Archive - January 2015

1
Like Yesterday
2
Sledding
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DIY: Subway Tile Backsplash Tutorial
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» DIY: Kitchen Makeover for Under $250
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Fun with Tealy Lace (and a giveaway!)
6
Chiropractor: 12th Visit Update
7
How to Plan a Freezer Meal Swap
8
REVIEW: Surprised by Motherhood (book)
9
A DIY Year: Kitchen Tile Backsplash
10
“Snow” Day

Like Yesterday

The adoption process is difficult. Not just choosing an agency, doing the paperwork, raising the money… but navigating the ethics and using the rights words and preparing for your child to experience the sadness that only that kind of disruption can bring. The loss is great and I see daily reminders of that as I love my children through the hard times. But adoption is also full of joy. And today is a day when I get to focus on that part. Three years ago I was in Haiti. Not expecting to travel to Ethiopia for at least 4-5 more weeks based on the current court date system. But God had other exciting plans for us.

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Goodbyes are hard.

I left the team in capable hands and hopped the next flight home. It was time to meet our precious, sought after, prayed for baby boy. And oh the emotions. The grieving for him, the rejoicing in him.

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In all my life I’ll never know how and why and the ins and outs of everything that brought us together as a family. But I’m thankful. It’s been three years since these moments and it seems like yesterday and a lifetime ago. We love you Liam Alula. We are here through it all and I anticipate, with hope and joy, the day we travel back to sweet Ethiopia together. I love your birth country almost as much as I love you. Almost.

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Sledding

Healing can be really difficult to see when you’re still in the middle of it. When you’re parenting a child with sensory issues the progress is slow and often frustrating. And then there are days like today, where you wonder if all the work you put in throughout the year made a big enough difference to take part in a “normal” family activity.

Last night we received a surprise. A thick white blanket, just thick enough for a little sledding covered our neighborhood. After a quick morning visit to the chiropractor and a few throw-downs in response to winter gear we were finally dressed warmly and headed into the snowy morning. With two clearance sleds, scored on last year’s Target shelves, we crunched through the yard to the perfect spot. I waited for the screeching. I waited for the I need to go back inside cries that  dominated last year’s snowy adventure. The fear of the crunching underfoot, the fear of the glare coming off the snow, the fear of the sled’s motion.

Instead, we witnessed first hand what a year of healing really looks like. In a word. Joy.

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Lola Sledding from Calvin Ho on Vimeo.

DIY: Subway Tile Backsplash Tutorial

It’s DIY Friday! Is that a thing? If not, it should be. I posted our kitchen before and after pictures earlier this week and now I’m ready to reveal the super-complicated-very hard tutorial for the tile back splash. Not really. It was so easy, friends. Just a little patience and a lot of tile and mess will give your kitchen an updated look.

Project Cost: $210 (yours may vary based off of tile choice and kitchen size)

Total Time: 14 hours including set up and clean up

What We Used (and how much):
1. Speed Square
2. Wet Tile Saw (saw not included in project cost)
3. Measuring Tape
4. Tile Spacers (1/8″ for subway tile)
5. Pre-Mixed Grout (1 Gallon, various colors)
6. Ceramic Tile Adhesive (1 Gallon)
7. Subway Tile (2″x4″ in our case, various colors)
8. V Notch Wall Trowel (3/16″ x 5/32″) (aka Adhesive Spreader)
9. Red Rubber Grout Float (9.5″x4″)
10. Grout Sponge (3)
11. Microfiber Sponge (1)
12: Ceramic Tile Caulk (1 tube)
13. Scrub Daddy (for cleaning!)

How We Did It:

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First, we lined up our tile, starting in the corner, and measured (remembering to account for grout space) each piece we would need to cut to get started.

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Then we measure using this handy dandy tool (aka Speed Square) and made a mark (with a crayon!) to guide us while using the wet saw.

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We didn’t have a stand or table for the wet saw so it looked like we were doing beginner yoga poses as we bent over the saw trying to make straight cuts. I was a little intimidated by the wet saw but it turns out wet-sawing is super easy. You just guide it along patiently making sure not to push it through too quickly. Calvin cut most of my pieces because I enjoy being the “project manager.”

