Cute Things Elle Says

After writing updates last week I realized I had too many adorable photos and stories of Elle and I was definitely going to need to do another post just for our 3 and half-year-old.

 

First of all, Elle is very tender and affectionate. If you give her a hug she will say “I love you too”.

Almost every day she asks for a pony and I deliver! The catch is that she is really asking for a ponytail. We have communicated it this way for so long that I forget the literal meaning. We will be out and public and she starts crying “Mommy I want a pony! Why can’t I have a pony!?” and I’ll say “I know. I heard you. It’s coming”.

 

While watching Football with her dad she asked why all the players have tails.

 

Good question. 

Elle is super particular about what she wears and I think she has some mild sensory issues when it comes to clothes. There can’t be a wrinkle in her leggings or tights or she will go bananas. One day she described the crinkle in her sock in the cutest way. She said, “Mom I just don’t like it when there is a hill in my shoe!”.

She also calls polka dots bouncy balls. It took me a while before I realized what she meant when she requested “bouncy ball dress” or “bouncy ball pajamas”

Her love of fashion results in her changing clothes several times a day but she calls it changing her mind. It kind of makes sense until she says “I think I’m going to go change my mind” and then switches outfits.

She’s super sassy and when she gets mad at her brothers or doesn’t get her way she shouts “Fine! I’m not going to be your brother anymore!”

One time while traveling one of the boys had to pee and we weren’t going to be near a bathroom anytime soon so J had them pee in an empty water bottle in the car. Later, after we had made it to our destination, J noticed the lid was off of the bottle. He lined up the kids and with a wild look in his eye interrogated each one in an attempt to find out who had tampered with the bottle. Z shook his head no. Ezie said not me and SJ crinkled her nose in confusion. Then J turned to Elle and asked “Baby girl, did you take the lid off of this bottle?” Without hesitation she responded, “That drink is ESCUSTING!” That’s when we knew.

 

One day I called Elle a “Love muffin” and she said “I do love muffin! I love nanna bread too.”

 

One final Elle story that happened recently,  I was using the bathroom that is in my room and Elle comes barging in while I am on the commode. I said “Elle! I would really like some privacy” She seemed to genuinely understand as she apologized. “Oh! I’m sorry mom” she said and then she shut the door, with her inside the bathroom with me. All I can do is shake my head and laugh. I am a mother four, privacy went out the window a long time ago.

 

She definitely keeps us all smiling. That’s our little Elle Belle.

By | June 12th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Another School Year

The kids are one week into their 2019 summer break and it has been wonderful. I love new beginnings because it lends the opportunity to reflect and have closure along with vision and dreams for what’s next. The past school year was significant because we went from 3 different schools (Z elementary, Ezie preschool, and SJ private school) down to one. I often found myself making plans throughout the year for Christmas break or other holidays and wondering about scheduling conflicts only to remember that all of my kids had the same days off! That was a really special treat that has never been the case in the 5 years that we’ve had school-aged children. I’ve also watched the three older kids bond over these newly common experiences like mindful music, what was for lunch, the school carnival, talent show, and more. There have certainly been ups and downs throughout the school year, but I would definitely say it was a success. Here is a look back at some of the fun memories, milestones, and growth I have witnessed during the 2018/19 school year.

Elle isn’t in school yet so she gets to tag along with me all day.

I don’t do any formal lessons with her but we read, draw, and sing… Elle knows all of the basic shapes and colors. She is starting to count and say her ABCs. Elle also turned three years old!

Ezie started his first year of elementary school. He went to afternoon kindergarten so he is easing his way into this whole school thing. Ezie is the friendliest, most outgoing child I have ever known so I was worried about him being a distraction in class, but he actually did really well.

He learned to read and write and he lost a lot of teeth!

He also went on his first field trip and got to milk a goat.

It was an awesome first year for Ezie!

 

SJ completed 2nd grade in her first year at a mainstream school! We were all nervous going into it but she did great. She became a lot more independent this year because at her new school she is completely responsible for her own hearing devices. I’ll share more about all that in a separate post because I have had a lot of people ask how it went. There have been a lot of cool new things that happened this year.

This was her first time to go to a daddy daughter dance. It was the end of October so it was a costume party.

Her art was selected for the school district art show.

Since she turned nine she has been able to be a helper in the church nursery (we have two services so she doesn’t miss her own class time).

We are also thrilled that she started gymnastics lessons. She LOVES it and is really excelling. She can do a roundoff, one handed cartwheel, the splits, backbend, and she is working on a handstand and back walkover.

Z is the only one of the bunch who already went to this school last year so he was already adjusted and fitting in fine.

He has so many friends that my extraverted heart could burst. He is adored by all of his teachers.

 

This was his first year to be on a robotics team and he was in his element!

The team didn’t win anything and ended up not advancing, but they’ve already been able to have one meeting to discuss plans for 6th grade!

Z has definitely had a growth spurt. His feet are bigger than mine now. I am clinging to the one year he has left in elementary school and the last few months of children’s church.


Speaking of church, Z has recently started filling in on ProPresenter in the adult service. He enjoys being a part of the tech team and I love how he is using his giftings. 
So there you have it. I am so proud of each of them. Mom brag over.

