew it was time to get back in the house. In third grade Hashmareen and her little sister were sent to boarding school two hours away. She doesn’t look back at those days with as much wonder and delight as the years she spent at home, but she made many friends and she was always well cared for by the three widows that ran the school. When Hashmareen was 10 years old Sri Lanka was going through a lot of political issues and it was becoming dangerous to live there so her family immigrated to Seattle Washington. 

They landed in the states on December 23, 1983. Hashmareen had no idea what to expect of their new home but through it all she trusted her parents. America was so different than what she was used to. The air felt cold and dry. She went from a tropical paradise to a city that felt dark and gloomy. Her nostrils physically hurt breathing this new piney air. Once they settled in she started to become acclimated. She enjoyed school. The people in America were all very welcoming and her favorite part of all was SPORTS! She loved that her new school had so many organized sports. This was the chance for Hashmareen’s athleticism to shine, especially in volleyball.

A couple of years later when Hashmareen was in middle school she was walking around the mall with her mom when out of the blue she was approached by an internationally renowned modeling agency out of New York. Hashmareen was offered the chance to travel to New York and have them represent her. This was a lot for a young teen to even process. Hashmareen describes herself at the time as “Not at all comfortable in my skin. I was dark and underweight with knobby knees and big, puffy, frizzy hair. People called me giraffe! I wasn’t insecure because my focus was all about sports but I certainly NEVER thought of myself as beautiful”. In the meantime, her mom was excited thinking maybe someone could get this girl to finally act like a girl, but she also wasn’t ready for her baby to be carted off to New York!

After some discussion, it was determined that Hashmareen would stay local and gain some modeling experience in the Seattle area.  So she started working in the Northwest fashion circuit after school and on the weekends.  During the summers Hashmareen would travel to other states and cities to work for different department stores and fashion houses.  Upon graduating high school she received an Associates in business but the fashion world was calling her in a big way.  She was even personally invited by Oscar de la Renta and Badgley Mischka to come and work for them in New York! It was like living in a dream.  At that time she decided she was ready to travel full time and so Hashmareen had the opportunity to work Internationally in New York, Miami, LA, Milan, London, and Australia.  She was modeling for top designers walking the runways of major fashion houses. Hashmareen modeled from 1986-2002 which really shows how much the favor of God was on her life as most modeling careers do not last that long. She was also a pioneer for women of color and diverse ethnicities to be featured as serious models on the runway and in print. When Hashmareen began modeling almost all of her modeling peers were the classic “all American look” which included almost no minorities.

Hashmareen’s look was such a unique niche that she created a demand for it. When she traveled an agency would scramble to find a replacement for what was considered an exotic look.

Hashmareen says of that period of life:

“Throughout this 20-year career I got to model everything from Taco Bell uniforms to 2 million dollar Versace dresses where security would walk me down the runway and back.  I loved every minute of it!

I have done some covers, appeared in some commercials and TV spots.  I had the opportunity to shoot a pilot talk show for Warner Brothers and Dick Clark that we are currently talking about redoing for a possible new show.

What I remember the most during this season in my life is that the Lord protected me from all the dark realities of this industry.  He kept me pure, drug free, alcohol free and party free.  I have some of the most amazing memories of witnessing to designers, models, hair stylist, and makeup artists.  They all knew who I was and who I was in Christ.  I guess you could say I was “salt and light” in the world.”

Hashmareen has a different platform these days but one that is equally as valuable. She has been married to evangelist Allen Griffin for 21 years and they have two handsome teenage boys who are both honor students and not surprisingly they both LOVE sports.

