About Natalie

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

Chicken People Gifts

We watched a documentary called Chicken People a few years ago. The librarian said she really enjoyed it and in the end we all did. It’s all about crazy chicken people that breed and show chickens in poultry competitions. At the time we were not crazy chicken people and didn’t relate at all, but just thought it was neat to learn about. Now we recognize many of the breeds and vernacular so we watched it again and enjoyed it even more!

When it comes to chickens, my mom is a big fan. As of May of 2020, I am a sucker for pet chickens too. Even my brother and his family have chickens. We are one big happy chicken family. There is one person though that I think it’s safe to say loves chickens more than anyone else I know and that is my 10-year-old daughter, SJ.

She is obsessed.

For a child who was deaf and we feared would never speak, I am proud to say that she can talk nonstop for hours… about chickens. Seriously. Don’t get her started. She is committed to our little flock of 9 and has a bond with all of them.

I guess it should come as no surprise then that our family (particularly SJ) ended up with several chicken-related gift items over the holidays.

I got a painting by my sister-in-law’s mom.

It’s gorgeous and I will cherish it forever! Dede Collicott is an incredible painter from Atlanta and she has even been featured in many art shows. My mom and brother’s wife got paintings too. How perfect is that?

As far as SJ’s gifts, she got a Barbie with chickens!

She also got a book about how to train your chickens. She has read through it multiple times. She falls asleep reading it and even brought it on our Christmas vacation. So far she hasn’t successfully trained the chickens to do any tricks, but they do love her and mostly cooperate for her.

All of the grandkids of my mom and dad got this adorable Children’s book called Chicken talk. It’s a must-read!

 

My sister in law from Texas got us this cool puzzle.

On top of all that my mom scored this gingerbread chicken coop.

I had several people text me and tag me on this one knowing I had a chicken fanatic. Unfortunately, they were sold out everywhere (I guess crazy chicken people aren’t all that uncommon). However, my amazing mother was able to put in a raincheck at Tractor Supply and snagged one for SJ before Christmas.

Lastly, the greatest chicken gift of all is probably getting up to 6 eggs a day during these cold winter months. That’s something to cluck about!

By | January 11th, 2021|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Tips for Helping Your Child to Read

As a mom, one of the hardest things to face is the fact that your child may not be progressing as quickly as they should. If your child is not reading at the correct grade level and you are a bit worried you don’t have to panic.

You can teach your child to read and do it successfully. However, you must be prepared to learn as much as you can about the reading process.

There are varying opinions about what works and what doesn’t. There are also opinions about what age children should be able to read.

 If all this difference in opinion has you wondering, “When do kids learn how to read?” find out the answer to this question and discover some of the best reading strategies that you can use to help your child.

Use Nursery Rhymes

A nursery rhyme will capture your child’s attention. Children will hear rhymes and syllables in the words they are reading. This will help to build their phonemic awareness skills.

Phonemic awareness is the skill that allows your child to identify and manipulate the individual sounds that are found in the spoken word. You and your child should clap to the rhythm of the rhymes together.

While your child is having fun they will be setting the stage for developing solid reading skills in the future. Nursery rhymes are a great way for children with speech problems to learn how to pronounce words.

Make Word Cards

You can buy word cards but it is so much fun to make them. Begin with three-letter words and ask your child to choose cards and then call the word. Ask your child to identify each of the sounds they hear in the three-letter words.

Examples of good words to use are cat, cup, and pig. Try to choose three-letter words that lend themselves well to pictures since this will make it easy for your child to remember the word.

Creating cards takes very little time and they are a great way to build your child’s decoding skills. If your child is starting to learn the alphabet then this is a great activity to use to introduce them to the sounds each letter makes.

Make Your Home Print Rich

You should make it a practice to label everything in your home. In this way, your child will learn that everything has a name. This helps your child to connect words to concrete things and this makes it easier for them to learn.

When you are out with your child, make a conscious effort to point out printed words in the environment. A good place to start is by drawing their attention to signs that you see.

You can sound out the letters for them that make these words. You can begin by focusing on the sound of the first letter in the words you see. Ask your child to tell you the sound of the first letter and what word rhymes with the word you pointed out on the sign.

You can also begin using the word in a sentence right away and let your child repeat these sentences. This is the best way to subtly help your child understand the meaning of a word.

Children Love Games

Children like to play and word games are the perfect way to capture their attention and keep it. These games should help your child to identify and manipulate all the sounds they hear in a word.

Another great way to get your child interested in learning new words is to write and use sand or wool to outline them. Let your child close their eyes and use their sense of touch to guess the word they are feeling.

Let them tell you the sound of each letter they have identified in the word. 

Know the 5 Skills 

For your child to read and comprehend what they have read, there are five skills they need to develop. Once you know what they are then you should do all you can to research them and find learning materials that will help to develop each skill.