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We aren’t big fans of mixing stuff (seen too many HGTV fails) and I was hoping for less mess and less work so I spent a few more dollars and bought the pre-mixed versions of tile adhesive and grout. There are so many great grout colors now! I counted 17 alone at Home Depot. Our grout color is called Earth.

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With our tile pieces cut to size and my adhesive spreader in hand I began the project. I did lightly sand the wall before applying. You simply spread the adhesive onto the wall with the smooth side of the trowel and then makes grooves in the adhesive with the notched side of the trowel. It looks very pretty. Then carefully stick the tile onto the wall and press with a clean grout float. This helps the tile adhere evenly. As you can see, we removed the outlet covers (make sure you turn the breakers off, too) and tiled right around them. Make sure to tile around the screws so that you can loosen and remove the outlets if you ever need to. In order to put the outlet covers back on, flush with the tile, you will likely have to loosen the outlet boxes and pull them forward a bit.

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So much messiness here. Don’t worry, it all comes off the tile. As you can see, we placed grout spacers under the bottom row as we went. This creates a space for the grout and caulk along the bottom. We also used tile spacers when we cut tiles or tiled around the outlets. You want to make sure the spacing and pattern stays the same throughout. Pay attention to your pattern and lay things out on the counter as you go to avoid pattern mistakes. You’ll also notice that there is a line on the right side. I used a level to draw a line where the tile needed to end. It was like my little finish line. At this point we measured and cut the tile that would complete this row.

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Notice the bottom row beneath the outlet covers. We cut the tile slightly to fit around the screws. Don’t tile over the screws. Trust us.

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After the tile is up, looking pretty, use a damp sponge to wipe off the excess tile adhesive. Don’t scrub, the tiles can still shift if the adhesive hasn’t dried. Save the scrubbing for later when everything has set. The tile needs to set for 24-48 hours before grouting. We waited about 30 hours and then went to work.

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Remove all spacers from the tile before grouting. Then, holding the float at a 45 degree angle spread the grout and press it into the spaces between the tiles. You need to clean as you go. So do a small section, then wipe the grout away with water and a sponge. You’ll need a large bucket of water to continually rinse and ring out your sponge. We, unfortunately, don’t have pictures of the grout cleaning… because it was wet and messy and iPhones don’t jive with that scene. I promise, just get your wet sponge and wipe over the tile in a circular motion. The grout will stay in the cracks but come off of the tile. Once everything has been grouted double check to ensure that all cracks, lines etc. are properly filled. Then the grout will need to set about 4 hours before removing the grout haze. They make grout haze removers but we used water and white vinegar and it worked perfectly.

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After everything was clean and dry we used Ceramic Tile Caulk on the ends of the tile rows and bottom, where the tile area meets the counters. You could also use sanded tile caulk as well. This will need to set for several hours again, so order take out for the third time and you’ll be set.

I had a great time with this project and it made such a big change in our kitchen. If you’ve been procrastinating just go for it! It’s a great, inexpensive change to start out the New Year.

Are you planning a back splash project? I would love to hear about it or see pictures! I’ve already got a stack of tile I found on closeout waiting in the upstairs bathroom, we can tile along together.

» DIY: Kitchen Makeover for Under $250

We purchased our current home 2 years ago as we anticipated the homecoming of our fourth child. It truly is my version of a dream home. Colonial style, traditional touches throughout and a cozy sitting room with a fireplace. When we moved in I waited patiently and did little updates as we could, which is totally out of character for me. I can be a bit of a bulldozer with projects and sometimes I end up with things that I don’t really like. So this time, with this house I love, I was much more careful with my decisions.

The kitchen project was a must, I spend 75% of my time in there. It’s the hub of the house. Which is exactly what I want. A kitchen remodel was not in the budget and really not necessary. The cabinets were sturdy and changing the layout of the kitchen wasn’t a priority. I decided that paint, back splash, hardware and more paint were the keys to lifting the mood in the dark kitchen. Here are the before pictures.

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I chose to use Annie Sloan Chalk paint in Old Ochre to repaint the cabinets. Originally I decided to go for the two-tone look and left the bottoms black but recently painted the lower cabinets with Old Ochre as well.

