Vacation Photos Behind the Scenes

I know not everything you see on social media represents the reality of peoples lives and I’m okay with that. I talked about this social media facade in a blog post I wrote back in 2018 and I feel like it bears repeating.

“As a small time blogger, or even just a girl on Facebook, I am selective about what I post online. I think it’s okay to show a curated life to a broad audience! On the one hand, I want to keep it real with a blog name like MESSY mom and blog posts like the one where I had a nervous breakdown, but on the other hand I don’t need to air out all my dirty laundry. I save that for the people I love most. I know that sounds funny but it’s true. I have intimacy with those that I am actually connected with.

The more intimacy we have with someone the more vulnerable and transparent we are, to the point that in sexual intimacy we actually take off ALL the layers and are completely exposed.  Intimacy doesn’t have to be sexual though. Intimacy can be sharing tears, or scars, or memories. Intimacy is a closeness and a connection that is always mutual. If it’s not mutual then it’s not intimacy.”

The reason I bring this up is because I posted all of my favorite photos and videos from our fall break family retreat on both Facebook and Instagram and some on Messy Mom.Those photos were the highlights. Was it an awesome trip? YES! Do I feel like God truly gave us favor with everything from the lodging to our health? YES! Our family agrees that we made treasured memories that will last a lifetime.

Now I am going to get real here on Messy Mom. Did my teenage son suggest we should not go on a trip and just stay home before we left? Yes he did. Did I almost cry when my all of my family got frustrated and complained when I did a family photo session? Yep, that happened. There was boredom in the car and sibling rivalry splattered throughout our whole trip. In fact at one point around the camp fire J thought it would be a good idea for us all to take turns saying something nice about each other.

One of the nice things one of the kids said was “She is good at being a terrible sibling”. Those weren’t the exact words, but there was definitely a backhanded compliment or two. I lost my cool eventually and shouted something to the effect of “Can’t you all just be nice for once!? Your dad and I are trying. We are desperately trying to the point that we brought you all the way out to the middle of Amish country hoping you would change!” It got ugly, but then I calmed down and J and I began to speak truth and God given destiny over each one of them. There were happy tears (even from the kids) and hugs that really broke through all of the junk we had been dealing with. It was good. We know that all the bickering and car sickness that it took to get there was worth it. It’s not a Hallmark movie that has a picture perfect conclusion, but it was a wonderful retreat with people that I really love.

I was sharing some of my behind the scenes vacation struggles with a  friend who is a a grandma now and she thanked me for my openness. She said when she sees the vacation photos on social media she sometimes wonders what they did wrong! I assured her she did nothing wrong and my guess is everyone has melt downs in Disney World at some point. In fact I have the privilege as a photographer to get a front row seat to some of the family realness. I love the cheery photos of everyone in sweaters grinning from ear to ear, but there is almost always a disgruntled teenager, bored husband, or cranky toddler. The ring leader is usually a mom who is begging them to just cooperate for one stinking minute to get a decent photo. Then she slips me extra cash to make her look skinny in the photos. Just kidding. I get that request more often than I can count, but no one has ever offered me money to do it.

The moral of the story is keep sharing those beautiful happy moments and realize that you are not the only one who has some pretty rough outtakes.

By | October 27th, 2021|Uncategorized|1 Comment

Traveling With a Big Family on a Budget

Traveling with more than four people can be expensive and complicated! At least that’s what I’ve found. Usually we go camping or stay at friends’ houses and that helps with lodging costs. Then most recently I wrote about scoring a deal on a room at Great Wolf Lodge, but now I have another option to add to the list of frugal getaways and that’s Airbnb!

I have stayed in Airbnbs in the past but this was the first time we did it as a family and I really can’t say enough good things about how it turned out.

First of all we were a little flexible with our dates so that helped bring the costs down. We were also flexible about where we wanted to go. I didn’t want to drive more than four hours, but living in Cincinnati we had multiple states to choose from. In the end J found an amazing little cottage on some farmland in Fremont Indiana.

There was a deal going for $88 a night and they didn’t even have a cleaning fee (which most Airbnbs do). With taxes and fees it was $110 a night. I know that’s still a lot of money and there is no way we could have done long trip at that rate, but you have to admit it’s a steal. We would have paid that much for a decent hotel, but with the cottage we got so much more! This was our room.

