Elle at 18 Months

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Elleis 18 months old now and doing great.

As many of you know Elle was born with hearing loss that was originally detected during a newborn screening. The inconclusive results then led us to Cincinnati Children’s hospital where she received several ABR tests (auditory brainstem response hearing test).

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When those test showed mild hearing loss it was assumed that she would lose all of her hearing because that is what happened with her big sister. However, the doctors still wanted to do a genetic test just in case there was a different reason for Elle to have hearing loss.

Turns out that slim chance actually came true and Elle has a different type of hearing loss than her big sister SJ.

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That’s when the doctors wanted to test my genetics to see how we were ending up with all of these different results. The tests showed that I have a genetic hearing loss and it is the same kind that was passed on to Elle.

It all turned out just fine in the end, but what a wild emotional rollercoaster we were on last year. I share that backstory to say with great enthusiasm that Elle is starting to talk and we are ecstatic! There was so much hanging on her hearing loss that we didn’t expect these first words to come as soon as they have and every single utterance has been music to our ears.

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She doesn’t have any sentences yet, but she is using new spontaneous language every single day.

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It’s been so much fun watching her explore and discover the world around her. I think one-year-olds are my favorite. I really love this age sooooo much.

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The thumb sucking is still going strong and the funny thing is Elle loves to put one hand in her mouth and the other down my shirt.

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She does it to J too.

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The other thing is grabbing her ponytail. She sticks her thumb in her mouth and the other hand reaches up and grabs her ponytail.

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I don’t mind the thumbsucking. In fact I am glad she is able to self sooth, but I do worry about when she turns two and we try to potty train, wean from breastfeeding, and wean from thumbsucking. I know we won’t be able to make all of those abrupt changes at once. That would be crazy! I just haven’t decided what order to do it all in. I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.

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The good news is she is already in her own little bed and she also moved from the baby carseat (shown below) to the next size up.

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That’s the latest for this little lady. We are looking forward to a fun summer!


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By | May 23rd, 2017|Uncategorized|2 Comments

The 5 Year Mark

It’s been five years since we found out that SJ was deaf.

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5 years of trying to unlock a world of communication for her.

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5 years of moving our family from house to house to get to a place that would have the resources that she needs.

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5 years of aiming to balance a fulfilling childhood with the ground work for unlimited options.

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Before SJ was even officially diagnosed I longed to be able to speak with her. I didn’t care how, but I wanted to be able to love her and teach her through words and for her to express her thoughts to me as well. I wondered what was going on in her mind. She was clearly an intelligent, independent thinker, but she had no words to piece together.

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Having no time to loose I scraped together every resource I could find on ASL. That’s when I met a lady who is an ASL teacher from Denton Texas and she recommended the show Switched at Birth.

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I found it on Netflix and binge watched all of season one (which was all there was at the time). I could watch deaf actors and hearing actors sign in a comprehensive way that was easy to follow. I would pause and repeat scenes until I was able to understand the signs without reading the subtitles. Eventually I could see exactly what they were signing and why they used certain signs even when it wasn’t a direct translation of the audible script. This show was an answer to prayer for me.

There were a lot of cheesy or even frustrating story lines along the way, but I craved the sign language and Switched at Birth met that need. The show was obviously dwindling down a while ago, but then last year they officially announced the final season. I watched the final episode to get my ASL fix and was completely unprepared for how it would affect me.

The first scene was with the two moms, Katherine and Regina.

Regina: Do you realize it’s been five years since the switched was discovered and we met?

Katherine: No. Has it been five years?

Regina: Mmm hmm.

Then Regina talks about how much everything has changed and announces that she is going to move out.

Katheryn says No.

Regina says-

It’s time.

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Thanks a lot for leaving out the trigger warning Freeform! Of course I’m joking. This would mean nothing to most viewers (other than getting a little teary eyed about their favorite teen drama), but it represented so much for me! That’s when I realized it was May of 2012, the day of the Kentucky Derby in Lousiville Kentucky that SJ was diagnosed, exactly 5 years ago.

5 seasons of Switched at Birth is so much more than just five years of watching a show. It’s been a huge part of my new life as a mother to a deaf child. So when the characters say that so much has changed and that it is time to move on it touches a nerve.

As you know we just recently moved and in just a few months SJ will begin her final year at her deaf school. It’s a big season of closure and I am feeling all the feels. So to have closure with this show as well just seems too perfect.

In one scene they show flashbacks from season one and Emmet tells Bay that it is “the end of an era”. I know this is ridiculous, but it’s almost like God put this show in front of me for the exact time that I needed it and now I don’t need it anymore because this battle to give SJ a language is ending. We did it! She can communicate now! We are just tying up a few loose ends over the next year before she spreads her little wings. No, she’s not going to college, but close enough.

I remember when SJ said her first word. She was three years old and we were living in my brother’s basement. She wanted to go upstairs and said “up”.

I remember the Christmas that she was finally able to say words like gloves, snowman, and angel.

I remember when she said I paint pumpkin and I was thrilled that I could hear a little about what her day was like.

I remember when she said In 2018 I will graduate and then I will go to my new school. That was a couple weeks ago. Each passing milestone has brought tears to my eyes because what may be a routine achievement for some is a major victory for us.