By | June 7th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

What I Want Moms to Know

One cool thing about my job as a mom blogger and even a pastor’s wife is that moms feel like they can open up to me. I don’t take that for granted and it lifts my spirits to have the honor of encouraging other moms or being able to pray for them. On top of that, between the various series I have written like “Lots of Hope for a Little Home” “How We Met” and “Inspiring Moms” I have been able to interview dozens of moms and get a special peek into their lives. It’s fascinating how no matter what cultural background, social status, or number of children a mother has there are always so many similarities. Sadly many of these similarities are unnecessary insecurities. I think all moms struggle with a certain amount of guilt from time to time, I know I do. Sometimes it helps to know that you are not alone! That’s why today I have decided to talk about three LIES that I’ve noticed most of us mom can fall prey to.

Most moms…

  1. Most Don’t Believe They Are Inspiring

Almost every single time I approach a woman about being featured as an Inspiring Mom the request is met with “I’d love to, but I don’t think I’m Inspiring”. My reaction goes something like Really!? You adopted 5 children with special needs from various countries all over the globe! If that’s not inspiring what is? This a real life conversation I had by the way. I haven’t done the interview yet, but hopefully I will get to. It is so hard for moms to see the value in what they do because it’s a job that rarely gets praise or appreciation.

What I want to say to moms that feel this way is that you what you do, even the messy and mundane, is significant and that God has given you this great calling and privilege of motherhood. You have a voice, you are a light, and you are seen. Most importantly your story matters!

2.  Most Moms Feel Like an Imposter

This is a big problem in the social media age. From what we see on our screens it looks like everyone else around us is doing it better or doing it right. We try to keep up, but we are secretly worried that we’ll be exposed. These are imposter comments I see frequently in response to compliments.

“Wow girl, you don’t age!”  “Oh no, that’s just the filter, trust me!”

“Thanks for bringing those cookies to the school event” “Well, I totally cheated and just picked up a package from the store”

“Your house looks so clean” “Ha! That’s because everything is shoved in the closet”

“The IG video of your family was so sweet. #Goals” “There is a reason I didn’t include in sound in the video. You wouldn’t say that if you heard my children bickering!”

Again, these are all REAL examples! I am totally guilty of this, like when I shared this photo of some pumpkins with our family’s names on them.

My friend complimented me by saying “nice handwriting” and I said I cheated because I copied the font off of a website. Then another friend chimed in and called me out on it. She said, “Why don’t we give ourselves the credit we deserve instead of saying Oh I cheated so it really isn’t that good.”

She was right! We don’t have to feel like we are imposters ready to have our cover blown!

My message to you and myself is to stop comparing and own our choices without apology. Forget Pinterest!

3. Most Moms Think They Are Failing

This goes hand in hand with the last myth about motherhood (the imposter syndrome). Most moms feel like they are failing. I can hear Beverly Goldberg in my head right now…

I’m pretty sure mom guilt has been around since Eve but the introduction of television and then the internet has amped it up to the point that moms can’t pick out a breakfast cereal without feeling like they are failing. There is a reason #momfail is a hashtag and there are literally millions of posts online in which moms have labeled their efforts as failures. This has to stop.

Sometimes we do fail and it’s okay because we have to teach our children to fail too.

Not teach them to fail without consequence and revel in it, but to recognize that no one is perfect. Woody Allen says “If you’re not failing every now and again it’s a sign you aren’t doing anything very innovative”. Our failures are teaching some of the greatest lessons we can give to our kids. Sometimes failures teach us how to have grace, patience, or forgiveness. Other times it teaches endurance, flexibility or coping skills and then there are some failures that just teach us to laugh! I’ve posted this quote before and it has meant so much to me throughout the years. This was said by a pastor (and wonderful father) talking about his daughter

“I feel like I can protect my child from Hollywood. I can protect my child from crazy teachers, and soccer coaches. I can protect my child from anybody but me, because I will leave a mark, and I am a broken person, and as hard as I try I will fail her and she will have to learn to forgive me. She was wired to have a perfect father, and she has me instead.”

So my message to those who feel like they have failed is that you have failed and you will again just like the rest of us, but you are doing one heck of a good job at raising your kids! One other thing- not making valentine’s by hand for your kids class is not a fail, neither is posting your monthly newborn updates a couple of days late or not moving your elf on a shelf. So let’s dial back the expectations shall we?

In closing, if you have ever felt like you don’t have a voice, or that you are faking it, or that you are a failure, just know that you aren’t the only one feeling that way. Then recognize that those are all lies that the enemy wants to use to tear you down because mothers are such a threat. The truth is you are a masterpiece and you matter.

 

 

By | May 14th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Inspiring Mom Hashmareen Griffin

Imagine growing up on a small tropical island, an island full of hillsides and tea plants as far as the eye can see. Imagine tropical flowers to fill your senses and mango and guava trees to climb and play in. Imagine you could run barefoot all day long while monkeys watched you soak up every ounce of childhood at its finest. That was the life of Hashmareen Griffin.

Hashmareen was born in Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka, located off the southeast shore of India. The area where she is from is predominantly a Buddhist nation. Only 2% are born again Christians. Her Grandfather was saved at an Assembly of God missions church as a young boy. Hashmareen reflects on the story that transpired before she was even born. She has a deep sense of gratitude knowing that those missionaries obedience to spread the Gospel is what has changed her life as her grandfather went on to raise three generations of Christians to serve the Lord. 