The skills that your child must master are the following:

 

  • Phonemic Awareness
  • Phonics
  • Vocabulary
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Fluency

 

The first hurdle you need to cross is phonemic awareness. Next, you need to develop your child’s skills in phonics. When your child begins to understand the connection between letters and the sounds they make then they are well on their way to developing their vocabulary.

 

Comprehension is probably the hardest skill for many children to develop. This is why as soon as you can you should have your child use the words they have learned in sentences this will ensure that they have a solid idea of the words they are reading.

 

Fluency will develop when all the other skills are developed. Fluency happens when your child is confident in identifying words. This brings speed and accuracy.

Use Technology

One of the easiest ways to grab a child’s attention is to use videos. With so many videos available on the internet that teach phonics and developing reading skills, it is up to you to choose the one that is right for your child.

 

Pay attention to your child’s expressions as they learn from the videos. Ask them questions afterward to see what they have grasped.

 

Once you find a style of video that works then you can use it often to make your child develop reading skills.

 

There are also software, apps, and learning academies online that will help you to teach your child. The wonderful thing about the internet is the amount of information it provides. You don’t have to go it alone.

Model Good Reading Habits

 

If you are that parent who doesn’t like to read then it is time to change all of that. It’s good for your child to see you reading since this will help them to develop their interest in reading. Aside from this perhaps the best reading strategy you can use is to read to your child daily.

Read a variety of books to your child. This approach will help you to introduce a lot of different stories. Make sure you read books about things your child is interested in since this will make it easier for your child to relate to what is being read.

The next thing you should do is buy read along books. Those that have picture clues are the best ones and make it less likely that your child will fail at recognizing a word. This will help them to develop confidence.

Help your child to select books that they are likely to succeed with. The five-finger test is an excellent way to know if a book is too hard for a child. To do this test open the book to the middle.

Ask your child to begin reading the page. Every time they see a word they don’t recognize they should raise a finger. If by the end of the page five fingers are up then the book is too hard for them.

Time to Read

Now that you know some of the main things you should be focusing on it will be a lot easier for you to get your child to read. 

Once you notice your child’s strengths work to develop them even more. The same is true for any weaknesses that you notice. Be consistent and patient because every child develops reading skills at a different pace.

 

By | January 4th, 2021|education, Motherhood, Parenting Tips, Schooling, Special Needs|0 Comments

Christmas Card Reveal Continued

Yesterday I did a reveal of this year’s Christmas card which is a collage of all of our cards from the past 20 years. It’s been such a neat experience putting it together and then seeing it in print. When the cards arrived J and I sat outside and reminisced about each one and agreed we needed to share some of these memories online.

I know it seems a little overkill, but I am proud of what we have come up with in 20 years. They aren’t high end or super elaborate, but doing anything consistently for 20 years is a feat in and of itself. So we are a little jazzed. If you missed the card recap from 2000-2011 you can still check those out. Here are what the next 9 years looked like for us.

 

2012

This card is not one of our favorites, but it is very significant. It was one of the craziest years of our lives. We had just gone through surgery with SJ and Ezie was a newborn. We were living with my parents and struggling to figure out the next steps. It would have been easy to say we weren’t going to do cards that year. Instead we pulled out an old laptop with “photo booth” on it. It took four pics in a row for us and we printed them out as 4×6 photos instead of ordering cards because it was so inexpensive. We sent out very few in the mail and simply shared it online. A flood of memories come back when we see this, but it’s a reminder of how far we’ve come and how we chose joy and celebration even in dark times.

 

2013

2013 was our most hilarious card ever. We came up with this idea from childhood memories of changing the lyrics of Jingle Bells to “Jingle Bells, Batman smells…” We have on these silly superhero costumes and baby Ezie is batman in a supposedly stinky diaper. I love the look on everyone’s faces!

 

2014

We kept it classy in 2014. I told J that we really needed an updated family portrait. Luckily have a very talented brother with a very nice camera who caught this gorgeous shot for us. We gave it the Busch spin by creating a “scrap book” style card. Each one was individually crafted with love using mismatched stickers, papers, and whatever holiday materials we could repurpose.

2015

 

This was another card that almost didn’t happen. We had a lot going on with the arrival of Elle and discovering her hearing loss diagnosis. I was really discouraged and J suggested the idea of sending a birth announcement and having it double as a Christmas card. It was perfect! They might have been sent out late, but at least it happened and we were able to include a small Christmas photo on the back too.

2016

The next year I was determined to not run behind so we had our Christmas photos taken on summer break.

I know the beach doesn’t scream Christmas but I added “Merry Christmas” to the inner tube and wishes of “warmth, joy, and cherished memories” so I thought it worked well. We go to Lake Huron nearly every year so it is very special to us.

2017

For 2017 we paid tribute to the couch photo from 2011 and did a recap of the 6 different places we had lived in the past 6 years. The couch came with us every time. Sigh. This card was truly a full-circle moment. After a LONG journey were finally homeowners again!

 

2018

We ended up going a different direction with this card than originally planned, but I absolutely could not be happier with how it turned out!

2019

In 2017 and 2018 we did a lot of camping so we thought why not show off our love for the outdoors on our Christmas Card! We hadn’t showered in days and we dressed pretty raggedy, but I love this card!

2020

That brings us to 2020. No pandemic is going to stop me from celebrating what is a very significant year for us, 20 years as a family! Yay! What God has joined together let no one separate, amen?

So that’s our look back at 20 years of Christmas cards. I know people think I am crazy but… as usual, I already have an idea in my head for next year. You’ll have to wait until 2021 to find out though! Merry Christmas everybody!

 

By | December 17th, 2020|Uncategorized|1 Comment

Christmas Cards 2020

We don’t pack our schedule full with all sorts of Holiday traditions around here but there are several that we enjoy. One tradition that we have done since the first year of our marriage is sending a photo Christmas card. Since we were married in November the obvious first choice for us in the year 2000 was a photo from our wedding day. This was before digital photography was an obtainable thing. Most people (including me) hadn’t heard of it at that point. So our first holiday card was a purchased box of “Christmas frame cards” for you to insert your own photos printed from film. I actually LOVE that we had this part of history as our tradition, even if it does date me.

2001

The next year we printed our own on an inkjet printer and I am sad to say I have no copies of that one, but it wasn’t all that spectacular anyway.

2002

J had gotten me my first digital camera for my birthday. It was life changing. As I previously mentioned this was revolutionary technology and it was only THREE megapixels. We all have cameras on our phones now that are a thousand times better than this camera was, but it was a big deal at the time. We took silly photos of each other dressed in wintery/Christmasy accessories and made a very simple collage out of the photos. We titled it “The Twelve Faces of Chrismas”. I know this looks cheesy now, but this was before social media and accessible photo editing software. The idea that you could take a bunch of pictures and design your own postcard on a computer was impressive and all of our friends went bananas over this card!!!  To this day this one is one of our all time favorites because it was a turning point for both of us creatively.

2003

Because of the success of the previous year we decided to make another postcard. Again, I realize that you are hard-pressed to find any photo that doesn’t have a filter on it these days, but back then it just wasn’t a thing. So sepia or vintage effects on a modern photo were really cool and rare. On the back of the card, it looked like sheet music and we wrote our own version of  “Oh Christmas Tree”

2004

This was the year we bought our first house got new jobs and a puppy. We attempted doing a card it just didn’t happen. In twenty years that is the only one that we missed.

2005

Sadly, like 2001 this is another case of me not keeping a copy of everything. However, we did send a small booklet we printed and folded up by hand where each page had a photo and the entire thing was a poem about all that we had done in the past year and why we didn’t send out Christmas cards.

This is one of the photos that was included in that little booklet, and the good news is I have a copy of every card since then!

2006

At this point my photography business was going strong. I had even quit my waitress job to do it full time and I owned a couple of backdrops, including solid black. So J, myself, and our dog named Crew did a little winter photoshoot for this card.

2007

This one was so much fun! We visited my family in Kentucky for Christmas in 2006 and we recorded two Christmas songs, one of which was an original. We had a blast and sent the recoded songs out as a Christmas card. The CD art was pretty cool too and included baby Z who we didn’t realize would be a part of our lives when we did these songs.

2008

Okay, okay, this is ANOTHER favorite of mine. By this time I was blogging, so I can start linking to the original Christmas card reveals if you want more details. On the front was a picture of converse sneakers edited to be Christmasy. On the inside we had a picture with all of us with another one of my backdrops.

2009

This card really tells a story. I had a red ribbon tied around my pregnant belly announcing that we had “A Beautiful Gift” coming March of 2010!

2010

For this card we used the EXACT ribbon that was around my belly the year before and we created new things out of it. Z had a tie, I had a corsage flower pined to my dress, Z had a bowtie, and SJ who came on March 4th was wearing a bow!

2011

This was our last Christmas card in Texas taken right before we moved to Kentucky. I was hoping we were going to leave this ratty old couch behind. J had it since his college days and it was my idea to drag it out to a field and take a family photo in before trashing it. Ask me if we still have this couch ten years later. Yeah. Sigh. Yeah we do.

 

I’ll do a separate post with the rest of the cards but here is the grand reveal of the front of our Christmas card for 2020!

 

 

By | December 16th, 2020|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Homeschooling Month 4?!?!

It’s hard to believe we are now 17 weeks in to Busch Academy! I have to say, it’s going really well! We had a great third month and are starting to find a rhythm that really works for us.

I get asked all the time if this is something I would consider continuing even after the pandemic. The first month my answer was -No Way. My main reasons were because of the office situation with my work-from-home-husband. I felt like the kids had to be too quiet and it was really difficult. Now his office is in our bedroom. I can’t say this is a great permanent solution, but for now it helps. Another reason I didn’t want to continue homeschooling was because my children (one in particular) weren’t being very cooperative. I knew they were great students in public school, but they didn’t want to listen or take instruction from me. It was like pulling teeth! Great news though, I’ve seen tremendous breakthrough in this area. We definitely have some academical hurdles we are facing, but at least we are all on the same page and giving it our best effort as a team (most of the time).

I mentioned in my last post that I love the flexibility of homeschooling. I like being able to hit up parks, museums, and fun places at off peak hours, but there is so much more that I geniunly find fulfulling. I am learning and discovering right along with my kids and it’s given me a new outlook on life.

Most weeks I have one theme planned to focus on, like when we did handwriting, or the Constitution. We have other lessons for sure, but this is our extra suplemental learning on top of the usual.

October 12th was Colombus Day/Indigineous People’s Day. All I can say is WOW, this was an amazing thing to dive into. We finished up the Secret of the Indian from the Indian in the cupboard series.

We made a talking stick.

We visited a farm that has some teepees and we used the talking stick to share what we had learned about the Christopher Colombus and also The Trail of Tears.

We went to a museum called Sunwatch farm to learn about local Native Americans from Fort Ancient.

We made teepees and did little reports about different Native American Tribes.

It was a beautiful and somber thing to learn about. We will continue to unpack this part of our nation and history, especially this week with Thanksgiving.

The next theme was all the fun fall things.

Pumpkin patches, leaf crafts, apple pie baking and caramel apple creating.

It’s cool how so many lessons can work together. The kids had to design their apples ahead of time and write out their recipes and instructions. We also circled back to Native American week when we learned that the Alaska Natives (and other tribes) take only what they use and use all of what they take. This tied in because we went apple picking for fun, but then we were also able to use all of our apples in unique and tasty ways. What was left over was thoroughly enjoyed by the chickens.

 

I’ll put this next activity in the category of P.E. and family time! We went to a trampoline park called Defy in the middle of a school day for my nephew’s birthday. Their family does homeschooling too and this place was a treat from Mémé (on the topic of learning, Mémé is french for grandma and my mother’s family are 100% french Canadian). Of course the kids had the time of their life! This place in Florence Kentucky is EPIC.

Last but definitely not least we learned about the United States Presidential election for obvious reasons. This was so cool to really dig into. Along with books and videos, we also held our own election except instead of it being for the president it was what would eat for our traditional Busch Brunch. We had a caucus and everyone had to make posters and do a speech for what they wanted to nominate.


Then on voting day we all filled out our ballots and submitted them by the deadline.

Some aspects of this got a little crazy and competitive. Family members would raise their voices and the debates were heated. Some people started to change their minds and have regrets. Needless to say it represented the actual election quite accurately. It really was a cool lesson though. The winner was Monkey Bread along with chocolate milk and bacon. The brunch was a success!

I’m sure my enthusiasm is probably clear as I geek out about all these homeschool wins. When people ask me if this is something I would consider continuing even after the pandemic I always answer with- ask me next week. Just like with public school there are highs and lows, success and struggles.

I am so grateful to the Lord for guiding me to this path for this year. It was not an easy choice, but I know without a doubt that it was the right choice for our family. So I’m not thinking too much about next year and beyond, because if 2020 has taught us anything it’s that you can make plans but only God knows what the future holds.

By | November 24th, 2020|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Homeschooling Update

Originally written October 5, 2020

I now have 10 weeks of homeschooling under my belt. Now that public schools are all back in business it feels so much more real. For example, when my kids were in public school they would get out at 3:15 and we’d often hit up the library which was right next to another elementary school that got out at 3:45. I used to make sure we hurried so that we could grab some materials and get out before the school traffic hit. So the other day I told the kids we had to watch out for that traffic. Then I realized it was 1:00 in the afternoon! Hooray for homeschool perks.

Another time was when my co-op group rented a gym during the day and let all of our kiddos run around and play dodge ball and nerf war. That was definitely a homeschool perk.

On Ezie’s birthday last week we got to visit an apple orchard and a pizza and icecream place that you would typically have to wait an hour or more to get into. We went during the day on a week day and there was NO line at all.

 

Even though I have shared about all of the plusses and fun times, I want to be honest that there is still plenty of head butting and push back when it comes to really putting in 100% and doing the hard work.

All in all I would call our first 10 weeks of homeschool a success. Here are some more highlights from the past month.

We finished reading the book “Charlie & Frog” by Karen Kane. It had a lot of sign language included in the story. Part of our family homeschool lessons is ASL, so that was really neat.

We also did video book reviews for what each of the kids read individually. I posted the videos on Instagram stories. If you have an account and would like to follow me I’m @messymom.

We learned about Patriot Day, as shown on the chalkboard. That was a tough lesson, but an important one. We also did science lessons like the power of air molecules shown through the balloon and a toy car.

One of my FAVORITE lessons was a study on the Constitution which we celebrated on September 17th (Constitution Day). We camped out on this topic for a week, reading books and watching a video about the Constitution and even making our own quill pens using our very own chicken feathers. 

One week we focused on handwriting using a curriculum borrowed from a friend in our co-op.

Going to the park in the middle of the day with your grandparents is another homeschool perk!

All that and playing outside with the chickens and lots of leaves made for a wonderful September. We are looking forward to even more fall weather and fall fun! 

By | November 23rd, 2020|Uncategorized|1 Comment

Inspiring Mom and Nursing Student Volunteers on the COVID-19 Front Lines

 

Last year Anna Slayton was featured on Messy Mom as she opened up about the tragic loss of her son Gavin, and how she is determined to use his legacy to make a difference in this world.

She hasn’t slowed down one drop since I interviewed her last September. In fact, Anna Slayton was in the middle of pursuing her Master of Science in Nursing degree when she saw the COVID-19 crisis mounting in New York City. Despite being a mom, a nurse, and student she knew she had to join the fight as a relief nurse. So she temporarily left Texas for New York to help save lives. 

 Anna worked 12-hour overnight shifts for several weeks at a nursing facility caring for elderly patients with COVID-19. During her time in NYC, Anna was able to reflect on and think about the challenges she’s faced during the past few years, as well as about her career and future. It was during this time that she decided her true calling was to help take care of children, especially after the tragic loss of her 2-year-old son. She’s using her education for good through her health coaching service, Kardia Wellness, so she can continue to help others.

I am so grateful that Anna took the time to do a follow up interview with me. We are ALL affected by the Corona Virus and it’s truly remarkable to see how she has responded to the pandemic. Here is a small peek into some of what she experienced on the COVID-19 frontlines.

When and how did you know that you were called to volunteer on the front lines of the Corona Virus crisis? 

My husband and I were coming home from vacation with our kids over Spring Break in March 2020. As we were driving home from Gulf Shores, social media began to flood with news of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States. We listened to the news station on the radio while driving home about cities starting to shut down and the case numbers increasing. I started to become so nervous about returning to work the next week. I work at a micro-hospital where staffing is minimal and patient ratios are smaller. I knew if the facility began to see COVID cases, it would all be on me. We did end up having two positive cases that gave me experience in caring for COVID patients and the ability to see the effect it was having on them. It was really puzzling for all of us in healthcare to watch. Thankfully, that helped me start to understand the treatment plan and protocols that were beginning to unfold.

How does that work? How do you navigate the logistics as a mom, a nursing student, and a nurse to just hop on a plane and jump in the trenches in New York? 

While watching the news at work, I watched the USNS Comfort pull into the New York City harbor and knew that as a wife, a mom and a nurse, this was my opportunity. Several of my colleagues had taken the call, so I decided to as well. I have a skillset that not everyone does that could be utilized to help save lives, so I ultimately knew it was my duty, to God, my Country and my family. As far as logistics, everyone was supportive and my kids have a great dad and stepdad, so I knew they were in good hands during my absence. As far as being a nursing student, I had just finished the clinical requirements for the course I was taking at Walden University before leaving and was able to work on the didactic portion of my class after work as usual. I just continued to press on in my Master of Science in Nursing degree program as I have always done for the past decade of my life.

  Were you scared? I’m sure you had a lot of emotions going on. Can you walk us through what that was like? 

I wasn’t scared when I left, but I was nervous. I left on April 15, when everything was still so overwhelming at the hospitals in New York. We were not assigned to a particular unit before leaving, so flying in you didn’t have a clue what type of unit you would be assigned to work in. In the nursing world, that is scary and overwhelming. I’m thankful for my years of experience, mostly in the emergency department, but also in medical-surgical nursing, step down and intensive care units and women’s health. On the plane, I was reading a critical care book and watching videos about critical care nursing because it had been a long time since I cared for ventilator patients and I wanted to be ready. It was also insane walking through empty airports and being only one of seven people traveling on an entire 737 plane. Watching the pandemic unfold in New York on the news was one thing, but living it out was even more unreal.

Leaving on that plane was also a relief, to be honest. I documented my journey in New York through social media, tagging all my thoughts with #atexaninnewyork, sharing how every day I was there God was working in my heart. For the last three years, all I have done is press forward and push through for the sake of everyone around me. Despite being busy with work, New York helped me to finally slow down. I had so much time to focus on myself and really evaluate where I had arrived in my healing journey since my youngest son died and process all of the hurtful events that have happened in my life. Going through trauma is a complicated thing, and I can definitely attest that if it is not fully processed, worked through and healed, it will continue to fester until you face it.

My assignment ended up being in a long-term care facility on the COVID-assigned floor for residents who tested positive for COVID or those who were there for rehabilitation after being hospitalized for COVID. There were a lot of very sad cases on our unit. One was a woman, in her late 80s, who had several comorbidities and was in the dying process. I had to help her daughter say goodbye to her mother over the phone, listening as she sang her mother songs and said her goodbyes. Since she wasn’t able to be there in person, I made it my priority to be there in her place. Over a few days, I held the woman’s hand and stayed at her bedside as much as possible until it was finally her time. It was a night of grieving, not only for my patient and her daughter, but in memory of all the loved ones I had lost not long before my son passed away. In only three short years, I had lost two uncles and both of my maternal grandparents, then shortly after, my son Gavin. I am not a stranger to death, but, because I am around it so often, it doesn’t always sting the way that it does with most. Many nurses can understand this. Being next to this dying woman, I wept and cried over my own losses, holding her hand in place of those that I wasn’t able to. Once she took her last breath, I called her daughter and wept with her as well. I won’t ever forget that night.

 Wow, that’s really incredible how you were able to find your own healing on this journey. So, how long were you there total? 

I flew back home to Texas on July 2, after my 77-day assignment. Coming home was a really huge adjustment. Of course, I was greeted with bells and whistles from my husband and kids, as well as many friends when I got home. But when I walked into my house, I realized how much clutter and memories from the past I still had around. It honestly shocked me. All of the healing and processing I did in New York truly transformed me from the Anna I was before I left to the person I blossomed into while I was gone. There were a lot of layers that needed to be peeled off and it showed. Several people close to me even noticed that I looked different. It was very difficult to readjust to family life after being immersed in an entirely different world, as well as all the changes I made within. I knew the changes I needed to make and bring home with me, but I also had to help the family I live with understand what that looked like as well. 

 Lastly, what’s next for you? You never cease to amaze us with your vision, determination, and heart for people. I know we will all look forward to seeing how your story continues to unfold.

Of course, I am focused on my kids and everything that mom life entails. My son is in third grade, my daughter is in sixth and my stepdaughter is a junior in high school. Having one kid at each campus is a lot to monitor and keep up with, but we have great kids who are all pretty independent and I am so proud of them.

 Right now, I am currently back at my micro-hospital job filling in for other staff who needed a break. I’ve completed two more courses since I’ve been home and start my final one at the end of the month, which means I will finally graduate with my MSN from Walden University. They are helping to share my story, and I hope it inspires others. My job and school are keeping me plenty occupied in the nursing world. Once I have some free time after finishing school, I plan to get back to my passion of cycling and dedicate time to that training again. I am also hoping for a position at the community hospital that was built in my hometown and pray for opportunities in the future as a family nurse practitioner close to home, once I am officially licensed. Hopefully COVID-19 will stabilize and we can all get back to life as normal, but it may be quite some time before we see that happen. This year I began to build my own business, Kardia Wellness, where I plan to provide holistic-based virtual care, as well as some in-person visits, to those who either don’t have access to or need a more optimal way to see a healthcare provider. COVID-19 has brought forth so much change in the medical world, and I’m trying to find out how to make the best of the new normal, just like everyone else.

 Also, at the start of the year, I will be back immersed in my leadership role at Celebrate Recovery at my church, and I look forward to that being a more regular part of my routine again, and I’m also hoping to lead some women’s bible studies. I look forward to finally being a provider so I can serve in medical missions, which was my original inspiration for going back to school in the first place. Whether that will be through our church’s mission groups or other groups such as Operation Smile – in honor of my son Gavin – being on the mission field is one of my biggest passions. You could say that New York was my first medical assignment, and I pray for many more opportunities like that in my life.

I am blown away by your story Anna. Thank you for sharing all of this. It is really cool to see how God is using you and I know he is going to bless you on this journey. 

By | November 18th, 2020|Uncategorized|0 Comments

There is No One I Would Rather Get to “Not Go to Ireland” With

So in true 2020 fashion, our anniversary did NOT go as originally planned this year. I was over the moon about celebrating our 20th anniversary. I honestly have been dreaming about it for a decade. I’m not exaggerating. As many of you know we renewed our vows for our 10th anniversary.

 

We had a violinist, a delicious cake, a professional photographer, and new rings. It was beautiful (and way cheaper than it sounds since our creative talented friends all pitched in). We loved it so much we knew we wanted to do something equally as meaningful every 10 years.

Cute side story, my friend Bethany from Again We Say Rejoice, was inspired by the photos from our 10 year vow renewal and decided to do the same thing with her husband at 10 years except they renewed their vows in Ireland! I LOVED the idea and the photos by Adam and Grace Photography.

My Pinterest board was loaded with plans! We were looking into passports, outfits, the whole shebang. Then Covid hit.

At first, we were all hoping things would calm down, but eventually, it became apparent that we were not doing our international dream trip this year.

Don’t worry. It’s not canceled, just postponed. In the meantime, I didn’t want this monumental date to go by without commemorating it somehow. So since we got new rings last time we decided to do that again on our 20th anniversary.

Only this time we got tattoos!

They couldn’t be any more minimalist. Just simple triangle outlines. They have a lot of significance though.

First of all, my 10 year anniversary wedding ring was a triangular white topaz stone.

I chose this because it represents our relationship with each other and God. The idea is that the more you individually draw closer to God and make Him the focus, the more you will come together in your marriage.

On top of that, the triangle also represents the trinity.

This tattoo was a first for both of us. We chose Mothers tattoo parlor recommended by my brother (who does not have a tattoo by the way, but he knows the owner). I wanted to go somewhere where the atmosphere was peaceful and calming. I know it sounds like I am a diva and a lot to expect for something that is notoriously dark and dangerous. Tattoos are a big deal though and I heard that they were painful. When it came to birthing my children (which is also permanent and painful) I was really particular about the atmosphere. I treated this experience the same. I knew that I wouldn’t be comfortable surrounded by faded images of demons, confederate flags, and naked ladies. That is what I have seen of most tattoo parlors on TV or walking past on city streets. After a lot of research, because we have been considering this for a long time, I knew I wanted Mothers. It was very clean and modern. We had an appointment for November 4th, the exact day of our anniversary. The process for my little tat was not painful at all. The biggest adjustment has been not wearing a ring. I’ve worn a ring for over twenty years. That’s more than half my life. So a week into not wearing one I still notice its absence.

To top the celebration off, my parents took the kids and we had the weekend to ourselves. In all honesty, we didn’t have any plans. Life has been busy and covid has thrown so many curves we didn’t know for sure what to anticipate. So at the last minute we decided to book a hotel in Pittsburgh and do a little road trip.

The weather was absolutely perfect. We had so much fun together exploring a city that neither of us had been to before. We listened to our anniversary playlist on the way there and back and had a really great time. I was thrilled to see that the fall foliage was still at its peak.

I know this is going to sound crazy, and please don’t be mad at me. No one on any side of politics is thrilled when the election results drag on. It’s ironically nostalgic for us though.

We got married the year of the Bush-Gore presidential race and election day happened on our honeymoon. Jeremy was really interested in finding out the results so he had the hotel TV on and was tuned in. He kept saying that they were about to call it, but if you are old enough to remember they did not call anything on November 7th, 2000. Then after Bush won there was a recount that lasted well past our honeymoon. We had a wonderful time in Hot Springs, Arkansas but I still always tell that part of the story and tease J about it to this day. So it figures that here we are celebrating 20th anniversary and it’s Deja Vu.

2020 is one for the books that’s for sure. In a time that was supposed to be a dreamy romantic milestone, it is a reminder about our vows.

 

In sickness and in health, for richer or poorer. We have been through a lot of ups and downs (most recently getting the novel coronavirus together) but we’ve done it all as a team.

There is no one else I would rather go on my dream trip to Ireland with and there is no one else I’d rather get to not go to Ireland with either.

Here’s to the next 20 years!

By | November 13th, 2020|Uncategorized|1 Comment

My Dream Chicken Coop

Several months ago I mentioned that we were building a hen house that would look a little something like this photo, which was built with the same plans we used (and modified) from Woodshop Mike

The first week in October we put on the finishing touches, thankfully just in time for them to start laying eggs!

It turned out exactly like I dreamed and the tenants seem to be really happy with it too. By tenants I mean chickens not the girls, although they probably would move in if we let them!

When we got chicks in the spring it was in part because of a man named Frank who works at Tractor Supply and knows all about chickens. When I met Frank he gave me so much valuable information I brought J back with me to meet him and talk to him too. We make our way to Tractor Supply frequently these days and always appreciate his insight.

He even showed us where a bunch of scrap wood and metal was in the back of the building free for the taking.

Building a quality chicken coop is not cheap so every little bit helps. On top of that connection we bumped into our amazing realtor Carol Huhn and her husband at Home Depot when we were buying supplies and they offered to help us out with his Veteran’s discount. I believe the total was $700 so it really helped out a lot!

As you can see building the coop was a group effort and we put in a lot of time and elbow grease.

I already shared a link to the plans that the structure was based off of and here are some more details for those interested in having chickens or building a coop of their own.

Our coop is roughly 5.5 feet by 5.5 feet and the run is 10×9. We used hardware cloth for the run which we burried underneath so that no predators can dig their way in. Then we purchased one and a half tons of construction sand for the run.

Of course the kids loved playing in it, but that was a one time thing! Once the chicks came in it became a litter box!

In the photo above we had a small waterer but we upgraded to a bucket with an automatic water cup which is way more convenient.

We clean the run out once week with a giant “pooper scooper” and put it all in the compost. J added the branches off of trees from the yard and they love to roost on them.

We have four nesting boxes and nine hens. This is supposed to be a fine ratio for the girls and so far so good.

The Hillside Hens sign is one of my favorite features.

I had an old piece of wood and told my crafty friend what font and size I wanted and she made a stencil for me with her Cricut.

We call it Hillside Hens because we live off of street called Hillside.

There are still other things we want to do to finish this project. For example, we want to move all of that firewood! We planted bushes in the back and in pots in the front. We added mulch and planted grass all around, but it’s hopeless. Between the chickens foraging and the all of the foot traffic around there, it’s definitely just a bunch of dirt!

We also might add electricity one day for motion sensor lights. For now the sconces are completely aesthetic and don’t even have lightbulbs in them.

The inside of the coop is pretty simple. A few branches for roosting (although of course all nine want to be on the same one). The chicken door is 11×15 inches and we have a string that you can pull from the outside of the coop to lift and lower it without walking in through the run.

Like I said, the girls seem to really enjoy their cozy little home. 

Obviously, I love it too and I am very thankful to my husband for building it for me.

 

By | October 28th, 2020|Uncategorized|0 Comments

My Coronavirus Symptoms, Timeline, & Experience

Last Sunday I was feeling fine. Better than fine. I was energized and ready for a full week ahead. All of that changed very suddenly on Monday afternoon. I was the first one in our home to contract the Coronavirus and I wanted to write out the whole story with all of the boring minute details. I know I always appreciated these timelines from my handful of friends that actually have had COVID. So this is for anyone like me, relentlessly researching what you might expect to encounter when/if the coronavirus enters your home.

First of all, I’m obviously not a medical professional at all and I know all cases are different. We are blessed to not have any conditions that would make us high risk. This is just my personal account.

MONDAY MORNING

I started homeschool with the kids and packed up their workbooks to bring to the car dealership where I get my oil changed. I was texting friends, helping the kids with their schooling, and really loving the fall weather! The kids were creating their own caramel apples by doing drawings and writing ingredients. We were going to make caramel apples later.

MONDAY AFTERNOON

11:30 I started getting chills and feeling like my skin was crawling and my breath was hot. I know what time it was because I texted J.

2:00 I was miserable. Body aches and fatigue were setting in quickly. Anytime one of the kids touched me at all it burned. I felt prickly all over and their fingers felt like cold razors. I took my temperature and it was just below 100.

3:00 I went to sleep and didn’t eat much of anything that day. I just slept hard other than waking up with a minor cough, fever, and aches.

TUESDAY MORNING

8:00  I woke up and still had a fever which had increased to 100.8.

10:00 J brought me to the Urgent Care Doctor. I didn’t want a drive-through COVID test because at that point I thought it was the Flu.

11:30 I sat in the car for triage and then went into an exam room where the first thing they did was stick a swab down my nose for the COVID test. The dreaded COVID test wasn’t the worst thing ever, but it wasn’t pleasant. They also took two more swabs, one in each nostril for the flu test.

The flu swab was instant results and they came back negative. I told the Doctor that I was shocked because I thought for sure I had the flu. He informed me that the Coronavirus feels just like the flu. I told him that I never lost my taste or smell. He said that only 2/3 of people with COVID have that symptom. He wasn’t diagnosing me with COVID. He was actually very nuetral and said it could be a different type of viral infection that was neither flu nor corona. They sent me home to wait 2-3 days for results. The only treatment was over the counter flu and cold medication.

TUESDAY EVENING

I was too weak to do anything. Even when I was in the Doctors office I was tempted to lay down on the exam table because I felt like I could barely sit up. I stayed in my room all night and just getting dressed caused me to feel winded.

WEDNESDAY

On day three I was still lethargic all day. My fever actually came and went. At the end of the day stuff was tasting super weird. I still never lost my taste or smell completely, but it was altered. I was feeling slightly better than the day before but still horrible.

1:00 J got chills and then a fever of 102.

4:00 Z (age 13) started coughing and had a fever also over 102.

THURSDAY

I still had no lab results, but it was looking more and more like Coronavirus from what I read. Luckily on day four, I was feeling slightly better. I could stand on my feet for more than two minutes and I made simple things like oatmeal. The two grown-ups and one teen were all down for the count leaving a 10-year-old to hold down the fort with her two younger siblings. Luckily she relishes being in charge and handled it all like a champ.

FRIDAY

This was day five for me. I was fever free and had a lot more energy and strength. J and Z were only on Day three though and J was miserable. He had missed work all week except Monday. Z on the other hand still did all of his online classes and I was having to stop him from running around or staying up late. He still had a cough and fever, but he was feeling good otherwise.

I called the Doctor and there were still no results. Ugh. I was disappointed.

At this point, I had labeled us all COVID positive anyway and canceled all of our plans for the next two weekends. This included photo shoots, a party, and camping reservations we had for fall break.

SATURDAY

I finally got the results which confirmed a positive COVID result. We only have to quarantine for 10 days.

I asked if my terrible congestion is a COVID symptom and she said yes. I asked how long it should last and she said up to two weeks like with any viral infection. I asked if we should assume that my husband and son had it since their symptoms were the same and she said Yes. They only need to get tested if they need a Doctor’s note for school or work.

It was now day six and we were able to eat together as a family and spent some time outside, but definitely took it easy.  J still had a lot of discomfort and fatigue. One symptom I still had (and have) is the congestion, which keeps me up at night because when I sleep I won’t breathe through my mouth so I feel like I am suffocating. We also all three still have terrible barking coughs.

 

SUNDAY

I got a call from the health department today and recieved my official “Intiation of Isolation” documents. Assuming we continue to recover this well this will be our final week of quarantine and recuperation.  I’m glad we finally have some answers… and antibodies.

 

 

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