This was the girls room.

The boys slept on an air mattress in the living room.

On top of that we saved so much money because I brought food that I prepared ahead of time at home. I did a similar concept at Great Wolf, but this time I had a full kitchen to work with. Not only that, but it was my dream kitchen!

I was even able to pack meals for when we left the cottage. Our next camping gear investment is going to be one of those coolers that keep food cold for days, but since we had a full size refrigerator I didn’t have to worry about that too much this time.

Another thing that camping, and GWL have in common with this Airbnb is that the entertainment is included on site. We definitely left the cottage to go to some local farms and orchards,

but we ended up doing far less excursions than we planned. We were content to play games, chill out, and hang out by the fire.

When we did go out there were plenty of activities on the road trip there and back that were free!

I would describe this fall break as a once in a lifetime trip, but hopefully this type of trip will happen more than once.

By | October 21st, 2021|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Ring Fit Adventure

We are Officially in the final quarter of 2021! Did that seem to fly by to anyone else? Whoa.

One of the goals I set for myself was to “Continue on Our health journey“. My specific S.M.A.R.T. goal was to “Exercise for 20 minutes, 4 times a week.” I knew it was a tad bit below the recommended amount and I was setting the bar low. But I wanted to make it realistic for someone who has never constantly worked out in her life.

So at the beginning of the year I finally got the Ring Fit Adventure, which is a game for the Nintendo Switch.

It’s a lot like Wii Fit if you are familiar with that. I’ll admit that the Ring Fit is probably not the most challenging or rigorous regimen. Fitness experts would more than likely critique my form, but I say it’s better than nothing and it’s been working great for me! I have been known to strike a tree pose randomly at anytime anywhere!

When I claim that’s it’s working, I don’t mean I have noticed a difference in my tone, stamina, and I was never trying to loose weight. I do feel like am more aware of my posture and most importantly I have come to actually want to work out and that’s saying a lot. I bought myself some knock off Beats and I have my fitness playlist on Spotify and that time that I have in front of the TV doing ridiculous moves and defeating monsters is my alone time.

As you can see I am WAY ahead of my family with over 31 hours, 6,075 calories burned, and over 58 miles in distance running. Those stats are conservative too, because it only counts what you do in “adventure mode” there are stretches and work outs that are not included in this log.

I official “conquered” the game back in June, but since then I have been going through all of the levels again to try to complete each challenge in full, which I didn’t do the first time. I’ve done the game 145 times in 277 days so it’s not quite 4 times a week, but there are rare occasions that I work out in other ways and there were weeks that I was away from the Switch. So when you look at it that way it’s mission accomplished so far! I don’t have any photos of me doing Ring Fit (thank goodness) but this photo shows what it is what it’s like. You have to complete the moves that the avatar demonstrates and as you do you get further in the game. If you can’t beat the monsters you are defeated and have to try again.

I am really glad I invested in the Ring Fit. It was worth it. I like that it logs your information as you go. I don’t have a fitbit or smartwatch (and I don’t really want one) so this is a nice feature. 

Even with this 5 positive review of the adventure game I’m ready for something new. I feel like I am not as motivated since I “conquered” the game. I really want to stay healthy though and continue to strive toward a new fitness goal. I know a lot of people that love the Pelotonin, but that’s not in the budget, and it’s really not my thing. I don’t want to take the time to leave the house and go to the gym. I love dance fitness so that’s an option. For now I’ll just stick with Ring Fit, but if anyone has some suggestions I’d love to heart them!

By | October 4th, 2021|Uncategorized|1 Comment

Our 2012 Vaccine Choice

First of all, I am an enneagram 9. For those that aren’t familiar with the enneagram, nines hate conflict. I get so uncomfortable with confrontation of any kind. So this is not something I want to jump on the wagon and discuss publicly, but I’m going to brave because when I stumbled upon an old blog post coincidentally (I wasn’t looking for it and I don’t remember writing it) my husband said I should share it again. Here is some of what I wrote in March 2012 on MessyMom.com, in a blog post titled “Our Vaccine Choice“.

I took the kids in for their first well-child check up since we’ve moved. I wanted to make sure that we had a primary caregiver lined up before we actually NEEDED one. Besides that, SJ is two now, and for us that means it’s time to start immunizations. With Z this was a very positive experience and I even saved the band aid and put it in his baby book. Unfortunately this time was not as happy go lucky.
We were very open with the Doctor about our choice to delay vaccines, but that we were ready to get started with SJ and continue on with Z, and were interested in doing that at this visit. So the Doctor said that she was fine with that and that we would make up a schedule, but that it would take some time because they won’t be able to get all caught up in one day. Of course not, I said, the last thing I want is to give them a bunch of shots at once. And while I thought she was going to come back with a chart for us to discuss a schedule like I did with our previous pediatrician instead a nurse came in with a bunch of papers with information on all the different shots (7 to be exact) they were going to get.
I said “no, no, no, no, no… who are these for?” and she said “your children, they are way behind and these are the immunizations that the doctor has ordered up for me to give to them.” I tried to stay calm and explain that I was not interested in bombarding my children with a ton of shots all at once. We went back and forth for a bit, but I ended with, “I understand what you are trying to do, and I know that they are behind and it will take a long time for them to be caught up, but I am in no hurry and I feel comfortable starting with one for SJ and seeing how she handles it.”
I’ve watched a couple different Vaccine documentaries. One called Vaccines: what the CDC documents and science reveal and The Vaccine War that was featured on PBS. I read, and own, the book on Vaccines by Dr. Caves, along with countless articles from unbiased magazines. I’ve also read online articles by Dr. Miller and Dr. Sears. We’ve had several health care providers (from Texas, thank you very much) be involved in our delayed vaccine choices. I am grateful for vaccines and what they have done for society, but it also seems to be that too much of a good thing can be dangerous. I am not an expert, but J and I do try to stay current on the information that is available to us and reevaluate our decision periodically, but what the nurse I dealt with yesterday may not realize, is that it is not a choice that we have made blindly. I am grateful to live in a free country where we have the right to choose and make informed decision. This is something I will continue to fight for so that my children and grandchildren will also have these rights no matter what!
So you can see why this post from 2012 might be correlate with the situation we are in now in 2021. I know more people who are vaccinated than those who are not. I support everyone’s right to choose. My husband and I, along with our teenage son are not vaccinated. We all got Covid about a year ago.
 I would estimate at least 80% of the people I know personally, excluding young children, have had Covid at this point and no one in my close circle was hospitalized, but I do know of three people who were.  I’m just sharing a snapshot of what covid has looked like for me, it’s not a scientific study. I have a distant friend who lost her dad to Covid in April of 2020. It was heart breaking. Someone else I know in my community lost her husband to Covid recently. That was also heartbreaking. He was vaccinated by the way. No doubt we could sit and talk for hours about all the different sides of things. I still stand by what I said in 2012 though, “I am grateful to live in a free country where we have the right to choose [whether or not to vaccinate] and make informed decision. This is something I will continue to fight for so that my children and grandchildren will also have these rights no matter what!”
By | September 17th, 2021|Uncategorized|1 Comment

Great Wolf Lodge Homeschool Days!

Last year we took our family to Great Wolf Lodge in Mason Ohio for $100 and it was such a cool experience. The six of us can’t even go to a water park for a hundred bucks let alone get all the extras that come with a Great Wolf Lodge Resort getaway. The way we scored this deal was through online coupon codes from a homeschool group on Facebook. I’m sure any hotel or resort is willing to slash their standard rates for those that are traveling off season though.

The first time we went was in November and then again in May. There is a deal going on next week for the Mason (Cincinnati) location for Homeschool Spirit week!

 

It really is $99 no strings attached! The resort fees are waved and while you can always upgrade or do add-ons you don ‘t have to! I know this low-cost vacation planning isn’t for everybody, but if you are like me and you have a large family and a small budget you may want to check out some of my tips. This is how we had a great time on a dime.

First of all, the day of check-in you can arrive as early at 1:00 pm to start your water park fun. Check-in isn’t until 4:00, but you can get your water park passes and leave your stuff in the car until it’s time to go to your room.

There are lots of “dry” activities like mini golf, arcades, and more but it all costs extra. Our kids knew ahead of time we were going to be spending most of our time at the water park, which wasn’t a problem because it’s hours of fun for all ages.

On top of the water park everyone gets free wolf ears all you have to do is ask for them at the gift shop. You can also get a free button if it’s your birthday.