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Mass Chaos I tell you. It’s worth it in the end but I don’t love being the mom that keeps saying “please don’t touch anything in the kitchen” all day long. But hey, it’s one day and we got to eat Blue Coast Burrito since the kitchen was out of commission and it was $1.99 kids meal night.

Now it was time for the back splash fun to begin. A full tutorial will be up on Friday but for now I’m just going to share the beautiful results. We chose a simple white subway tile and grouted with Earth colored pre-mixed grout. I’m in love with the results. (and the black ovens… well… they are on their last leg so I’m stalking the whole town for a crazy good deal)

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So, once again, I’m spending all my time in the kitchen. But I’m really really enjoying it right now. I can’t wait to share how we accomplished this look on Friday, hopefully you’ll be inspired to pick up a paint brush (and a grout float) and have some fun!

And just for kicks, here is one more side by side view of the before and after:
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Fun with Tealy Lace (and a giveaway!)

Sometimes it’s nice to just take a break and have some fun. That’s why we were so thrilled to hang out with our new friends at Tealy Lace boutique this weekend. My girls had a fabulous time trying on and modeling some of the new items for the online boutique. And as a frugal mom I was impressed with the quality and prices for such unique items.

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Whitney, the store owner and operator, is a mom herself. She loves dressing  her daughter in boutique clothing but admits that she doesn’t like paying a lot for children’s clothing either. This is what, in my opinion, makes Tealy Lace a great success. A hardworking mom who knows current girls fashion trends and does her best to provide those trends at the best prices.

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In addition to girls fashions Whitney has recently added women’s clothing to their online boutique as well. I was particularly excited to see longer, tunic style shirts that could be worn over leggings. The shop will even begin to carry a few “Mommy and Me” styles that fashion-savvy moms and daughters will really enjoy. The girls were probably the most excited about the large container of hair accessories that Whitney brought along. It was hard to pull them away!

13Here’s just a glimpse of the many styles (these are my iphone photos) available over at Tealy Lace. Whitney is also gracious enough to do a $25 gift card giveaway. Be sure to enter, entries can be submitted until this Wednesday at midnight and I will announce the winner on Thursday. Scroll to the bottom to enter!

Special Code for Goodbye Normal Readers (15% off): GOODBYENORMAL15

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Enter the Giveaway Here! (mobile users may be taken to a new window)

Chiropractor: 12th Visit Update

If you have been following our quest to help Lola heal you’ll know that we’ve started seeing a chiropractor to help with her ADHD and impulse issues. Last night was our 12th visit. On the 12th visit you typically review new x-rays to check for progress, review symptoms, talk about nutrition and determine whether the care is beginning to help. In our case we were able to report a huge decrease in nervous movement and better sleep patterns. Lola is eating well so we did not need to address nutrition issues but Dr. Ben did advise to cut bananas out of morning meals as they cause a spike in blood sugar in such a small person. We are focusing on proteins like eggs and nuts. Her typical meals are high protein, green vegetables, low carbs and no dairy. We are also going to add an Organic Chlorella detox that lasts for 45 days. The chlorella binds and removes toxic heavy metal from the body, metals that Lola had high exposure to before coming home.

They say seeing is believing and I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the difference in her first and second set of x-rays. The yellow circle highlights the area of improvement.

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 The spinal column is no longer jammed into the base of her skull. Dr. Ben and I were both pretty excited to see such quick results. She is responding really well to the adjustments. The earrings showing through on the X-ray are also a nice touch! I’ll continue to update on Lola’s progress and share my thoughts on the care we are receiving. So far we have nothing but love for this new addition to our lives and routine.

How to Plan a Freezer Meal Swap

It’s slightly ironic that I’m sharing how to plan a freezer meal swap. I have turned down more than one offer to join. But my sweet, persistent friend Jennifer continued to throw out the idea and I finally, reluctantly agreed. After participating in my first swap I’m totally hooked and can’t wait for the next meet up.

Here are a few guidelines and tips that will help you start your very own freezer meal swap.

First off, gather some like-minded ladies. This is key to receiving and sharing meals that are healthy and nutritious. Talk about allergies or extreme, kids will gag and puke on the table dislikes. Perhaps the majority would prefer no mushroom dishes, cool, just include them separately or avoid mushroom dishes completely. Basically, discuss some ground rules, and check out Pinterest together for ideas.

Once you have established some guidelines pick a date to swap. Ask everyone to email the dish they will be making and the recipe one week before the swap. This ensures that no double recipes will be cooked and also provides room for changes if necessary.

During the week before the swap each participant will cook enough of the selected meal for each family in the group plus one to freeze for themselves. This is typically done in one afternoon. Example: This week I made Chicken Fried Rice, 8 meals total, kept one in my freezer (actually my kids ate it) and took 7 to the swap. I did this on a Saturday morning while Calvin kept the kids occupied.

Remember, freezer cooking has come a LONG way! You can make lasagna, burritos, chilli, sesame chicken, shepherds pie… the recipes are endless. There is much room for creativity and variety within the group.

On swap day plan to meet at one house. Swap day could happen once per month, or perhaps once every two months. Everyone brings their frozen dishes, socializes for a few minutes and then the fun begins. At our swap, each super-amazing mom described her dish and how to reheat it. The directions are also either printed out or written directly onto the dish. This is very important, make sure to label everything! You don’t want to end up with a freezer full of blank aluminum-wrapped mysteries.

Tips for swap day:

Bring your frozen creations in a tub or large tote. You don’t want to take a million trips to and from the car with heavy, frozen blocks of food. One tub, one trip, no problems. You will then have the empty tub or bag after unloading your meals. Load it back up with fabulous foods from your friends (I couldn’t resist the alliteration there) and you are set for another one trip return to your car.

Make sure to label everything ahead of time. Trying to label a cold frosty bag or container just won’t work. And you’ll have to write a little note with a heart on it so your friend will forgive you for giving her an unlabeled bag. (sorry Jenn!)

So. Why should you start a freezer swap? Well, why not! Spend a couple of hours cooking and walk away with many meals that you can pull out when a day is harder than expected or you just have a lot going on. In addition, you are gathering with friends for encouragement and nourishment. Lastly, consider how loving well can be added to the swap. Ask everyone to make an extra meal at times, then take the extra meals to a family who is discouraged, ill or experiencing a time of financial hardship. What an easy way to minister as a group.

Here are some pictures from our swap. I attended the swap in a weird, half pajama outfit and no make-up so I made my beautiful friends Jennifer and Jenny pose with the food and stayed far away from the camera.

REVIEW: Surprised by Motherhood (book)

Now that I’m a seasoned mom I have a few inside secrets I share with moms to be. Not tips and tricks, because let’s face it, every baby is different and sometimes a new mom just has to figure out what works for her. Instead I lean over and whisper, “Don’t be freaked out, but right after you have the baby your belly will literally feel like jello. It will go away though so don’t be freaked out! Like for real. You can kinda pick it up and move it around a little.”

This is just one of the things that totally caught me off guard after having a baby. I went into cold sweats wondering “so this is my new stomach… forever??” Erica with her bowl full of jelly. Thankfully it firmed up just a few days later but in an effort to educate I now share this little tidbit with my expecting friends.

It’s probably strange that I go around whispering this into pregnant ears but I have always felt that the glowing mystery of pregnancy needed to be tempered a little. In the midst of the miraculous event that pregnancy is, there is also a bunch of weird stuff and emotional stuff and even gross stuff. One doesn’t need to be scared, just prepared.

After reading Surprised by Motherhood: Everything I Never Expected about Being a Mom I’m thinking that Lisa-Jo Baker probably agrees with that sentiment. However, preparing for birth and preparing for Motherhood are two very different things. Birth is often empowering, a rush of adrenaline caused by bringing forth life. And then. Then. You are driving home from the hospital with a live person in the backseat. Completely dependent on you.

This is where Surprised by Motherhood picks up. Lisa-Jo’s words echoed every thought, every word I’ve felt growing into my motherhood. And she did it without offering parenting advice. Grace, love, prayer and perspective were the themes in this book. Her journey to motherhood is filled with sorrow, loss and redemption and though it is nothing like my own, I found so many parallels in the challenges of raising strong-willed boys and relying on God just. to. get. through. the. day.

If you are needing a huge helping of grace and truth spoken into your motherhood or motherhood-to-be I highly suggest picking up this book. Read it with your friends, laugh and cry with them. Seasoned mamas, pick up this book, read it and pass it on to a new mama, struggling to fit into her new skin. And Lisa-Jo says that the best compliment to this book is chocolate cake, so grab some of that too. Encouragement and chocolate go hand in hand.

I became a mother in four very different ways, I also have two babies in Heaven. For more on my path to motherhood check out Becoming Mommy part 1 and part 2.

A DIY Year: Kitchen Tile Backsplash

As we begin the new year I’ve got at least 7 home projects on my mind. Things we can accomplish with a few YouTube tutorials and a little Pinterest Love. The first project on my list is finally installing a back splash in my kitchen. I have the tools, I’ve watched the tutorials and I’m ready to go. Ask Calvin, he had to listen to me critique the family on HGTV last night. “They obviously don’t know what they are doing, they aren’t using a float and their thinset is too thin, no wonder their tiles are falling off. And hello… tile spacers!” That poor, sweet man. I’m sure he held his tongue and will silently chuckle to himself when my tiles are falling off next week.

Before deciding on the final backsplash we decided to get input from our favorite Facebook and Instagram friends. We posted the following picture and had a great time following all the comments.10906348_1521128701480733_4250485521740634196_n

An interesting thing began to happen. The FB friends clearly favored the first choice, while the Instagram folks were favoring the second choice! I was pretty conflicted at that point, although I will admit I already had a favorite. And then I found these pictures.

 

After seeing creamy cabinetry paired with white back splashes in action I was completely smitten. I think it will really compliment the brick floor I’m planning to install once Spring weather hits. So Instagram friends… you guys got this one!! Good choice.

“Snow” Day

This week held many plans. Plans to gather with friends, work from home and take Liam to his first day of Mother’s Day out. And then it happened. It got cold. And in Hendersonville, school gets canceled (it’s 7 degrees). The reasons for canceling school are valid and compassionate. There are kids within our county who don’t have coats and have to wait on buses, there are schools with sub-par heating systems. So for the few, the many will get a day off.

This doesn’t change the fact that I had a nice little pity party and even texted my friends so they could join in. I typically enjoy a snow/cold day. I love having an unexpected day off with my kids. But not when Christmas Break has barely passed and we are desperate to return to our routine again. But alas, the early dismissal followed by the “cold” day off was upon us. I puffed out my chest and decided this was going to be great, it was Lola’s birthday after all. And just like that my Mommy expectations started to creep up on me. Visions of a perfectly executed breakfast party followed by hours of blissful birthday themed play and children who oozed with kindness and thankfulness. Getting a day off would surely result in thankfulness. Surely.

And so, when I opened my eyes at 6am, I continued to fantasize about children lounging in bed until at least 7:45am and then calmly descending the stairs, awakened by the smell of bacon sizzling in the skillet. Moments later one 7 year old slipped into our bed, demanding more blanket coverage and sticking his feet into my spleen. His younger brother was already in the bed because he heard something scary and I could hear some strange grunting noises coming from the monitor that allows us to spy on everyone upstairs.

And then the day began. Bad moods everywhere, running, screaming. Every. single. child. on some kind of birthday and sub-zero weather induced high.

I gritted my teeth, said a prayer and quickly made a nice breakfast, complete with a candle. One screamed the entire way through breakfast and had to be removed from the table and we barely made it through breakfast before another one had a meltdown because maybe someone said something rude. Not sure.

The Mommy Expectations are evil, evil little things. They make you think you’ve got it all wrong. They lie to you, steal your worth.

And while a room full of little sinners argue in the next room over which play-doh color they want to use next, I’m holed up in the office adjusting my expectations, finding my worth in my Creator and preparing to have a heart check with those four. And yes. They are sinners. So am I and so are you. That’s why it’s pretty darn stupid to EVER depend on those sweet monsters to live up to the fantasies we create in our mommy heads.

And then 3 different cups of liquid spilled on the ground. And I calmly wiped up each spill. And we had a few good moments.

If you find yourself in a similar situation today live in those good moments, lower your expectations for yourself and your kiddos, invite a friend over, drink some coffee and let love cover a multitude of sins.

 

All Content © Erica Ho, Goodbye Normal