Beach Camping with a Large Family

 

We just recently got back from Tawas Point State Park where we camped with our friends for three nights. We have 4 children and they have 5 making a grand total of 9 kiddos ages 2 to 12.

I had never even been camping with all of my children so I did a lot of research online before we left.

We didn’t actually camp on the sand for the record, but we were right next to Lake Huron.  I pinned all kinds of hacks for the beach and the camp. Some of it worked, some of it didn’t.

I thought I would share the results here in case it’s helpful to anyone else considering a similar adventure with their family. Keep in mind I didn’t have a camera with me (other than the one on my phone) and I was busy watching kids and enjoying my time away. How some of these bloggers can have families and produce magazine quality photos of their food and crafts is beyond me! Anyway, pictures or not here are some Pinterest things I tried

 

  1. Hobo Meals

We did the campfire classic and it was a hit… with the adults. The good news is for the kids a weenie roast is always an easy substitute so that’s what we did in this case.

 

2. Walking tacos

This wasn’t a total success either. The Walmart we went to only sold an big pack of assorted snack bags so we couldn’t buy a bunch of individual bags of just fritos. We ended up buying a couple big bags of fritos instead along with disposable bowls. It was tasty and everyone loved it, they just weren’t the portable “walking taco” we had envisioned.

 

3. Skillet dessert

We had smores pretty much every night and those are always a treat, but one night I ventured out and tried this cast iron skillet recipe I found on Pinterest. It was yummy. One of my own accidental hacks was uisng sugar packets. I had them for coffee, but when I realized this recipe called for a 1/4 cup of sugar I was glad a few packets to sprinkle in.

4. Kings Hawaiian Sandwiches

The crowd went wild for this easy utensil-free beach meal that can feed a large crowd. I highly recommend this lunch hack for multiple occasions.

5. Sled

 

I pinned this beach tip where you use a sled to drag your stuff through the sand because I thought it would be better than strapping a wagon to the top of the van (like we did last year).

In the end the sled doesn’t really work for us because our beach includes a walk that would not be conducive to a sled. It’s a beautiful walk by the way. You even have a view of a Lighthouse.

Luckily we had several able-bodied little soldiers to help us get stuff out to the beach.

6. Story Cubes

This is a game I‘ve mentioned on the blog before. You roll the cubes and share a story inspired by all the images on the cubes. The kids loved doing this at night. We also had a cow mask that we packed. One night we gathered all the kids around the fire and I told a “legend” about a cow-man that has been spotted at Tawas point. At the end of the story J came out wearing the cow mask. I made sure it wasn’t too scary. We had tons of fun that night.  Campfire stories will always be a great way to keep the fun going after sundown.

7. Icecream in a bag

I haven’t tried this one, but I have friends who did. If it’s not convenient to make your own ice cream hopefully you are camping near a local ice cream shop like we were and then you can still put a smile on EVERYONE’s Face!

8. Rain Backup Plans

It rained a little bit off and on the whole time we camped. It didn’t ruin the fun, but I did put PONCHOS on my list for things to bring next time we go camping. Thankfully we had a tarp to put over the food area. We also had cards and games to play when some light showers passed by which was actually really special.

9.  A sheet

I saw an idea on Pinterest where you use a fitted sheet to keep sand out.

All I could do was laugh out loud when I saw this because with our rowdy clan I guarantee you sand would still get in the sheet! I still like the idea of bringing a sheet to the beach though. Sheets can be used for blankets, forts, a knapsack, or even a swimsuit cover. They are light weight and always come in handy!

 

 

 

10. A Good Attitude

I don’t have any more ideas for how to have a good beach/camping trip because the fact is, the kids were destined to have the time of their life whether or not I used any Pinterest tricks. They play at the beach, eat by a fire, AND sleep in a tent.

How adventurous!

How Cool!

What a fun time!

I’m sure they are going to treasures these memories forever. Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect camping with 9 kids. I’ll admit I was a bit fearful! In the end though it went great. One night all of the kids went off to their own sleeping bags in their own tent and one after the other put themselves to bed! Even the two and four year olds! I don’t know about your kids, but with my brood this is unheard of! All of the adults got to hang out and talk around the fire. It was awesome, until the skunks arrived. Actually, it was still awesome. They ended up scurrying along without leaving any stench. We all had a good laugh about how frightened we got and we made some great memories.

After all that research I did online what I learned most is that camping with kids can be an incredible experience. I would definitely do it all again!

By | August 3rd, 2018|Uncategorized|1 Comment

Inspiring Mom Kerry Howard

Kerry Howard’s childhood home life was what nightmares are made of.  She describes her stepfather as a monster who was both verbally and physically abusive up until she was 15 years old.  Kerry reflects on those darks time and shares,

“He was more abusive to my mother than to me and my sister but either way it was awful.  We were slaves in our own home”  When Kerry was only 8 years old she was expected to have a full course meal ready on the table when her parents got off work. When she was a teenager she was forced to pay rent to live at home. She started working as many hours as she could from the time she was sixteen. She finally escaped the nightmare by moving out just days after she turned 18 and knew that she could live on her own.

Soon after Kerry left home she married her high school sweetheart Brett and moved into their first home. They are about to celebrate their 20th anniversary! They have three children, ages 24, 16, and 13.

They also have a 5 year old granddaughter, a 7 month old grandson and one grandson named Brayden in heaven who passed at 19 weeks gestation.

 

Kerry keeps busy with two boys who are active in sports.

She also has a thriving career, volunteers and is very involved at her church.

Kerry’s favorite pastime is boating! She along with her husband and family love being in their boat out on the water in the summer months.

So how did she go from being in a toxic environment where she was told she would never be good enough to go to college or make anything of herself to living the abundant life that she has today? There is a lot that goes into it, but it all comes down to two words. She persevered.

It certainly wasn’t easy. When Kerry was 14 her mother finally left her abusive husband and they moved into a battered women’s shelter. Kerry was in middle school and was desperate for change. She felt a flicker of hope when her mother told the workers at the shelter that they were going to move into their own apartment! Finally, they could start fresh. Unfortunately, all of Kerry’s dreams for a new beginning were shattered when she saw her stepdad waiting for them at the apartment complex. Just like that, her mom went back to her abuser.

A year later Kerry’s sister became pregnant at only 15 years old. Kerry sister was 16 when she had the baby and Kerry was 11 months younger. Since Kerry’s sister was in and out of the house Kerry was pretty much raising her niece Kiley the first three years of her life.

Eventually, things got really complicated for her sister. She had three babies in a short amount of time and they were all taken by child protective services. Kerry who was only 18 herself (but was more mature than most 25 year olds) was ready to fight for her sister and her nieces and nephew. It was a long road that ended with her getting custody of her niece Kiley when Kerry was 19. Kerry says:

“I would’ve never dreamed of starting a family at 19 especially starting out with a 5-year-old ready to head straight to school.  Not to mention one dealing with being separated from her parents and siblings.  It was rough. We spent a lot of time commuting to visits with siblings and a lot of counseling visits but we did it.”

Even with being a young bride and mother Kerry still managed to beat the odds. Kerry was the first one in her family to go to college and graduate with a degree. She and her husband Brett bought their first home at 19, they are also doing an incredible job raising their two teenage boys. Kerry became a grandma when she was only 35.

She loves her grandbabies to pieces and is one cool Nana!  

It’s all pretty miraculous how Kerry has overcome so much and changed her family legacy. What is even more miraculous is how later in life her stepdad had a true encounter with the Lord and became a completely new person. Unfortunately, he also became very ill and ended up in the hospital. At the time Kerry couldn’t care less about his well being and had no intention of forgiving him or rebuilding the bridge that she had burned long ago. Yet Kerry describes this voice inside of her that kept telling her to go to the hospital, at least to be with her mom.

While Kerry was there the Doctors ordered an emergency surgery for him. She struggled with being there but she stayed to support her mom. Her stepdad came through the surgery but came out on a ventilator. Kerry’s mom needed to head back home to take care of pets and make arrangements at home. While hesitant Kerry heard the gentle voice again prompting her to stay. She spent the next 35 days there at the hospital. She worked from the hospital. She ate and slept at the hospital, only going home to shower. During this time they didn’t see a miraculous healing on the outside, but the healing of reconciliation was one that only Christ alone could do. Her stepdad apologized to her every day for her childhood and said I love you and thank you every single day.  It all happened around Christmas time. Kerry describes the scene:

“We decorated his hospital room with a little LED Christmas tree and when he felt up to it our boys would play connect 4 with him.  Now, remember he wasn’t in our lives so they really didn’t know him and I wasn’t sure I wanted them to but they grew to love him.  They got to know a great man, not the man I grew up with.  God had changed his life.  I never thought anyone or anything could change him.  Those 35 days changed my life too.  A huge weight of hatred was lifted off my shoulders.  He signed a medical power of attorney over to me to make all decisions for him and we discussed at length what decisions to make if the medications stopped working.”

It wasn’t long before they had to make that decision and he went to be with Jesus on January 1st of 2017.

Even with all the battles that Kerry has had to fight in life she looks back and says she believes that everything happens for a reason. “My childhood made me who I am today.  While I wish I never endured it and never wish we were poor, lived in a homeless shelter and later a battered women’s shelter, or that I didn’t suffer abuse, it made me the parent I am today.  My children don’t know what it’s like to be beaten. They don’t know what it’s like to worry about the electric being turned off or where they might lay their heads at night.  They don’t know what it’s like to have the soles of their shoes torn apart and taping them together and they never will because I have done everything in my power to make sure they don’t go through what I did.”

 

Kerry could have let her heart become hardened. She could have decided to become successful for personal gain. She could have decided that she’s put in her time for others and chosen to live for herself, but she didn’t. Kerry chose to love and because of that, she persevered.

By | July 16th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Tea Party 5th Birthday

Yesterday I shared the tea party decor, but that’s not what really makes the party. The party is all about the kids and watching their faces light up as they become royal princesses privileged to have the fanciest of parties! I LOVED seeing them enjoy all of the activities I had worked so hard on. You never know what kids are going to get excited about and they are not shy about telling you one way or the other. So I was prepared for any reaction, but what I got was sheer joy! Here is what the afternoon entailed- 


As soon as everyone arrived the girls immediately went back to the “Tea Party Boutique”. SJ’s older brother made the sign for the door. 

The sad face is because he wasn’t invited. He was a trooper though. Oh, and Siri helped him spell boutique. 

There were several beautiful gowns to choose from and a treasure chest full of hats, gloves, pearls, purse and best of all, stick on earrings. 

 

 

I’m telling you, it was the cutest thing ever. 

 

After they were all dolled up they sat down at the table and decorated their own teacups

 

They each had their own teapot too filled with apple juice. 

 

Then we tried our first flowering tea which was really interesting. 

 

You just place the “bulb” in the tea pot and pour hot water over it.

 

The flower unfurls into it’s own unique blossom right before your eyes.
 

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The girls were enamored by it. 

 

 

After that it was time for cake! SJ had 5 sparkling daisy candles on top of her cupcake and she grinned the entire time we sang Happy Birthday to her.
During the party I had a slideshow on the TV of familiar characters in birthday or tea party settings.

 

I figured the kids would get a kick out of it and I was right! 
 
After cupcakes it was present time and thanks to all the input from you readers I went with Fancy Nancy Tea Party for her special book this year.
 I also found some Fancy Nancy playing cards to go along with it. I knew I was taking a risk on shipping, but I did not wanted to pay for express. I figured if she got her book late it wouldn’t be the end of the world, but guess what? The package came right after the party started! I grabbed a box and some tissue paper and threw it on the gift table right then. What a blessing. It was all perfect. 

 

That was pretty much the end of the party, but the girls went back to the “boutique room” and played with SJ’s new presents. 

 

I came in to discover that the stuffed animals got in on the action too! 

 

 

 I know I’ve gone on and on about the party, but it was so much fun for me to plan and throw. I really got to go back to that place of childhood where imaginations are big and the world is full of wonder. I am really happy with how it all turned out. It was a wonderful 5th birthday!

 

 

 

By | July 13th, 2018|Uncategorized|1 Comment

Tea Party Decor

 
After weeks of planning and hours of preparation, the day finally came for SJ’s birthday party. Of course I wasn’t nearly as organized as I thought I was, despite my best efforts. We were still frantically setting up when the first guest arrived and I didn’t manage to get all of the decorations out, but I should know by now that those things happen. The party was still a huge success and everyone loved it, especially the birthday girl. 
 
Today I am going to show you some of the decorative touches and tomorrow I will reveal all the cute photos of the girls having a blast with all the party activities.
 



I got this chalkboard at Michael’s and had the best intentions of learning to do some killer chalk art. Did that happen? No, but a homemade printable works just fine. I used the same teapot clip art throughout the party prints and you can find it for free at Pixabay .

 
This old door used to be the headboard on our bed, but we never got it set up in our apartment so it’s just been propped up in our hallway. I decided to decorate the door with a pennant banner, a wooden S that I embellished, and one photo of SJ from each year. 
 
 
Part of what started the whole tea party idea was this tea set that my mom has from Thailand. It’s never been used and we’ve always talked about having tea time with the girl’s when they were old enough. Even though it was there for the adults, it was a lovely addition. I even had sugar cubes, cinnamon sticks, and mint leaves. Oh so fancy!  



The best part of the Tea Party were the special guests that attended. I shared all about them when I wrote “Her Toy Story“. Each of the stuffed animals were propped up using pillows, boxes, and even baby highchairs. 

 
 Some of them dressed up for the occasion, and the bunny even had fake cochlear implants (two of the girls at the party are deaf). They each had their own playtime tea set as well.   
There was snow everywhere outside, but inside we were surrounded by a flowery whimsical atmosphere. Most of the items for the place settings came from Hobby Lobby. Their spring items were 50% off so it worked out great. I also borrowed a lot of stuff. Each girl had a teapot full of apple juice! 


 

The birthday cake was a tower of cupcakes decorated with flowers, sprinkles, and butterflies!

 
I posted the DIY cloud icing recipe HERE
 
Nothing says party like a tissue pom poms. Keeping with the theme of imperfection they were not the Martha Stewart fluffy flowers you might be used to, but they were festive. 
 
 
Most of them I borrowed, but I made a couple and bought one that I never managed to use (go figure). 


 
Lastly, I made place cards using some of the info in a tutorial on Style Me Pretty. Then I printed out the same name tags for the goodie bags. The bags were clearance from Valentine’s Day so they cost 19 cents. With SJ’s birthday being on March 4, I don’t know if there will ever be a year that her party doesn’t have something from a Valentine’s clearance rack.  
 
 
That’s most of the decor, although I didn’t even have time to get pictures of it all. As always you can follow me on Pinterest to see where some of the inspiration comes from. The board “SJ’s Tea Party” is where I pinned ideas for this party. 
 
By | July 12th, 2018|Uncategorized|1 Comment

Cincinnati Date

For my birthday my amazing husband J took me out for a little daytime date in Over-the-Rhine. We’ve lived in the Cincinnati suburbs for 5 years now (and I am from Cincinnati) but we rarely get a chance to go strolling along the streets with just the two of us, so this was a really special time. I thought I would give a brief overview of what we did in case anyone is in the Cincinnati area looking for stuff to do.

 

The first thing we did was pay for parking. It’s not hard to find a place to park and after that you are set because everything is within walking distance.

 

We don’t do hardly anything without fueling up with coffee, so our first treat was iced latés from Coffee Emporium.

Coffee Emporium is one of our favorite coffee shops in Cincinnati. Their menu has tons of options and the old historic building has plenty of space with comfy furniture if you want to hang out. My top three drinks are

  1. Bumble Bee with a Buzz
  2.  Java Jive
  3. Peanut butter Mocha Blended

From there we went walking without too much of an agenda. There are some really neat murals and fascinating shops all around.

 

When we found a place called The Rook we headed inside to discover what this “board game parlor” was all about. We had appetizers and Ale-8-Ones (a local soda that I’ve been drinking since I was a little girl) and searched for what games we wanted to play.

The walls are lined with board games all perfectly categorized by type. Some of them were just fun to look at, like the “Clarissa Explains it All” board game in the novelty section. We mostly stuck to the classics. We played a giant version of connect four, an old school memory game, and a dice game. J gets bragging rights since he beat me two out of three times. It was such a unique and entertaining experience. I would definitely love to go back sometime.

 

 

Afterwards, we did some more walking and shopping. We found an adorable little boutique called Mica 12/v where they have local and regional art along with handcrafted gifts.

J got me a mug with Charley Harper artwork on it. I love Charley Harper. He was a Cincinnati artist and I first discovered his work at the library four years ago. Since then I keep learning more about him and his work. I love my new mug.

 

Last stop was Quán Hapa an open-air restaurant serving Asian street food, namely RAMEN!

They had anime playing on screens in the bar area and a chilled glass bottle of water on the table along with a jar of chopsticks. I got the Chicken Katsu and J went with the Kalbi Loco Moco. This was definitely our kind of place.

 

Graeter’s was right next door and I do love their ice cream, but I was stuffed and we were ready to head back and relieve the babysitter.

 

So how did I feel about our little escape to Over-The-Rhine?

Let’s just say I was over the moon.

 

For more date night ideas check out “Epic Shows You Need to Catch in Cincinnati” There are some really awesome suggestions, one of which I plan to check out for our next date! I will keep you posted.

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By | June 29th, 2018|Uncategorized|18 Comments

Inspiring Mom: Kristi Capel

Today I am so honored to share my interview Fox 8 Cleveland’s co-anchor Kristi Capel!

Kristi and I met at Heritage Academy, a small private Christian school, where we were friends and classmates. With a smile that could light up any room she had always been interested in Pageants. She was extremely comfortable and natural in front of large audiences. She went from Heritage Academy to Evangel University in Missouri to pursue a degree in Broadcasting and communications. From there she went on to win the title of Miss Missouri USA and actually competed in the 2006 Miss USA Pageant! We all watched it on TV growing up so it was really exciting to see Kristi on stage. In 2008 Kristi accepted a job as a weather forecaster and in 2012 became morning co-anchor of Fox 8 News in Cleveland Ohio.

Aside from all of her accomplishments in her career, she is also a wife and a mother of two adorable young children.

It’s obvious that her family is her top priority and they bring her the most joy in life. Kristi is a wonderful example of following your passion without compromising your values and priorities. I am so excited to share this interview, so let’s get right to it.

Mess Mom: How does your family feel about having a mom/wife on TV?

Kristi: It’s funny because just the other night my husband Hal and I were at home and he said, “Hey look there’s your promo” and I laughed and kept cleaning. He said, “Remember when we used to get excited about seeing you on tv and now after almost 13 years, it’s just another day, just another commercial.” We had a good laugh. Of course I never take it for granted. I’m blessed to be able to do what I love and get paid for it. My husband has always been my biggest supporter and number one fan! He’s become used to the fact that I’m on television but has always treated me the same as when we met in college, and for that I’m grateful.

My four year old daughter Kyndal is starting to understand where Mommy works. We were in the waiting room at the doctor’s office and one of my promos came on and she said, out loud, “Look Mommy there you are!”

I may have slid a little deeper in my seat and put my hat down over my face a little farther, but I also realized that she was proud of Mommy and that meant the world to me. My son Duke is not even two years old yet and obviously has no idea. He just loves his Momma.

The viewers have enjoyed watching both my children grow up. They have been so giving over the last several years since my first child was born showering me with beautiful gifts. Some of my favorites are family pictures, or jewelry that have my children’s names or pictures on it, and the beautiful homemade blankets our viewers have poured their hearts into.

MM: That sounds like a nice perk! Are there times you want to blend in and have some privacy though?

Kristi: Yes, we have had to set boundaries to keep certain parts of our lives to ourselves and try and keep things “normal” for the kiddos. Hal is very good at making sure that happens. He’s very protective. At the same time, we appreciate all the love from the community on a daily basis.

MM: This is a question I have to ask myself or any mom out there juggling a busy schedule: How do you balance work life with home life?

Kriti: Balancing work life and home life can be tough. Wakeup call is 1:30 am with 2 hour naps in the afternoon, along with squeezing in time for the gym to get that baby weight off, and making sure I have the energy to keep up with a 4 year old and 20 month old little boy who’s always on the move. So my answer to that is my husband. He is a HUGE help! With his job, he can make his own schedule which is a blessing because mine is so crazy. I have a husband that helps out with laundry, cooking, and cleaning! If that’s not an answer to prayer, I don’t know what is! It’s not the best schedule, but together we make it work.

 

MM: What advice would you give to a woman (or even your own daughter) considering a career similar to yours?

Kristi: My advice to those who want to get into this career is, have some thick skin. This career can be tough when it comes to egos, jealousy, and outside noise. I learned pretty quickly, you’ve got to have your own back. Learn to enjoy what you do though, it’s television! Figure out what your interests are, weather, news, maybe entertainment and hone your skills in that area. It may be a tough business, but its also very rewarding.

MM: I understand. I’ve been given the thick skin advice as a writer. That’s something that doesn’t come naturally to me! I know you love what you do though and it’s so fun seeing clips of you on the morning show.

You guys seem to have a blast! I even shared your recent video of you dancing with legendary choreographer Derek Hough.

Can you share with us your all time favorite TV moment?

Kristi: I have three favorite tv moments and that’s when Hal and I announced we were having a baby Live on the show!

For Kyndal’s announcement, we surprised the other anchors with making cupcakes on the morning show and creating a mess leaving powdered sugar splattered on everyone! Then we served milk in baby bottles to wash it down. My second favorite, I can’t forget when one of the most beautiful buildings in the country, the Terminal Tower in downtown Cleveland lit up pink when I revealed the gender.

We now have a framed photo of it hanging in her bedroom. It was a total surprise! And my third favorite is when Dr. Oz revealed the gender of our second child!

What a cool moment we’ll never forget. I love how the station I work for, Fox 8 News in Cleveland, embraces our families.

MM: That’s so awesome! It’s been really exciting to watch you on this journey Kristi. Because I’ve known you and your family for such a long time I know how you love Jesus and are truly a light in your community. My last question for you is How has your faith impacted your career?

Kristi: My spiritual walk has always played a part in my journey to where I am now. I remember praying before going out on the Miss Missouri USA stage saying, use me for your glory. Let me be a light and example of you. Then I won and I was just as shocked as everyone else! I truly believe God opens and shuts the doors. I was looking to leave a certain station and job opened up in Denver. I knew it wasn’t what I wanted, but I was desperate so I said yes. As we were packing up our apartment my agent called the next day and said they took the contract off the table. My agent at the time, a big NYC agent with national clients said she’s never in her 20 years seen that happen. I knew it was God and I was relieved, but I didn’t know where I was going to find another job. In the end it all worked out, but it goes to show the workings of the Lord are always going on. You just have to be willing and open to where he’s taking you. One of my favorite verses and I even have it painted on my wall at home is Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

Thank you so much for sharing your story with us Kristi. You really are an Inspiring Mom and I know there is still so much more to come.

By | June 19th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Handmade by Dad With Love

When my daughters are the age to be considering marriage I will impart my wisdom on them about what important qualities to look for in a man. Don’t marry someone for looks or money, I will tell them. Instead, marry them for their ability to build or fix things. I’m totally joking of course. That is not why I married J, but it is a nice perk.

J fixing the brakes on my van yesterday

Since Father’s Day is tomorrow I thought this would be a great opportunity to brag on my husband and how he has used his brilliant ingenuity to make cool things for our children.

First, the horse seat.

The saddle was my aunts and she gave it to us for Ezie’s third birthday party. J crafted the wooden form to hold the saddle. He made it sturdy enough for all sizes and fastened the saddle so that it wouldn’t fall off.

Not only was it a hit at the party, but it’s been a great place to sit or take a ride to imagination land for the past two and a half years!

Next is the lego table.

 

This table was designed to be the perfect height for little ones and it has a border that will prevent legos from falling off the edge.

The kids have spent countless hours at this table!

Even today they play so well together building and creating. I know Legos can be played just about anywhere but this was one of J’s greatest ideas because it gives the legos a designated area.

They can stay out and when the kids are ready to play they can pick up where they left off. It was such a hit with our kids J made one for our friends for Christmas a couple years ago.

I think as the mom, this is my favorite of all of J’s creations.

Lastly, the sprinkler.

 

 

While it looks like it’s just a T sticking out of the ground, it is actually a really fun sprinkler for the kids to run around in. It spins on its own and drops of water spray out all over. It shoots water really far. The photos do not do it justice.

 

The friends, family, and neighbors have all had a blast with sprinkler and hopefully will continue to for many summers to come.

J invented all of these ideas and executed them without any kind of instructions or template. Maybe someday I can get some measurements and take some decent photos (sorry all I have is poorly lit photos from my phone for now) and we can co-write some tutorials together. Toys R Us may be shutting down, but Messy Dad’s toy shop is going strong. Honey, if you are reading this, thanks for all that you do. I love how you have used your talents and creativity for your family. You are one awesome dad.

 

By | June 16th, 2018|Uncategorized|1 Comment

Beautiful Day

I’ll never forget the day of  SJ’s graduation.  It really was a dream come true. We had been waiting for that moment for so long. I literally had a countdown on my phone.

 

She sprang out of bed that morning excited for her last day of school. We walked to the bus stop for her final busride to Ohio Valley Voices.

 

At home I started decorated for the party that night. I still had the old door up from SJ’s butterfly party and I covered it with photos and mementos from each year SJ was at Ohio Valley Voices. It is really amazing to see how much she grew at that school, both physically from age 2 to 8, and also in her communication. She went from understanding and saying zero words to being able to full-blown TALK. It comes so naturally to the rest of us that it’s easy to take for granted, but I never will. Not after all we’ve been through to get to this point.

As I was decorating I got a text message from Cochlear saying that her new cochlear implants had shipped. This was something we had fought for and had waited months to hear. I was ecstatic. The day just kept getting better and better.

Family and friends started showing up ready to celebrate. J’s parents came all the way from Texas. My family came up from Kentucky. Even one of SJ’s first teachers who moved away to Michigan came to the graduation. Our pastors were there and some of our first Ohio friends came to show support.

SJ did an awesome job on her speech! I cried. Quite a bit actually.

I have video but it’s too large to post on the blog. I’ll try to get it up on youtube later. 

 

 

After the graduation our family had refreshments and cake on our patio.  I felt like I was floating that day from sun up to sun down.

That would have been enough to have me grinning for weeks but it gets better.

The icing on the cake was that just before the graduation J and I were gifted an overnight stay in Chicago to see a U2 concert and spend time touring the city just the two of us.

I can’t even describe how awesome that trip was for us. All the emotions that I felt that week were the best kind of overwhelming.

My favorite part of the U2 concert was one little line from the song Beautiful Day.

Bono sang “See the bird with a leaf in her mouth. After the flood all the colors came out” and as Bono belts it out, bursts of color light up the arena. Obviously the line is referencing the ark, but it was very symbolic of the everything we were experiencing.

The flood was over and this was our rainbow. Just to put it in perspective, 6 years before that we were in thick of unemployment, pregnancy, living with parents, being on food stamps and SJ couldn’t hear or talk at all. We were in the middle of a flood just barely keeping our heads above water. Fast forward to the day I saw that song performed live, it was almost unreal. J and I were 16 rows away from a live performance by our favorite rock stars and then heading home just in time to watch our shining star SJ give a SPEECH at her graduation.  Whoa. This was the rainbow. We were seeing the results of God’s promises kept. He said he would never leave us or forsake us and there were times I doubted him. My faith was like a fleck of dust, it seemed nonexistent unless the light was just right. Thankfully another promise God says is that if you have faith even the size of mustard seed you can say to this mountain to move from here to there and it will. Nothing will be impossible.

I keep on thinking of Ephesians 3:20.

SJ’s graduation was something I had imagined and longed for for so long.  Then once the time actually came, everything unfolded exceedingly abundantly better than what I had ever even imagined! I know this story doesn’t end with a neat little bow and they all lived happily ever after. Of course not, but no matter what comes our way we will know that He is always faithful. It’s true, and I want to encourage you with that message as well. No matter how hopeless things might look for you right know God’s promises are true! He is able!

 

And just a little side note, the day I wrote this I saw a gorgeous rainbow.

Now I’m always going to think of Bono and SJ whenever I see a rainbow. You might laugh. I’m laughing too but what I will be remembering is that God’s promises are true.

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By | June 8th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Inspiring Mom Tiffany McNair

Tavis and Tiffany met in student ministry classes. They pretty much always knew, even before they were married, that they would want to adopt someday. Tiffany had been on multiple mission trips to Brazil and Tavis had spent significant time overseas in places like Tanzania and Kenya. They both had an unfiltered glimpse at what life is like for some of the orphans in other countries. Once they were married and had three children (Ian, Nate, and Clara) they knew they were done with pregnancies, but their family wasn’t complete. They were ready to adopt! They weren’t sure where they were adopting from but they were really hoping for a sister for Clara so that helped determine some of their options. Tiffany explains “When you adopt your agency will literally give you a sheet with little boxes on it and it’s a checklist and they tell you to check what medical issues you are willing to deal with, and that is a very sobering thing to ask what are we willing for God to give us?. You don’t normally get to make that choice. But for us, we already had a child with a bleeding disorder very similar to hemophilia, it’s called type 3 von Willebrand disease. It’s very severe and demands a lot of care. Clara was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and it was so bad that we almost lost her.” Since they were juggling two serious medical conditions with their own children they looked at the list from the adoption agency and they checked nothing. They considered it to be irresponsible to even try to take on more at that time.

This photo is from after the adoption when Clara had surgery. There have been many hospital stays for both Nate and Clara before and since the adoption.

 

I asked Tiffany why they chose to adopt from the Democratic Republic of Congo and she explained that the adoption laws are constantly changing as some countries open and close and the guidelines are very inconsistent. Currently, you can’t even adopt from Congo! So when they were ready to adopt she said “We looked at all the options and at the time it looked like we had tons of different countries to choose from, but once you factor in your financial status and then how many children you already have and if you have a request for gender or age it narrowed it down to basically two options for us.” The two options were Ethiopia or Congo and at that point, it was basically the flip of a coin, but they looked at Congo and the conditions for the orphans were so terrible they were moved with compassion. The cost of getting their child home was an immense amount of money. Tavis is an administrative pastor and Tiffany is a full-time homeschooling mom so just the financial aspects alone were going to take a miracle! Then they watched as God performed miracle after miracle. One time they turned in a significant payment (I won’t give exact details but we are talking thousands of dollars) and they thought they would have months before the next payment was due but they got a call two days later saying “We have a name for you but we can’t give it to you unless you can make the next payment and if you can’t then we have to move on and give her to somebody else.” They immediately knew they wanted that little girl but they didn’t have the money! The Lord provided though, and within a day the money was donated for them to give the payment in full! Tiffany told many stories like this about how the money came in and they received confirmation after confirmation that the timing was right and that they were the family this little girl needed and that she was meant to be their daughter!

The day they met their daughter (Livy) they were standing in the Cincinnati airport. There were about 5 liaisons each holding the hand of a Congolese child. One of the liaisons called out “McNair” and then they just handed her over. After all the paperwork and hoops that they jumped through it was that quick! They signed a piece of paper saying they got her and that was it!

After everything they had been through in the adoption process, they thought the worst was behind them, but they were about to find out that this was only the beginning of a very challenging lesson in patience and trust.

One of the first things they did was bring Livy to a clinic for testing only to find out that she was malnourished, had scabies, giardia, and tuberculosis and these things cannot even be treated at the same time. The medication used to treat tuberculosis will make the giardia worse. So you have to treat the giardia first before you can take out the tuberculosis and the tuberculosis treatment is a 9 month treatment. They had to give Livy crushed pills multiple times a day every day for 9 months and if you miss a day you have to start all over. On top of all the medical issues they were dealing with, there were the behavioral issues. Livy was lashing out in a physical and harmful way. It’s normal for there to be attachment issues with adoption but this was a special case. Livy was three years old at the time and still not making any strides in communication. Not only has Tiffany done extensive research and training for international adoption but they also have many friends who have adopted from 3rd world countries so she knew what to expect. The other children she had observed had caught on to at least some of the English language much quicker. Something was not right here.

At Livy’s doctors visits they had a translator for her and he couldn’t understand anything she said. He said she was talking gibberish. Six months into the adoption the behavior was improving but the language still didn’t come. Tiffany would call her name twenty times with no response. She turned to Tavis and said, “She is either the most disobedient child in the world, or she can’t hear.” They took her to get a hearing test and that’s when she was diagnosed with severe hearing loss. They began speech therapy with little progress. They worked on the word carrot for weeks and got nowhere. Her therapist had the audacity to say she thought that Livy had a “loose screw”. They knew their daughter was intelligent and that she deserved better so they did everything in their power to advocate for her. Over time this would mean fighting insurance to get her a cochlear implant and finding a therapist that would actually help Livy instead of making excuses for her lack of progress. Tiffany describes how challenging that season was “At this point, Livy had been part of our family for almost 2 years and still only had a handful of words. We had never had a conversation with her about her adoption or Congo because she couldn’t understand us nor could she tell us anything. It was a DIFFICULT two years. We knew we had to do whatever it would take to help her.” 

That was when they learned about Ohio Valley Voices school for the deaf (OVV). They took a tour and left both excited and disheartened. It was amazing to see deaf children speaking but the school was 45 miles away and she would need to go every weekday. Even then the conversation on their ride home that day wasn’t whether or not they would bring her to the school but how.

The one thing that they were concerned about going to the school was that it made the bonding process that much more difficult, but at the end of the day they looked at the overall goal which was that this child would have the gift of knowing Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior. This is when Tiffany can barely get the words out through her tears she said: “so we sacrifice four years of bonding to be able to communicate with her that we love her and that she has a Lord and savior that loves her”. They knew what they had to do.

The first year Livy attended OVV  Tiffany would bring the whole family everyday and homeschooled the other three children in the conference room at the school.

Homeschooling away from home wasn’t easy, but Tiffany was committed to do whatever it was going to take.

During her first few months at OVV Livy experienced an explosion of vocabulary and learned hundreds of new words! When Livy would learn a new concept, her teacher would run her down to the conference room so she could show them.

All four McNair children participating in the Christmas festivities at OVV.

The next year they sold one of their cars to get a more fuel-efficient vehicle and drove to the school twice a day. Over the four years that they were there their family spent approximately 1,605 hours on the road.

“It was all worth it” Tiffany says and adds, “A couple of years after Livy started school, I was tucking her into bed and she started telling me about memories from Congo, things I had never heard before. She told how the mamas would carry baskets on their heads and that once, some bricks had fallen on her. She has some scarring on her arms, feet, and legs that we think might have been from this. I walked out of her room that night with tears rolling down my face. We had waited 4 years to hear those things.”

A week ago Livy graduated from Ohio Valley Voices and can now join her brothers and sister and experience homeschooling. There has been a lot to celebrate in the McNair home as this next chapter begins.

On paper Tiffany and Tavis requested a child without any special medical needs, but God saw through to their hearts and knew that they were the perfect fit for Livy and that she was meant to be a McNair. The puzzle pieces are all coming together and what a beautiful picture is being revealed.

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By | May 31st, 2018|Uncategorized|1 Comment

I Wrote and I Wrote and I Wrote

6 years ago I learned that SJ was trapped in a silent world and had no way communicating with us. I longed for the day she would turn her head when I called her name or for her to speak the phrase I love you too. I imagined what her voice would sound like and the truth is it is different than what I thought it would be but it is so so beautiful. I kept thinking she might graduate early, but the school goes all the way to 2nd grade and she held out until the very end! Slowly but surely she did it. She met all of her goals. She’s ready. Life with fulltime speech therapy has come to a close. She has had to work twice as hard to do what comes naturally to hearing children, but she’s doing it and she’s that much stronger because of it.

I am a words person so I have to carve out some time on a regular basis to make sure I can express in words some of what I am feeling. Some people go for a jog, or paint, or even drink their emotions away. I write.

After SJ was born in the bathtub I wrote:

“I was in shock! I couldn’t believe that I was holding my baby! It seemed too quick, too easy, and too good to be true. After a minute of these thoughts, it finally sunk in that this was not a dream. I looked down at my daughter, my beautiful healthy baby girl and I welcomed her home.”- March 7, 2010

When SJ turned two I typed up a letter not knowing she was deaf. I wrote:

“For almost a year now you have been able to color, brush your teeth, eat with a fork, drink from a cup, unscrew lids, and dress yourself. It’s like you have the dexterity of someone twice your age, but you WILL. NOT. TALK.”- March 4, 2012

When SJ had her first hearing test I wrote:

“SJ went to the ENT specialist today and had her hearing checked per her doctor’s referral. I knew that this was a routine procedure for delayed speech. It was #8 on my list of things to do today. Simple as that. ” -April 12, 2012

When SJ had her next hearing test I wrote: 

“Eventually the lights came back on, the Doctor commended her for how well she did, then sat down to tell us the thing that, deep down, we already knew. SJ has severe hearing loss.” – May 07, 2012

When SJ had her cochlear implant surgery I wrote:

“As I type the words “The Surgery” I hope that I never have to use a title like that ever again and then I remember that this is the first of two.” -November 8, 2012

After surgery I wrote:

“In this past year of learning that SJ is deaf I have been building a wall. Every disappointment, every failed attempt at hearing added another layer to my wall. I have confessed to crying when she had her cochlear implant turned on because she didn’t react in the way I had hoped.” -December 20, 2012

As she learned to speak I wrote:

“Seeing SJ in the winter program could have been a reminder for me of how far behind she is compared to the other kids in her class. She can’t speak as well as her friends and she couldn’t quite muster out the words they had practiced for weeks, but still, that night as she stood up there and spoke into the microphone she was my shining star.” -December 17, 2013

When progress seemed slow I wrote:

SJ has started talking a bit more. We are at a place now where we can communicate our everyday needs to each other pretty well. It’s still hard though when there are so many things she wants to say, but I just don’t understand her. – September 30, 2014

As she was catching up I wrote:

“After she finished her assignment she said, “I tell  teacher I do homework by myself. Mommy, not help me.” I looked at her and said “Yeah. That’s right!” and she said You proud me. It wasn’t a question, it wasn’t Are you proud of me? She said it as a fact, because it’s true. I am proud of her. I am so so proud of her.” -October 14, 2015

When the finish line was in sight I wrote:

“This battle to give SJ a language is ending. We did it! She can communicate now! We are just tying up a few loose ends over the next year before she spreads her little wings.” -May 16, 2017

And after she graduated I wrote:

“Life with fulltime speech therapy has come to a close. She has had to work twice as hard to do what comes naturally to hearing children, but she’s doing it and she’s that much stronger because of it.” -May 25, 2018

I wrote and I wrote and I wrote my way to this pinnacle. Thousands of words poured into this blog pertaining to SJ’s hearing loss. It’s been surreal knowing how long we’ve waited for this moment and then to watch it play out like a fairytale ending is almost more than my momma heart can take. My little shining star stood at the microphone and flawlessly delivered her speech. The crowd clapped and cheered. We went home and celebrated late into the night under the stars. There was so much joy in the air and my heart was overflowing with gratitude. As the day drew to a close the extended family who had all traveled to attend the celebration got in their cars and left. The kids and my husband drifted off to sleep. The leftover food was packed up, and other than some decorations that were still hanging on the wall it was like nothing had happened. It was midnight now and the graduation was behind us. The years of struggle to give our daughter a voice was behind us. I sat down for a moment all alone in the silence. I did not write. In that moment as I sat there and took it all in… I had no words.

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By | May 25th, 2018|Uncategorized|3 Comments