There are also activities like puppet shows and pajama parties.

When we went we had to sign up for these things ahead of time. Your receptionist will probably offer the schedule, but if they don’t you can ask what free shows and activities there are. There are usually several throughout the day.

Another way we cut cost was bringing our own food. You certainly can eat there. There are plenty of restaurants to choose from, but they have the amusement park prices too. We packed our own food in a cooler and it was perfect because even the smallest family suites are a decent size with a table, microwave, some counter space, and mini fridge.

I used my camping tricks and pre made croissant sandwiches to heat in the microwave for breakfast.

My kids loved them and one said “No offense mom, but these are even better than yours!” They thought it was take out because we were eating in the hotel! That’s how good it was. I also had preportioned fruit salad and Hawaiian roll sandwiches.

No coolers are allowed in the water park, but you can bring insulated bags and that worked great for us.

You could rent a cabana and honestly that would not be a bad idea! Early in the day the tables and chairs are extremely hard to come by. One time we just stacked our bags against a wall and played in the water until something became available. The point is you don’t HAVE to spend the extra money. We did four days of Great Wolf Lodge just fine with the basic package. Even towels and life vest are included!

While researching how to spend less at Great Wolf Lodge I saw a tip online about bringing a stuffed wolf so that your kids don’t beg to buy one. First of all, just say no, ha ha or don’t. The wolf stuffed animals are cute and kind of like build-a-bear if that’s the route you want to take. I decided for our birthday girl that I would do the tip that I saw online and got a wolf from Walmart for way less and she still loves that toy she affectionately calls Little Howler.

We don’t ever go to hotels as a family so my standards probably aren’t high, but I was very impressed with the rooms. My oldest slept on the couch and was also able to do his school work while we were there.

You could easily spend $1,000 on a two day/one night trip like this for a family of 6. We were able to do for 10% of that!


If you are homeschooling and can swing an off season trip like this I highly recommend you take advantage of it. I have several friends who have and everyone said the same thing. This Homeschool deal is a steal!

By | September 10th, 2021|Uncategorized|3 Comments

CAMPING

It’s almost fall!!! 23 days away to be exact. I have a countdown on my phone, that’s how much I geek out about the fall season. We like camping year round, but autumn is by far our favorite. I know there are plenty of families that camp more than we do and probably have better setups, but we have come a long way my friends. So I decided to piece together some  hacks/tips/equipment that have worked well for us.

We even did a cheesy little video to show how we roll when we go camping. This was a precovid trip with my oldest son manning the camera.

And here are some of our must-haves

  1. Tent

So a tent is an obvious must have unless you are in a camper or want to sleep under the stars. This tent is amazing, and I am not an affiliate (for any item on this list by the way). It is the Coleman Weathermaster and it technically sleeps 10, but I wouldn’t count on that unless you are lined up in a row with nothing but sleeping bags.

2. Fully Stocked Camping Bins

If you have some storage room, or even if you don’t but you pile stuff up Jenga style in your garage like we do then I recommend having camping totes full of everything you need. Rather than take your dish soap, spatulas, or anything else from your kitchen just have a stash of everything you need and keep it in the bin. It takes time to get the collection complete. We are still working on ours. A great place to look for those extra kitchen items though is yard sales and thrift stores. We got all of our knifes, pots, kettle, mugs etc used. You are going to be roughing it anyway so no need to purchase anything fru-fru.

 

3. Air mattress

 

We are partially glampers. I’ll admit it. You do whatever works best for your family, but if you are looking for a sturdy self inflating (while plugged in) mattress, this is the one we use. J and I got a good laugh about the photoshopped girls. Insert eye roll here.

4. french press, kettle, and bean grinder

I already addressed the glamping stigma so now it’s safe to admit that we have fresh roasted coffee over the campfire every morning. Ahhh. It will take up space so you have to be a hard core coffee drinker to make this a priority, but we have an extra french press that stays in the camping bin, a hand crank bean grinder, and kettle with no plastic parts. If it’s cold don’t forget the little ones who may want some hot chocolate while you’re at it.

 

5. Roof Rack and Cargo carrier

We get comments on our cargo rack all the time. It helps me identify our van in a parking lot. Quick side story: one time I pulled into a parking next to van just like ours with a roof rack just like ours!

This bad boy works for toting coolers with a bungie cord or a giant luggage bag to keep all your suitcases inside or often a combination of both.

6. Lots of light!

Every camper needs light, and don’t forget batteries too. Here are just a few of the ones we own.

7. Camp Fire Grill

We’ve done a variety of setups for cooking over the fire, but this grill we got from Walmart has been pretty handy.

8. Sheets

It never hurts to have an extra sheet in your camp stash. You may end up needing it for bedding, or a faux wall if someone needs to change or go potty in the woods. It can also be used for a beach blanket or table cloth. I can think of more uses, but I’ll leave it at that.

9. Fire Mitts

We used a cheap oven mitt before realizing we needed something more substantial when cooking over a fire. These were a worthwhile investment.

10. Cat Iron Skillets

Nothing beats bacon and eggs in a cast iron skillet over an open flame. Definitely a camping must!

 

So there ya go, an inside look at how we do fall camping. If you are more a beach camper check out this post

By | September 1st, 2021|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Moms Group

In February I read a book called “Never Unfriended” by Lisa Jo Baker. The subtitle is “The Secret to Finding and Keeping Lasting Friendships”. Most of my life I have been blessed with a great community and group of girls supporting me from a young age. Listening to this audio book got me looking back on significant friendships throughout my life.

My very first best friend, and eventually the maid of honor in my wedding, was my next door neighbor when I was a kid.

We moved away from Kentucky to Georgia when I was 11.  I struggled with fitting in there because I was  small town girl going from a private christian school to a public school in the Atlanta suburbs. I was innocent, niave and I didn’t care about boys or makeup like a lot of the other girls. I got plugged in at church though and eventually saw a girl from my church at school. I said “Hey, were you at RCG on Sunday?” and she said “Yeah that was me”. I told her “I could tell, because I recognize your shoes.” How awkward is that?

Anyway, we became very close friends and eventually she would also be a bridesmaid in my wedding. Then we moved AGAIN. This time from Atlanta to Dallas my freshman year. I hated it. I didn’t want to be there and I was going into that angsty punk teenage stage. I didn’t dress gothic or anything but I did listen to punk music. A Christian punk band that I liked was coming to town and because I couldn’t drive and had no friends I went with my dad. First of all, LAME. Second, I realize now how awesome my dad is that he would take the time to go to a punk rock show with his daughter. He hated the music and everything about that scene but he knew how hard this move was for me. The next day at school a girl named Heather said “Hey, did I see you at the Value Pac concert last night?” I was like “YES! You were there? Wasn’t it awesome?” and a friendship was born. 

Fast forward many many years later to when I was a mother of three once again living in a new state feeling very alone. This time it was Ohio. This time it wasn’t so easy to get connected. Women my age seemed to already have their circle established and I was busy tending to the needs of three young children 24/7. It was one the loneliest, most challenging seasons of my life. I had no one close to turn to. It wasn’t until I started going to a moms’ group at my church that I really started to form friendships and feel like I had a community. As I was reminiscing all of these milestones of relationships in my life God really started to tug on my heart and it was undeniable. I was feeling called to start up a moms’ group.

Our pastor sent out emails about life groups and although I had the opportunity to be a leader, I never signed up. I was homeschooling and I had no money to do anything fun or special with the group. I couldn’t shake this feeling though. All of the groups and rooms were assigned and the meeting for the group leaders was already scheduled. I went ahead and asked my pastor if it was possible for me to come to this informational life group meeting even though I wasn’t signed up to be a leader. Of course he said yes. 

At the meeting he shared what life groups were about the Lord began to tug on my heart even more. I knew that there would be women in what I call “the trenches of motherhood” just like I was at that point in my life that need a community, a prayer partner, or a friend. Motherhood is beautiful but it can also be overwhelming.  Moms are NEVER alone, not even to pee, and yet it can be an extremely isolating season. I couldn’t ignore the call anymore and I did a late sign up to start a group. 

Hebrews 10:24-25 says “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (NIV)

That was my vision for the group. In my dream world there would be decorations, child care, cutesy snacks, and COFFEE. I didn’t have any of that though. I was totally winging it, but I believed that God could use this little group to reach out to moms who needed encouragement.

We met up weekly that spring and I am happy to report that God showed up! It was so great that we are going to start again this fall!

Most of the time we met up in the preschool room with all of the kiddos running around and playing while we talked, did a Bible study, and prayed for specific needs.

We had a few “excursions” and those were a lot of fun too.

One cool opportunity that we had was to get carseats for some local teens that were pregnant and aging out of foster care. I got to go to the shower for these teen moms and we all prayed for them and wrote words of encouragement from one mom to another.

Maybe someday we will have more resources for our group to have childcare or even more elaborate gatherings, but I am so glad I didn’t wait for the perfect timing or circumstances to actually take that step of faith. I hope that my story is a reminder that sometimes you have to just go for it! It’s not too late! I also pray that if you are a mom looking to connect you
don’t give up. There are MOPS groups, churches, and playdates available almost everywhere. God doesn’t want you to be alone. For those moms who have a great group already (like I felt) be on the look out for those who don’t. Be the one who invites others in! Friendliness goes a long way.

By | August 25th, 2021|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Back to School After 17 Months

I dropped all four of my kids off at school today.

This is significant for SO many reasons. For one thing it’s Elle’s first time in school. She started half day Kindergarten today!

That means for a couple hours all four kids are in school at the same time which is crazy to me. For the past 14 years there has always been a baby (or babies) at home with me. The fact that all of them are in school is mind blowing!

The other reason this milestone is a big deal is because we homeschooled last year and the year before that school abruptly went to remote learning in March. That makes 17 months since my children have been to traditional school. I have so many thoughts and feeling swirling around in the middle of all this and I figured why not dump them out on the internet in case anyone else is feeling the same way?

I know the topic of masks is polarizing! I have dear friends that are all about masks and vaccines and I have those that are the opposite. I’ve always had a holistic bend. We did home birth, cloth diapers, delayed vaccines, co-sleeping, and more. You can probably guess where I fall in the midst of all this pandemic confusion. For me it’s always been about trusting my body. That DEFINITELY includes listening to Doctors and taking medications, but I lean more towards the natural approach. I’ve always been like this. My mom had an unmedicated home birth with me so I guess you could say I was literally born this way. Add to that, the fact that my daughter is 100% deaf and even with cochlear implants she relies heavily on facial expressions, lip reading, proximity, and clarity of sound.

That’s why we ended up homeschooling last year. If you had someone deliberately design the worst possible environment for my daughter to hear it would include masks, shields, and distance.

So we homeschooled for all of the 20/21 school year. There were highs and lows, but I don’t regret it at all. It was the right choice for us. Then at the end of the year I felt led to put the kids back in school (for the upcoming school year). So I contacted out district and started sorting out what that would look like. I talked to teachers, therapists, and parents. I wanted to make the right choice and J and I prayerfully decided to enroll our kids for the 21/22 school year. Everything was working out great and masks were not mandated. That was until last week when the school decided that they needed to reconsider this decision. A board meeting was scheduled for less than 36 hours before the school year started. There was a heated debate between community members proclaiming why the school would be reckless and irresponsible if they chose not to mandate masks and the other side having the same feelings if they did mandate it. It was intense. I let the kids watch and we used it as a learning experience. We discussed both sides. We also talked about the best way to get involved  in a positive and respectful way when you are passionate about something.

Then someone appeared on the screen that we recognized. It was one of Z’s good friends wearing a mask and making a case for the mask mandate. “Wait.. is that…?” Zion mumbled. We all sat quietly. When he finished I paused it. I said “Did you guys know who that was?” and they said yes. “How does he feel about masks?” “He wants masks to be mandatory” Ezie said. “Z how do you feel about masks?” I asked. “I don’t like them”. He said. For the record I have never pushed this on him. He understands the rules and we always obey them. He wears glasses and hates how the mask fogs them up and his sister is deaf. He is entitled to his own opinion.

“Can Z and this kid still be friends?” I asked. “YES” they all agreed. “Was this kid brave and do a great job talking peacefully about this subject” “YES” They all said in unison.

The meeting lasted 4 hours and ended after midnight. We only watched little bits of a recording, we weren’t watching live. It was less than 24 hours before the first day of school when the school announced that the board had voted in favor of the mask mandate.

Afterwards I poked my head in Z’s room. He was on a message board typing a message to his friend that just spoke out at the board meeting. I asked what he was up to and Z said he wanted to tell him he did a good job. I tensed up a bit. I was worried this would cause conflict because maybe the kid would start name calling unmasked people or that his compliment would be confusing if Z showed up not wearing a mask. A number of scenarios rolled through my mind. But the conversation through text went like this-

Z: Hi.

Friend: Hi.

Z: Great job on your speech. I think it’s good that you care about your little sister like that.

Friend: Thanks!

Z: Do you have Rocket League?

Rocket league is a video game and the conversation went on from there. I tear up even writing that. With all the terrible mud slinging and division I have witnessed from all sides, my mind immediately went to the worst. I imagined a big rift or heated debate. I got out of the way though and let my son encourage his friend and it was fine. It was so beautifully refreshing.

Speaking of refreshing I have been fasting for 21 days in August. Church of the Highlands is leading a 21 days of prayer event with a prayer guide and online services right now (click the link if you are interested). As I faced all of the confusion this week with the last minute mask mandate I have been reminded over and over that I need to trust God. He gave me a peace about sending my kids back to school last May. Then things started going topsy turvy and the Delta variant started springing up and my inner alarm was blaring. I doubted God, but He spoke to me in my prayer time. I felt him say that HE didn’t change. The circumstances around me may have changed but He didn’t. Then right when I was explaining to J about all of this a rainbow showed up at our front door reminding me even more that God keeps his promises.

No one wants this Covid stuff to continue. It’s been a nightmare. A friend of mine told me that she was reflecting on how when Peter looked at the waves he started sinking. We can’t focus on the storm. We have to focus on Jesus. We have to keep our posture in alignment with Him. That’s made all the difference for me in this time of uncertainty.

Against all the odds I am looking forward to a great school year.

By | August 18th, 2021|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Hatching Project

I am way behind on posting this update, but better late than never. Back in the spring our friend Dennis (the one we met when he adopted our rooster) came on April 11th to start incubating some fertilized eggs he had from his ducks and chickens. This was the best homeschool project ever!

Dennis has been such a great friend to us. He brought over learning materials like a poster and this neat Chick Life Cycle Exploration Set that shows what the inside of the eggs look like from day 1 to 21.

We mostly left the eggs alone in the incubator other than adding water on occasion to keep the appropriate humidity levels. Once a week Dennis would come over to candle the eggs. This is what it’s called when you hold a light up to an eggs to see a glimpse of what’s inside. Egg production companies do this to look for abnormalities before packaging edible eggs into a carton for groceries stores. We did it to see the developments that the embryos were making. It was awesome! Getting to see the shadowy movement of a duckling inside of an egg is coolest thing.

The incubator has an electronic feature that automically rotates the eggs to mimic what the mother does when she’s hatching eggs. On day 18 we took out the rotator tray out because this is when the eggs need to be on a flat surface ready to hatch. The final three days of the incubation process are called “lock down”.

I had a count down on my phone and we were eggstatic (I couldn’t help myself) for hatch day!

The first “pip” finally came on Sunday (day 20) at 4:00 in the afternoon. We could hear chirping and even see some eggs wobble or a little beak poke through, but we would have to wait 20 hours from the time we saw the first pip to the time that egg actually hatched.

That meant 20 hours (with a tiny bit of sleep) where we obsessively crowded around the incubator to see the action in hopes of watching a chick hatch. This was way better than Netflix!

Sometimes we woke up to find a chick or a duckling had hatched in the night, but we were present for many of the hatchings. When the chick first cracks the egg it will turn inside the shell and peck until it creates a “zip”. Once the zip is almost full circle it will push and hatch out of the egg! This takes a ton of time and energy. It’s an important part of the process though as the chick is absorbing the yolk for nutrients and building its strength. It’s so hard to watch a chick struggle. Our nature wants to help the weak, but this is more harm than good which is also a lesson for me as a mom (I’m still learning).

I took tons of videos and time lapses of the whole process, but the files are too large for the blog. I have them on my facebook album though if you want to see the time-lapse of chick or duck hatching! 

When the chicks are born they have a little “egg tooth” that is used to crack the egg open, but they loose it after a couple of days. The whole process is miraculous and fascinating.

Chicks are ugly when they first come out (in my opinion). They are all slimy and scrawny and can’t really stand upright. They get the hang of walking around pretty quickly though and then they become very playful and curious. You are supposed to leave them in the incubator until they are dry and fluffy. I was worried that their rambunctious behavior would disturb the unhatched eggs. Dennis said that’s actually a good thing, because the unhatched eggs hear and feel the activity and it gives them an insentive to come out! This was true for our little brood. Once the first egg hatched the chick went wild chirping and knocking all the other eggs around. Then more chicks hatched. They tended to hatch in sets. It was a bit of a domino effect.

In the end we hatched 12 chicks and 5 ducks, all various breeds, colors, and sizes.

The first pip was a Sunday May 2nd at 4:00 pm and we had activity all the way until the final hatch that Friday May 7th. So there were 5 full days of observing the hatches, caring for the new baby chicks, and having an amazing learning experience. We took care of the chicks and ducks in the brooder in our laundry room for the first two weeks.

We had so many visitors wanting to meet our fluffy friends. Our cousins who also homeschool got to come over and they actually adopted several of the chicks!

Dennis took the bulk of them back to his farm, including all the ducks. The ducklings were so stinking adorable, but they were messy and eat a ton so they were ready to go.

For those wondering why we didn’t keep the chicks or ducks it’s because we don’t have room for them. We live in a neighborhood and don’t have acreage or a pond. We are blessed to be able to have a coop and 9 hens, but we are all set! There was one thing I wanted to do though before we said goodbye to the babies… PHOTOSHOOT!!!

The lighting in the laundry room was not great, but I got out my professional camera and a makeshift backdrop and started clicking away.

Can you blame me?

By | August 4th, 2021|Uncategorized|0 Comments

The Book is Done… Kinda

It’s been three weeks since I did a blog post announcing that I want to have my memoir finished before I turned 40. I still have eleven months until my set deadline and I already have a rough draft of the book completely done! There were several things in place to make this possible. First of all I had quite a few chapters already written when I first dreamt up the memoir idea. Also, even the ones that weren’t covered I was able to pull some from blog posts. To be clear the book is not going to be blog posts in print, not at all. It helps a lot though that I wrote about my experiences along the way and I can pull heavily from that. I also looked through a lot of photos, receipts, emails, social media posts and calendars to put all the pieces into place. This whole memoir thing digs up a lot of stuff from the past. Some of it is heart breaking and I have definitely shed some tears, it’s been healing though.

Here’s the thing about the book writing process. I love writing, that’s the easy part for me. Once I get into that zone my fingers go flying over the keyboard and it’s hard for me to peel myself away. The thing I don’t have the motivation for is what comes next and that is the execution. I don’t even know all the steps it will take because I have never done this before! I do know I need to polish this first draft A LOT! After that I will need to figure out how to have it edited, then published, and promoted. There are probably infinitely more details than I even realize, but I am determined not to quit before the finish line this time.

Also, even though the blog has been quiet lately I do not want to pull back on writing on Messy Mom to focus on my book. On the contrary, I want to take things up a notch once school starts. For now though we are going to soak up the last 23 days of summer break. With that said here is a little photo dump from summer so far.

The first two weeks of summer we were in Texas. Even though the circumstances were not the best we were able to have a lot moments together as one big happy family.

Jeremy went ATVing with the guys. He ended up cracking multiple ribs and the recovery has been brutal. I think he would still do it all over again if he could, just maybe with a little more caution.

We went camping with some of friends from church and are looking forward to another camp out next month that will include caving.

Of course we spend time with the chickens every day that the weather allows. When we travel we have a neighbor that collects eggs and cares for them which is wonderful.

The Fourth of July was everything it should be. Hot dogs, lemonade, red white and blue, fireworks, and time spent with friends and family!

Last but not least we were able to take a trip to Michigan and the kids got to experience Mackinac island for the first time. Some aspects of this vacation were not “picture perfect”. We packed a lot into the five days that we were there and it took it’s toll on each of us. It was still the adventure of a lifetime. The awesome happy parts of the trip far outweighed the crabby ones.

On top of the family trips the kids have had their own separate exerutions. Z went to camp, Elle went to Florida with her grandparents and the older kids are going to DC next week. This summer has had really high highs and really low lows, but I’m definitely feeling grateful and blessed.

By | July 25th, 2021|Uncategorized|0 Comments