Wednesday, December 17, 2014

He Calls Me Mama

His little lips curl into a Cheshire cat smile as he tilts his curly toddler head toward me.

Hi Mama, he says.

Our eyes lock for a brief second before he goes back to whatever chaos he was creating, and my heart leaps. Mama isn't just a word, it's a symbol that represents our journey. The journey of pain and hope, of grief and love, of tears and joy. The journey that has changed our lives forever.

2012 was not a good year. We experienced the loss of a parent, a tragedy involving another family member, and a difficult pregnancy that led to 6 months on bedrest and way too much TV time for my then-toddler daughter. May 22 was the day everything was supposed to get better. It was the day our son would make his debut and complete our family. He would be the catalyst for healing that would bind the wounds we had all recently suffered.

Junior came out quickly at 9:52 that morning, and he was perfect. He had an APGAR of 10, and had beautiful pudgy cheeks. He was literally perfect. A friend posted on my Facebook page: "Congratulations on the gift of a healthy son!" We had been given a gift, alright, but it was not what we were expecting.

That evening, a nurse came in to test Junior's hearing. He didn't respond to the sounds, but no one was too concerned. We had a follow-up the following week. He failed the second test as well, and he was referred to a specialist. One final failed test sealed his diagnosis, and we were sent home with a pamphlet entitled Your Deaf Child.

Crushed. Heartbroken. Confused. I had no words for my emotions at the time, but it wasn't a good place. I looked down at the infant who would never fall asleep to his mother's lullaby. Whose world was silent. The child who was supposed to bring healing, but instead brought more pain.

Over the months that followed, we saw multiple specialists and Junior endured more poking and prodding and sedations than any infant should have to endure. I no longer lived the stay-at-home-mom life of play dates, art projects, and stroller walks at the mall. Our days were filled with doctors appointments, therapies, and the impossible question of why my child?

After hitting rock bottom emotionally, we learned about cochlear implants, and found out that Junior would be a good candidate. The implants would not be able to replace natural hearing, we were told, but it would be a prosthetic that would give him the best chance of success. With this hope, we pushed forward. We met people from all over the country whose children had used cochlear implants to lead normal lives, and we jumped headfirst into the world of special needs.

On March 8, 2013, three weeks after surgery, 9 month old Junior's implants were turned on, and he heard our voices for the first time. He smiled the first time he heard my husband's voice, and we knew we had made the right decision for him and for our family.

It's almost two years after surgery, and Junior still spends several hours a week in various therapies, but he can hear us and he can talk to us. We may not have received the gift of a normal, typical, healthy child, but his unpredictable journey has given us incredible gifts we could not have imagined.

Hope. Peace. Compassion. Acceptance. Perspective.

Gifts that can only be obtained as trophies from a trial by fire.

With a typical child, I would never have recognized the beauty of the little things. The miracles. He knows my name. He hears my voice.

He calls me mama. The greatest gift of all.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

20 Household Objects for "Inventor" Kids

My 6 year old, Tater, is a natural born inventor. From the infamous "baby slingshot" she invented when Junior was a newborn (a prototype I did not allow her to test out), to the more recent new and improved "up-the-stairs-diaper-lifter" (a good idea, but not a particularly hygienic design), she's always been one to tinker.

Here are 20 household items I always try to have on hand for her when she gets a creative bee in her bonnet and wants to invent something. Putting the little, loose items together in a cute container makes it extra easy for her to grab when she's bored.

You'll be amazed what creative contraptions your child will come up with...the possibilities are endless, even with these common and somewhat random household objects. When your child is done, you can either toss everything or recycle the items for the next creation.

Most of these things can be found at the dollar store, and if packaged right, would make a really cute DIY gift.

*Certain listed items could be a choking hazard and are recommended for children aged 5 and up. Please supervise children at all times.

1. Rubber Bands
-all different sizes and colors 

2. Paper Clips
-the big clippy ones are extra fun

3. Bottle Caps
-save the caps from your water bottles and juice gallons for different sizes

4. String
-a ball of endless wonder!

5. Tape
-what is it with kids and tape?! 

6. Straws
-we love the big smoothie straws, although the flexible ones are useful too

7. Plastic cups
-paper cups work too

8. Paper plates
-extra points for colorful paper plates

9. Wooden Spoons
-get a pack of them at the dollar store

10. Single Hole Punch
-how else is string supposed to fit through a paper plate?

11. Markers
-for decorating the invention

12. Paper 
-for drawing a model/design

13. Wooden Chopsticks
-who knew!?

14. Paper Muffin Liners
-yes, really...

15. Empty Plastic Containers
-wash out those sour cream and yogurt cups

16. Popsicle Sticks (Craft Sticks)
-one of the best "creative" supplies you can get

17. Cotton Balls
-every invention needs a little padding

18. Metal Washers
-these are super inexpensive at hardware stores

19. Plastic Spoons
-one word: catapult

20 Aluminum Foil
-these turn into balls, wrap thing, become a cover...more useful for the kids than for me!

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Saturday, December 13, 2014

Money Saving Mom Guest Post

frugal christmas traditions

I have a guest post up on Money Saving Mom today, about my family's favorite Frugal Christmas Traditions. Hop on over and check it out HERE!

Simple Homemade Onion Ring Recipe

I love onion rings. So. So. Much. I don't have a gallbladder, so I shouldn't be eating them, but I really can't help it. Even my husband and Tater (neither of whom will touch an onion in their pure form), inhale these puppies. Sometimes, I even bake them to make them "healthier". These only take about 20 minutes to make, so you could even make them on a weeknight!

Simple Onion Rings
serves 4
15 min prep, 3 min fry or 20 minute baking.
adapted from Allrecipes
  • 1 medium onion, cut and separated into rings
  • 1 1/4 C All purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 C milk
  • 3/4 C dry bread crumbs
  • Seasoning Salt
  • Oil for frying (optional)
  • In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and salt
  • Dip the onion slices into the flour mixture until they are coated; set aside. 
  • Mix the egg and milk into the leftover flour mixture using a fork. Scoop batter into a gallon baggie and place coated onion rings inside. Shake until well coated.
  • Place the bread crumbs into another gallon baggie, and put battered rings into bag. Shake until all rings are well coated.
  • Place battered and breaded rings into a deep pan with 1/2 inch of hot oil and cook about 1-2 minutes on each side until browned and crisp.
  • If you would prefer to bake, place rings on a wire rack and bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, flipping once. 
  • Sprinkle with seasoning salt and serve!

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Friday, December 12, 2014

Book Review: The Uncommon Marriage Adventure 
While I've mentioned I'm a big baseball fan (and once threw out the first pitch at a MLB baseball game), I haven't mentioned that I'm also a football fan. Tony Dungy, former head coach of the Indianapolis Colts and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, has always been someone I've admired...both on the field and off, so I was excited to read Tony and his wife Lauren's new book, The Uncommon Marriage Adventure.

Tony and Lauren have been married for more than 30 years and have nine children together, (three biological children, and six younger children whom they've adopted), so they have a lot of marriage and family experience. They've also experienced the loss of a child, which is grief that few can grasp, but that grief has made them stronger in their faith.

The Uncommon Marriage Adventure is a Christian marriage book written for husbands and wives to read together, sparking genuine deep conversations and prayerful time's written almost as a daily marriage devotional. There are 8 main principles (with different "core practices" for each day) that couples work on in the book that spans 16 weeks. Tony and Lauren divided writing the entries. Some are geared towards husbands, while others are geared towards wives, though most apply to either spouse. 

Each entry starts with a title that gives a hint into the content for the day, followed by the "core practice", or concept to practice for that day. Then there is a verse, followed by a personal story, and then a practical application. At the end of every week, there's a quick summary with all the concepts you learned, followed by a prompt for praying together.

I really enjoyed this book, and it appeals to both husbands and wives. (Many marriage books I see are geared toward only one spouse). I appreciate how the Dungys expose their strengths and weaknesses, and give practical advice to other couples. They were real, and didn't claim to have it all together, even after 30+ years of marriage. I not only enjoyed the content and applications, but I also liked the layout. It was easy to read and the weekly summary kept things simple. Overall, I would recommend this book to others.

Thank you to Tyndale Publishers for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own and have not been influenced in any way.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Living Joyfully...Editing out Life's Joy...

On our recent trip to the Bay Area for my 30th Birthday, we were driving through a beautiful stretch of land in the Napa Valley. I had my phone out, taking pictures, and looking at each photo right after taking it. (Does anyone remember the 90s, and that loooooong week waiting for film to be developed, only to get it back and realize none of the photos came out? Torturous. Anyway, I digress.)

So, I was looking at one photo in particular, and started editing it while we were driving. I was oblivious while cropping and changing colors, etc., until I heard "Wow, look at that!" By the time I looked up, whatever beautiful view had caught my husband's attention was in the rearview mirror, and I had missed it because I was so busy editing a photo I had already taken.

How often do I do that in life? How much time do I spend thinking about the things I would change in life, that I miss out on the good stuff right in front of me? The "if only"s and "what if"s that plague my thoughts take away my joy in the now. I'm so busy critiquing things in my life that I don't look up in time to see the beauty before it rushes past.

Life isn't easy. There are things I wish I could change. There are really hard, frustrating, sad, cruddy things I've had to deal with. But, even in all the difficult circumstances, there are good things too. Things I don't want to regret not enjoying when I had the chance.

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