When Hasmareen was a little girl her father managed multiple tea estates and they lived on the estates.

The cool tropical climate there was perfect for tea, which is part of the reason Sri Lanka is the second largest tea manufacturer in the entire world. Hashmareen remembers her days on the tea farm fondly. As a tomboy, she was always running around outside with her curly hair untamed and knobby knees covered in scrapes and bruises. She loved the animals that shared the land with them which including the native birds and monkeys as well as goats and chickens which were a part of the farm. Hashmareen loved playing outdoors but she knew she had to come inside at sunset. Her father told the children stories of a witch that would come out at night and turn the sky red. When you saw the blue sky begin to turn yellow then orange, and red you knew it was time to get back in the house. In third grade Hashmareen and her little sister were sent to boarding school two hours away. She doesn’t look back at those days with as much wonder and delight as the years she spent at home, but she made many friends and she was always well cared for by the three widows that ran the school. When Hashmareen was 10 years old Sri Lanka was going through a lot of political issues and it was becoming dangerous to live there so her family immigrated to Seattle Washington. 

They landed in the states on December 23, 1983. Hashmareen had no idea what to expect of their new home but through it all she trusted her parents. America was so different than what she was used to. The air felt cold and dry. She went from a tropical paradise to a city that felt dark and gloomy. Her nostrils physically hurt breathing this new piney air. Once they settled in she started to become acclimated. She enjoyed school. The people in America were all very welcoming and her favorite part of all was SPORTS! She loved that her new school had so many organized sports. This was the chance for Hashmareen’s athleticism to shine, especially in volleyball.

A couple of years later when Hashmareen was in middle school she was walking around the mall with her mom when out of the blue she was approached by an internationally renowned modeling agency out of New York. Hashmareen was offered the chance to travel to New York and have them represent her. This was a lot for a young teen to even process. Hashmareen describes herself at the time as “Not at all comfortable in my skin. I was dark and underweight with knobby knees and big, puffy, frizzy hair. People called me giraffe! I wasn’t insecure because my focus was all about sports but I certainly NEVER thought of myself as beautiful”. In the meantime, her mom was excited thinking maybe someone could get this girl to finally act like a girl, but she also wasn’t ready for her baby to be carted off to New York!

After some discussion, it was determined that Hashmareen would stay local and gain some modeling experience in the Seattle area.  So she started working in the Northwest fashion circuit after school and on the weekends.  During the summers Hashmareen would travel to other states and cities to work for different department stores and fashion houses.  Upon graduating high school she received an Associates in business but the fashion world was calling her in a big way.  She was even personally invited by Oscar de la Renta and Badgley Mischka to come and work for them in New York! It was like living in a dream.  At that time she decided she was ready to travel full time and so Hashmareen had the opportunity to work Internationally in New York, Miami, LA, Milan, London, and Australia.  She was modeling for top designers walking the runways of major fashion houses. Hashmareen modeled from 1986-2002 which really shows how much the favor of God was on her life as most modeling careers do not last that long. She was also a pioneer for women of color and diverse ethnicities to be featured as serious models on the runway and in print. When Hashmareen began modeling almost all of her modeling peers were the classic “all American look” which included almost no minorities.

Hashmareen’s look was such a unique niche that she created a demand for it. When she traveled an agency would scramble to find a replacement for what was considered an exotic look.

Hashmareen says of that period of life:

“Throughout this 20-year career I got to model everything from Taco Bell uniforms to 2 million dollar Versace dresses where security would walk me down the runway and back.  I loved every minute of it!

I have done some covers, appeared in some commercials and TV spots.  I had the opportunity to shoot a pilot talk show for Warner Brothers and Dick Clark that we are currently talking about redoing for a possible new show.

What I remember the most during this season in my life is that the Lord protected me from all the dark realities of this industry.  He kept me pure, drug free, alcohol free and party free.  I have some of the most amazing memories of witnessing to designers, models, hair stylist, and makeup artists.  They all knew who I was and who I was in Christ.  I guess you could say I was “salt and light” in the world.”

Hashmareen has a different platform these days but one that is equally as valuable. She has been married to evangelist Allen Griffin for 21 years and they have two handsome teenage boys who are both honor students and not surprisingly they both LOVE sports.

Besides being a busy mother who teaches, counsels, negotiates, and leads these two very strong godly young men, she is also the vice president of a nonprofit called Excellerate. Excellerate is a program founded by Allen and Hashmareen which helps teens in the foster care system that are coming of age.  Allen and Hashmareen have always had a burden and a calling to help the fatherless. Through many years of being involved with helping foster and adopted children they noticed a missing demographic. The older children in the foster care system were slipping through the cracks unnoticed and when God placed a vision in their hearts to do something about it the answer was YES! The statistics are astounding.  60% of these teens have been bounced around from home to home, have been returned by their adoptive parents, have faced some of the most horrific stories you can think of and have never found a forever family.  They are at high risk to be trafficked, commit suicide, end up in jail and repeat the same cycles their parents have experienced. Excellerate was designed to help these kids transition into adulthood successfully by offering them a faith based 16 week life skills program.  They learn about social skills, financial responsibility, professionalism, and their spiritual walk with God.  Upon successful completion of the class they are gifted a used car so they can get to work, college, and church.  Most of all they are connected to a community by introducing them to people that care about them.  Since Excellerate’s inception they have had close to 200 students go through the classes and graduate and they’ve been able to donate over 160 cars to these young people!

They are currently planting 5 new locations around the country and God is doing amazing things through the ministry.

There are so many incredible testimonies and breakthroughs that could fill pages about all that is happening with Excellerate. You can find more information at excellerateyouth.org. If you have a church or an organization interested in hearing more about the program you can contact Excellearate about coming to your area. Or maybe you would like to make a donation or sponsor an individual. We can make a difference! God cares about these teens and whether it’s prayer, volunteering, giving, or spreading the word, chains can be broken and lives can be transformed forever! Feel free to reach out if you have any questions at all.

 

I personally want to thank Hashmareen Griffin for taking the time out to share her incredible testimony. From the tea farm in Sri Lanka, to the runways of New York, to helping teens in Florida in a life-changing way, Hashmareen truly is an inspiration.

By | April 30th, 2019|Uncategorized|2 Comments

Our Family Alarm clocks

For the most part this world has two types of people. There are morning people and then there are the rest of us.

When I was growing up my mom would go around the house singing and turning lights on first thing in the morning. She would sing “You’ve gotta get up this morning” to the tune of “First Call” (the military bugle wake up call). I never wanted to wake up so my mom would eventually fling off the covers and threaten to dump water on my head. She never went through with this for me, but my oldest brother did push her to the limit a time or two and got a preshower shower.

People like me don’t want to wake up in the morning. This morning my oldest son, Z, was in my bedroom announcing the time and I knew I had to wake up but as I tried to pry one eyelid open a great force was causing my eyes to roll back into my head.

Lucky for me Z is the epitome of responsible. When he was almost 8 years old he wanted his own alarm clock. So I picked one up from the thrift store for a buck. I guess there is never a guarantee with used electronics but 4 years later it still works like a charm so we have definitely gotten our money’s worth out this retro piece of equipment. Since then Z has always gotten up on his own. Z likes to be on time, if I were honest I would add that he is obnoxious about it, but I am sure it will serve him well in life.

Child number two is not a morning person but after getting jealous of her brother’s super rad Radio Shack CD alarm clock she started putting in requests. The only problem is that she is deaf and although her cochlear implants allow her to hear she does not wear them at night. So for Christmas SJ got a deaf alarm clock.

This Sonic Boom alarm clock is from Amazon has a vibration option which has made it very popular in the deaf community, but hearing people use it too. I would recommend this alarm clock for anyone that is an extremely heavy sleeper because it does get LOUD when it is on the buzz setting.

For the vibration setting, it has a little round piece that is connected to the alarm clock by a long chord and you slip that part under your pillow. It will then vibrate at the time it is set for. This has worked well for SJ. I could also see it as an option for maybe roommates that have different schedules and don’t want to wake each other up. You can select between buzz, vibrate, or both.

J and I use what I am guessing is the most common alarm clock in the 21st century which is the cell phone. At night we plug our phones in next to our bed. I’ve wanted to replace this routine because I have read studies that have proven that we sleep better without our devices next to us all night long. The evidence for this is really compelling, but since we don’t have a landline part of me feels a little apprehensive about keeping my phone in another room in case there was ever an emergency. For the record, I do keep my phone on Do Not Disturb but I have it set to allow calls that are from people in my speed dial or if someone were to call twice in a row.

The truth is there is probably no emergency that I would need to be available for immediately and if there were something that I would regret not knowing right away then J has his phone in our room and all my closest loved ones have his number too. So I guess I am just making excuses. Maybe I’ll invest in a tubular high tech alarm like Z has in his room. I’ll have to keep you all posted on that.

 

So Radio Shack, Sonic Boom, and smartphones- those are our family’s alarm clocks. What do you use to wake up in the morning?

By | April 15th, 2019|Uncategorized|3 Comments

No More Babies


I haven’t been very secretive about the fact that we are done having babies, but I think for me it is just now sinking in. Elle was born when Ezie was 3 years and one month old and they are the furthest apart in age out of all four of our kids. That makes this a record! I would normally have another baby in my arms by now. For 12 years I was pregnant, breastfeeding, or changing diapers. Over a decade of raising babies.

Now I am raising CHILDREN and I have to admit I feel a little like a fish out of water.

I recently sold all of my cloth diapers and ergo carrier online and it was another level of closure for me.

We still own an umbrella stroller and a five point harness car seat, but other than that we have no baby items left at all! When I see young moms juggling a toddler and an infant it’s like an out of body experience because I feel like I am looking at myself except that’s not me anymore and if that’s not me who am I?

It’s a transition stage and I am adjusting. Part of me is ready to trade in my stay at home mom title but I can’t. I still have 3 1/2 years before Elle is in 1st grade which is when full-day school starts in our district. That feels like a lifetime away but then I feel guilty for even thinking about the future because I don’t want to neglect Elle and the time that I have with her at home.

Then there is the whole thing about getting older in general. I am now closer to 40 than I am to 30. My mom just turned 60 and I bragged on Instagram how she has aged so gracefully and has never been embarrassed or shy about her age. She has been through too much to take the years for granted. I want to follow that model, but this new stage of life is unknown and a little intimidating. I will be what our society calls “middle age” at the same time half of my kids are in middle school. Talk about a train wreck of awkwardness. Our whole house is going to be changing and adjusting and trying to figure out how to do life in our new bodies. I’m already dealing with the early stages for myself and so are my tweens! Just when I thought I had this mom thing somewhat down they flipped the script. I went from pacifiers and ABCs to deodorant and the birds and bees.

Not to mention this little side hustle and passion of mine (Messy Mom) is all about being a mom.  I will always be a mom but will I always be a mommy blogger? And I have always been cautious about what I share publicly about our family but now it’s even more delicate.

I know most mothers of littles are tired and looking forward to the land of no more diapers, no more pressure to fill out baby books, no more guilty time-out looks. I’m finally at that stage that I have admired from a distance for so long and here I am whining more than a two-year-old about how hard I have it. Allow me to backpedal here. It’s really not that bad. It’s true that the baby years are precious priceless times that I will cherish forever and ever and ever and when Google photos compiles a movie for me called “they grow up so fast” I am pretty much guaranteed to cry. I honestly don’t yearn for it though. I have zero regrets about our decision (which is pretty permanent if you know what I mean).

There is so much I enjoy about the elementary age. I love having kids that I can watch Shark Tank with and talk about margins and valuations. I love that we can go camping together without diapers or spit up.

We don’t go to the movies often but it is really cool that we can all 6 enjoy going to the theater together. For so many years if we did go to the movies one of us ended up taking a screaming baby or toddler out of the theater and missing half of it. Now if we go out to see a full length film as a family we can all have fun!

I only have one little one left that can’t get themselves up and ready in the morning. My oldest can even start the van for me (it gets cold in Ohio and I don’t have a fancy remote car starter).

When J and I had the opportunity to go to a retreat at the beginning of the year I could travel and not have a baby in my belly or at my breast. I am not saying that those things aren’t beautiful but I don’t think I need to explain why this evolution from codependence to independence is really freeing and rewarding albeit bittersweet.

So that’s where I am at. This is my heart on my sleeve and I am sure you understand because I don’t care what stage you are in we are all just figuring it out.

By | April 3rd, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

My First Three Months Shopping at Aldi

This year we are jumping BACK on the Dave Ramsey wagon and trying to get out of debt. We even earned our Financial Peace University certificate. I am already a naturally frugal person so it’s been difficult to find ways to save even more money. I have heard all about Aldi and how it can cut your bill in half- yadda yadda yadda. The problem for me was that it was a little further than the Walmart that I go to for my pickup orders and a lot further than the Kroger that is conveniently located 3 miles from my house. Aldi is 11 miles away (Yes, I am a baby when it comes to driving.).

So I went to Facebook to see if my friends could convince me to take the plunge.

I got 130 comments and for me, that’s a lot. 99% of these comments were positive. The general consensus was that Aldi is amazing but don’t forget to bring a quarter and your own shopping bags.

That settled it. At the beginning of January I tried Aldi for the first time. I’ll admit that the first two or three visits I was still getting used to the setup, but after doing a very thorough comparison to my previous receipts and budget it didn’t take long for me to realize that Aldi is worth the trip! Here is what I have learned so far-

1. Almost everything is cheaper

I’ll admit it. I am pretty obsessive when it comes to price comparison down to the price per unit. If the product tastes/works decent for us, the lowest cost per unit wins. After taking scrupulous notes and calculations between Kroger, Walmart, and Aldi, Aldi was by far the best deal. Yes, this includes sales. Olive oil spray, eggs, rice cauliflower, salami, zucchini, bell peppers- these items all cost a dollar or two less at Aldi!

And depending on sales you can find fruits, berries, and vegetables at prices lower than I’ve ever seen anywhere else. There are a few items that were the same price at either Aldi or Walmart (like baking powder) and some that were only a few cents cheaper (like 10 cents less for oatmeal). There is one random food item that I buy that costs slightly more at Aldi and that is sliced Colby jack cheese. It wasn’t by a lot but since I am still going to Walmart for some stuff anyway I go ahead buy the sliced cheese at Walmart.

2. I do NOT like their paper products

My original goal was to shop exclusively at Aldi and see how much I saved but I was so disappointed in the toilet paper I had to flush that idea. I can’t buy Cottonelle at Aldi so that went on my list of things to buy at Walmart. I use Walmart’s online grocery pickup and the minimum order is $30. For our size family though just the toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning products, bath and dental products etc. can easily add up to $30. Plus there are a few food and drink items that I still get from Walmart so it all works out.

3. I like the people 

While getting to park and have your car loaded is the best way to shop in my opinion, I have been impressed with the customer service at Aldi. Not only that but the people that shop at my Aldi are really nice too. It’s like we know that we are all weirdos shopping at this quirky store with less amenities. It’s like being a part of whole new cult  community. Everyone knows you work swiftly while loading your groceries and on numerous occasions I’ve seen men helping older women, or women helping moms that have babies with them. It’s really sweet. I kid you not I teared up once. I’ve also seen people let someone go through first if they only have a handful. And everyone knows if you are walking up to get a cart you can bypass the whole system by handing off your quarter to the person returning theirs. I don’t want to get overly deep about grocery shopping but what I’ve observed (here in the burbs) is that when you have to do more (like bring your bags or bag your own groceries) you see people working together and helping more. I’m sure that’s not true everywhere, but I am happy to report that has been my experience.

4. I save $50 a Week

For those that know Dave Ramsey’s FPU program there are two kinds of people- the nerd and the free spirit. When it comes to finances, I am the NERD! We use the Every Dollar app so I am not making up these numbers when I say we save $50 week or $200 a month on groceries by going to Aldi. I can track our monthly grocery bill from 2018 to March of 2019. I used to spend around $700 a month and now it’s down to $500!!! That includes toiletries, cleaning products, and over the counter medicine. Not only have I saved $600 so far but our pantry is more stocked than it was before. We have an extra refrigerator in the basement where I can keep some of the stockpile. I am confident that if there is a zombie apocalypse we could shut ourselves in the house and live for quite some time.

5. I can cut out Kroger

Most of the people I know that shop Aldi have another grocery store or two where they shop depending on their personal needs and preferences. I am fine with hitting up two stores, especially since one is online shopping, but I really didn’t want to juggle three. The problem is there were some products we consumed that we could only get at Kroger. We loved the Kroger Private select brand of coffee, and their soda water, and the meat is really good too! Now this is all just personal preference but I was determined to find substitutions for all of these things and I did. The only other kind of soda water my husband approved of was Mango Bubly. It actually costs more than what we were purchasing before, but as a busy mother of four I could not justify making an extra trip to Kroger to save a couple bucks so we are sticking with the higher priced soda water.

This also means I have to say goodbye to fuel points. At Kroger you earn 1 point for every dollar you spend. Every one hundred points is 10 cents off per gallon at a Kroger gas station, which is nice! I love racking up those points and paying rock bottom prices at the pump. When I did the math though it still wasn’t worth it. The maximum amount of fuel points allowed per customer is 1,000. So even if I did spend that much (which I don’t) it would be a dollar off per gallon. So on a twenty-gallon tank that would be a maximum discount of $20 per month. That’s a great deal, but since I save about 10 times that shopping elsewhere I guess I can get by without a discount.

Will I be committed to Aldi forever? It’s hard to say, but for right now I am grateful to have it in my life!

By | March 28th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

SJ’s Hearing Anniversary

When someone receives the cochlear implant surgery they don’t hear anything until they get activated. This happens once the incision heals and they go to an audiologist for the external parts (the processor that goes over your ear). What the surgery does is implant the internal parts in the head but these parts are useless without the external processor and even the processor is useless without the mapping. A mapping is when an audiologist turns the device on and customizes the settings for each individual. This is maintained periodically as sometimes mappings can change.

So when a deaf person hears for the first time by way of a cochlear implant that day is often referred to as their hearing birthday. It’s not the surgery day, but the activation day and it’s special.

We don’t actually celebrate SJ’s hearing birthday. I’m not against it but SJ’s path to hearing took a lot longer than we expected. She had her first surgery for her right ear on November 5th 2012.

Her activation day was right before Thanksgiving. We were eager to see her respond to sound and anxious for her to say her first words. We had our video camera in hand ready to capture the life-changing moment, but were left disappointed when she didn’t seem to really enjoy this new world of sound. Even worse, she didn’t seem to react at all.

In the office that day we were given a giant case full of all the pieces and instructions that went along with SJ’s new hearing device and we were sent on our way. SJ immediately rejected the idea of keeping that magnet on her head so for the car ride home I just held the processor in my hand and SJ was more than content to ride along in silence in the backseat. As J left the parking lot I started crying looking down at this “medical miracle” in my hand knowing that I was holding something worth thousands and thousands of dollars. I was so overwhelmed. What if it got lost or broken? How am I supposed to be qualified to deal with this?  Why doesn’t she want to wear it? At that point I had so much to learn about the difference between reusable and disposable batteries, how to adjust the magnet strength, locking and unlocking, using the dryer etc. It felt like too much.

“What am I supposed to do with this thing?” I mustered out through my tears. I wanted a practical solution at that moment because I didn’t have anywhere to put the processor other than back in the giant case which was in the trunk. I was also asking a deeper question: What am I supposed to do with this thing… over the next few years and for the rest of her life. As doubts and fears swirled through my mind I felt the weight of the world on me wondering if my daughter would ever be able to hear and speak and if not would it be my fault? J was dealing with the pressure in his own way and basically responded in a short tone that implied that we needed to suck it up because if we fail everything falls apart. A fight erupted between us and for a moment I was glad that SJ wasn’t able to hear.

I thought about all the videos I had seen online of deaf kids and adults hearing for the first time and it was always so magical. Here we were in an emotional minefield that was anything but magical.

After that, all the questions poured in through social media, texts and people in person. Everyone wanted to hear about the big moment where SJ could finally hear for the first time. I managed to put a positive spin on it, explaining how it wasn’t this instant transition but something we would see her respond to gradually. I left out all the crying and fighting and how our two-year-old pretty much hated the entire process.

We still had hope though. We knew that the cochlear implants themselves were only a part of the puzzle and that SJ needed teachers, therapists, and a team that would allow her to decode all these new sounds and learn to piece together her own words. That’s when we sought out Ohio Valley Voices, one of the greatest schools in the nation that helps deaf children speak. She started at the beginning of 2013 and had cochlear implant surgery on her left ear a few weeks later.

While I loved the school I was still anxious for her first words because her third birthday came and went and we had yet to really see much progress. Then one of the most gut-wrenching moments of the whole journey happened when some of the directors sat down with me to inform me that they didn’t think SJ could really hear. What!? I said. She just had a majorly invasive and wildly expensive surgery which by the way eliminates any residual hearing she did have. It’s supposed to be worth it because you gain the ability to hear with a cochlear implant, but even if she was profoundly deaf at least she could hear fireworks or loud music. Now she was down to NOTHING! We put it ALL on the line and I was being told she still couldn’t hear! They could see potential and effort on SJ’s part but something just wasn’t right. This news terrified me. The woman at the school explained that SJ could hear some really loud deliberate sounds like a chip bag being crinkled next to her ear. That’s reassuring I thought, If she is super hungry maybe she will be able to hear if someone has chips nearby. In all seriousness though, my heart plummeted at that moment.

The woman seeing the concern on my face reassured me that there was hope. She said “We think she could hear if she just had the right mapping. We recommend requesting that her audiologist turn up the volume on her devices.” Okay, I thought and I caught my breath a little. That sounds simple enough. We can do that. The problem was SJ’s audiologist was self-proclaimed “conservative” with mapping and didn’t want to overwhelm SJ with too much sound. I mentioned this to the school and they sent an email to our audiologist explaing why this was critical and recommended we get her ENT/surgeon in on it as well, which I did. Even then she barely changed anything.

After this very discouraging failed attempt, the director of Ohio Valley Voices had a special meeting with me and with an urgency she explained how the ideal window of speech and language was closing for SJ. I started to panic again. I felt like I was failing my daughter and had no clue what to do now. That’s when I was told that the audiologist at Ohio Valley Voices was going to take on SJ’s case pro bono (because we lived out of state at the time and our insurance wouldn’t cover it). This was a huge deal and showed that we were at the right school. They had a genuine concern for our daughter and would do whatever it takes to help her. They knew that we were living in my brother’s basement with an income below poverty level and they stepped in to help anyway. I wasn’t there when they remapped SJ but the results afterward were evident. I tear up just thinking about it. Between roadblocks with hearing aids,  insurance, and doctors it felt like it was never going to happen but as soon as I opened the door to see SJ after this mapping I could tell that she HEARD the door then she heard me say her name! So many times I went in to pick her up from the nursery at church and I always said her name before she saw me in hopes that she would turn and run toward me, but she never did. For so long I wondered if she would ever hear music, or animal noises, or the words “I love you” then all at once March 12, 2013 she finally did.

Some sounds scared her a little bit and she did (and still does) like to take occasional hearing breaks, but it’s been an incredible journey. She said her first word shortly after that mapping too. She said “up” because she wanted to go upstairs. I asked her to say it again wondering if I heard it right and she said “Up” and she pointed to the stairs with her little finger in the air. I couldn’t hold back the tears of joy. We waited over three years for her first word and it finally happened. It was a dream come true. And that is the story of how SJ heard for the first time.

Fast forward to 2019.

Spring break was this week so SJ and my niece got to do an overnight with my mom. While there, the girls started to explore some of her makeup and jewelry. The idea popped in their heads that maybe they could get their ears pierced. My mom called and asked for my permission assuming I would shut the idea down because I am such a planner. Except I thought it sounded fun. Why not get your ears pierced on a whim with your cousin?

While I was still on the phone my mom turned to the girls and said “She said yes”. Immediate high pitch screaming erupted!

It was so cute. SJ’s ears have been such a focus because of her deafness. They’ve been sliced, stitched, examined through MRI and now she literally has flashing lights on them. I find it interesting that here we are 6 years after her hearing for the first time and her ears were the focus again, except this time it was for a different reason.

This time it is all about her being a girl wanting to have earrings like her grandma. This time was so typical and sometimes the typical is extraordinary!

 

The photos are of the girls day out. They went shopping, had donuts, pained pottery and got their ears pierced. The text is what SJ sent me from my mom’s phone. I love how she spells pierced, P-E-A-R-S.

By | March 23rd, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Should Children See Birth?

My birth plan always included a photographer but did NOT include having my children in the room.

I didn’t think I would be able to focus if my other kids were around. Except I’ve come to realize that plans hardly ever go as planned. There was a photographer but no children present at my first three births and for my last birth all three of my children were there and there was no photographer. That’s another story. The most common reaction I get when people find out my kids were there to witness the birth of their little sister is “Were they traumatized?” The answer is- No. They were not. Neither was my husband and neither was I. My oldest son who was 9 at the time said: “I was happy, but I was scared, but I was excited”.

There are some things that make us uncomfortable as parents and we don’t want to talk to our kids about these things. When we come into this earth and when we leave this earth are two big taboo topics. I don’t think it has to be that way. These transitions are a part of every single person’s life. We are all born and we all die.

“For everything, there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die.” Ecclesiastes 3:1-2

Most of us know the Bible verse or the Byrds’ song or both.
Is it appropriate to talk about or expose our children to these heavy and graphic truths though? I think it can be.

These moments of life and death are sacred and they need to be handled delicately but as parents it is our job to lead our children.

I am not trying to convince any expectant or future mothers to have all of their children with them while they are in labor. I didn’t want to have my kids there during childbirth. I am wondering though if the stigma or the fear of being traumatized is warranted?  When it comes to birth, our level of fear or even disgust will be projected onto our children. I think even the tiniest of tots are prepared to understand the miracle of childbirth. The younger they have information the more comfortable they will be. Children that grow up on farms have a far greater understanding of sex, babies, and death than the urban child because they are exposed to it. A couple of the resources we used to help educate our children are the books “Baby on the Way” and “The Talk

Baby on the Way is for younger children and it’s all about what happens when mommy is pregnant and what to expect. I wrote a post about it called “Baby on the Way

The Talk is for tweens and it’s about exactly what it sounds like. Instead of your classic birds and the bees talk it takes a biblical and straightforward look at bodies, sex, and conception. If you are waiting until the teen years to approach the subject you are probably too late. The Talk helps navigate this tricky terrain by giving seven lessons geared toward elementary-age children that explain sexuality at a level they can understand. The book encourages parents to keep the dialogue ongoing and not just that one time talk. It has diagrams and gives websites and other resources beyond the book. My husband J and I have gone through this book with both of our older kids when they were around age 8.

The other day J was watching old home movies and videos on the AppleTV with the kids while I was out. He told me that there were pictures of our daughter SJ’s birth in the slides and I didn’t bat an eye. Then he told me about how she burst into tears when she saw them. “Oh no!” I said. I might be a hippie home birth mama but even I had wondered if maybe she was *gasp* traumatized seeing photos of herself as an infant entering this world in a tub.

Then J interrupted my concerns as he shared that they were actually tears of joy. She was moved in a deeply emotional way at the sight of birth. I asked her about it later and she talked about how it made her happy. I have never seen her cry tears of joy before. This isn’t a typical reaction for her at all.

Her response is what got me thinking about how we as a society have made giving birth such an awkward and uncomfortable topic around children. Some of that is inevitable because it is sacred and intimate. On the other hand, it’s miraculous and natural and I think kids can grasp a lot more than we give them credit for. Again, I am not implying that everyone needs to bring their kids with them to witness birth or hospice care. Although I support a parents decision either way in those situations. My hope is that maybe, just MAYBE, we can change the conversation and normalize some of these delicate topics.   Your children are probably going to meet you at your comfort level so I say let’s take the trauma out of a typical healthy birth.

By | March 6th, 2019|Uncategorized|2 Comments

What is a Reverse Mortgage?

Today’s post is a sponsored post from All Reverse helping you Ease Your Financial Fears with a Reverse Mortgage.

 

 

When you are entering retirement, you may have some fears about the changes that will take place in your life, including the change in income you are likely to experience. Finding a way to ease your financial fears is essential if you want to enjoy your golden years. One possible way to do that is by taking out a reverse mortgage on your home, but you need to understand what that means before you do so.

Reverse Mortgage Versus Traditional Loan Repayment Periods

The repayment period, or loan duration, is how long you have to pay back a loan. A traditional mortgage has a set repayment period, such as five or 10 years. Typically, the total you owe and the loan duration are used to calculate the size of your ongoing scheduled payments. However, when you get a loan from a reverse mortgage lender, there is no specified loan repayment period. The loan simply requires you to live in the home to which the reverse mortgage applies. For as long as you stay there, the loan remains active. There are no specific scheduled payments, which means there is also no way to accidentally miss payments.

Reverse Mortgage Borrowing Calculations and Regulations

When determining your eligibility for a reverse loan, one issue that is considered is the current market value of your home. That value is determined by multiple factors, such as whether you already have an existing home mortgage and how old your home is. A loan issued by a large bank, such as a Wells Fargo reverse mortgage and a reverse loan issued by a government agency each require a reverse mortgage calculator to determine what you can borrow based on those factors. Government caps on borrowing amounts are also factored in.

Government regulations also play a role in the calculations that determine the amount you can borrow with a reverse mortgage. The government does not allow you to borrow exactly what your home is worth. Caps are in place to prevent bad deals for borrowers and lenders. You must adhere to those regulations, which is another reason a reverse mortgage calculator is necessary.

How You Can Borrow with a Reverse Mortgage

There are many ways you can borrow with a reverse mortgage. You have to choose the complete terms of your loan when talking to your reverse mortgage lender. For example, if you have concerns about paying your monthly bills, you can request monthly installments of set amounts until the home equity you can borrow runs out. Alternatively, you may decide a line of credit better suits your needs. You can also select one large payment if you have an unexpected expense to cover.

What You Need to Do to Qualify for a Reverse Mortgage

To qualify for a reverse mortgage, you must be at least 62 years of age. If your spouse signs the loan agreement, he or she must also meet that requirement. The home itself must also qualify. You cannot take out a reverse mortgage on a vacation home for example. If the home consists of several apartments it may qualify. However, you must reside in one of those apartments permanently. Other requirements to get a reverse mortgage may include undergoing a credit check and using reverse mortgage funds to pay off an existing standard mortgage if you have one.

Reverse Mortgage Repayment or Failure to Repay

You do not have to pay your full reverse mortgage balance back as long as you stay in your home, except under certain extenuating circumstances. For example, the loan can be called in if you fail to pay property taxes. However, when you leave the home you must pay back what you owe quickly. Typically, you have a few months to do so. Failure to pay gives the lender permission to allow the sale of the home. Remaining funds are given to you if there is a positive balance after the loan is paid.

By | March 3rd, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments