About Natalie

I am a Jesus Lover, a wife, and a mother. And I'm making the best of what looks like a mess!

12 Dates of 2019

Every year I make it a new year’s resolution to go on monthly dates with my husband. Not once after over a decade of earnest attempts have we ever come close to meeting this goal… until this year. I can’t believe we actually did it! January through December we took one night out together, just the two of us. I know this post will have an overwhelming number of selfies, food, and coffee shots, but I thought it would be neat to make a list of what we did each month. Most of them are the same old same old but you never know, we might have an outing that spurs on a practical date night idea for someone else.

 

January 

At the beginning of the year we went to a worship retreat in Georgia. While the cabins were cozy we didn’t even stay in the same room so the event itself was far from romantic. However, we did manage to sneak a date in on the way home. We toured a little bit of Knoxville Tennessee and I must say we both really enjoyed the vibe of that city.

We had some very decadent desserts at the French Creperie

Yummy comfort food at Tupelo Honey

Then coffee and artisan donuts at  Status Dough

 

 

 

 

February

 

Okay, this was my favorite of all the outings we went on this year and if you are in Cincinnati I highly recommend each one of these stops.

We went to Urbana Cafe for coffee and treats.

 

We also checked out the Mercantile library which was a delightfully fascinating discovery. It was established in 1835 and they definitely have maintained a lot of the orginal attributes of the library without giving it a museum feel. I could have spent hours there. 

and I can’t say enough good things about Mazunte Taqueria if you are in the mood for Mexican food.

 

March

 

This was also a really fun date night. We did a free class at our local library about suburban micro-farming.

Afterward we went to a nearby restaurant that all our friends rave about but we had never been to despite driving past it hundreds of times. The Bite is great for organic homemade eats.

April

I have no photos of our date in April. In fact, I didn’t even have a good time. I’m just keeping it real. We squeezed a date night in the midst of a packed schedule just so that I could claim success for one date each month. We were paying for a baby sitter so we argued about how late we should stay out and how much we were spending. The whole thing was a bust. I was telling one of my friends and she said, “Well if you have 12 dates in a year there is a good chance that one will not go smoothly but at least you have all the others.” She was so right and that completely relieved the pressure I was putting on myself to have these unrealistic Bachelor status date nights.

May

This was a really simple daytime date.

We went shopping and had lunch. I talked Jeremy into getting white sneakers. It was out of his comfort zone but they look really good on him and you’ll see them in the July date night photos. Oh yeah, and we also found this neat little coffee shop called Kala.

June

For my birthday date we went to The Birch which is a restaurant my sister in law had recommended.

We walked around afterward and got some coffee we even almost got tattoos spontaneously, but they were closed.

For the record neither one of us have tattoos but we want to get permanent wedding rings.  

July

In July we saw the movie “Yesterday”. We never go to the movies and hadn’t seen anything together in YEARS, but this was really cute. We enjoyed it.  

August

We had a gift card for the Olive Garden but I worked there for several years and don’t really like their food anymore so I researched other places this Darden gift card might be valid. It turns out the Yard House is one of those places.

The food and dessert were good and we were right in the heart of the city. We could see the Ferris wheel right outside our window.

After dinner we did a little walking around downtown.

This date was another favorite of mine.

 September

This month was also tricky to squeeze in a date. I have a wonderful friend that I  bartered with and she watched Elle while Jeremy and I checked out The Main Cup. It’s a local cafe that I heard good things about. It was a quick date, but we had fun.  

October

In this month Jeremy landed a new job which was a huge answer to prayer.

 

We celebrated by going to a tapas restaurant called e+o.


I realize almost all we do is go out to eat and take pictures of food, but what can I say? We like to eat.

 

November

 

For our anniversary date we went Quan Hapa  ( a Ramen restaurant that we had been to before).

Then we had coffee and dessert at Coffee Emporium when a panhandler hit us up (not uncommon for that area). No matter how hard we tried to get her groceries or a warm meal you could tell she was only interested in money so sadly all we were able to do was get her a cup of black coffee and off she went.

December

Our final date night of the year we tried out a place called Amol that was new to us. We had Indian food and mango lassis which we both love.

We also went shopping at the Gap clearance center. I know a lot of men hate shopping and their wives have to drag them along. I’m thankful that Jeremy actually likes to shop and we are a great pair when it comes to finding good deals and being honest about what does and doesn’t look good.

So that’s all of our dates for 2019. Nothing over the top romantic or adventurous, but that was never the point. When you have four kids any minute alone is priceless. Here’s to the next 12 dates.

By | December 11th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

2019 Christmas Card Reveal

I am not a Christmas fanatic. I love Christmas, but not like some of my friends who really loooove Christmas. For example, I have several red and green tubs out in our garage full of Christmas decorations, many of them penguin theme. This year however I didn’t even bother getting any of it out. We have stuff going on every weekend and we will be out of state the entire winter break. So we decorated at church which was fun and we will do all the Christmas festivities, but no Christmas tree at our house this year.

On the other hand I managed to get cards out the day after Black Friday. We took the photos in October while camping in Michigan. I made sure the design was finished and ordered in early November. We went with postcards this year. It cuts down on the cost (the prints and the postage) and since we are spending a lot of extra money on travel this Christmas we have a very limited gift and card budget. Enough of me rambling. What was our theme this year???

TA-DA! Camping Christmas Cards.

Originally I had this completely staged idea of a tent with a pennant banner and lots of props like a canoe and lanterns. In the end it was way more natural. We were four days into camping in the woods. We were all scruffy in our matted hair, clunky boots, and ragtag clothes, but that’s what we look like when we camp so I just went with it. Photo credit to my friend Mels who snapped the pics with my camera for us. For the record the Merry Christmas banner is photoshopped in, but the smoke that you can barely see in the background to the left of the tent is real campfire smoke. I can almost smell it now. Good ol’ camp life.

Christmas cards are one of my absolute favorite traditions and I like to keep it fun. This one was definitely fun! I’ve been dying to  share some of these hilarious outtakes, like this one where we are “mean muggin”

 

I liked this one, but it didn’t leave much room for text and SJ has her spaced out look.

 

 

Another mean muggin’ shot. I love how Elle can’t not smile. She is trying!

 

This one is funny but also very disturbing. It wasn’t supposed to look like a reenactment of Abraham sacrificing Elijah (*ahem* Jeremy and SJ)! Please don’t call CPS. 

 

I can’s stop laughing at how podunk redneck we look. Is Elle smoking a cigarette here?

 

There are so many things that I can’t help but laugh at in this situation. I am wearing an American flag hat, an army-style jacket with a Navajo print on the back and a clashing Navajo print backpack. At least you can’t accuse us of being too matchy-matchy.

 

On the back of the postcard, we had Joshua 1:9 “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” We chose this verse because it encourages a wild and adventurous spirit like the photo on our card. Also because 2019 was a very difficult year for us. I haven’t really opened up about it on the blog other than the car wreck. This verse is such a great reminder that even when things don’t go as planned we can stand on the promises of God. We don’t need to be fearful for we know that God is with us.

 

So that’s our card for Christmas 2019. Happy Holidays everybody!

By | December 5th, 2019|Uncategorized|1 Comment

Inspiring Mom Marci Wease

This month’s Inspiring Mom is self-professed “Junk Artist” Marci Wease.

While she is a forensic DNA analyst by day she is also a picker on the side. What she does with what most would consider junk is nothing short of amazing.

Before I get into the interview let me start by explaining how we met in the first place. 

Back in August my family and I were camping in Indiana. While hanging out near the playground area with the kids I spotted a little boy driving a miniature VW bus pulling a tiny trailer.

This boy and his bus couldn’t have been any cuter. Being totally enamored with the whole setup I started up a conversation with the boy’s grandpa as my kids enthusiastically checked out the sweet ride. 

The grandpa said they were in town for the vintage camper rally and told me all about their vintage campers and old VW buses. “You should meet my daughter! She’s the one who crafted all of these things and she would love to talk with you.” 

The next day I wandered over to their lot on the campgrounds. It’s easy to find. Just look for the Volkswagen Beetles and buses!

 

As soon as I stepped foot into their temporary space I was in awe. Everywhere I looked there were handcrafted pieces. It was like a entering a whimsical world where every single detail of the colorful rusty art had a story of its own.

That’s when I met the artist behind all the “Junk”, Marci Wease. 

Marci grew up with creative and resourceful parents so it is no wonder that she has such a knack for renovation. In her home, you used what you had. Why replace when you can recreate? Marci watched her mom who could make fabulous creations out of what seemed worthless. Whether it was a meal, or clothing, or making the house looke great, she could always pull it off using what was available to her. Her dad on the other hand, could make anything that was broken down run. Marci says “With the combination of the two of them my brother and I didn’t stand a chance. We were sure to become junk collectors and pickers” It was thanks to her parents that Marci and her brother had so much access to the materials and machines that allowed them to make creations of their own. Marci has heartwarming memories of long weekends working in the shop. Every Sunday the routine was go to church, followed by a nap, dinner, and somewhere in there was always family time building! They even literally built a home together.

It wasn’t separated into boys in the garage and women in the kitchen either. Both of them were welcome to observe and get their hands dirty whatever the task may be. 
At one point Marci’s uncle who had been in the military was stationed in Germany and was a Volkswagen mechanic. When he came back he opened a shop and that’s when it became a family affair. Marci and her brother got their first Volkswagens to work on before they were even old enough to drive. She has owned several since then and is currently working on a 1958 pressed bumper panel VW bus. 

While always interested in the craft of tinkering. Marci took it up a notch 8 years ago when she learned to weld. Her work has since caught the attention of many locals and even people around the world thanks to her Youtube channel “marcijunebug” 

She travels a little doing art festivals and trade shows. Marci said there are always men coming up to her asking who did your welding? She loves seeing their priceless expressions when she tells them she did it herself. 

Marci is grateful to her parents for the values and direction her parents gave her. She said they never once said “that’s a stupid idea”. Instead if you showed up where they were tinkering they would instruct. Marci and her husband are trying to incorporate that same parenting style with their four year old son.

Her little boy came to her with a set of plans the other day saying he wanted to build a house. It looks like the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Marci admits it’s a challenge to finding the balance between work, and having time to yourself, and family time, but she is intentional about trying to include her son in whatever she is doing when it’s possible. 

With such a creative heritage it will be really neat to see what their sweet boy comes up with as he is growing and finding his path. 

As I look through some of Marci’s creations like this

and this 

and all of this

my mind is enchanted by the textures and layers of the things she comes up with. She attributes all that she does to God and thanks him for giving this gift to her. Her faith is evident in what she does as she takes these broken discarded pieces and turns into a valued and cherished work of art. 

There is so much more that I can’t load all the photos and videos on here, but I strongly encourage you to see for yourself.

You can find more of her work on Instagram at  junkinthistruck

Facebook at Junebug’s

Her website JUNEBUG’S-JUNKINTHISTRUCK

and Youtube

Be sure to follow so that you can also this cool little family does next.

I’m sure whatever it is will be INSPIRING! 

By | November 26th, 2019|Uncategorized|2 Comments

Holiday Gift Idea

Who has already started Christmas shopping?

I haven’t, but I need to because Christmas with my side of the family is November 30th! Most of us will be traveling during the Holidays and between work schedules and other commitments, it was the only weekend available.

Hopefully I caught you in time because if you are shopping for a parent, grandparent, or even a college student then I have the perfect gift idea.

Cades and Birch sent me this family phone lock up box and I am in love!

First of all, the fact that it has our name on it is so special and makes it truly one of a kind.

I love that it’s got that classic rustic look and the fonts and details are just beautiful. The name font even reminds me of my MessyMom.Com Logo. I might be biased but I think it’s perfect!

In this digital era with smart phones, tablets, and handheld gaming devices it’s hard to have bounderies. This phone lock box makes it a little bit easier to be intentional about family time.  The idea is to lock up your phones and gadgets so that you can focus and be present. Isn’t that great? Speaking from experience it even works for tablet time out. Just sayin.

Another cool feature is that it has a hole in the back to put your chargers through.

The box measures 9” x 12” by 3” tall, and features an the charging cable hole in the back is 1”. Each box is engraved with the ”Unplug” design and you get to customize it by choosing your stain and the customized text. You could have one that says Unplug “at Grandmas” or unplug “In the mountains” for a cabin or something. Check out the Cades and Birch website to be inspired by the ideas on there. If you like the phone station but don’t want to go full blown lock up they Cades and Birch also has really cute planter boxes.
I truly love this box and what it represents for our family. It’s all about connecting with eachother and have uninterupted time together (or even time alone is important too!)
I love the unplugged boxes but I guarentee you I will be ordering other items from Cades and Birch as well. There are way too many to list but I was really excited about the Holiday collection and the wedding decor and gift ideas
The prices are so resonable too, especially for something that is handcrafted and made in the US. I am so happy to have discovered Cades and Birch and I know you will be too.

 

 

By | November 18th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

The Nintendo Switch

At some point over this past summer, my oldest son Z got it in his head that he wanted a Nintendo Switch.

I was hesitant because while I see a few benefits of video games

  • Problem Solving
  • Reaching goals
  • Spending time with friends and family
  • A fun hobby

I also see a lot of downsides and destructive behavior that can sometimes result from gaming

  • Anger
  • Addiction
  • Isolation
  • Lack of exercise
  • Vision issues
  • Increased stress
  • High financial costs

Notice my list of cons is longer. HOWEVER, these negative effects have been shown with the overuse of video games. When screen time is within healthy limits you don’t have to worry as much about that. I may not be a gamer (at all, I am actually the worst at video games), but I do have a small place in my heart for game consoles.

It started when I was a little girl and my parents brought home the first edition Nintendo Entertainment System in the early 80s.

This whole idea of video games was pretty revolutionary at the time. We all watched as my dad put in the Mario Bros. cartridge. It was brand new so he didn’t even have to blow into the console or bang on it three times.

It worked like magic.

Mine and my brothers’ giant eyes were glued to the square screen while our mouths hung open. The simplistic bouncy techno music and the pixelated world were mind blowing! I will never forget the feeling of joy that was shared amongst the four of us kids in the room that night.

About 25 years later I found our old Bubble Bobble game at my parent’s house and plugged it into the flat-screen TV. At this point I was married and had kids, but the feeling of nostalgia was not lost on me. I was back in the 80s baby!

Jeremy and I played late into the night after the kids were all asleep. Our eyes got squinty and our thumbs were sore but there we were, 30 something years old and we refused to give up until the final villain was defeated! Eventually, we did it.  There is nothing like the feeling of sweet sweet victory; I don’t care how old you are.

When all this Nintendo switch business came up, Z didn’t even ask us for one (probably because I had turned down the x box requests for so many years). Instead he decided to save up the money himself. This seemed like an insurmountable task since he doesn’t have a job and this game system costs hundreds of dollars just for the basics. I was impressed by his drive and enthusiasm though, especially when he started including his siblings. Every dime they found, every dollar they got from the tooth fairy or little jobs, and the big bucks that came in on birthdays were all pooled together for the family Nintendo Switch Fund. We even got a pastor appreciate gift from the worship team with some money designated to the family Nintendo Switch, which was so sweet of them.

I feel like all I have heard about for the past 5 months is the Nintendo Switch. Evening and mealtime prayer included Nintendo Switch Requests. At the pumpkin patch Z painted a Nintendo switch on his pumpkin.

For the Christmas list they made a Venn diagram of what everyone wanted and where the circles intersected “Nintendo Switch” was in the middle.

It looked like the final pay off would be years away and this mission would never be complete, but Z continued to price compare and do spreadsheets and calculations. He was not detoured.

Then one Wednesday night at church a young man from the youth group heard the incessant jabber about all things Switch and related and he offered to sell his at an extremely generous price. I texted him to finalize the deal and make sure that it all ran properly. I also wanted to double check and make sure he was really okay with letting it go for that amount. He said he wanted to do it for our family because we have so many kids and he knows they will love it.

When the day finally came to make the exchange this guy handed back $50 to Z and said “Merry Christmas”. So it was an even BETTER offer than the initial agreement.

Jeremy and I threw in a couple added accessories as an early Christmas present and thanks to the games included in this awesome package deal the kids were able to play on their Nintendo Switch this weekend.

The music, graphics, and game features are a million times better than what the Nintendo was back in my day. Still, the faces of the kids as our family of six gathered around to watch the beloved Italian plumber light up the screen was just as good as it was 30 years ago.

By | November 12th, 2019|Uncategorized|2 Comments

19 Year Anniversary

Jeremy and I just celebrated our 19 year anniversary. I truly cannot believe that it has been that long. It’s so cliche, but seriously, where did the time go?

Feeling nostalgic I went through a bunch of old photos and this one is one of my favorites

 

I know it is a terrible picture, but I love the memories that it holds. This was on our honeymoon 19 years ago. We took a selfie (before they were called that) on a disposable camera. Then when we got home we dropped the camera off at a photo lab and patiently waited to see how it turned out, which in this case was pretty bad. I wish I had more photos from my younger years. For example, there are no photos of the day we got engaged and that makes me sad. On the other hand, I wouldn’t trade the late 90s early 2000s for anything! I love that we didn’t have digital cameras and smartphones. I appreciate those things now and use them every single day but I am SO grateful that I got to experience life without them too. Life was simpler then and there was something so sweet about just enjoying the moment without the extra radio waves connecting everyone all the time.

Anyway, I pulled together some of my favorite photos of the two of us and turned into an anniversary slideshow yesterday.

We have watched it several times together. The song is “Still the One” which was played live at our wedding and sang by our best man and maid of honor. Even though we aren’t big country music fans and the original song was by Shania Twain, we knew we had to have this song because of the lyrics.

“Glad we didn’t listen. Look at what we would’ve been missing. They said, I bet, they’ll never make it but just look at us holding on. Still together. Still going strong…”

Of course, getting married so young and with no money, there was a lot of skepticism and rightfully so. We knew God had put us together though and He is definitely what has kept us together through the good and the bad. So this song totally fits us, now more than on our wedding day. We’ve made a lot of mistakes and we still do dumb stuff, but by the grace of God we’ve done some stuff well and our marriage and our children our a testimony of that.

So in honor of our first bad selfie 19 years ago here are some more selfie outtakes that were NOT shown in the slideshow.

 

 

 

 

 

By | November 5th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

The Sweet Spot

Money has been really tight these days and I wasn’t planning on doing any fall road trips. They aren’t all that extravagant but it still adds up. So when the opportunity to do a photo shoot in Ann Arbor Michigan came up I jumped on it! We loaded the van up with kids, blankets, and camping supplies and we headed to Pontiac Lake for the weekend.

This was a trip I will never forget. I literally cried on the way back reminiscing the memories made and counting the years left of vacations while our kids are still kids.

For me, this is the sweet spot of motherhood. I believe every stage is beautiful, complex, difficult, messy, and wonderful at the same time. This season though is something that I have looked forward to for so long. Everyone is potty trained, no one is napping, and almost all of them actually contribute in some way to make mine and Jeremy’s jobs easier.

We officially have four kids (not babies or teens, just kids) and it such a joy.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I am afraid we are going to have a Cain and Abel situation with the amount of sibling rivalry that goes on. The struggle is very very real, but I still love that I can plan activities and they actually appreciate them.

I mentioned being on a budget, so the whole trip we went to parks and apple orchards which are all free activities. Simple as it may be, the kids loved it!

They didn’t want the camping to end (unlike me who felt I had reached my limit).

Everyday I would ask them their favorite part of the day and the answers would keep rolling in.

None of the kids feel like they are too old or too young to join in on the fun; that is why I consider it the sweet spot.  It’s also cool that at this age they are probably going to remember this.

I look back at my childhood road trip memories fondly. For example I loved the license plate game so it thrills me that my kids enjoy it just as much as I did.

I also love that they spent hours in the woods working on their “HQ”. They came up with secret hand shakes to get in. They made booby traps and went on elaborate missions.

To me it’s everything that childhood should be and my little momma heart just soars when they play like this.

It’s funny that I have all these mushy nostalgic feelings about road trips and camping because it is a lot like childbirth. In the middle of it you swear you’ll never do it again, but when the painful memories subside you decide that it was in fact worth it.

 

 

I will always treasure those precious baby days when the kids were so tiny and cute. I also look forward to seeing my kids grow up into teens and adults that I can connect with on a whole new level. This though.

 

This space in between.

These years of adventure and collective discovery while they are kids, that is something I will never take for granted.

 

By | October 28th, 2019|Uncategorized|2 Comments

The Lighthouse Church

The first time I visited The Lighthouse Church in Midlothian Texas I was in high school. It’s a really embarrassing story but the truth is I was dating a drummer in a rock band at the time and he wasn’t saved. I had a plan though!

I talked to this individual (who will remain unnamed) about Jesus. I also invited him to go to church with me, but instead of taking him to my church I thought I would bring him to a church that was more his flavor. This church was considered the “skater church”.

It was the late nineties so imagine punk rock, baggy jeans, vans shoes (the first time around) hair parted down the middle landing at the cheekbones

I have no pictures easily accessible because this was before digital photography and phones with cameras. I am that old.

These photos are from a few years later, but they are the closest I have to that era.

The people at the Lighthouse were really welcoming and down to earth. I liked going there. Nothing ever came of that boyfriend by the way.

Fast forward several years and I started going to their college and career group and bringing my new boyfriend with me, only this one was saved (It’s Jeremy. Spoiler alert he’s my husband). After getting married in 2000 Jeremy and  I decided to go to the Lighthouse fulltime and not long after that he was on the worship team and eventually the full time worship pastor.

 

That was how we got connected at the Lighthouse and the beginning of our story is just a tiny drop in a giant bucket full of memories.

Yesterday morning when I read the news on Facebook that the Lighthouse church was hit by a tornado and severely damaged to the point of being condemned I was in shock.

The church sign broke through this 2nd story window of the church’s coffee shop and got stuck there.

Some of the damage the night of the disaster.

It was like I could see all of my memories swirling around in their own violent wind funnel and getting carried off.

 

This was where we started ministry as a couple.

It’s where we learned to go deeper in our relationship with Christ. I like to say we cut our teeth there, to which our pastor replies ‘I was wondering what those teeth marks on the bench were from’.

Seeing the photos of the rubble in the fellowship hall/venue was devastating.

I truly cannot count all of the special times (and a variety of hairstyles, YIKES) that we shared in that place.

 

We celebrated my college graduation and J’s 30th birthday there.

We had family meals there every Wednesday for a long time and when I found out SJ was a girl I brought cupcakes with pink sprinkles concealed with aluminum foil.

After we ate I ripped off the foil to reveal IT’S A GIRL and Z was going to have a little sister. Everyone erupted with cheers and applause. I will never forget that moment.

Months later the baby shower was in that same room and I remember knowing this baby and my family is so loved and that God is good.

I really could go on and on about how heartbroken I was when I heard of the devastation that happened this week.

Of course leave it to me to ramble about myself when I am not even in Texas anymore. What I was really in tears about was my church family that still is there. It’s many of my closest friends that are the ones that are really affected. They are in this building nearly every day for all kinds of ministries and they are the ones that are directly impacted.

I know the church is not a building and I know God has a plan and he’s going to restore everything and bless them abundantly. It’s still a tough thing to walk through though so I am praying and grieving with them.

The latest update I saw was that the church building has been declared a safety hazard and will need to be demolished. The total insurance deductible to cover the cost of repairs and such is $10,000.

They also shared this link where you can make a tax-deductible donation: dfwlighthouse.churchcenter.com/giving

 

I am praying that everything that has been stolen from there will be restored over and above what they had before. For 20 years the Lighthouse and Pastor Dan have poured into countless individuals. The Lord has used them to be a light not only in their community but also around the world through all of the missions work that they do.

As I look back I cherish the memories of the past and the foundation that was laid here and that foundation is still there, but it’s a new day. The next generation will be able to experience God in a whole new way and like we used to sing back in the day- “greater things have yet to come and greater things are still to be done in this city.” Be blessed Lighthouse.

By | October 22nd, 2019|Uncategorized|2 Comments

I-75 Road Trip (from Ohio to Michigan)

We just returned from our 2nd Fall Break road trip and it was such a perfect escape for a family fall fanatics like us.

We live just north of Cincinnati and the destination was Pontiac Lake Michigan which means we spend most of our time on I-75.

I have had a lot of people ask me about the parks that we have visited and how I happened upon these little pit stops. So I finally decided to map it all out here on the blog for anyone that might be looking for some 1-75 destinations in the Ohio or Michigan area.

