Drawing Noses With Kids

I love art, and drawing used to be my forte. So watching my kids create and use artistic expression is one of my favorite things.

Z and SJ have always impressed me with their drawing skills, but I am their mother so I guess this should come as no surprise. Not to imply that I am completely biased no matter what they present me. Case in point- I noticed the kids kept drawing triangles for noses. I let it go and complimented them on their work for a long time, but eventually I saw all aspects of their drawings improve except for that dang triangular nose.

Unless you are drawing Phineas Flyn (whose name I just had to google) then there is no need to draw a triangle!


So one night I decided to dust off the old drawing skills and do a little lesson in noses. I sat all four kids down at the dining room table and showed them exhibit A:


This drawing of Mega Mind is great, but Mega Mind is not a jack o lantern.


Then with pencil and paper in hand, we began to practice. 


Step 1, draw the nostrils which look like commas that were flipped on their sides (or tadpoles for the younger kids who haven’t learned about commas yet).


Step 2 is to add the parenthesis around the nostrils.


Step 3 is to bring in the hook. This is the nose.


We don’t have flat noses and there are no lines on our noses.  What we are really trying to do is draw the shadows which would fall over a three dimensional surface. The hook can go to the left or the right, but to keep it realistic only do one or the other. One thing you can do to demonstrate this is have the child take a selfie on the phone with light coming in at an angle. Then allow the child to observe how their nose casts a shadow on their face.


Almost all of lines we see on our face are really just shadows. This realization will make your art work come to life!  

So there.


This isn’t award winning portrait drawing, but it is better than a triangle right?

Z did an excellent job.


I was really proud of SJ too.


Ezie looked down at his unidentifiable nostrils and said “Why don’t mine look like yours?”. I smiled at my precious little preschooler. I told him he was doing a great job and assured him if he kept practicing he would get it eventually.

A week later I stumbled upon this notebook paper.

I believe it is a drawing of a boy with some excessively large backward nostrils. Ezie had been practicing alright, but I was beginning to wonder if maybe I had placed too much emphasis on the nostrils. Who nose?

By | November 30th, 2017|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Wonder: The Books, The Movie, and The Real Life People


We’re Big Wonder Fans!

Z and I both read Wonder over the summer and fell in love with Auggie, his family, and the characters that R.J. Palacio created in her New York Times Best Seller.


It really hit home for me on a  personal level because not only do I have a special needs child, but I also have hearing aids. When Auggie describes his experience of getting hearing aids for the first time and hearing the white noise become quiet I knew exactly what he was talking about. I’ve experienced that! The part about genetics was really insightful too and describes our situation well in terms of deafness.

Z really loved the book and it’s perfect for his age group (he is 10). A lot of people have asked me about if there is any questionable material for younger children. There were a couple things in the book and movie that involve a tiny bit of kissing (the older sister and her boyfriend) or a secular worldview implying that what we experience is all because of the universe. None of it was heavy or pushy at all, but if you are really sensitive to stuff like that, as I can be, it’s nice to know about it ahead of time. Also, the book talks briefly about girls who are flat. It was so subtle I wasn’t even sure if they were referring to girls chests or not, but it is in there. Nothing shocking I can assure you!

We loved the book so much Z was the one that begged me to check out Auggie and Me.


Wonder is written from different perspectives throughout the book. Auggie and Me is not a sequel but it gives more side stories that are related to the book. I personally LOVED Auggie and Me. Julian’s story was incredible. It was so heartfelt and deep. I won’t give any spoilers but it brought up some great discussions for Z and I. Some of the parts he brushed over and didn’t really get as emotional about allowed me to explain to him what happened in this part of our world’s history, why it was so horrific and why we need to remember the lives lost.

Okay, next up is Wonder Boy.


When I saw that 20/20 was doing a segment about a real boy that had the same kind of cranial deformities as Auggie I knew I wanted Z to see it. I warned him that while the movie was fake and made up by Hollywood costumes and makeup, the disorder is real and this is what it really looks like to be impacted by it. The show was extremely touching and informative. I learned a lot from watching it and if you have some kind of cable provider you can still watch the segment online. It is really good!

Lastly, Z and I had our annual mother-son outing on Sunday. We’ve been counting down the days until we could see Wonder on the big screen.img_0500

 I’ll be honest, the whole movie from start to finish was one giant tear fest for me.


I cried probably a dozen times. I don’t think other people will cry that much but it really affected me. The very first part is about Auggie going to mainstream school for the first time in his life and how nervous his mom is. In just 9 months I am going to be in that same position sending SJ to mainstream school for the first time in her life, so that scene hit me like a ton of bricks. I did laugh throughout the movie too and I clapped at the end with the rest of the audience in our theater. Z and I both agree that the book is better because there is just no way to cover all the material from the book in two hours. In fact, the hearing aids are one of the things they cut out. It was still a good representation of the book though. They stayed true to the original story.

At the end of the movie Auggie is graduating and his parents (played by Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson) are sitting in the crowd. Z leaned over to me during this part and says Hey! There is the author! I turned toward him a little bothered that he was interrupting another crying scene. What? I whispered back. It’s RJ Palacio in the movie! Z said pointing to the screen. Then I saw her too. I was impressed that Z picked up on that. R.J. Palacio’s photo is in the back of the book and she is interviewed in the 20/20 segment, but I would have never noticed her cameo appearance.

So I googled it later and wouldn’t you know I can not find a single shred of evidence that the author of Wonder makes a cameo appearance in the movie. But check out these pictures and tell me that’s not her!


This image released by Lionsgate shows Julia Roberts, left, and Owen Wilson in a scene from "Wonder." (Dale Robinette/Lionsgate via AP)

This image released by Lionsgate shows Julia Roberts, left, and Owen Wilson in a scene from “Wonder.” (Dale Robinette/Lionsgate via AP)



RJ Palacio the author of Wonder

If it’s not her, then it’s a look-alike that’s for sure!


Between book one, book two, the Wonder Boy and the movie, I think it is evident that we are pretty big Wonder fans. When my other kids are a little older I plan to introduce it to them too! 

By | November 24th, 2017|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Ten Ways Develop a Child’s Attention Span

10 ways to develop a child’s attention spans for long term success.


I just got back from Word Camp which is a conference for people that use the website platform Word Press. The crowd there was extremely diverse, but we all had one thing in common: websites, or more specifically Word Press websites.

One thing I heard over in over in the sessions was about the latest research on the attention span. The average attention span has dropped from 12 seconds to 8 seconds, which is shorter than that of a goldfish. The point of this information was that we have to have eye-catching designs and content that will grab our visitors attention immediately before they move on. We want people to stay at our websites and we have less than 10 seconds to make an impact!

While other attendees are nodding and taking notes the mama bear in me is thinking Let’s back this truck up. Did I just hear that humans attention spans are now shorter than a goldfish? And we are supposed to be catering to that!? This is an epidemic! Not just because I am old school and want everyone to go back to the slower paced lifestyle of the 1950’s. I am a major multi-tasker and I love my modern, fast-paced conveniences. I do have one major concern though and that is the selfish implications that come with short attention spans.

The selfie lifestyle.

The entitlement mindset.

The era of entertain me now.


That is not what I want for my kids and I think we can do better.

Phil Vischer did an interview 6 years ago about the effects of certain types of media on our children and it has always stuck with me. He says:

What we’ve learned through recent brain reseach is that the part of our brains that process facts and data can be trained to go faster, but the part of our brain that process emotions and make emotional connections can’t be trained to go faster. So in some of these cases, like churches where they are wanting to speed things up because kids are used to faster tv, we are discovering that while they can collect the data faster they can’t have a feeling about it faster. So if we are trying to teach kids values or help them have compassion for people in worse situations than they are we have to slow them down. 

When I really think about it, it sounds like common sense. You can teach a kid reading fluency or to do multiplication tables at a rapid pace, but you can’t teach them to hurry up and feel compassion! Our generation is better than ever at multitasking, but you can’t multitask true empathy.

That’s what concerns me about the lack of attention spans. We aren’t taking the time to pay attention! So I thought about how to cultivate an attitude of long term attentiveness in the next generation.

Please keep in mind this list is not for short-term attention span improvement. It is also not professional help for those with actual attention deficit disorder. I have plenty of loved ones, adults and kids alike, in that category. There is no shame in that. This is just a list that I thought would apply to my children and might be helpful to some others.

1. Discomfort

It’s easy to want to shield our kids from feeling uncomfortable, whether it’s boredom, not wanting to share, or detesting chores. I’ve read two books on this subject that I love. Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World by Kristen Welch and Cleaning House by Kay Will Wyma. I recommend either one.

2. Focus on Others

Putting our attention outward through community service or acts of kindness is a great way for children to pay more attention to the details and needs around us.

3. Sleep

This is a practical way for all of us to increase our attention span. On a side note, you sleep more peacefully without electronics in the room.

4. Exercise

Robert Melillo, a professor and specialist in childhood neurological disorders says “Lack of physical activity in early childhood is actually the biggest single problem that will hurt the growth and development of the brain.” Melillo talks more about this mind-body approach to attention span in his book Disconnect.

5. Passion

I’m not so stuffy that my whole list is going to be about diet, exercise, and chores. Help your child find what skill or hobby that they are passionate about! This is a great way to increase attention span in a healthy way.

6. Hydration

Drinking water has been shown to improve focus while dehydration can impair your attention span, memory, and motor skills. 

7. Reading

Reading helps us to use our imagination, ask questions, think about other points of view, and with practice can definitely lengthen our attention spans.

8. Turn off electronics

I’m not anti-technology at all, but this is the biggest culprit of our shrinking attention span and it has to be balanced. Hamlet’s Blackberry (excuse the outdated title) is a fantastic book about how technology isn’t awful and the addiction to it is not even necessarily a new problem. However, it does have to be balanced with time unplugged in order to get the most out of it.

9. Prayer

I’ve read a lot about using meditation to improve attention spans and I am sure that helps, but as a Christian I think prayer is even better! When we teach our kids to pray, they begin to process the world through communion with God which brings peace, purpose, and clarity.

10. Old Fashioned Playtime

Puzzles,  board games, dress up etc. The simpler the toys the more focus for the child. We have to tone down all the stimuli.


I admit I am preaching to myself with this list. I am the worst when it comes to going to my computer to look at my calendar and two hours later I have been on Pinterest, Facebook, and Email and forgot to ever even look at my calendar. I am also guilty of reaching for my phone when I’m  on the toilet for more than 12 seconds (TMI? Don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about).

The goldfish information was a wake up call though. The good news is I don’t think this situation we find ourselves in is irreversible. We can expand our attention spans and I hope to be the first to model this for my kids.


By | November 16th, 2017|Parenting Tips, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Inspiring Mom Amanda Huffman


With Veteran’s Day coming up this weekend, I thought it would be fitting to highlight a veteran for this month’s Inspiring Mom. So I contacted my blogging friend Amanda Huffman and she graciously accepted my request.

Amanda served in the Air Force for six years as a Civil Engineer including a deployment to Afghanistan.

She first thought about joining the military in college. She was experiencing a season of confusion and a lack of purpose during this transition into adulthood. Amanda’s major was in math, but she wasn’t even sure what she was going to do with this math degree when she graduated. So she ended up looking into enlisting in the Air Force because it provided direction for her life and it would also help pay for school when she completed her training.  Amanda originally set out to enlist in the Air National Guard. She was actually in the process of doing the required paperwork to enlist when she learned about the Reserve Officer Training Program. It peaked her interest and she went to an open house. Amanda liked what she saw and was ready to give the military thing a try. If all of this worked out she could still finish school, but with a scholarship. It seemed like a win-win! It ended up being a great opportunity for Amanda and she has no regrets about the decision she made. 


 When Amanda joined the ROTC program she switched degrees from math to Civil Engineering. Then in 2007, Amanda was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant and her job type was coded as a Civil Engineer. During her six years of service in the Air Force for six years she worked on various projects and programs ranging from environmental, construction, energy and her deployment to Afghanistan. Amanda’s role in the airforce is a little more complex than some because she was loaned out by the Air Force to complete an Army deployment. Amanda said she never expected to leave the safety of the base and interact with the people of Afghanistan and if you asked her before she left if she could do it she would have said no, but she proved herself wrong. 

Looking back Amanda said she enjoyed being a Civil Engineer in the Air Force. She describes it as a cool job that it takes you out from behind the desk and out in the field.

I can tell that despite the challenges and surprises of the military Amanda has fond memories of her time in the Air Force. I asked her what made her decide to get out and here was her answer:

When I was deployed to Afghanistan, I saw moms who had to call their kids and miss part of their lives. The whole experience of being deployed was difficult. And being away from my kids would have made the whole experience harder. My career field (Civil Engineering) had a high deployment tempo. The military has a 6-month window you can’t deploy after having a baby, I didn’t think that I could do that.

So, when I got pregnant with my son Luke, I decided it was time to leave the Air Force.

Another factor was the fact that Michael is in the service too. We never actually moved to a new assignment at the same time while we were in. This was inconvenient when it was just us, it would have been a whole lot harder with kids.

The best choice for our family was for me to leave the military.

Amanda assumed that after coming home from Afghanistan, doing the mom thing would be easy. She watched many of her friends take on the role of motherhood and they made it look effortless. It turned out parenthood was way harder than she expected and unlike the military it didn’t come with lots of training or a built-in support network.

While transitioning from combat boots to diaper bags was really hard, Amanda had kicked self-doubt to the curb before and was ready to do it again.  She remembered her experience of deployment and the feeling that she couldn’t face the unknown, but she did it. She adapted. She gave it everything she had and motherhood would be no different.

airman to mom

Amanda says that in the past four years she has seen a lot of growth within and has slowly adapted to mom life. She explains further “It doesn’t mean motherhood is easy, it is still hard, but I have found myself learning to give myself grace.” 

I asked Amanda if she has any advice for Military spouses and she said:

I think military spouses get a bad rap. People think they are along for a free ride, but military spouses play an important, vital role. Without the support of military spouses the military would cease to exist.

Military spouses may not be wearing the uniform, but they serve and make sacrifices. I admire military spouses and am right there with them in not liking the military some days and dreaming about what it would be like to stay in one place forever. Just remember that what you are doing matters and you serve too.


My final question was about whether Amanda could envision her children following in their military footsteps. It turns out that because Amanda’s oldest son was diagnosed with asthma when he was very young he can’t serve. Luckily, he has grown out of this diagnosis, but for now the current military rules still disqualify him from service. No matter what they choose Amanda says she will support whatever choices they make. She hopes that they will have positive memories from their life in the military and the adventures they take. The boys will be about to start high school when their dad reaches 20 years of service. Amanda wonders what life would be like without Military. It’s been such a huge part of her for so long. Then she shakes off the thought of it, there is plenty of time before she has to focus on that. For now it’s all about diaper changes, Disney Land (their favorite place to visit), and singing the ABC’s. 


I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Amanda in person yet, but as I’ve followed her blog and seen her passion for her country and her family there is no doubt in my mind that her boys will have the utmost respect for the military and all of those who have selflessly sacrificed. I am sure they already view their mom and dad as heroes. I know I do. 




The Huffman family is currently stationed in Southern California living the dream and making frequent trips to Disneyland. To hear more from Amand you can follow her blog, Airman to Mom where she incorporates stories from her past military life and  her unique experiences as both a veteran and military spouse. You can also find Amanda on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest.

By | November 6th, 2017|Uncategorized|0 Comments

5 Years with Cochlear Implants

This week marks five years since SJ got her first cochlear implant.

I looked back at the blog post I wrote about her surgery and it brings me to tears.


Then I look at the blog post about the time I had to fish for her cochlear implant off of the downstairs neighbor’s deck! I’m able to laugh about it now, but my heart still pounds a little just thinking about it.



Then there was the first time she muttered some hardly intelligible words into the microphone for the school Christmas program and I beamed with pride.


When I am old and grey I might remember this 5 year stretch as a blip on the radar of life. However, let me put it in writing that it was not! It has been a long 5 years. There have been ups and downs, challenges and rewards, but by the grace of God, we have made it to this very significant milestone.

What is so significant about 5 years?

1. It’s half a decade so that’s pretty big in my book.

2. She is in second grade now which is as far as you can go at her school. So this is her “senior year”. She graduates this spring.

3. The Cochlear warranty is 5 years and then you are eligible for an upgrade. You know how some people go berserk about the latest phone upgrades? Imagine that times one hundred!

For the record, the upgrade is for the sound processor. That means all the external parts which come off and on: the microphone, battery, and magnet.


A lot of people ask if she ever has to have another surgery as the technology improves and the answer is no. I remember watching promo DVDs from each of the three manufacturers that we had to choose from for SJ’s CI (cochlear implant). One thing they raved about was “backward compatibility” That means that whatever technology they come up with will work with the electronic medical devices that are implanted in her head. I know it’s very sci-fi but stay with me.

When SJ’s was implanted in 2012 she received the Nucleus 5.


The processor is hooked on her ponytail because her ear was still healing from surgery.

A couple years later Cochlear released the Nucleus 6 and the audiology world was abuzz with what all the new features would be. Some of SJ’s friends got upgrades. There weren’t that many noticeable changes except that it came with a snug fitting aqua accessory to make your processor waterproof. CI processors are like glasses. You take them off for “the three S’s”. Sleep. Swim. Shower. There are disposable baggies that you can order to allow you to swim with sound processors on, but they are pretty bulky so they’re hard to keep in place and it’s tricky to keep the right amount on hand for everytime you go swimming. Kind of like swim diapers, except you can’t just go to the store and pick up a pack if you run out.


That’s why the new aqua + was such an improvement.



The next time I caught wind of a new CI device was last year when they released the Kanso.


This is the same as the Nucleus 6, but instead of having an over-the-ear sound processor there is a round processor that attaches to your head and that’s it. I guess it’s more discreet. I was freaking out for a little bit wondering if SJ would want that or the traditional style that looks more like a hearing aid. J and I both decided to stick with the over-the-ear for a number of reasons, especially since she’ll be starting a new school and be responsible for all of her equipment. We want it to be something she is used to.

Now here we are at the end of 2017 and they just released the Nucleus 7 which is what SJ will be eligible for. The coolest part of this new CI is that it the first hearing device ever to be compatible with Apple products!


Okay this is where I geek out!!! I am a long time Apple user and it’s exciting to think about deaf people, including my daughter, being able to stream from their phones and iPads directly into their CIs and change their settings without carrying around an extra remote. The REALLY cool part though, the thing that makes me shriek for joy, is the FIND MY PROCESSOR feature.


You guys. This is a huge game changer.

Over the past five years,  SJ has temporarily lost her processors dozen of times. We’ve driven back to parks in search of a missing processor. We’ve gone back to a playmate’s house searching every inch of area she may have crossed that day. Or the story I already mentioned where SJ slid her processor through the crack in our porch. It is so stressful and these things are not cheap. We are talking $20,000. Yes, I meant for there to be four zeros. The good news is if your child flushes their processor down the toilet or has it fly off on a roller coaster (I know people who experienced these examples first hand) you get a ONE TIME loss at no cost.


After all the headaches and heart attacks we always managed to track down missing processors. So we never needed the loss insurance, that is until a few weeks ago. SJ was rolling downhill in a Tonka truck (one of my kids’ favorite activities) and when she came in that night and was getting ready for bed I noticed she was missing a processor… again. Ugh. So we went out looking that night. We went out looking the next day. We talked to the neighbors and they were looking. One or our neighbor friends even had a metal detector.


Despite our best efforts the CI never turned up and I had to file a claim for our one time loss. The good news is we are months away from getting new ones anyway so I feel like we already reached the finish line.

That’s life with bionic ears. It’s not always easy, but it’s definitely a blessing.


By | November 2nd, 2017|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Operation Christmas Child 2017

It’s already that time of year you guys. Two months until Christmas and two weeks until Operation Christmas Child. We’ve got our boxes and just need to gather a few more things to be ready to send them off. If you’ve never participated in Operation Christmas Child or don’t know anything about it go to samartinspurse.org for all the details or feel free to send questions my way. Every year there are some details that change to make this massive operation run smoothly. Here are some of the changes for 2017.
1. National Collection Week is November 13-20
2. You can find a list of drop off locations at samaratinspurse.org It’s so easy to find a place even though the list may vary from year to year. They are everywhere! 
2. No toothpaste or candy this year! I already had kids toothpaste so I guess I’ll be keeping those.
3. This year you can get official OCC boxes at Hobby Lobby for $2.99. That’s what we did this year. They are so festive and then the kids have a little “toy box” to keep!
4. The labels are available at Hobby Lobby, or certain churches/drop off locations or even sometimes at Chick Fil A! You can also just print out this label cut out which gender and mark what age your box is for then tape it on top of your box. 

5. One thing that hasn’t changed about Operation Christmas Child this year is the emphasis on prayer. I like to show the kids videos that are available online of what happens with the boxes and how we want more than anything to spread the love of Jesus and pray together for the children receiving these gifts.

I’ll never forget three years ago when we brought our little box into church and SJ (who couldn’t talk much at the time) started signing airplane because the logo is a shoebox airplane. The sign for airplane or fly when held upward is I LOVE YOU! I have the full story here.
Those are my 5 little tidbits to make this year’s Operation Christmas Child a success. For all other information please visit www.samaratinspurse.org
By | October 25th, 2017|Uncategorized|0 Comments

How I Got My New Converse Sneakers Using the Ibotta App

A couple months ago a friend of mine (a younger single friend mind you) posted this about an app called Ibotta.


“Sooooo, Brin and I are obsessed about a new app.

And okay, I hate when people post gimmicky crap or try to message me about the latest pyramid scheme. But this is one of those rebate apps and I’m super apprehensive about those usually…but Brin told me about it so I was like, well…Brin is smart this should be okay.

Anyway, I downloaded it and since yesterday I’ve made like $11.75 for stuff I buy anyway… and I’m not even trying. Like I could try, but I’m not.”


I figured that was an app for young single girls so I didn’t pay much attention. Then she posted this and I was intrigued. 



I am also very apprehensive about gimmicky crap and I don’t like to sell stuff for commissions, but since it was free I had nothing to loose, so I used her code and signed up. 

I started at the very beginning of September and got the automatic $10 bonus with my first rebate.

From there I just looked at what rebates were available in the stores I shopped at and I check off what I might be interested in. I have a grocery budget and I stick with it! I use some coupons and always look for generic/clearance/sale items. With Itoba I strayed from my list just a little bit knowing that I was earning money for some converse shoes that I wanted. I DID NOT go over budget though. I repeat I DID NOT spend more money on groceries in order to “save” money or “make” money.  

What I did do however is modify my usual list to make room for some items that I wouldn’t normally purchase. I like to treat myself to a candy bar pretty much everytime I shop so instead of my usual I tried the Oreo ones that had an awesome rebate. I also tried a new shampoo (which I really like now by the way). I added pork tenderloin to the menu because there was a rebate, but the pork tenderloin is something we enjoy and it’s a really economical meat. I can feed my whole family for 6 bucks with that meal. So you get the idea.


In full disclosure it doesn’t always go as planned. Some of you may hate the idea of worrying about rebates. The cash back may not be worth it to you. 


Sometimes I checked off rebate items then I got to the store and realized they cost too much and I was no longer interested so I didn’t buy them. Some items I could never even locate. One time I bought some sliced cheese and when I went to scan the barcode for the rebate it didn’t match so I guess I bought the wrong kind. That really frusterated me.

Even with all that I have managed to make $71 in less than 2 months!



I say earned not saved. When I go to the store I don’t deduct the rebates in my head. I stack coupons and sales and if I don’t want to pay the asking price without the rebate I will not buy it. I look at the rebate as a bonus, not a coupon. 


The minimum cash out is $20 which is not hard to get to and you can get it sent to your bank account through pay pals with no fee!


Or if you don’t want to mess with PayPal there are tons of gift cards to choose from. That part of it was surprisingly simple!

The video below is a very brief account of how I got my new shoes using Ibotta and keep in mind this is without any referals!


*I can’t get the video small enough to load, but you can watch it on Facebook*



I have since started getting referal bonuses including my husband who was amazed and jealous at my shoes and wanted to sign up! I told him he won’t get as much as me because I buy the groceries, but there are some other options besides groceries on there. Anyway with that said I certainly won’t mind if you do use my referral code *wink wink*. It’s cdwuljf and here is another link if you are interested. 


Ibotta App



One last way you earn besides rebates and referrals is you get bonus dollars here and there just for getting a certain number of rebates or if your team meets a goal.


I know team sound very scammy, but your team is anyone you know on Facebook using Ibotta. I have never talked to these people about being on my team. I didn’t even know that I had a team! I just clicked on that part of the app one day and realized not only do I have dozens of Facebook friends using Ibotta some of them have earned hundreds of dollars. 



That’s my personal experience and if you want to save up for some new shoes are Christmas gift for someone special I’d give Ibotta a try. Okay enough already. 

By | October 18th, 2017|Uncategorized|0 Comments

The Vultures in My Mind


First off, there are two things I felt compelled to embracing more of after reading Present Over Perfect.

  1. Feelings. To actually allow myself to feel the negative emotions I prefer to push down.
  2. Silence. I have tried allotting 3 minutes a day for a moment of silence. Key word- TRIED.

Recently I sat on the porch and I set my timer for three minutes. In this three minutes, I don’t pray, I don’t start going over my to do list; I just sit and feel. As I leaned back in my chair there was a cool breeze that brushed over my arms and my face. I gazed up at the slow movement of the August clouds. I felt such peace in that moment and I began to look further into the depths of the endless blue sky. I noticed vultures circling in the distance.

Que the record scratch. I sighed. Buzzards are such a buzz kill. How often do I point out majestic hawks to my family only to cancel my exuberance with “never mind it’s just a vulture”.

Vultures are gross. Even the Bible says so. They prey on the weak and sickly. Their ugly bald heads are featherless because it’s more sanitary for them when they dig their faces into a decaying piece of flesh. They have acidic urine that trickles down their legs and it actually  acts as a sterlizer after standing in rotting carcasses. Disgusting right? How do I know all this about vultures? Because I googled it of course, but the reason I googled it was because I felt God prompting me to look at the vultures with a different viewpoint. He was prodding me to see how important they are to the ecosystem and how they are one more fascinating part of the creation puzzle. They feed on animal carcasses, preventing the spread of deadly bacteria and fungus into the ground and water. Check out this article about where they are being poisoned and becoming extinct in India. It is NOT a pretty picture. When the vulture population went down the stray dogs and rat population went up causing thousands of people to die from rabbis! Vultures are like a flying garbage truck, not super cute, but very necessary.

My new viewpoint on vultures has led me further into my already altering view of my pain.

“It is terrifying: wildly unprotected, vulnerable, starring our wounds right in the face. But this is where we grow, where we learn, where our lives actually begin to change”

-Shauna Niequist

I don’t like to feel pain and discomfort, not emotional or otherwise. So when I feel anxious thoughts rise up I try to change the subject in my mind and just think happy thoughts. Yet, sometimes the thoughts are circling around in my head like vultures. That’s when I really want to just medicate with some kind of distraction like Facebook or sleep. However, in order to get through it, I have to go through it. I am just scratching the surface on allowing myself to have those thoughts. To really figure out what the root is and bring them to God and trade it in for truth. To say to myself I feel bad. Why is that? Let’s explore. Father bring captivity to every thought and make it obedient to Christ.


It turns out that often times these thoughts aren’t as scary and disturbing as I had always perceived them. They are just like the vultures. They get a bad rap, but it’s these unpleasant feelings that are often the catalyst for removal of the garbage I’ve been walking around with!

Ugly circling vultures indicates a wounded animal. Ugly circling thoughts indicates a wounded heart. Rather than detest or ignore those feelings of anxiety try letting them surface and facing them head on. Brene Brown says “You have to own your suffering or it will own you”

Maybe you are sad and you need to go ahead and have a good cry.

Perhaps you are lonely and you need to reach out to a friend.

If you feel like a failure, it’s time to reconnect with what the word of God says about who you are.

If you have regrets you might need to ask forgiveness.

Or if you are fearful, play some worship music and cry out to God.

What the enemy meant for evil God can use for good.


Vultures are still pretty nasty and I don’t want any metaphorical ones taking up residence in my mind. However, I will no longer shew them away and pretend they aren’t there. Instead I will unpack the pain and ask God in his infinite mercy to wash over me, teach me, and comfort me in the midst of the darkness.

It’s a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it.



Ruppell's Griffon vultures (Gyps rueppellii), Ndutu plain, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania, Africa Photo by Charlie Hamilton James

Ruppell’s Griffon vultures (Gyps rueppellii), Ndutu plain, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania, Africa
Photo by Charlie Hamilton James originally published in the National Geographic article “Vultures Are Revolting. Here’s Why We Need to Save Them.” .

By | October 16th, 2017|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Inspiring Mom: 006 Jen Hill


I recently had the opportunity to interview Jen Hill who is a personal friend and hero of mine. Her family’s story is one that will undoubtedly inspire. I asked her to take us back to life in 2014 and explain the events that unfolded and how God has been miraculously been leading and providing every step of the way. Here is part of Jen’s story.

The year prior to the summer of 2014 had been a fairly rough stretch for me personally. I was pregnant with our fifth child, and I felt pretty lousy for months. I was homeschooling the kids, and the winter just about did me in that year! Thankfully, as the winter turned into spring, I started to turn a corner myself and we entered into the homestretch of the pregnancy.


By June 2014 we were hoping for a break. My husband Greg was settling into a new career in health insurance an there was a hope that life might finally be settling down for us. Surely there were better days ahead.

On June 21, 2014, we woke up ready to conquer the world. Baby #5 was due at any time. Nesting was in full force. Greg had noticed that the riding lawn mower wasn’t cutting the grass well. It was decided that he would run the blades over to a repair shop, come home and get us, and we’d swing back to pick up the blades and head to Costco for groceries. I’m not sure either of us really know how to process the fact that those blades got sharpened on that morning, but it’s part of the story, and we’ve been committed from day one to tell the story authentically and with open hearts.

We finished our errands and got back home. I laid our daughter down for her nap, and the rest of us headed outside to do yard work and clean up the garage. The three boys were outside with us. Our youngest son, Jude, had always been Greg’s sidekick. Jude was a helper.

At three and half years old, he was just the right size to fit in Dad’s lap while Greg mowed the lawn. So Greg took Jude and they began mowing the lawn. Jude even fell asleep that day. We have the pictures to prove it. He was wearing Greg’s ball cap, completely asleep on his lap. I snapped a picture of the dynamic duo and then carefully took Jude from Greg’s arms and sat on the swing in the backyard with Jude.

Jude woke up and we chatted, waved at Greg as he finished up the yard, and made funny faces over our excitement for the fancy ice cream sandwiches that we had purchased at Costco that morning. The plan was to enjoy the ice cream as soon as Greg was finished mowing.

Greg was nearly done so I left Jude sitting on the swing and headed into the garage to wrap up my work.

When I heard Greg screaming I felt like the world slid into slow motion. I knew by the sound of Greg’s scream that our world had just completely and forever changed. Greg had backed up the mower to go back over a spot in the yard, and unbeknownst to Greg, Jude had run up behind him.

When I walked out of the garage I could see that Jude’s left foot was completely gone and his right foot was severely damaged. Greg, screaming, was running towards me with Jude’s legs facing out. Even as I began to scream too, and react to the horror before me, I felt the Lord speak to me.

As we worked to get Jude stabilized, Greg was beside himself. I grabbed Greg by the face and told him that God was writing a story for us. Bottom line. God was still in control. Who says that in a moment like that? I can’t take credit for it! God was faithful. It was a lifeline for us from that moment on. It’s been our only rest.

Because of that day our vibrant, healthy three-year-old son became a double amputee. We spent nearly a month in the hospital, delivered his baby sister on Day 26, and all of us went back home together on Day 28.


Those weeks were incredibly full. Full of emotion, trauma, questions, grief, joy, pain…

We determined right away that the only way we could get through it was to face it head on.

We initially opted to stay local for Jude’s prosthetic care. Some of the medical team that were overseeing Jude’s care told us that where we went for his feet didn’t matter. They said product options wouldn’t vary. Considering our context, especially with a newborn, it seemed like a no brainer. Of course we would stay local! Why travel if the magic could happen locally?

Naturally, this was a total misstep. “Where” we went absolutely mattered. So much so that I’m not sure I can emphasize it enough. His first set of feet just did not work out. We were stunned. What of all those well-meaning people that said “kids are so resilient”. Why was he not up and running?


We learned pretty quickly that the medical world is not a clear, set path. Who knew? We had to stumble our way through and persist to figure out what Jude needed and where he could get it. The world of prosthetics (when done correctly) is this beautiful mix of art and craft with the required technical knowledge. We feel like we took the long way to find the right setup for Jude, but when we found it, we had a deep, deep joy.


I’m very grateful for the experts that we rely on. However, interestingly enough, it has been other parents that have played pivotal roles in our quest to get Jude the right kind of prosthetics. I tracked down another mom, and with her input I was able to get connected to Jude’s awesome prosthetist, “Mr. Dave,” in Chicago.



The rest is history. Less than 9 months after the accident Jude was running and playing soccer.






He now has two sets of feet: an everyday pair that allows him to run and walk and running blades for when he wants to go “extra fast.”




Jude had the grit and ability to do it all along, but we needed someone to give him the right tools. That’s how we view his special feet. They are tools that allow Jude to be Jude.

So that was the prosthetic side of things…but what of the emotional?

Coming home from the hospital was scary. We felt abandoned by all the medical care we were used to receiving in a hospital setting. No one was in charge. We were in charge! And that felt a bit scary. We’re the type of parents that want to be involved in every discussion, every decision, every step of the way. But we felt like our safety net was gone, and the whole transition home was jarring. Those were hard, overwhelming days. We had five children! One a newborn. One a double amputee. Three that had been separated from our close-knit family for weeks. A grieving dad. A grieving, post-partum mom. It all felt over the top.

Somehow I’m writing this and it’s been over three years. We made it through that. Grace upon grace upon grace. I have no other explanation. Jude is a beautiful picture of resilience. He has a gregarious personality, he’s a gifted athlete. He loves Jesus. He’s still Dad’s sidekick and helper.



My brain is now appalled that we allowed the kids outside while the yard was being mowed. I can easily recall the insensitive comments by people who hear our story and declare that they would never do such a thing. But my social media feeds tell a different story. Lots of people do it. Even people that know our story continue to snap the pictures of their cute kids on the mower with Dad.

Honestly, I can’t imagine our mission in life being centered on lawn mower safety. I refuse to let that define us. We can’t ever go back and change the events of that day. Yet, we hope people will realize how many children are injured every year because of lawn mowers (thousands upon thousands). We hope people will keep their kids inside while the yard is being mowed. But more than anything else, above ALL else, we hope anyone who hears our story knows that Jesus is enough.




Suffering has made our world so much bigger. Strange how that happens! My social media feeds are much more diverse. We’ve had the privilege of traveling to special events across the country with Jude. We’ve met so many incredible people, from United States senators, Paralympians, veterans, and everyday heroes that are the perfect picture of perseverance and grit.




The people we’ve met, and the widening of our world, is an aspect of all this hardship that I’m very thankful for…it is a beautiful thing to behold.

In all of this I am also learning that trauma takes time. We peel back layer after layer, only to find more there. Three years out and I honestly still feel like we’re only at the beginning. This has been a tough element! We feel very weak. We’re tired. Finances have never settled. We believe, but oh, Jesus, help us in our unbelief!

Jude faces constant stares and comments. It’s a lot for a 6 year old! He has days where he’s unable to wear his feet, or he is sore. He’s facing a surgical revision this winter. We know it’s just his reality now, and he’s a tough kid, but it’s hard.




I’ve always prayed that our kids would love Jesus with all their hearts and all their souls and all their minds and all their strength. So convicting to my heart! I must do the same! We know Jesus is our treasure. I don’t understand why a horrible lawn mower accident is a part of this story. I don’t get it. I just know that Jesus is writing a story, and ultimately it’s not even about us. It’s about Him.

I read Weakness is the Way by J.I. Packer early on, after June 21. It struck a chord in me. All the words of scripture, Jesus’ life on earth, His example…it all came together for me.

This whole story is one of weakness. WE ARE WEAK.

But, oh friends, in our weakness, HE IS STRONG.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

2 Corinthians 12:9 English Standard Version (ESV)




Team Hill recently moved away from the rental house that they lived in at the time of the accident and became homeowners. Their lovely family has now expanded to a party of 8. Three boys and three girls. Jen still homeschools all of them and as their story unfolds their family motto continues to be “Jesus is Enough”

By | October 11th, 2017|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Our Family Pumpkins

This time last year I wrote a post about our compost pile. We really love to compost and we even moved our pile with us when we bought our house. One thing about composting is that certain seeds will reproduce if you don’t grind them up. I’ve never ground up anything in our compost and so when we had pumpkin vines sprouting out of the dirt we just transported them to a garden. That is how we ended up with pumpkins this year. 




They were a small variety. Not big enough to carve or do much with. We still enjoyed picking them and decorating the front porch with them though. The kids would line them up in order of size and there just happened to be one pumpkin for each member of the family. 


That’s what gave me the idea to write our names on them. All of the small pumpkins are from our garden and the big one is from the pumpkin farm that we went to last weekend.


Each pumpkin (and even my attempts at cursive) has its imperfections. I like that part though. It makes them “perfectly imperfect” for us. *Some of you This Is Us fans know where I pulled that quote from. 


I would love to have a bail of hay and a scarecrow or some other little finishing touches, but shopping and money are two things that don’t come about too often around here. So I just pulled out the old yellow rocking chair that we salvaged from the dumpster and added a few bricks that were already on the porch. The kids were eager to gather some pretty leaves for me. 


It all came together quite nicely I’d say. 


My favorite part of the display is that if all goes well these pumpkins will also decompose to make more soil and more pumpkins for next year. That’s one of the things that is so great about the fall season. It’s a time of death of course, but you don’t have to look hard to see beauty in it.




By | October 6th, 2017|Uncategorized|0 Comments