Switched at birth was a major stepping stone for me in learning a second language which helped my daughter learn a first language, and for that reason Switched at Birth will always hold a special place in my heart.

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Signing “brush teeth” when SJ was two-years-old

 

By | May 16th, 2017|Uncategorized|3 Comments

It Turns Out Mom Was Right

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I was going to write a Facebook status about my mom. I wanted to share just one thing about the kind of mother she was and what it has taught me. But then I thought of another thing, and another, and I could probably keep going.

So instead of writing a ridiculously long Facebook status, I decided to take it to the blog. Here are three things that I may not have necessarily appreciated when I was growing up, but now that I am an adult I see how much it made me the person I am today, and I am grateful for it.

1. Mom loved dad.

She not only loved my dad, but she respected him, honored him, and stuck with him through thick and thin. They didn’t start out in the ideal situation. They were very young when they became parents. I don’t think she will mind me sharing, but they didn’t even mean to become parents…when they were dating… as teenagers. But it did happen and they got married, had four kids, and now they are going on 37* years of marriage. I would always roll my eyes and become nauseous at the slightest bit of PDA from my parents and my mom would always say “you should be happy that we love each other”. Well, you were right mom. I am happy that you love each other and that you showed it in many ways.

2. Mom was crazy!

My mom was not the type to sit beside the pool getting a suntan. She is a mountain girl always ready to jump in with both feet, and as a mother, it showed. One time she picked up a huge turtle shell that was on the side of the road and put in the back of our giant clunky VW van. While we were out at soccer practice this giant snapping turtle emerged from its shell and climbed up to the front of the van to where it was peeking over the dashboard! After the turtle started hissing at us, my mom returned it to a lake near our house. Fortunately, no humans or animals were harmed in the process.

I also remember when the Nintendo Power Pad came out in the 80’s and mom was right there with us joining in the fun. So much so that she actually sprained her ankle on the thing!

Lastly, I will never forget the time my oldest brother was explaining a science experiment where you set a piece of paper on fire put in a glass and attach it to your skin. The flame will immediately extinguish and the glass should stick to you when you let go. My brother was sticking it to his arm and stomach, but it wouldn’t work. So my mom volunteered to demonstrate the experiment on her face and it worked! The problem was it worked a little too well. Her entire cheek was sucked into the glass and it was stuck there. Once the glass did come off she had a hickey that belonged in the book of world records.

There are many other stories like that. Although there were times I was embarrassed by some of her antics, I wouldn’t trade my spontaneous mom for a tan one any day!

3. Mom was nosey.

I will never forget being in the sixth grade and planning a double date on the phone with my friend. We had it all figured out. My mom would drop me off at my friend’s house and then we would go to the theater where the boys would meet us.

When I got off the phone my mom asked what was going on and I simply told her that I was wanting to go to the movies with my friend. The more she prodded the more intricate my web of deception became until she finally admitted to listening in on my conversation (good ol‘ land lines) and told me that I was welcome to meet the boys at that movie theater, but she would be having a seat in the row behind me. UGHHHH, gag me with a spoon! I ended up not going to the movies. Looking back now I am so thankful I didn’t start dating that young. Who knows what kind of trouble I could have found myself in.

Then there was the time she tore into my brother’s best friend when she overheard him drop the F-bomb, or she found out that one of us had littered, and the list goes on. I felt like she did allow us freedom and privacy, but she wasn’t afraid to pry, eavesdrop, or butt in. She said the Holy Spirit would let her know when she needed to and I am sure she was right. So thanks mom for being so nosey.

 

 

Those are just a few of the things that I can now say that I am so grateful for. There are lots and lots of other reasons I love and appreciate my mom. I hope I can gross my kids out and embarrass them just as much as she did for me.

Happy Mother’s Day.

*This post was originally published 3 years ago. My parents will be celebrating 40 years of marriage this year!

By | May 11th, 2017|Uncategorized|1 Comment

Inspiring Moms 002: Heidi Lewiston

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It’s time for the second installment of Inspiring Moms, and I am so excited to virtually introduce you to one of my all time favorite people and I’m not exaggerating. Her first name is Harriet, but she goes by Heidi and is known by many as Granny. It is an honor to share a teensy-weensy bit of her story with you today.

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Heidi Lewiston is 96 years old, but you would never know it. The lady has more spunk than many women who are less than half her age. She still lives on her own and has a driver’s license. She gets around town in her PT Cruiser, a car known for its modern design with a 1930’s flair. As you will soon learn this vehicle suits Heidi’s personality well.

I asked Heidi, What is your secret to being so vibrant after nearly a century of life? and she attributed it to the grace of God, although she also admits she stays active in her community. Heidi is involved at her church (The Lighthouse in Midlothian Texas, which is where we met) and she goes to the pool twice a week for aerobics. She also enjoys shopping, going to restaurants, and hanging out with her friends.

Heidi says the only unfortunate thing abut growing old is having a phone book full of people that are now gone, but she still feels blessed to be here and has a lifetime of amazing stories to share and inspire others with.

Heidi was the wife of the highly decorated senior Navy officer Andy Lewiston, but he didn’t hold such a distinguished titled when they met. In fact, Heidi first met Andy when he was a scrappy ten-year-old boy from a small town in Iowa. They went to school together from 5th to 10th grade and were friends until Heidi moved to California at the age of 15.

She didn’t see Andy again until 1940 when Heidi returned to her hometown. They began a relationship as Andy pursued furthering his education at the University of Iowa and then enlisted in the Navy to become a Naval officer. He spent 5 years in the Pacific and was in the war of Pearl Harbor. After the war was over he came back home and Heidi and Andy were married on April 4th, 1946.

They did their part contributing to the baby boom by adding a total of four little ones to their family. Andy’s dream was to become a dentist, but after everything he had been exposed to in the war this brilliant man found it very difficult to concentrate so he went back to the Navy where he faithful served for 25 years.

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While in the Navy they moved 22 times. Heidi still had a slight tone of resentment in her voice when she remembered how she had to remake curtains every time they moved. The old curtains never worked with the new windows in each home and sewing them was such a laborious task. All these years later Heidi explains: That’s why I don’t have any curtains in my home now. I’m over it. 

Heidi wasn’t exactly the quintessential Navy wife. When she married Andy the current Navy Captain’s wife gave her a book called “The Navy Wife” and it was full of rules from cover to cover stating what was expected of her. There was a culture at that time in which the code of conduct represented in the military would be apparent at home as well.

Wives were required to keep their children in line. The house and children must always be presentable between the hours of 4 and 6 and there were social expectations as well. Order and structure were a top priority. The way Heidi described it I pictured the Von Trapp family in the Sound of Music before Maria arrived. 

Heidi is clear that she is grateful for that time that they served in the military. However, when I asked her if there was anything she would change about her experience as a mom she answered without hesitation

“I put too much pressure on my oldest children in those early years”.

Heidi felt like she missed out on a lot, specifically with her oldest daughter because she was still trying to live up to the unrealistic standards of what it meant to be a Navy Wife. Heidi recalls a family that lived next door with 10 children. Their house was the opposite of order, but no one could deny it was full of life. One year for Halloween the mother of the rowdy brood approached Heidi with a gift. She had made a Halloween costume for Heidi’s daughter because Heidi was simply too busy. Heidi fought to push the guilt aside as she prepared for the next social event. She wanted her daughter to dress up, stay clean, go to cotillion and to ultimately become a proper young lady. It was a lot of pressure for all of them.

Eventually, Heidi saw the undue strain that she was putting on her daughter and she was able to loosen the expectations that she was putting on both of them. Once again Heidi gives credit to God’s grace and mercy for how proud she is of her four grown children, 6 grandchildren, and 5 great-grandchildren. 

Hedi’s husband Andy passed away in 2002 at 81 years old.

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I asked her what some of her fondest memories were. Her mind immediately transported her to a sea of reflections and I was along for the ride as she ventured back to a very special moment. It was the feast of tabernacles in Jerusalem. The year was 1978. 

We traveled by bus from Cairo Egypt to see [our daughter] who was living in Jerusalem at the time. We learned Jewish dances and got to see so many of the places we had read about in the Bible. The people were very nice there. The experience had such an impact that we returned to Israel at the end of the war of the northern border in Lebanon. They invited volunteers to come in and work at the hospitals because all of the able bodied people were fighting.

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I had become a licensed vocational nurse when my youngest son was 16 and I was in my 50s. I had always wanted to be a nurse, but when I graduated high school in 1938 my father was ill and I could not go to college. Mother had to go back to work and we all took care of dad. That’s why I didn’t actually see my dream of nursing become a reality until I was 53 years old and got my first employment! I had been working as a nurse for 8 months when I met a doctor who had been a minister at the Congo. He inspired me and invited us  to a full gospel business meeting. I was born again when I was 54 years old. Up until that point I never felt like I was pleasing God. I had never truly encountered Jesus until that day when I received the Holy Spirit and finally knew that Jesus was pleased with me as I was and it was GLORIOUS.

[Back to our time in Israel in January 1st, 1990] we were planning to go for 3 weeks for work, but ended up staying there for 9 months working at the hospital and doing various jobs. We lived in a 5 story brick dormatory in one room with a small bath and two cots. They had us go though exams and interviews with the rabbi there. We were under strict orders not to share the gospel and had to sign papers saying that we would not evangelize. We did however have the opportunity to serve people and pray with them. When people would ask us questions about our faith we would say “We serve the same the God. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”  I still email and keep in touch with many of the people we met from there.

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After hearing so much of Heidi’s incredible story I had two final questions. 

What has been your favorite part of motherhood? 

I remember when I first saw each of my babies faces. Back then babies stayed three days in the hospital and the father didn’t touch the baby until you leave. Those first moments home together as a family were the best. We would just stand by the crib looking at the newborn amazed. I remember we would say to each other “He breathes so well”.  I need to spend more time remembering those precious times, like when they first learn to walk. I kind of walk that way now.

What encouragement would you give to the moms out there in the thick of it that feel like giving up because they are overwhelmed?

I would say to realize that these are best days of your life when you’ve got little kids and you are everything to them. When your children need you. Yes, those are the best days. I wasn’t aware because I was trying to live up to the Navy Wife ideals. I still have no regrets. They all turned out great. I am very grateful. The Lord has been so good. I am so thankful and happy and full of peace. I marvel at how good God is to me, that at this time in my life I could be so at peace and enjoy everyday. I know it God’s grace.

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By | May 8th, 2017|Uncategorized|0 Comments

I Will Never Show My Kids 13 Reasons Why

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I watched 13 Reasons Why the day it launched on Netflix.

I had no idea what I was getting into. I started watching because it was spring break here and my schedule was freed up a little. I immediately text my best friend after the first episode.

 

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I normally wouldn’t watch stuff like this. I have a very low threshold for shows that have any form of sexual assault at all! I am vehemently opposed to this type of entertainment. As a self-proclaimed prude, I have no excuse or idea why I got roped into this show. 

My exact words to my friend that day were “It’s like a murder mystery with a twist” because that is how it started. Innocent enough. Each episode after that got darker with more and more vulgar language, evil malicious intent, violence, and dishonesty. A few of the episodes had warnings at the beginning and so I stopped… briefly, but then I was just too curious to see how the show ended.

So then when those horrific scenes happened I tried to fast forward (or whatever you call it in these modern times), but then I would miss important voice over information. So I would just wince and close my eyes and quite frankly I would cry.

 

Netflix offers a bonus feature that includes interviews with directors and actors from the show called “Beyond the Reasons”. It’s obvious that their intentions for filming the way they did were to raise awareness and start some dialogue about these very serious issues. They said things like:

“we weren’t shying away from the ugliness”

“[that scene] was one of the most difficult to film. We didn’t look away from the sexual assaults in the show because to do otherwise is to minimize what those characters go through.”

“The goal was to try and represent everything as authentically and as truthful as possible”

“We had a number of people ask us along the way why we had Hannah kill herself in the way we did and why we showed it. We worked very hard not to be gratuitous, but we did want it to be painful to watch because we wanted it to be very clear that there is nothing in any way worthwhile about suicide.”

Okay, hold it right there. “We did want it to be painful to watch”. I didn’t actually see all of it because I chose to look away. The problem, in my opinion, is that there is a thing called desensitization and it is very real. The more you see something the more you are okay with it. It becomes less painful. That shock factor that the show gained is now the starting point for every other show to be more cutting edge; to be MORE authentic and truthful. Where do we draw the line?

Not to mention that while these kinds of graphic depictions are detestable and painful to many of us, the same images are only fuel for those with mental health problems.

I have said it before “When a story line includes a young child being molested that horrendous act can be implied without it having to be reenacted and displayed for all to see on the big screen and the same respect should be shown to women when it comes to rape”.

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 I’ll end with this excerpt from an email that I got from my child’s school yesterday. The subject line was “Message from Superintendent on Netflix Series” 

 

… our students’ safety and well being are a top priority. We are concerned about the negative impact of a new Netflix series called 13 Reasons Why based on the book by Jay Asher. It tells the fictional story of a high school student who dies by suicide and leaves behind recordings to the people whom she blames for her dissatisfaction with life. There have been concerns about the series from suicide prevention experts about the potential risks posed by the sensationalized treatment of youth suicide.

Experts, including the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Behavioral Health and JED Foundation, do not recommend that vulnerable youth watch this series. While many teens and young adults are resilient and capable of differentiating between a TV drama and real life, engaging in thoughtful conversations with them about the show is vital.

There were plenty of helpful links, tips, and phone numbers included in the email as well. I appreciate the school taking a stand and addressing the issue.

In conclusion, I thought the show was a very accurate portrayal of high school and agree that we don’t need to turn a blind eye to these issues. On the other hand, I don’t think that more graphic, more realistic visual details equal more effective. My kids are too young for the show anyway, but if they weren’t I would say no. This is not the tool I would use to teach with. I’m siding with the superintendent on this one.

By | May 3rd, 2017|Uncategorized|2 Comments

Ugly House Problems

We recently purchased our second real life fixer upper. We literally found the worst house in the best neighborhood to turn into our dream home. Now all we have to do is to tear down some walls (which will inevitably be load bearing), add a fresh coat of paint, discover and/or install shiplap, put in a custom island, and call up HGTV to let them know we are ready to fill in for Chip and Joanna.

That’s the TV way. That’s the American way. But it’s not reality. Not for most people.

I am not serious about those design plans for the record. If you watch Fixer Upper you know that first paragraph is pretty much quoting the show verbatim.

I am a huge Fixer Upper fan by the way, but I also I love this blog post by Mary Carver called “Why I Don’t Want Watch Fixer Upper” . In it Mary talks about how Fixer Upper and similar HGTV programs and home renovation shows appeal to the part of her that is so unsatisfied with what she has. There is nothing wrong with these shows, but if it’s causing you to covet or be discontent why would you want to feed that? I can certainly relate.

These days there is SO much emphasis on outward appearance, whether it’s our bodies, clothes, hair, or house. Have you seen the dumpy cars with bumper stickers like this?

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Or this?

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We make jokes, apologies, or disclaimers because we are all too aware that maybe our possessions don’t measure up. I want a sticker for my house that says “We are renovating”, because I want people to know that I can see how ugly my house is before they have the chance to think it. My brother came over for the first time on Easter and said “I think I saw a house exactly like this as the “before” on Property Brothers.” That pretty much sums it up. The main bathroom is red with black accents. One of my friends hit the nail on the head when she described it as gothic. The stair railing has painted grape accents that say 1994 Olive Garden and are a far cry from farm house chic. When I say we are renovating people think of an Extreme Home Makeover approach, but that’s not the direction we are heading.

This house was move in ready when we bought it. We don’t HAVE to fix much and the aesthetics are not something that are a priority right now.

Our old house was what I called the seven year flip.

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You can see the other pictures and read all the details, including how much we profited here.

I think seven years (not for paint, but for the WHOLE project) is a realistic marker and that means that our kids will be in or somewhat near the teenage years by the time it’s done. It is crazy to even think about, but hopefully they will be less likely to destroy everything at that age.

Anyway, this isn’t even what I was going to talk about today. I wanted to talk about the big blessing we received last week and instead I became a little squeamish and ashamed to even post pictures of my family room.

This family room is so perfectly amazing for us. It has its own bathroom and kitchenette area with a refrigerator and a microwave. We went from no microwave to two! From one bathroom to three! We never even had a family room or a working fire place before.

All of this is really exciting, but instead all I could think about was the tacky faux stone that looks like giraffe print. So I felt a need to give a disclaimer. 

The fact is it’s an awesome family room. We are blessed. The kids have a blast down there building forts and playing legos.

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The icing on the cake is that J’s boss was getting rid of his old flat screen and offered it to us. When we moved to Ohio 4 years ago we still had a box TV. Then my dad bought us this little flat screen which was awesome because we had a tiny apartment and it took up less space than the box. The small screen size worked out perfect when it’s on the floor level in close proximity to the couch, but when we moved into our house and had it up on the mantel in a large room it felt really small.

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So you can imagine how elated we were to receive a free 42 inch smart TV.  Isn’t that cool?

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Little by little we’ll be incorporating our own style, but in the mean time I’m not going to look like the miserable person in the “before” photo.

By | May 2nd, 2017|Uncategorized|14 Comments

Crunchy VS Soggy

I was listening to a podcast yesterday where a couple of moms were discussing how crunchy (meaning natural) they are. They joked that in some areas they started out super crunchy and then became soggy over time. It got me thinking about areas that I am most crunchy and how in other ways I am not following holistic natural living at all. So I came up with a list of 6 ways I don’t fit the hippie mom stereotype (soggy)and 6 areas where I definitely do (crunchy).

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SOGGY

  1. Conventional toiletries

I am extremely low maintenance so I don’t use a lot of beauty products. But I can assure you the shampoo, soap, and toothpaste that I use are pretty much whatever is on sale at the grocery store and are probably chock full of chemicals. One area of great distress for a lot of women that want to use natural products is finding a deodorant that is effective, but free from aluminum and parabens. Here is a secret of mine that I have never shared before. I rarely wear deodorant. I may have stinky breath or smelly farts, or a number of other disgusting things that plague me, but I haven’t bought deodorant in years because I don’t sweat much and unless it’s a really hot day where I am doing a long bike ride in a short sleeve shirt then I generally do not get stinky.

2. Conventional cleaning products

I use regular dish soap and multi-purpose cleaner’s that contain bleach. It’s not because I am so clean because I obviously I am not, but it’s cheap and convenient. In a different stage of life I will probably go the natural route.

3. Health food stores

Again the frugal me often beats out the green me. I can’t afford all organic food and supplements.

4. Vehicles

We have a minivan and an SUV. Could be worse on gas, but definitely could be better. This is another thing that I would put in the “maybe later” category, but we need to be able to haul a trailer and a gaggle of kids so there is no Prius in the near future for us. My parents have one though and I love it!

5. Circumcision

This is a really controversial topic on natural mother forums. There are people that consider you a child abuser for circumcising. After all, it isn’t natural.

This is NOT something I am passionate about by the way, so by all means don’t circumcise your boys, but here is why we chose to. As Christians, we do not feel it’s something that is part of your salvation, but it is a symbolic part of our religion’s history. It’s been a part of my husband and my own families culture for generations and I know it’s an awkward topic, but it has never been a setback or something anyone has resented so we never felt led to change it. The history of male circumcision is really fascinating and it’s neat that in Genisis 17:12 Abraham is instructed to perform the procedure on the 8th day which is when vitamin K levels are naturally high in infants. This allows blood to coagulate and makes the procedure safer. These days they just give boys a shot of vitamin K, but it’s Pretty cool that God gave these instructions thousands of years before medicinal research would discover this truth.

We actually had a Mohel with our first son’s circumcision. It wasn’t a bris, and we aren’t Jewish, but it was still special. There was no medication involved and we were right there. It wasn’t gruesome at all and he seemed comfortable the entire day. Similar situation with our 2nd son except the midwife performed the procedure.

6. Essential Oils

This is another one for the category of “maybe later”, but we are on a really tight budget right now.

Crunchy

1. Home Birth

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I’ve had a variety of births- home, birth center, hospital, car. They were all natural though and it’s something that I really loved and wouldn’t change. You have to be pretty dadgum crunchy to consider home birth and I did it with great excitement and anticipation.

My home was hands down my favorite place to give birth. I was born at home too, so in this case the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I know it’s definitely not for everybody and if I had any unusual or high-risk birth situations I wouldn’t have been a candidate, but if it’s something you ever wondered about it’s worth researching!

2. Cloth Diapering

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Cloth diapering is close to home birth as far as being for the highly committed crunchy momma. The routine is not for the faint-hearted. I cloth diapered all four kids, except I only did with Ezie at the very beginning because then we lived in an apartment without a washer and dryer.  We recently got a front load washer and it’s trickier to get them clean. I thought about quitting, but decided to go 6 more months which will be close to when Elle will probably be out of diapers. In 6 months I will save about 120 more dollars and then can sell the diapers.

3. Breastfeeding

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Often times my frugal side goes hand in hand with my crunchy side. Such is the case with breastfeeding. There are lots of reasons to breastfeed, but I am embarrassed to admit my favorite is the fact that between all four kids I have saved roughly $6,800 by never buying formula. I know not everyone can breastfeed, but it’s been a nice experience for me and I generally wean at 2 years old. Notice I am using a cover in the photo. That gives me crunchy point deductions because a true hippie momma would nurse openly. I am not offended by it whatsoever, but unless I am at home I personally feel much more comfortable covered up!

4. Composting

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My husband and I love composting and recycling. We actually moved our compost pile with us when we moved to the new house. I geek out about composting. I also just realized I am babywearing while composting. That’s crunchy bonus points!

5. Co-sleeping

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Co-sleeping is something I definitely did not plan on with my first baby, but it happened and I had a co-sleeper next to the bed at the time. From then I preferred it and have kept each of my babies in bed with me or near me. Some of them never even used a crib and went straight to the bed. Some people love it, some people hate it, but with nightly feedings I do believe it saved my sanity on many occasions. So far each of my children have gradually tapered off waking up and crawling into our bed. In the scheme of life this little bit of extra snuggles is just a blip on the radar.

6. Delayed Vaccines

You might be a crunchy mom if you get banned from your pediatrician’s office. Yeah, they called before Elle’s 6 month appointment and told me not to come in because she hadn’t been vaccinated yet. For the record, all of my children had the DTaP by the time the next baby came and they are all caught up on vaccines before starting school, but I guess my schedule wasn’t aggressive enough for that doctor. It’s not an easy thing to decide to take a firm stance on, but I have done a lot of research including reading books, reviewing the CDC guidelines, talking to doctors and parents. So despite the irritating claims, I did not get my information from some blog quoting Jenny McCarthy. Really people!? Anyway, our new pediatrician and local health department have been wonderful.

It’s a fun little comparison. Out of the two catagories I find I identify more with the crunchy lifestyle than the conventional one. But there is no one box that any of us can fit perfectly into. I am just content being me.

By | April 24th, 2017|Uncategorized|3 Comments

Our New House

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Our new street is perfect for walks, scooters, and bike rides.

Talk about a month in the making. Sheeeesh. This has been one of the most difficult transitions we’ve ever made. But it’s worth it. As the dust settles we can see what an enormous blessing it is to be in a house with a fantastic yard, wonderful neighbors, and a lot more space for our family to grow up in.

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It’s actually a pretty miraculous story how we ended up finding the house. I asked someone from SJ’s school for a realtor referral and she recommended Carole Huhn. I contacted Carole right away and the first thing she did was set up a meeting with a loan officer. So we met with Ginger Vining and within no time we were preapproved. A week later we scheduled our first meeting to go look at houses. Carole sent me some listings and told me to pick 3 or 4 that we wanted to look at. J and I were really picky and to be honest we weren’t too keen on any of the choices. That’s okay Carole told us. Just pick some that are nearby and we’ll consider it a meet and greet. We’ll walk through and you can tell me what you do and don’t like about the houses.

We agreed to this and left the house that Saturday with zero expectations of finding a house. As it turns out, Carole learned ahead of time that one of the houses we were scheduled to see had mold in it. When Carole found out about the mold she threw in this other house at the last minute to look at instead. The house was in the back of a quiet neighborhood with lots of trees. As we walked through we immediately fell in love with the place. J wanted to put in an offer. I was shocked. We weren’t planning on buying anything this soon. This was only the second house we had seen. J was even pickier and more hesitant than I was, so I trusted his judgement. Since this house was fresh on the market we knew that if we wanted to have a chance at living there we would need to act fast.

There were a lot of negotiations back and forth between us and the seller. It was intense, but in the end we got the house for the price we wanted and we even scored an FHA loan with a good interest rate along with grant money from OHFA. It was an amazing deal.

I’m highlighting all of the highs, but we closed a month ago and believe me there have been some rock bottom lows in the midst of all of this. Buying a house is no cake walk. I do want to give a big shout out though to our realtor Carole Huhn with Comey and Shepherd and our loan officer Ginger Vining with Park National Bank. They went above and beyond to get us a good deal and would not stop until we were 100% satisfied. We took some hits in this process, but they kept fighting for us and we are extremely grateful to have had them in our corner. If you live in the Cincinnati area and are looking to buy or sell a house these are the ladies you need on your team. I will always be grateful for their guidance.

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Our family with Carole and the neighbors dog Walter who is already like one of our own.

We aren’t quite settled yet, but we are getting there. On Sunday we had our first Easter in the house.

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Read my hard boiled eggs secrets here.

 

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The fresh cut lilacs are from the tree in our front yard.

It was a lot of fun. My entire family came out and for most of them it was the first time to see our house.

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It was also Elle’s first Easter egg hunt.

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It was a wonderful gathering with beautiful weather.

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Fun for all ages.

img_9425 I really needed it.

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After 5 moves in 5 years I am so very excited, relieved, and honored to announce that we are finally in a home of our own. And it feels good to be home.

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By | April 19th, 2017|Uncategorized|2 Comments

Inspiring Moms 001: Suzanne Sorenson



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Today I am so very excited to be launching a new series called Inspiring Moms. The reason I chose that name was because in this context it fits perfectly as a verb and an adjective. I really want this to be a community of mothers that come from all kinds of diverse walks of life to inspire one another.

For our first inspiring mom I was able to interview Suzanne Sorenson from Waxahachie Texas.

I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Suzanne in person, but I we connected online at the end of 2015. They had just lost their home in a tornado the day after Christmas. This would be a difficult tragedy for any family, but especially for the Sorensons whose son has Smith–Magenis Syndrome (SMS).

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I recently had the chance to talk with Suzanne and ask her about her experience both as a tornado survivor and as a mother of a son with a rare disability. Here is part of our conversation.

Messy Mom: Can you take us back to the beginning of your motherhood journey and how it all began?

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Suzanne: My husband Seth and I have been married for 16 years. We were married 3 years before starting a family.  I have a type A personality so I had a very specific plan and timeline for how our life would go and the pregnancy was right on schedule. I did all the research and preparations while I was pregnant and it was all prefect… until Colton was born prematurely.

The Doctors immediately knew something was wrong. They figured Colton had a syndrome of some kind, but genetically the tests came back normal. Although Colton had medical complications they felt like he would eventually grow out of them and be fine. But that first year there were many milestones that he was not reaching. On top of the developmental delays he had constant ear infections and trouble eating and sleeping. Still, the experts attributed all of this to the tubes in his ears.

I didn’t even know the severity of his insomnia until I had my daughter Tanner when Colton was two. It was the midnight feedings that allowed me to discover that Colton seemed to never sleep. So I called the pediatrician to talk about all of my concerns and it was then that Colton began early intervention services.

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By the time Colton was four my mother’s intuition was telling me that clearly something was up. I started demanding answers. Finally they decided to do more genetic testing. This time the testing was more thorough and it revealed the delation of Chromosome 17. That’s when Colton was diagnosed with Smith-Magenis Syndrome and I was so relieved, not that he had a syndrome, but to have a name. Now we could have a plan. We could do something about it. The next hurdle was finding out where he was at on the spectrum because it varies so much.

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Even though it took four-and-a-half years for Colton’s diagnosis I think that was the biggest blessing. Had I known right away that he had this it would have defined him and I would have held him back. I would have let it consume me early on. Instead I got to love him, and know him, and bond with who he is and not the label placed on him. By the time I learned of the diagnosis I was already connected with my little boy so I had no reason to worry.

Messy Mom: So what is Smith-Magenis Syndrome?

It’s a very rare genetic disorder. It affects 1 in 25,000 people and potentially more because it is believed to be severely undiagnosed. It affects many parts of the body including speech, behavior, sleep cycles, and emotions. Colton feeds off of emotions both positive and negative and his responses can be extreme. He has angry outburst that can be damaging to himself. He’ll hit, spit, throw things, followed by sitting on the floor crying saying “I am so sorry”.

 

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Messy Mom: So can you tell me about what happened December 26, 2015?

Suzanne: Of course it was the day after Christmas, we went to the grocery store and had big plans to hang out and watch movies and the kids could play with all of their new Christmas presents. I remember it was really warm that day. It was 85 degrees, but a cold front was supposed to come in.

As we were getting ready to watch a movie our phones started blowing up with tornado warnings. We followed protocol, but at the same time we are Texans and do this all the time so it was no biggie. No one was freaking out. We got ready to put the kids in the safe area which was the bathtub with pillows and blankets. Seth was on the couch and argued that our usual safe area is not the most interior wall and suddenly decide we should switch it to the hallway. This was still all a really chill conversation by the way. So the kids were in the hall with their iPads and I was in the kitchen making sandwiches. We brought the dogs in and the electric began to flicker. So I went to be with the kids, but Seth was still watching the news.

The electric then went off again and that’s when we heard it! It sounded like a train! Seth ran into where the kids were and the kids had their hands over the heads while I covered them with my body and Seth laid over all of us. It was dark and you hear glass breaking and furniture was blowing around. The scariest part was that you could feel the suction. All of the doors were sucked in and we literally felt like we were being lifted.

I prayed over and over PLEASE GOD PROTECT US. Then it was quiet and dark. We just had the light from the phones and iPads. No shoes. No supplies. Then Seth gets up and walks out and all I hear was him saying “Oh my gosh” over and over. He looks around outside and comes back and says “It’s all gone”.

Everyone in the neighborhood was outside at this point and you can hear them asking “Is everything okay?” “Do you have everyone?” “Do you have your babies?”  Some neighbor’s homes were completely level. For us the storm came through the back of the house and tore off that side, but our Christmas tree was still standing. But the shop, our boat, Seth’s tools, the travel trailers. Everything in the back was gone and everyone else’s stuff ended up in our yard. Seth is a contractor by trade so he immediately went into builder mode to help. Everyone was helping each other. It was incredible the way the community came together.

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Messy Mom: The way you and I first became connected was through postcards for Colton. I know a lot of my readers responded with sending postcards to your temporary PO box. What part did the postcards play in all of this?

Suzanne: Colton is obsessed with mail. He would check the mail morning, noon, and night. After the tornado we moved into a rental home and the rental did not have mailboxes. So he really missed his routine of checking the mail. It was a tough time. We had to lease everything down to the sheets. Nothing was our own. No family photos or anything familiar and that was especially tough for Colton. So my sister in law started the idea of sending Colton post cards to cheer him up during this difficult season and it really took off. He got mail from Autralia, Europe, England, Germany and other places. It was incredible.

Messy Mom: What advice do you have for what others can do to help in a situation like that? Maybe some of our readers have a friend or relative whose home was destroyed. What is the best response?

Suzanne: Don’t ask “What do you need me to do?” We heard “What can we do?” over and over and over? I know people meant well, but I didn’t have answers! It was all so overwhelming. I didn’t know what to do. So instead of asking. Just do it. Designate someone in charge that is family or a close friend, but is not directly impacted by the disaster and they can be the ones to delegate.

Messy Mom: Lastly, because you have so much wisdom I just want to glean as much as I possibly can, what would you say to a mother who just learned that her baby has SMS or a similar developmental disorder?

Suzanne: God doesn’t make mistakes. No matter how overwhelmed you feel and how bombarded you feel remember that God does not make mistakes. The heartache is a tangible feeling though and it’s not disappointment, but just fear. The hardest thing is the guilt and you have to give yourself a break. You will have bad days and it doesn’t mean you are being a bad mom it means you are having a bad day.  Do not loose sight that you are the perfect match for that baby and that baby is the perfect for you.

Messy Mom: I think that is excellent advice that could apply to any mother. I really appreciate your time because I know you are busy. This talk has blessed me and I believe your insight will be a blessing to many others. Thank you Suzanne.

By | April 10th, 2017|Uncategorized|6 Comments

Checking In

I was recently contacted by Jamie of MediumSizedFamily.com to give a little snippet of advice for her blog. The question was What tips would you have for people with large families? So I was able to contribute a little insight from my perspective and that post went live today. You’ll have to read the whole piece to see all the advice from myself and several other bloggers who have a medium to large sized family. It’s a pretty great list of resources.

If you do scroll through the post over there you’ll see that Jamie mentions that I am crazy busy with raising kids and moving. She speaks the truth. I know crazy and busy can be so cliche these days, but that sums it up for me right now. It is where I am at my friends and it is why it’s been so quiet around here.

The truth is, the whole process of moving has been rough. I am just barely keeping my nose above water. I thought last month was going to be one of the best months of my life. A milestone that I pictured myself doing a heartfelt post about, or maybe even a Facebook live video from our brand new home! We’ve been renting and living with family for the past 5 years and this was the moment we had worked so hard to get to. The pinnacle of this latest chapter where we are home owners yet again and we finally have the key to a house where we can put down some roots and raise our children in. Cutting to the chase here, we did get the house. Yay.

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There is a reason there is no exclamation mark after that “yay” though. If you know me or my writing style, I am painfully liberal with my exclamation marks. I type through emails like I am marching through a parade and my exclamation marks are the candy. I toss them out all over the place. But this last move was no parade and no place for exclamation marks. The weeks leading up to and proceeding that milestone have been brutal. It’s just been one thing after another. I took the first three hits pretty well, but after that it was affecting me deeply and I reached a breaking point.

I kind of beat myself up for not being able to just roll with the punches, but then someone told me that moving is one of the top ten most stressful life events. I am sure it’s not that way for everybody every time, but apparently it happens often enough and that helps me to feel somewhat justified for my extreme levels of anxiety. Sorry to be so vague and melodramatic, but trust me, you don’t want a list of all the hurdles we’ve faced this past month. Then again, once I get to the other side of all this I might be inclined to share. We’ll see.

So that’s why I haven’t blogged, emailed, tweeted, or any other social media, or even real life interactions for the past couple weeks. I just don’t have it in me, but this moment at the computer right now is a step. It’s proof that I will recover and life will find it’s rhythm again and I am really looking forward to it.

By | April 3rd, 2017|Uncategorized|1 Comment