Besides being a busy mother who teaches, counsels, negotiates, and leads these two very strong godly young men, she is also the vice president of a nonprofit called Excellerate. Excellerate is a program founded by Allen and Hashmareen which helps teens in the foster care system that are coming of age.  Allen and Hashmareen have always had a burden and a calling to help the fatherless. Through many years of being involved with helping foster and adopted children they noticed a missing demographic. The older children in the foster care system were slipping through the cracks unnoticed and when God placed a vision in their hearts to do something about it the answer was YES! The statistics are astounding.  60% of these teens have been bounced around from home to home, have been returned by their adoptive parents, have faced some of the most horrific stories you can think of and have never found a forever family.  They are at high risk to be trafficked, commit suicide, end up in jail and repeat the same cycles their parents have experienced. Excellerate was designed to help these kids transition into adulthood successfully by offering them a faith based 16 week life skills program.  They learn about social skills, financial responsibility, professionalism, and their spiritual walk with God.  Upon successful completion of the class they are gifted a used car so they can get to work, college, and church.  Most of all they are connected to a community by introducing them to people that care about them.  Since Excellerate’s inception they have had close to 200 students go through the classes and graduate and they’ve been able to donate over 160 cars to these young people!

They are currently planting 5 new locations around the country and God is doing amazing things through the ministry.

There are so many incredible testimonies and breakthroughs that could fill pages about all that is happening with Excellerate. You can find more information at excellerateyouth.org. If you have a church or an organization interested in hearing more about the program you can contact Excellearate about coming to your area. Or maybe you would like to make a donation or sponsor an individual. We can make a difference! God cares about these teens and whether it’s prayer, volunteering, giving, or spreading the word, chains can be broken and lives can be transformed forever! Feel free to reach out if you have any questions at all.

 

I personally want to thank Hashmareen Griffin for taking the time out to share her incredible testimony. From the tea farm in Sri Lanka, to the runways of New York, to helping teens in Florida in a life-changing way, Hashmareen truly is an inspiration.

By | April 30th, 2019|Uncategorized|2 Comments

Our Family Alarm clocks

For the most part this world has two types of people. There are morning people and then there are the rest of us.

When I was growing up my mom would go around the house singing and turning lights on first thing in the morning. She would sing “You’ve gotta get up this morning” to the tune of “First Call” (the military bugle wake up call). I never wanted to wake up so my mom would eventually fling off the covers and threaten to dump water on my head. She never went through with this for me, but my oldest brother did push her to the limit a time or two and got a preshower shower.

People like me don’t want to wake up in the morning. This morning my oldest son, Z, was in my bedroom announcing the time and I knew I had to wake up but as I tried to pry one eyelid open a great force was causing my eyes to roll back into my head.

Lucky for me Z is the epitome of responsible. When he was almost 8 years old he wanted his own alarm clock. So I picked one up from the thrift store for a buck. I guess there is never a guarantee with used electronics but 4 years later it still works like a charm so we have definitely gotten our money’s worth out this retro piece of equipment. Since then Z has always gotten up on his own. Z likes to be on time, if I were honest I would add that he is obnoxious about it, but I am sure it will serve him well in life.

Child number two is not a morning person but after getting jealous of her brother’s super rad Radio Shack CD alarm clock she started putting in requests. The only problem is that she is deaf and although her cochlear implants allow her to hear she does not wear them at night. So for Christmas SJ got a deaf alarm clock.

This Sonic Boom alarm clock is from Amazon has a vibration option which has made it very popular in the deaf community, but hearing people use it too. I would recommend this alarm clock for anyone that is an extremely heavy sleeper because it does get LOUD when it is on the buzz setting.

For the vibration setting, it has a little round piece that is connected to the alarm clock by a long chord and you slip that part under your pillow. It will then vibrate at the time it is set for. This has worked well for SJ. I could also see it as an option for maybe roommates that have different schedules and don’t want to wake each other up. You can select between buzz, vibrate, or both.

J and I use what I am guessing is the most common alarm clock in the 21st century which is the cell phone. At night we plug our phones in next to our bed. I’ve wanted to replace this routine because I have read studies that have proven that we sleep better without our devices next to us all night long. The evidence for this is really compelling, but since we don’t have a landline part of me feels a little apprehensive about keeping my phone in another room in case there was ever an emergency. For the record, I do keep my phone on Do Not Disturb but I have it set to allow calls that are from people in my speed dial or if someone were to call twice in a row.

The truth is there is probably no emergency that I would need to be available for immediately and if there were something that I would regret not knowing right away then J has his phone in our room and all my closest loved ones have his number too. So I guess I am just making excuses. Maybe I’ll invest in a tubular high tech alarm like Z has in his room. I’ll have to keep you all posted on that.

 

So Radio Shack, Sonic Boom, and smartphones- those are our family’s alarm clocks. What do you use to wake up in the morning?

By | April 15th, 2019|Uncategorized|3 Comments

No More Babies


I haven’t been very secretive about the fact that we are done having babies, but I think for me it is just now sinking in. Elle was born when Ezie was 3 years and one month old and they are the furthest apart in age out of all four of our kids. That makes this a record! I would normally have another baby in my arms by now. For 12 years I was pregnant, breastfeeding, or changing diapers. Over a decade of raising babies.

Now I am raising CHILDREN and I have to admit I feel a little like a fish out of water.

I recently sold all of my cloth diapers and ergo carrier online and it was another level of closure for me.

We still own an umbrella stroller and a five point harness car seat, but other than that we have no baby items left at all! When I see young moms juggling a toddler and an infant it’s like an out of body experience because I feel like I am looking at myself except that’s not me anymore and if that’s not me who am I?

It’s a transition stage and I am adjusting. Part of me is ready to trade in my stay at home mom title but I can’t. I still have 3 1/2 years before Elle is in 1st grade which is when full-day school starts in our district. That feels like a lifetime away but then I feel guilty for even thinking about the future because I don’t want to neglect Elle and the time that I have with her at home.

Then there is the whole thing about getting older in general. I am now closer to 40 than I am to 30. My mom just turned 60 and I bragged on Instagram how she has aged so gracefully and has never been embarrassed or shy about her age. She has been through too much to take the years for granted. I want to follow that model, but this new stage of life is unknown and a little intimidating. I will be what our society calls “middle age” at the same time half of my kids are in middle school. Talk about a train wreck of awkwardness. Our whole house is going to be changing and adjusting and trying to figure out how to do life in our new bodies. I’m already dealing with the early stages for myself and so are my tweens! Just when I thought I had this mom thing somewhat down they flipped the script. I went from pacifiers and ABCs to deodorant and the birds and bees.

Not to mention this little side hustle and passion of mine (Messy Mom) is all about being a mom.  I will always be a mom but will I always be a mommy blogger? And I have always been cautious about what I share publicly about our family but now it’s even more delicate.

I know most mothers of littles are tired and looking forward to the land of no more diapers, no more pressure to fill out baby books, no more guilty time-out looks. I’m finally at that stage that I have admired from a distance for so long and here I am whining more than a two-year-old about how hard I have it. Allow me to backpedal here. It’s really not that bad. It’s true that the baby years are precious priceless times that I will cherish forever and ever and ever and when Google photos compiles a movie for me called “they grow up so fast” I am pretty much guaranteed to cry. I honestly don’t yearn for it though. I have zero regrets about our decision (which is pretty permanent if you know what I mean).

There is so much I enjoy about the elementary age. I love having kids that I can watch Shark Tank with and talk about margins and valuations. I love that we can go camping together without diapers or spit up.

We don’t go to the movies often but it is really cool that we can all 6 enjoy going to the theater together. For so many years if we did go to the movies one of us ended up taking a screaming baby or toddler out of the theater and missing half of it. Now if we go out to see a full length film as a family we can all have fun!

I only have one little one left that can’t get themselves up and ready in the morning. My oldest can even start the van for me (it gets cold in Ohio and I don’t have a fancy remote car starter).

When J and I had the opportunity to go to a retreat at the beginning of the year I could travel and not have a baby in my belly or at my breast. I am not saying that those things aren’t beautiful but I don’t think I need to explain why this evolution from codependence to independence is really freeing and rewarding albeit bittersweet.

So that’s where I am at. This is my heart on my sleeve and I am sure you understand because I don’t care what stage you are in we are all just figuring it out.

By | April 3rd, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments