About Natalie

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

Social Distancing Week 2

I have compared the stages of quarantine to be similar to the stages of grief in some ways. I started out in denial, then anger, then I started to have a light-hearted, you have to laugh to keep from crying approach. This past week was crazy, but I feel like I have overcome some huge hurdles and really had some breakthroughs!

First off I got a new phone. This is a game-changer. My old phone was barely hanging on and right now I am the director of social media at our church (and for Messy Mom AND my photography business) so I could really benefit from a good quality phone especially when we are doing everything via video. This was harder than it should have been with all of the Apple and AT&T stores being closed for COVID-19. We eventually got it figured out though and it was mailed straight to my door. It was perfect timing because now that SJ is doing online videos with teachers and classes it helps her to have Bluetooth streaming the audio to her cochlear implants. I could have let her borrow my phone but once it’s synced everything from phone calls to music and GPS will go straight into her little bionic ears. As you can imagine this is frustrating to everyone. Now that I have a new phone I have let her use my old phone and we just keep the Bluetooth synced to her devices! It’s great.

She is still REALLY adjusting to video conferences. Quite frankly she hates being on video and talking for a recording. It has not been an easy transition at all and I’m sure there are other parents that have kids in the same boat. One sweet story though, is that her teacher started reading The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo. Although you are not expected to get the book and read along with the teacher we actually already owned it! I love The Tale of Despereaux. We own the DVD too. One of the reasons it is special to me is because it’s about a brave little mouse that is different than all of the others. One of the reasons he is different is because of his ears and another reason is that he doesn’t scurry or cower. SJ was also different because of her ears (although they aren’t big like Despereaux) and she has always been brave and one of the things we noticed before we knew that she was deaf was that she didn’t seem to startle like a hearing child. All that to say it was very touching that this book is the read-aloud during this trying season. And how awesome is it that we have the technology for SJ to hear her teacher read aloud and have the sound go straight to her implants!?

Another breakthrough we had this week that made a huge difference was having desk areas for each kid. It’s been almost a fun challenge to know all of the problems that we are solving have to be using what we already have on hand. Sure, there are some stores open, but it definitely detours the idea of running out to Ikea or Hobby Lobby which can lead to overdoing and overspending.

We made nameplates together for a class project and the kids loved it!

  I think the nameplates really help them to feel a sense of pride in their workspace.

Z’s desk is a table that we have in the basement.

SJ’s is in the girl’s bedroom. It was her idea to ditch Elle’s toddler bed that was taking up a ton of space and have Elle sleep with her. This freed up room to add a little table and they are all happy with it. Yes, we are wanting to get bunk beds. In fact, we recently ordered one from one of those auction sites but it didn’t have all the parts so it was a bust. For now though, this works!

Last but not least Ezie is using a table in the living room by the balcony. It’s very loft chic.

I’m using my imagination here, but regardless of how simple our setup is, I am definitely proud of the fact that we managed to find a space for each of them in our three-bedroom home.

I’m really much happier with how the end of this week has gone compared to the first 10 days of social distancing. We are finding our rhythm, and getting to do some things that we normally wouldn’t like eat outside with J in the middle of the day. We also met one of our neighbors (from a distance) on a walk because she had a giant bear on her porch for the lockdown bear hunt.

We have dressed up for spirit day at school and left encouraging messages on social media.

It’s still tough. One day I was so frustrated I stormed out of the house and just started walking down the street to release some steam. Another day SJ was in tears because she didn’t want to record a video to answer the question from the teacher. I had another child ask “Can I be freed now?”. So we’re not the Brady Bunch here. This is hard stuff. It is getting easier though and I wanted to share in case it was an encouragement to anyone else. Bring on week three.

By | March 27th, 2020|Uncategorized|4 Comments

My First Week of Social Distancing

Compassion is not a pizza.

That’s the phrase that has been going through my head this past week.

You see, last week life was normal for us. I had a conversation with my parents in a Chick-fil-A on Monday (March 9th) talking about the Coronavirus and how in my little town in Ohio it wasn’t affecting us. My exact words were “we’ve been doing business as usual”.

Then on Thursday (March 12) everything came to a screeching halt. As in- slam the breaks, no seatbelt, we are all ejected into an alternate universe. I was actually looking at my phone scrolling through hairstyles for my daughter to choose for the father daughter dance the next night. She was so excited. Then I got the text that it was canceled. I couldn’t believe it. It was 24 hours away, what had changed? Then I got the next update that school would be closed for 4 weeks.

Tears welled up in my eyes and I even started to get angry. I wasn’t upset about my children being home, I was upset that the government was enforcing their idea of health onto my family. I believe that getting dirty and not overdoing antibiotics will build a strong immune system more than disinfecting everything. I am the one who told my husband not to stop the car when the baby was being born on the way to the hospital because ‘Once you get the paramedics involved they’ll treat it like an emergency and I don’t see birth as an illness’. I want to be in control of my health, not the government. Please don’t freak out on me without reading the rest of the article, we’ll get back to that.

Friday (March 13) was the last day of school for the kids. One thing after another was being canceled. First church, then restaurants, gymnastics, the roller rink where my daughter’s birthday party was scheduled to happen, dentist appointments and pretty much everything else. It really was like a real life apocalyptic sci-fi movie. I went to the grocery store to find rows and rows of empty shelves. I bought things I never would have like cans of peaches, and high priced paper towels because that was all that was left.

I had to pinch myself to see if this was really happening. I have daily to-do lists on an app and every morning I go through and delete the previous week’s list to add new ones. Here are some of the things that I did last week.

Go to the library

Dentist appointment

Meeting at church

Sedona’s Gymnastics class

Pick Zion up from Lego League

Make invitations for Sedona’s Birthday

So every day (up until now) I looked at a snapshot of the week before, when those things were all very normal. Every day I was reminded that last week I was living my life not knowing my whole world was about to be turned upside down. I was devastated.

That was the initial shock. The reality is that although I still don’t understand all there is to know about the coronavirus I know a lot more now to realize why all the shutdowns are mandatory.  I am completely compliant and supportive because it is apparently necessary with this freakishly contagious virus that we have no treatment for. We are obaying the president and our governor.

I also realized how blessed we are to be able to make this transition fairly seamlessly. I am a stay at home mom. My husband works from home already. I have lots of supportive homeschool friends and family who have shared their wisdom. I also have a 12 year old who has helped me navigate not only his academics but those of his younger siblings as well.

We have high speed internet and technology to facilitate their virtual classroom needs. We have plenty of food and toilet paper (not because I bought extra). We live in a decent size house with a big backyard and I can only imagine what it would be like to be in an apartment in the city right now.

As you can see I have so much to be thankful for, which is why I feel guilty for ever feeling tired of it all already. I feel embarrassed that I ever dug my heels into the ground about this quarantine in the first place. But here is where “compassion is not a pizza” comes in. I read Brené Brown’s book “Rising Strong” years ago and this part has always stuck with me:

“Empathy is not finite, and compassion is not a pizza with eight slices. When you practice empathy and compassion with someone, there is not less of these qualities to go around. There’s more. Love is the last thing we need to ration in this world. The refugee in Syria doesn’t benefit more if you conserve your kindness only for her and withhold it from your neighbor who’s going through a divorce. Yes, perspective is critical. But I’m a firm believer that complaining is okay as long as we piss and moan with a little perspective. Hurt is hurt, and every time we honor our own struggle and the struggles of others by responding with empathy and compassion, the healing that results affects all of us.”

 

Bam! In this case, I am choosing to honor my own struggle. I have tried to reach out to those around me who are in need right now whether with prayer or Lysol! I am not wanting to make this all about myself and why I’ve got it so bad, because I know I don’t!

However, it’s okay to be sad about the father daughter dance and skate party being canceled. The same applies to you. It’s understandable if you miss going to the gym or your hairdressser. You are allowed to get frustrated at your loud kids and wish that you could escape somehow. It doesn’t mean that you are a terrible person that doesn’t care about Italy or the elderly. We just have to make sure we keep it all in perspective. That’s the key. I know I have it good. I also know that God cares when one sparrow falls, he cares that my seven year old misses his classmates.

Compassion is not a pizza.

By | March 20th, 2020|Uncategorized|2 Comments

Kids and Chores Part 2

Yesterday I wrote an article about Kids and Chores. It was mostly a pep talk about how even if you are struggling with getting little ones to do housework keep making an effort because it is worth it. Today I will be sharing a peek into the details of how we do this in our home. I will also be throwing out some links to other articles on the topic.

Are we ready to dive in?

Routine

First of all, one of my most popular Messy Mom posts of all time is “Ideas for Helping Kids With Daily Routines“. Getting into a routine goes hand in hand with housework expectations so if you are looking for ideas on how to get your kids on a schedule then check this post out. For our family, the morning starts with the kids making their bed (usually) and unloading the dishwasher.

Dishwasher Hack

If you have multiple kids I can’t recommend this enough. I don’t even remember when I got the idea, but we’ve been doing it for years. The dishes are being washed through the night because I love nothing more than knowing that a machine is cleaning for me while I sleep! Then in the morning, the kids know they just have to unload one little part and it makes it super easy. I will refer to my children by their ages here because it might be helpful.

12 -year-old- unloads bottom rack

10-year-old- top rack

7-year-old- silverware

4-year-old- Tupperware

We just started implementing the Tupperware one this week. I am trying to stop babying the baby and gradually give her responsibilities. I chose the Tupperware because I keep mine in the very bottom cabinet so she can reach it and Tupperware isn’t sharp or breakable. We’ll see how it goes.

One last thing that I love about the unloaded dishwasher routine is that it forces me to get the dishwasher loaded and started at night. I try to have the family put their own plates in the dishwasher, but I am usually the one to truly get the loading job done. Anyway, some nights I don’t feel like it, but I do it anyway because I know that if I don’t start the dishwasher it won’t get unloaded in the morning.

Daily Chores

I have an app on my phone called Cozi, I’ve blogged about it before (you can read the post here) and it’s where I keep all of my To-Do lists. I have a list titled “Kids Chores” and they each have a checklist of what is expected of them that day.

We try to do chores every weekday immediately following the after school snack. This may not work for everyone, but they like getting it out of the way so that’s what we do. Some days there are fewer chores. Some days we don’t do any, but the four chores a day is pretty common.

Here is a generic list of jobs that I may assign them

12 -year-old

Fold

Take out trash (and reline trash can)

Sweep (I only make them do one room)

“Make couches look pretty” This is specific to our home and it involves fixing the couch cover and throw pillows and folding the blankets that go over the arms of the couches.

Clean bathroom counter and sink

Do a load of laundry

10-year-old

Put folded towels away

Bring garbage cans to and from the curb

Wipe down kitchen counters

Wash windows

Vacuum

7-year-old

Tidy up entryway (where the coats, backpacks, and shoes are)

Wipe down kitchen appliances

Set the table

Wash dishes

Clean up the toys in the play area

It gets changed up and I didn’t list everything because today, for example, one chore on my 10-year-old’s list was “clean up the basket in your room” so it can get pretty specific depending on what needs to be done. Almost all the elementary age kids can do all of the same chores, but I know certain kids are better at certain chores so I try to pair it up fairly and appropriately. Also, I didn’t even add the 4-year-old to these examples because she isn’t really helpful yet. We are still at the stage of teaching. It’s all very supervised and guided and often I even have to redo her work. The others can read and do stuff on their own. She’ll get there though.

Allowance

I used to try to pay them for chores so that they could learn about money. Sadly, I have four kids now and I have run out of money. Just kidding… kind of. We do not pay them anything these days unless I have extra jobs. If there is company coming over and I know I have to spend hours scrubbing the staircase, emptying all of the little trash cans in each room, dusting etc. then I usually enlist helpers and give them each one dollar for going above and beyond. I know I am cheap. I have read what you all do for the tooth fairy and allowance and what not. Thankfully my kids haven’t complained and I don’t feel too bad. I would rather them learn to do it as a contribution to the family and good stewardship. Like I always say though, one day and one child at a time. It could change later.

That’s pretty much it for the Messy Mom’s clean up crew. If you are parenting school-age children I highly recommend the book “Cleaning House A Mom’s 12-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement” by Kay Wills Wyma. It was very eye-opening for me.

I’d love to hear your ideas and what works for you. I know every home is different and it’s nice to get ideas from one another.

By | March 12th, 2020|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Kids and Chores

Toddlers and preschoolers aren’t known for being tidy. It takes superpower skills to get them to do chores. When they want to help (i.e. cook)  it’s usually inconvenient for us. Then when we want them to help (i.e. clean up their toys) it’s usually inconvenient for them. I still have a child that is the preschool category.  I am living that reality and it feels like a constant battle.

So I am preaching to myself and all of you mamas of littles when I say that it will pay off in the long run. Train your kids to help around the house. Do whatever it takes to get them involved in housework! I know it feels like it’s more trouble than it’s worth, but that is false. Not only is it going to help your children as they grow into adulthood, but it will also help you when they start to become more efficient at these tasks.

I can’t speak to the teenage years, but I have three elementary-age kids and so far it has gotten easier as they have matured. My three older children, ages 7, 10, and 12, do chores every weekday. They actually HELP me, and it is incredible. Every day I wake up and the dishwasher is unloaded.

Every Tuesday the trash and recycling are brought to the curb and taken back in after school. Almost every day their beds are made (not perfect, but tidied up). I have laborers to bring baskets of laundry up and down the stairs for me. When I didn’t get to sweep during the day I realize I can just add it to one of the kid’s chore lists and I get a huge grin every time I have a burden lifted. I have to pinch myself that I am not doing all the housework all by myself anymore! The best part is that I don’t have to nag and gripe (as much as I used to). It really is a dream come true.

How did you do it Messy Mom? You may ask.

Step one, Just do something. I don’t care if you do Marie Kondo’s “Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” or sing Daniel Tiger’s “clean up pick up, put away clean up, every day”. It is not about the method. It’s about the growth that comes from the contribution.

I have tried sooo many different systems. We’ve done rewards, payments, chore charts, competitions and more. It’s kind of embarrassing because in the past I would try a new system and even blog about it. Then I would fall off the wagon and feel like a failure, but the truth is I haven’t failed. I am inconsistent and imperfect, but I am NOT apathetic. So don’t beat yourself up if you feel like you are getting nowhere.  You are planting seeds whether you see any fruit yet or not.

Step two, have realistic expectations. You might be wondering why you should take advice about housekeeping from the MESSY mom. You shouldn’t. If you want to have an immaculate house, do not read this article. If you regularly scrub the crevices of your microwave and fold your sheets in a military fashion then I am probably not your gal. No shame to you neat freaks (quite frankly I am jealous). As the Messy Mom though, my house is never going to be showroom ready and our living room isn’t going to be getting hundreds of likes on Instagram. However, if you just want your kids to chip in some and have a good attitude about it, I can tell you what has worked out for us.

I’ll say it again though, it isn’t so much about the how as it is about the why. There are many paths that can lead to responsible kids that help around the house. Just pick a path and start walking. If I can do it, you can. Change paths if you want, but keep walking. Take it one step at a time.

Oh, and one last little disclaimer. My kids are not perfect. I might wake up tomorrow and find out they went on strike and never want to make their bed ever again. I am just taking it one day and one child at a time. Pride goes before the fall.

For now though, we’ve got a good rhythm. It’s lightened my load  and made our home a lot more orderly. I’d call that a win. So for those who don’t have children at that age yet, just hang in there! If your kids are older, but you still feel lost check back tomorrow for some practical solutions and our personal routine/system.

 

 

By | March 11th, 2020|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Inspiring Mom Jean Schmidt

When I first met Jean Schmidt she was going door to door in my neighborhood passing out flyers for her campaign and answering any questions locals might have about her run for State Representative. I took the flyer and told her thank you while I went back to hurriedly preparing my kids to go out the door for gymnastics practice. I glanced down at the flyer in my hand and read the words “Jean is 100% Pro-Life and has fought for the unborn throughout her life”. I felt like I needed to go give her a hug and to thank her for her work in fighting for the unborn. I didn’t grab my coat or even tell my kids where I was going, but I immediately ran after her. She had left my property by this time and I had to wonder how weird it would be for me to be chasing her down, but I did it anyway. I didn’t know anything about this woman, except she was out in the streets by herself walking from one door to the next in the back of a huge neighborhood where the houses have quite a bit of distance between them. This takes stamina and commitment for sure! I knew this woman had grit and I had to meet her to find out more. First I hugged her neck and thanked her for being a voice for the voiceless. Then we began chatting. The more I heard of her story the more intrigued I became and asked her if I could get her contact info and do a formal interview for my blog. I am so grateful that she agreed! Her story is absolutely fascinating and definitely checks all the boxes of what “Inspiring Moms” is all about.
Her story begins with her parents who lived out a real-life version of the classic tale of a poor farm boy falling in love with an affluent well educated young lady. Although Jean’s father didn’t have much of an education himself, he always believed that if you work hard, live a clean life, and keep God first then anything is impossible. His strong work ethic drove him to push and keep trying until he had nothing left to give. In the end, all of his hard work and dedication paid off and allowed him to become very successful. Jean’s mother shared those same values. She earned a college degree majoring in French. The two of them married and raised their four children on a gorgeous farm in Miami Township. They taught their children to the same values and principles that allowed them to pursue their dreams. It’s no wonder Jean has such courage and strength. It took a lot of work to get to where she is today.
As Jean looks back at the beginning of her career journey and says “I worked my way through college cleaning houses on new construction sites. I also worked in a bank.  I graduated from the University of Cincinnati with a degree in Political Science” She married her husband Peter Schmidt and they had a daughter. Shortly after the birth of their little girl Jean left her job at the bank to be a full-time mom. Jean read up on motherhood before and after her pregnancy wanting to be prepared. One of the things she learned in that time was that running can often be helpful in fighting postpartum depression. So Jean decided to run. She ran daily and she kept running. She worked her way up to running her first marathon in 1990 and over the course of the next two decades Jean has run a total of 149 marathons and counting!
As far as how Jean got involved in politics she says “I have always been active in the Republican Party.  At first, I worked on campaigns for other folks-  writing copy, making signs, etc.  In 1989 I decided to run for Miami Township Trustee. I served in that position until 2000 when I was elected to the State Legislature.  In 2005 I ran for Congress and served until 2013.  I began teaching at Chatfield College and continue to teach.”
Jean has always been passionate about the rights of the unborn.
She attributes her activism in great part to her mother. “Before Roe. V Wade, abortion was a state by state decision” Jean says “Mom did not want our state legislature to allow abortions and even when I was younger she brought me to our state capital to fight against it.” She says her parents were friends with John and Barbara Wilke and were with them when they started the Right to Life movement in Cincinnati. Jane says her first memory of protesting was in front of Fountain Square in Cincinnati. Jane reflects on the days her mother fought against this injustice even while battling Colon cancer. If her mom felt well enough after chemo treatments she would protest in other areas of Cincinnati. Jane took care of her for almost 8 years until she passed away. She will never ever forget what her mother taught her and her legacy continues on.
Jane was the first state legislator to successfully defund Planned Parenthood. She was President of the Right to Life organization in Cincinnati.  In Congress, she was chair of the Pro-Life Woman’s Caucus.   “Many times on the House Floor Vice President Mike Pence and I would host an hour talking about the right to life movement.  We became friends and I am so glad he is our vice-President.”
Jane was enthusiastic when she told me that she is ready to serve in Columbus for many reasons. She said she wants to help protect life for everyone, the unborn, those at risk, and the elderly. She is committed to finding ways to end abortion.
I am so glad that I happened to run after Jane. Here I was worried that running would make me look like a weirdo when Jane is all about running! Running for office, and literally running in marathons. Washington Post recently compiled a ranking of the most prolific athletes to serve in Government and Jean Schmidt came out on top! from the Washington Post article.
Here is a brief excerpt from that article:
“It’s a mind-set,” Schmidt said, just days after completing her 20-somethingth Boston in April. “You just have to roll with it and move forward and always look at the goal. You want to finish the race. You want to win that election.” You can read the rest of the Washington Post article here.
 Jean Schmidt is dedicated to her family including her husband of 44 years, their daughter and two grandsons. She is excited about this next season and encourages everyone to go out and vote on March 17th!
By | February 26th, 2020|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Planning 7 months in Advance

Alternate title, “Officially Adulting”. Seriously, though I have spent my whole life procrastinating and flying by the seat of my pants. Now that I have kids in school it’s a whole new ballgame.

As soon as the Holidays were over and the kids were back in school deadlines for enrollment for summer camp and 2020/2021 school year registrations all started rolling in. It is freezing outside and we are planning for SUMMER! Not only is it for summer camp, but also campgrounds. We have learned the hard way over the years that people start booking their summer campsites way in advance. When I was a kid we never made reservations for camping. That’s way too fancy. Back then you pull over at a spot that looked decent, give 7 bucks to the person at the park entrance and call it a night. Times have changed! Now there are some prime places that if you don’t reserve your spot 6 months or more in advance you will not have one. Or maybe you do claim a spot but you end up with a crowded well-lit area by the outhouses and parking lot. It’s better to plan ahead.

Yes, having four kids with activities and deadlines has forced me into being hyper-organized about our calendar.  Here are just some of the things that I have already planned for this summer and even fall *gasp*.

Preschool

I wasn’t planning on her doing a traditional preschool. I figured homeschool would be just fine. It would save me the extra trips in the car (and the part where you have to park and go in and wait for your kid) and also tons of money. The thing is, Elle is the baby of the family and even though she is four now we inadvertently treat her like she is a one year old. I felt like getting her into a classroom setting for a couple of hours a day a few times a week would help get her ready for Kindergarten. So inJanuary J and I made this decision to try to get her into a preschool. I felt like I was way ahead of schedule when I called the preschool to see how to proceed. It turned out the deadline for registration was less than 24 hours away. I got it in just in the nick of time!

Junior High 

I already talked about this last week. Z is officially starting Junior High in the fall. Eek. It will also be his first year to attend youth camp!

Alumni Camp

This will be SJ’s 2nd year meeting up with all of her pals from her old school. They are all deaf just like her and they get the chance to do the coolest activities together. This week is guaranteed to be a blast!

Lastly, we are going on our first midwest road trip and I couldn’t be more excited. We’ll be meeting up with friends along the way and camping out under the stars when we arrive. In fact, that’s what inspired this blog post. When I wrote to friends (in various states that we would be stopping at) I gave them dates in the summer and assured them that our feelings wouldn’t be hurt if they already had plans. The funny part is they all acted a little I was crazy thinking they would have plans for July! I guess I should know better than to assume that everyone else is scheduling seven months in advance.

 

What about you? Do you already have your summer planned?

By | February 19th, 2020|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Big Year for Z

This year is such a big milestone for my oldest son Z. He is starting Middle School, he is officially becoming a teenager, he’s getting a passport and so much more. Exciting stuff!

Probably the most significant milestone of all just took place this last Sunday. Z accepted Christ as his Lord and savior several years ago, but over the past year it has started to become more personal to him. He has gone deeper in his faith, reading his Bible and being convicted by the Holy Spirit. So after reading some scripture and coming to the decision on his own to pursue water baptism we were completely supportive.

J scheduled someone else to lead worship that day because we usually have the band play throughout the baptism and J wanted to be the one to baptize him.

My family showed up along with one of Z’s best friends. My dad brought a tripod to get the whole thing on Facebook live for those who couldn’t make it. Z was beaming when he approached the baptismal with his dad. The youth pastor and several of the older guys in the youth group went right up to the front to show their support. I hugged every one of them afterward. I know that for me, having supportive friends and a good youth group is what got me through those middle school and high school years so that means the world to me. It was all truly sacred and something that I know he will look back at as an anchor in his life. What a gift.

I have had such a full plate lately that when I posted a video of Z on Instagram I put the date as February 11th (even though it was the 9th). The funny thing is, I know why I put February 11th. That is the day of the Parent Meeting at our junior high and it’s really important! So that date has been in the forefront of my mind.

Z already signed up for what classes he wants and submited his schedule. Official registration is due in a week and tonight we will get a tour of the school and hear all about the Junior High program. On top of all of that this Saturday we are going to Columbus Ohio for a regional Chemistry competition that Z is in. He is on a team for a program called  You Be the Chemist. My mom took off of work and we are all going to be there to support him just like if it were regionals in football.

The following Saturday Z will be taking a big test that he has been studying for for a long time. It is one of the criteria to determine whether or not he will be doing high school math starting in 7th grade. I am not afraid to announce it because whether or not he advances in Chemistry competition or does accelerated math or not, I am just proud of him. I always tell people how all four of my kids are so different. They all have different strengths and things that the accel in or struggle with. Z just happens to be a natural in the academic field, specifically math and science. He wants to be an engineer and his father and I are ready to support him in any way that we can knowing that he is still just a kid. A kid that is quickly growing up right before my eyes!

In May, at the end of the school year, all the faculty and students line the halls of the school and the 6th graders walk through the crowds one final time before graduating elementary school. Everyone claps, cheers, and gives high fives to the graduates. It’s always made me tear up even when it was for kids that didn’t know at all! I imagine I’ll be a big ball of emotion this year when it’s Z making that walk symbolizing the transition into this next stage.

I’ll stop doting now. If you need me I’ll be looking through old baby photos and dabbing my eyes with tissues.

By | February 11th, 2020|Uncategorized|2 Comments

A Mom’s Guide to Photo Storage in the 21st Century

I have seen it all in terms of how to display, save, and share photos. As a child of the 80s and 90s we took pictures using film and printed out every single one, most of which ended up in a big tub in the attic.

When I became a mom in 2007 digital photography was still fairly new. Our phones could take really low-quality photos and digital cameras were just breaking double digits in terms of megapixels. There was no handbook on how to sort or backup all of these photos made up of ones and zeros behind the screen. Sadly, due to a computer crash (or two), I lost a lot of precious photos that weren’t backup up.

Here we are in 2020 with photos being pretty much exclusively digital and the average American snapping billions of photos every year.

It’s crazy! How do the moms of today organize and preserve all of their favorite photos? We can’t just keep our photos on our phones! While photo storage in the 21st century is a lot more complicated then it was back in the day of film, it’s not hopeless. I have learned my lessons the hard way about backing up photos and I’ve done a lot of research through the years. So I’m pretty confident in my current system that I use and today I am going to share it with you!

The thing about 21st century photo storage is that you can’t keep all of your eggs in one basket. I have my photos stored in three places at all times and NONE of those include my computer or phone. Every mobile phone, laptop, and personal computer stores your photos, documents, and other data on either a small memory chip or a spinning hard drive and none of them are built to last long term. So when I download photos onto my computer I also add them to an external hard drive, a high resolution online storage site, and lastly I have my favorites printed.

Let’s break this down because I know it can sound really overwhelming.

EXTERNAL HARDDRIVE 

You can get an external hard drive from any electronics store or Amazon of course. My husband and I have multiple WD My Book for Mac. The reason you need an external hard drive is not so that you can photos that last forever because as we already established, hard drives fail, but if your computer crashes you will lose everything! It’s devastating. So for an immediate emergency backup plan, you have to have a copy of everything! Please take it from me External hard drives are crucial. These days more and more people are moving to a solid state drive because there are no moving parts and they will last longer. They are also smaller and can hold more. My goal would be to consolidate all of our external hard drives onto one solid state drive as technology improves and the prices continue to go down.

 

ONLINE PHOTO STORAGE 

It is important that one of your three backup options is offsite. This way if something horrible happened like a natural disaster that destroyed your belongings you would still have your priceless photos. Some examples of online storage options are Amazon Prime, Google Photos, Flickr, Adobe Portfolio, and iCloud. Some of them cost money and others are free depending on your needs. Online storage is great, but it isn’t a no-fail solution. While you are the one who controls the items in your home you have no way of guaranteeing that you can have complete control over an online storage site. If the site shuts down or is hacked you are out of luck. I don’t say that to be pessimistic, but I want to stress that you need multiple copies of your most prized memories. For me, I use Google Photos. I love that it’s free and it’s so easy to search for a photo and to share photos with others.

 

PHOTO ALBUM

I think we all know what a photo album is. They have been around since the 1800s. While it may sound old fashioned compared to the cloud and hard drives, do not discount this form of archiving your photos! Not only is it a beautiful option to display the photographs outside of an LCD screen, but it is also another viable method of backing up your photos. Actually, that’s an understatement. Printed photos are still the MOST RELIABLE form of archiving today. We don’t have a ton of research on how long these other methods will last, but we do for print. Think about how quickly technology has already changed. I used to save all of my backups on CDs and now computers with CD drives are becoming obsolete.

For this reason, I was reluctant to switch from traditional 4×6 photo prints to a photo book where multiple photos are printed on each page.

What if I needed to scan and copy a photo (which I have done many times in the past). However, for this year I finally bit the bullet and ordered a Shutterfly album of our latest family photos. It’s cheaper, easier, and takes up less space. I still don’t love that it would be difficult to use as backup if I needed to reprint or share an old photo. However, I will still be printing the most important photos on standard photo paper and be extra diligent with my other two methods of backups. As far as longevity of photobooks (which is important to me) I found an article from Your Digital Life.com about How long Will Photo Books Last and it was very helpful for my decision.

Even with all that information, this is still just the tip of the iceberg. I would like to do some follow up articles about the specifics of storing and organizing your digital images. For now though, I think the most important thing you can do is take a small step to be proactive about your photo storage. Maybe you just go through and add all of your phone photo downloads to Amazon Photos. Or maybe this year will be the year you print out some photo albums. It does not have to perfect and there is no one size fits all. Perfectionism is what holds so many people back from taking a step.

For me, I like to think about history and legacy as a motivator. It’s not about me being able to look at cute baby photos or a favorite vacation. Well, it is definitely about that, but it’s also about having something to pass on to the next generation. I love looking at old photos from before I was born.

 

It is important to look back. Which is why my husband and I have also made it a priority to get copies of photos from our parents and have them added to our digital backup archives as well.

It’s still definitely a work in progress, but like I said, baby steps.

By | February 6th, 2020|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Going From Having Three Kids to Four

 

For some reason I had this misconception that once you have three kids you can add any number of children to the chaos and you don’t even notice.

There is a difference between three and four kids though. Comedian Jim Gaffigan says about having a fourth child-

“After the third kid people stop congratulating you. Then they just treat you like you’re Amish. If you want to know what it’s like having a fourth just imagine you are drowning and then someone hands you a baby”

I am now four years into this four kids gig and somehow I have managed to keep my head above water. So, I want to help other moms do the same.

Ten things you may need when  adding a fourth baby to your family

 1. Bigger vehicle

For us this meant going from an SUV to a minivan. Maybe you already have a minivan. Go ahead and upgrade anyway. Once you realize that your kids have friends or the grandparents want to ride along for some outings, or you have a pet or a science fair display you might as well get a 15 passenger van.

2. Warehouse Store Membership

Even before the baby comes you will spend more on groceries because if you’re pregnant or breast-feeding that is equal to feeding a family of seven. Also, those other three kids are getting older and they’re eating more. What once was weeks worth of eggs or grapes suddenly only lasts for one day. I remember when a loaf of bread looked like the slices went on forever. Now I just dump the bag out and start the PB&J assembly line. That should hold us over while we are at the zoo.

3.  A Second Fridge or Deep Freezer

When you have four kids you will want to file a complaint wherever you got your refrigerator. You will swear that they sold you a mini fridge but it turns out it’s a regular size refrigerator.  For a family of six you will come home from the grocery store and have no way to store all of the food. It’s time to get on Craig’s List and make space in the garage for a second fridge.

4. A Universal Name

You need a whistle or a clever thing to shout when you want all of your kids to come to you. I am not super creative in this area. I just scream “BUSCH KIDS!!!” like it’s a dinner bell. Or better yet, you could combine all for their names into one. For example, if their names are Boston, Claire, Olivia, and Trenton it could be Bo-Clair-Liv-Tren because that’s what is going to be coming out of your mouth anyway. You will always call the child by the wrong name or combo names. If you have a dog they will probably end up in the mix too.

5. Get a Second Job

It may not start out seeming like this baby is going to cost you hardly any money. If insurance covered the birth and you’re breastfeeding and you already have hand-me-downs then you are all set, right? Eventually it starts accumulating though. Trust me. Just getting teachers gifts and birthday party gifts for their friends is enough to have you scrambling under the couch cushions for the loose change.

6. Quit Your Second Job.

Forget what I said about number 5 because between sick days, parent-teacher meetings and everything else, you have to be available way more often than you thought. Also, you realize that child care workers get paid more than you do.

7. More silverware

This might seem logical because you have more mouths to feed, but it actually has nothing to do with the number of people in your household. You will need more silverware because yours will end up in the trash or chewed up by the garbage disposal or used as a shovel in the backyard. With four kids you always need more silverware.

8. Good Insurance

You will be at the doctor all the time. I know essential oil people think they are exempt because they can make special potions that ward off all the illnesses of the world, but even if your child isn’t sick you’ve got 6 people in the family so that’s 12 dentists appointments. Then you’ve got your ob-gyn checkups, baby checkups, annual well-child checkups etc. Then if you have any children that need glasses or sports exams or stitches or braces you are probably going to feel like you are always making and going to appointments. You will know what is inside the issue of People Magazine every week because you are a waiting room regular.

9. A Brave Babysitter

Remember when you had one adorable baby cooing and smiling at every passing onlooker? Back then people were competing against one another to get a chance to babysit. Pick me! Pick me! I want to cuddle the baby for hours. Call me anytime! These days the onlookers have more of the expression you would see on people witnessing someone take out the trash and have the bag split wide open spilling garbage everywhere. Your friends and family are no longer begging to babysit. Even if they were, my criteria for a sitter is a lot more stringent than it was with three. I want everyone to survive. This job is not for the faint of heart.

10. New Coffee Maker 

We used to have a cute little french press until the fourth baby came along. That’s when we upgraded to a coffee maker. Keurig’s not going to cut it. You need a 12 cup pot that you can brew to the tippy top first thing in the morning and then let the liquid flow all day long. A full night’s rest is ideal, but it’s not happening… ever again. So caffeine is your friend.

If you do all of these things you will be totally ready to go from three kids to four! I know it sounds like a lot of work, but the cool thing about having four kids is that they each have a buddy to play with and keep them entertained so that you can go take a bubble bath and read a good book. Just kidding. Do not believe this myth.

Seriously though, I love my four kids and wouldn’t trade them for the world. Four kids is a lot but the world would be an even bigger responsibility. 

By | January 30th, 2020|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Goodness of God

The other day I found this photo of when I was pregnant with Ezie.

That’s the Ohio River behind us. I had to stop and think of how long we’ve been in Cincinnati. Ezie will be 8 this year, so that’s the answer. We left Texas in January of 2012. It’s truly remarkable how far we’ve come since this photo was taken. At that time we were unemployed, living with my parents, pregnant, and had just found out that our daughter was deaf. Despite the smile on my face, this was rock bottom. It has been an uphill battle since then to get back to a place of stability.

I describe welfare as a pit that you can fall into suddenly but climb out of very slowly and strategically. I will never forget going into a government assistance office and getting on Medicaid and food stamps. I remember the shame I would sometimes feel, especially if I bought something unnecessary (like gum). I always went to the same grocery store back then and there was a very nice cashier that would circle my remaining EBT balance at the bottom of my receipt. She was trying to be kind. She would even do it with a knowing sympathetic smile, but this was not something any other cashier would do. For me, it was a reminder in ink that we were in a desperate situation. So I just started avoiding her checkout lane when going to the store.

Then one day that changed. It was the Holiday season of 2015. J had finally graduated from college and landed a new job. We had just moved out of the tiny apartment into a little rental home and we no longer qualified for that level of benefits. I will never forget that moment I went to the grocery store and walked right up to that friendly cashier’s lane and I paid with our own money. It was such a silent triumph for me.

Gradually there were more and more moments like this. Granted, every time we no longer qualified for free lunches or SSI or whatever it was, it was a big adjustment. Often times these budget adjustments were painful and seemed impossible, but God ALWAYS made a way. Little by little, He brought us out of the miry clay.

“He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.” Psalm 40:2 NLT

J recently got a new job and as of this month, we are all six officially off of Medicaid and insured.  Praise God.

I feel like I should mention that as much as I didn’t love the situation we were in during that season, these government programs were a blessing. I know so many reading this are in a position to need that support right now and there is no reason to be ashamed. God is with you and He has the perfect plan in place for all of us. That includes my family because we’ve come along way, but finances are still a major struggle that I am believing for complete and total freedom for.

His faithfulness has not run out on us. Just a couple of days ago I went to a parent panel at SJ’s former school for the deaf. I have been to these meetings before. It’s where parents of alumni students come and answer questions of parents whose children are about to transition into mainstream schooling. This was the first time I have ever gone to a meeting and been on the side where I was the one answering questions instead of asking them. For so long I wondered what my daughter’s voice would sound like beyond uttering vowel sounds. Would she ever talk? Would she ever be able to read? Will she have friends? Now I can stand on the other end, out of the pit and onto the rock. I can declare with confidence that she has overcome these enormous obstacles and is blowing us all away with her abilities and tremendous personality.

I feel like I share this story a lot on my blog. I’ve typed it out dozens of times. How long will I rehearse the same ol’ lines about how hard it was and how God miraculously brought us through with our faith and family intact! I asked myself this question and felt the Lord impressed on my heart to keep sharing unless He tells me not to. So that’s what I am going to do. I will declare the goodness of the Lord.

At church, we sing a song called “The Goodness of God” by Jenn Johnson.

The chorus says

“And all my life You have been faithful
And all my life You have been so, so good
With every breath that I am able
Oh, I will sing of the goodness of God”

Sometimes these words feel untrue in terms of a whole lifetime when I think about painful things I’ve been through. I think about the tragedies of those around me singing these verses or those in other countries who don’t feel like His goodness is running after them. That’s the enemy planting those seeds though. Another part of the song sort of addresses this when it says,

“I love Your voice
You have led me through the fire
In the darkest night
You are close like no other”

So the lines of this song are not saying all of my life I have never known darkness or never walked through fire. What it is saying is that in the midst of that, God is sovereign and he is with us and for us. As I look back at the past 8 years I can say that in confidence. He is always faithful. He is always good.

By | January 16th, 2020|Uncategorized|1 Comment