Almost all of these activities are free or very budget-friendly. So if you are traveling with a big family like we are it is easy on the wallet.

Without further ado here are the stops we make in order from Lebanon, Ohio to Waterford Township, Michigan.

The first stop (coming from the Cincinnati area) is Lebanon Ohio.

This is a great place to stop for a bite to eat at the many local restaurants or in our case just a morning coffee and pastry at the Lot No. 1 coffee shop.

Lebanon has the cutest shops and historic downtown area.

There is a train station and plenty of sidewalks to take in the gorgeous fall foliage if you are there at that time of year.

We then travel an hour and a half north to the village of New Bremen. I can’t recommend this stop enough even if it is about 15 minutes off of the highway.

My favorite part about the village is The Bicycle Museum of America.

Our whole family was able to go for under $10!

This museum was the coolest thing! They had some of the earliest bicycles all the way up to modern ones. They even have an original Pee Wee Herman bike.

Most of it was off limits to touch, but there were enough interactive displays to keep our 8 little hands happy.

The kids loved this museum and I enjoyed all the history behind it as well. If you like bikes at all this place is a must-see.

From there you can walk to the Komminsk Legacy park which is not only gorgeous but a lot of fun as well.

It considered an “interactive art park” and I’ve never seen anything like it.

This little park is sure to impress your family.

Along with the museum and the park, there is The Miami and Erie Trail, which is a 2-mile path that runs alongside the historic canal in the village. It’s easy to fall in love with New Bremen, Ohio.

From there we hop back in the car for another hour before stopping off in Findlay, Ohio.

This little University town is home to one of our favorite coffee shops, George House Coffee Co.  It’s eclectic menu includes some food, loads of drink combinations, and lots of rows of reading material.

Not far from there is Fort Findlay, an old wooden playground that my kids absolutely love!

After getting those wiggles out we drive another hour and a half to end up in Ann Arbor. Ann Arbor is a day trip of its own so there are way too many attractions and experiences to fit in at one little stop but here are a few recommendations that we have experienced.

Barton Nature Area

Beautiful scenery with plenty of trails, a fascinating dam, and lots of water activity if you have a kayak or canoe!

Maize and Blue Delicatessen

If you are a Wolverines fan this little deli near the campus needs to be on your bucket list. Be ready for a mouthful though.

County Farm park

Not only was this an amazing playground, but this park also has lovely trails and beautiful community garden.

Gallup Park

Along the banks of the Huron river this park has it all: wild life, water activities, gorgeous hiking trails, and a playground that your kids will want to spend hours at.

 

Our destination of  Pontiac Lake Recreation Area is only 45 minutes away from Ann Arbor so that is our final stop.

To be clear, these photos are not all from the same trip! That would be too much in one day. We do try to stop at each city. Sometimes it’s a quick stop, others are a longer visit. This last time we saved Findlay for the ride home.  Either way it makes a really fun adventure out of a  5.5 hour drive!

If there is something else along that route that I am missing out on please let me know. I would love to add more attractions to our i-75 fall road trip.

 

By | October 21st, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Inspiring Mom Misty Pearson

When Misty Pearson became a mom a photo of her newborn daughter was displayed in the International Space Station window with the distant planet earth visible in the background. That’s one of the cool perks of working for NASA, your astronaut friends celebrate milestones in a way that is literally out of this world.

Misty has had a long time fascination with space. When she was 12 years old she watched a shuttle mission with John Glenn who was one of the original astronauts and was going up again. It was then that Misty proclaimed to her parents that she wanted to be an astronaut and they both encouraged her dreams. Even at a young age they looked for opportunities to allow her to pursue this passion.

This photo is of Misty while on a work trip to another NASA site in Huntsville Alabama, which is where she went to space camp more than a decade before.

Her dad was especially instrumental in helping Misty because he has also had a love for space exploration. He acted as a guide directing to Misty to hone in what it was she really loved about space and what she wanted to pursue. After graduating High School Misty went to LeTourneau University where she decided to pursue mechanical engineering. A lot of her journey involved just eliminating what she knew she didn’t want to do. She knew the military was one route to NASA and she didn’t feel called to that. Math wasn’t really something that she got excited about either. There were a lot of classes and aspects of space travel that Misty couldn’t see herself committing to.

It wasn’t until an internship in Houston in the summer of 2008 that Misty truly found her calling. She had a friend who connected her with a woman that worked at NASA in operations. Their motto in this department is “Plan Train Fly”, meaning they plan the mission, train the crew, and fly the mission. That was the moment Misty realized this was it! This was what she wanted to do! Getting to that point was not easy. There were times Misty wanted to quit but she knew this was her God given destiny and she had a support system around her to cheer her on and give her the drive to stick it out.

Looking back at that time Misty says “I was where I was supposed to be and I just had to get through it! When it was hard and I was worried, my parents always encouraged me and reminded me of WHY I was doing this. I knew that all of the struggle was going to be worth it.”

Misty testifies of the goodness of God that divinely placed each stepping stone for her to get to where she is today. Even her first job as an Inventory and Stowage Officer was the perfect place for her to be and she only had to do ONE interview. She worked that Crew Support position full time for 6 1/2 years and she loved it.

Now she is working a slightly higher level of operation integration working through problems and finding solutions. She still loves her job and the fact that it’s not all data and engineering, but that she also gets to work very closely with the astronauts and actually have interaction with them.

PHOTO DATE: November 14, 2017
LOCATION: Bldg. 30 – FCR-1
SUBJECT: Expedition 53 flight controllers on console at JSC in FCR-1 during grapple and berthing of the Orbital ATK Cygnus CRS-8 cargo craft to the nadir port of the Unity Module on ISS.
PHOTOGRAPHER: Josh Valcarcel

 

When Misty became a mom it was a big transition. She had been working at NASA for nine years at this point and now she had to navigate being a mom and an employee. She wasn’t sure how it was all going to blend together but as it turns out Misty says being a mom made her a BETTER employee.

“It has forced me to prioritize and become more efficient with time management,” Misty said. It helps that NASA and her team have been extremely supportive. “Working for NASA in flight operations there are high expectations. For some positions, there are details that could kill the crew. You have to know your stuff. You have to be on your game. You can’t make mistakes. So because of that high pressure enviroment there actually is a good balance of work and home. There is an expectation that you are taking time off and getting the rest that you need to be healthy. They support you getting family time in. There are even rules in place to ensure that you don’t work too many hours.” Misty has seen this in action first hand. “When I became a mom breastfeeding was very important to me. I was having trouble with my milk supply when it occurred to me that I am going to be working in mission control and I am going to have to pump two to three times a day!” She panicked, but decided to simply send an email to the flight director in charge of mission control for that shift and she said “Here is the deal… I am a breastfeeding mom and I am going to have to step out for 30 minutes a couple times a day and here is how we are going to do this.” She stated it very assertively because she knew it was a priority and that she had to stand her ground for her baby. “The amazing thing was I got so much support. These were male flight directors I had emailed and several of them wrote back saying: your family is the most important and that is totally fine. I appreciate you planning in advance…”

Misty says “Being a mom has taught me to speak out and stand up on behalf of my child, which has made me more willing to stand up for myself and it is empowering.”

Misty admits that she is still trying to figure out how to be a good mom and homemaker while being a good employee, wife, and woman of God all combined.

 

There is no superhuman woman out there absolutely crushing it in all areas, but Misty says in the past two years of pregnancy and motherhood she has learned so much about priorities.  “There are a lot of things that we do (that I did) that aren’t on the priority list. So it’s this realization that our time needs to be spent on those things that are most important. That’s my time with God, that’s my time with my family, keeping our home cozy, investing in myself. Having a list of top priorities helps. Sometimes the right thing to do is leave work early so that I can spend time with my child.”

 

What woman doesn’t struggle with feeling like they have to juggle it all? Misty was clear that she does not have it all together and in her words is still “a work in progress but God’s helping me figure things out.” Even then Misty is such a wonderful example of how you can devote yourself to a career and pursue dreams that are outside of the home without sacrificing your family or your faith.

I can’t wait to see what happens next for Misty and her family. I love that she has a baby girl with such a strong and gifted mother to look up to. It gives a whole new meaning to reaching for the stars.

By | October 9th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments