About Natalie

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

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|1 Comment

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*.


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|1 Comment

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|3 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.


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.



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.



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|2 Comments

End of Year Evaluation and One Word

2019 did not go anything like I expected it to and I don’t really even want to look back.


I know that sounds bitter but I still have some stuff to work through about last year. The fact of the matter is I did not reach hardly any of my new year’s goals except for the one about the 12 dates. I am really glad that at least that one I did stick with. That time alone together was refreshing and fun. It helped us to remember to value each other and tend to our relationship even in the midst of a stormy season.

An interesting thing happened while I was preparing for the 12 dates blog post. I scanned through all of my phone photos from January-December and I started to evaluate the year we had. I photograph almost everything so as I scrolled through the images I would have feelings of gratitude and joy while some photos triggered little pockets of anxiety. I decided to take inventory of how many times we intentionally spent together with us and the kids. I typed them all out as I went along and it was actually really encouraging.

I literally labeled the list “Fun stuff we did as a family in 2019” and ended up with exactly 24 things on my list. It turned out to be a fun packed year with things like…

Memorial day adventures.

Fall break excursion

Small beach vacay

Trip to Texas

Multiple hikes and campouts. 

Getting donuts and going sledding on a snow day. 

Going to Chick-Fil-A in our Reds gear on opening day. 

Picnic and icecream together. 

Cookout and boys vs girls water balloon fight.

Summer reading kickoff event for the library.


The list of 24 things isn’t the only time we spent together. There were lots of birthday parties, church activities, meals and projects that we did together too.

After reviewing the list I felt a peace about a year that seemed very restless and downright scary. I was so giddy about this spontaneous evaluation that I had to share it with J.

I took my notes to him and explained how even though it might feel sometimes like we are failing as parents or that we don’t do enough together I looked through the year and learned that we actually had some really great times.

We reminisced together about the activities and shared what our favorites were. We also talked about what we could plan out for the upcoming year. On top of that, there were some areas that we reflected on that felt a little TOO busy, or some trips and parties that didn’t go as planned. For the parts that could have been preventable, we made note of how to possibly tweak things for this year. Some struggles or dark times are unavoidable though and that’s okay. We trust Jesus with it all. He is our rock and we give Him thanks for all of the many blessings we have in life and he gives us grace for the times we don’t handle the obstacles well.

As far as this year’s goals, commitments, or resolutions I don’t have any. I am not anti-New Year’s List. I actually LOVE them. I just need to cut myself some slack this year and try to focus one simple thing. That one thing for me right now is family. Assuming Elle goes to Kindergarten (which is definitely the plan) she will start in the fall of 2021. I know that’s a long ways away, but what that means is this is the LAST year that I have a little one at home 24/7. So that’s why this year is all about home. I guess that’s my word for the year.

By | January 8th, 2020|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Nordgreen Watches

This review is sponsored by Nordgreen.


I recently photographed another wedding (I have done over a hundred in the past 15 years). The thing about weddings is you have to keep track of the time! Whether you are on a tight schedule where everything is planned down to the minute or you are at an event where everyone is running behind. The time is always important. The thing is, I like to avoid things that could be distracting during a ceremony like a light-up watch or a phone. This leaves me in a real predicament wondering what time it is! Thank goodness I found something that works perfectly for me on wedding days and every day! That solution is my new Nordgreen watch.  It is a simple analog watch with a sleek and chic design that is very versatile. It’s instantly become my favorite accessory!

The Nordgreen watch is a watch company with minimalist Scandinavian designs.

There are several things I love about these watches. The website describes how the Danish culture and tradition is integrated into these stylish watches. Under the title “Danish Design with Integrity” it explains

“As Danes, we were raised with the values of simplicity and balance. To us, this means that people always come first… Our watches were meticulously designed to be able to be worn every day, regardless of what clothes you have on, where you’re going, or how you’re feeling, allowing you to focus on the little moments that make life worth living. Our watches don’t just tell the time: they remind you to treasure it.”


Nordgreen is all about giving back and even better you get to choose if you want to give back to health, education, or the environment.

“We believe the right to good health, a clean environment, and a full education are rights for all. The harsh reality, however, is that much of the world does not experience them. Motivated by our Danish values, when we founded Nordgreen, we knew we had to do our part to help to change this in every way we could. There was no excuse not to give back.”   -PAS & VAS

You can read more about their giveback program on Nordgreen.com. Right now they are even running a special Christmas campaign  when you use code SOCIALBITE at check a meal will be donated to the homeless. As a thank you for participating in the Christmas cause you will receive an extra watch strap at no additional cost. That’s another one of the things I love about Nordgreen their straps are completely interchangeable so that one watch can have multiple looks.

The watch that I have is from the Native collection.

I really love the timeless classic look of it.  They have multiple men’s and women’s styles to choose from though so I encourage you to go take a look for yourself.

I am just smitten with the new watch. It’s great for Christmas gifts, birthday gifts, or don’t hesitate to just buy one for yourself! Check out more Nordgreen.com for more details.

By | December 20th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

12 Dates of 2019

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



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

We had some very decadent desserts at the French Creperie

Yummy comfort food at Tupelo Honey

Then coffee and artisan donuts at  Status Dough







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

We went to Urbana Cafe for coffee and treats.


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

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




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

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


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


This was a really simple daytime date.

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


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

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

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


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


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

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

After dinner we did a little walking around downtown.

This date was another favorite of mine.


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


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


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

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




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

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


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

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

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

By | December 11th, 2019|Uncategorized|2 Comments