Archive - April 2015

Screen Time Rules and May 2015 Netflix Streaming Releases, Kids Edition!
The Eye Surgery Decision: For Now…
Mother’s Day Gift Guide: 2015
REVIEW: Ogrill 1000 (Portable Grill)
Why Friendships Are Hard, and Why You Can’t Live Without Them
Road Tripping with Kids
Christian Alliance for Orphans Coming to Hendersonville!
REVIEW: Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry (Charleston, SC)

Screen Time Rules and May 2015 Netflix Streaming Releases, Kids Edition!

The school year is ending but this is also a good opportunity to share what our current house rules are for screen time:

Monday-Thursday (school nights): No screens
Friday-Sunday: No strict limit on total screen time, but no durations longer than 1.5 hours (movie). This usually ends up looking like one hour of shows in the morning and one movie at night, after dinner.

I’ve searched the Internet and haven’t been able to find a list that’s exclusively for kids content so I’ve started one. Here are the upcoming new to Netflix streaming shows and movies for kids!

May 2, 2015

  • Lalaloopsy: Festival of Sugary Sweets (2015)
  • LeapFrog Letter Factory Adventures: Amazing Word Explorers (2015)

May 8, 2015

  • Puss in Boots: Season 1 (5 additional episodes)

May 17, 2015

  • Tinker Bell and the Legend of the NeverBeast (2015)

May 22, 2015

  • H20 Mermaid Adventures (2015)
  • Richie Rich: Season 2 (2015 series)

May 23, 2015

  • The Boxtrolls (2014)

The Eye Surgery Decision: For Now…

For those new to Goodbye Normal I’ll give you a quick run-down on our oldest daughter. Lola is blind (or severely visually impaired). In the blind community there is a movement to move away from the distinction between these two things and just use the word blind. Typically I do say blind but it can be confusing to people when they find out that she can see light and color. Lola has always been blind and came home to us almost two years ago. With lightning speed she learned English (like a boss) and is doing very well with her Braille studies at school where she is integrated into a regular ed classroom. She has overcome sensory issues and is currently under the care of a chiropractor for her ADHD diagnosis. We have also avoided medications by using natural supplements and oils.

So on to the update now that you are completely filled in. As some of you know we have gone back and forth about whether or not to pursue a cornea transplant for Lola. Recently we even went as far as considering scheduling that surgery for the last week of school. After a tremendous amount of research, meetings and calls with doctors and praying for wisdom we have decided NOT to pursue surgery. There are many whys that led us to that conclusion. Lola’s eye condition is currently stable, she goes to Vanderbilt twice a year to check on that stability. Eye surgery would open up the door to repeated surgeries, treatment for the glaucoma that would develop and monthly eye exams under anesthesia. She would experience continued pain and tenderness in her eyes, she has no pain currently. The surgery has no predictable outcome. It could fail completely and leave Lola with worse vision than she began with. Cornea replacements have an almost 100% failure rate in pediatrics. After all is said and done it was predicted that the new corneas would, if successful, improve her vision in only an extremely minor way.

So we have stepped back and put this decision in our daughter’s future hands. When Lola is older we will give her the opportunity to consider the surgery. When her risks are lower and she fully understands the discomforts and medical dependance that will enter her life.

You see… Lola is happy. She uses what she has and does well with it. She has no limits, she can climb mountains if she chooses. Vision plays no part in who she will become and what she can accomplish.

Mother’s Day Gift Guide: 2015

On Sunday mornings I typically spend a bit of time at the computer checking email, writing and sometimes checking for deals online. As I opened my gmail account this morning I was reminded, by every retailer I’ve ever purchased from, that Mother’s Day is coming and I should hurry up and order a robe, skin care or a candle for my deserving momma. This got me thinking about what I wanted for Mother’s Day because I’ll be honest, gifts are part of my love language. I love mother’s day, and my birthday… and my anniversary. You get the picture. I don’t actually love that about myself but hey, can’t change it now!  Back to the robes and candles… My initial reaction to the wares proposed online was one of annoyance. So cliche’, like dads and ties or football phones. However, if my sweet babies showed up bedside on Mother’s Day morning with arms full of candles and robes I would be elated. That’s just how moms are. We devour anything our kids give us. Handwritten notes, dandelions planted in clumps of dirt, necklaces made of painted pasta. Riches I tell you, riches.

So the list I’m about to give is really for you Dads, who are married to moms. Because candles and robes are nice but thinking outside those lines is even nicer. Click on bold links to view products.

31 Bits jewelry: 31 Bits really takes the Uganda bead/Give back model phenomenon to the next level. Their pieces are gorgeous and expertly curated. A piece of 31 Bits is something to be treasured for years to come. Check out their Mother’s Day gift pairings and also this little gem of a deal I found on their sale page: Garland Glam bracelet set ($15!)

Sseko Designs Sandals: I have had my Ssekos for quite awhile now and they are still a go-to, especially when I travel. The straps can be changed out easily for different colors and patterns. One pair of sandals that can change colors, patterns and styles with ease… perfection. Tack on the fact that the Sseko model gives women a chance to earn income and pursue an education and you’ve got double perfection. Read about two new Mother’s on the Sseko blog, just in time for Mother’s day!


Fair Trade Tea, Coffee and Chocolate from Equal Exchange: This one requires very little description. Delicious Tea. Chocolate. Fairly obtained and traded. Here are a few suggested products… and a tip! Sign up for their email list and you’ll receive a coupon for 10% off and free shipping!

Fair Trade Gift Set ($45) Contains coffee, chocolate and tea.
Chocolate Collection Gift Set ($30) Variety of fair trade chocolate
Variety of Tea from Tea Collection (prices vary)

Journaling Bible: Journaling Bibles have really become popular this year. This is largely due to the fact that we women enjoy making something beautiful. Doodling, drawing and creating while reading passages in the Bible is freeing for us, it brings us joy and helps us pull out the beauty in God’s word. These Bibles are literally sold out everywhere with the soonest ship dates in late June. However! I did find one after much searching. (Click here) UPDATE: I found an NIV version in the depths of Amazon:NIV Journalling Bible

– Writing Utensils, here are a few that work well:
Crayola Twistables Colored Pencils
Pigma Micron Assorted Colors Pen Set

– Lettering handbook
The Art of Whimsical Lettering (also available on kindle)


Check out this post by Homespun Sprout

REVIEW: Ogrill 1000 (Portable Grill)

The Goodbye kids are counting down the days, Summer vacation is almost here. We have lots of plans that include lakes, fishing, car trips and camping. Camping, while a staple of my younger years, is relatively new to my husband and kids. I’ve spent the last few months gathering the supplies and equipment needed to make camping as a family of 6 an enjoyable experience. (Full list coming soon!)

One of my latest pieces of gear is the O Grill. The O Grill is a well-designed portable grill powered by either propane or butane canisters. Here is what I love about the Ogrill thus far:

– Lightweight: We have the O Grill 1000, it weighs 18 pounds
– Design… yes it’s pretty
– Cooking surface: The cooking surface is level and everything cooks very evenly, it also allows plenty of surface space to cook for a large family.
– Fold and Go: The legs and top fold in and lock in place with ease
– Size: Perfect for a picnic table top, it doesn’t take up much room.
– Ease: It is incredibly easy to set up and use. I simply attached the 1 lb. propane canister,    turned the dial to light and hit a button. There are no matches, lighters or multiple attempts needed.

I have nothing but praise for this portable wonder. I’m looking forward to putting it through a long summer of park cook-outs and camping trips.

For more information on the Ogrill check out their website. Or find best prices on Amazon.

Why Friendships Are Hard, and Why You Can’t Live Without Them

Writing that title made me shiver just a little. I have now admitted to the world that I need and crave friendship. This is awkward territory for me because, after childhood, I avoided most close friendships. I invested what I needed to get through that stage of life, college etc. and pretty much moved on. Even the close friendships I developed during that time were fraught with anxiety, comparison and hurt.

I was a military kid growing up and had to let many close friendships go at an early age, I was in and out of different schools until I hit high school. I won’t pin my friendship issues completely on this lifestyle but it did affect the way I approached friendship. Something to get me through the season, but with no anticipation that it would have any lasting impact on my life. This mentality carried me into adulthood, where I began to hold the opinion that I didn’t actually need close female friends, especially in the suburban sprawl I’d moved into. Every woman I met had a “best friend” and this totally freaked me out. I didn’t have a best friend… so where did I fit into this world where all these women had friends with titles?

The additional issue I face here is my extroverted nature combined with a melancholy disposition. I’m an opinionated seeker of justice that spends half the time brooding over world issues and writing novels in my head. I feel odd and different most of the time.

So that’s my little sob story. Weird Erica with her half friends and military upbringing.

And here’s how God redeemed that lie in me… the one that said close female friendships weren’t possible. The one that said I was better off just caring for my family without encouragement and accountability from other women.

It’s hard to say how these friendships came about. Some were through shared experiences, some out of difficulty and some out of sheer proximity to one another. And mostly because of their perseverance. It began at 5am. Bible study, coffee and fellowship with women who lived in my area. I didn’t arrive and immediately bond deeply to every person there… but I knew I wanted to stick around.

As each week went by I realized that meeting with these ladies energized me and helped me face the long stay-at-home-mom-days with more joy. I began to let my walls down and hit them full on with the parts of me that felt vulnerable or weak. I learned that true friendships struggle a little, there are disagreements, there are awkward moments and there are hurt feelings that sometimes need to be worked through. Especially adult friendships in the midst of kids and husbands and PMS and seeking God all at the same time.

It’s weird territory when friendships are full of accountability and seeking God’s will. And for the first time, I’m all in with this.

I even went to the beach with them. Yes. I went on a girl’s trip. I resisted the idea for a long time and even made a few excuses but eventually I gave in and loaded into a mini van with 5 other ladies and drove 8 hours to the beach.  This was after brow waxing and spray tans of course.

We read and shared books, ate donuts in our swimsuits, took personality tests, exchanged gifts and learned to pray like monks. All in the name of friendship and rest.

So, weird girl (or perfectly normal girl!), with your insecurities and worries about friendship. Here’s what I want to say to you: Take the risk. Trust God to lead you through the ups and downs of friendship, seek friends who will hold you accountable, seek friends who seek God and then pull your weight in those friendships. It’s worth it.

Proverbs 27:9
The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense.


Road Tripping with Kids

We recently made the long drive down to Charleston, SC where most of my family lives. We make this drive a few times each year and many times we leave daddy at home to work while we play. This means one adult to lots of children. I’ve tried many things to get us all there without massive meltdowns or fights in the car. Here are a few things that make our ride go smoothly:

Snack Bags: Each child is given a snack bag with their name on it. The snacks are healthier versions of typical junk food snacks. Still fun, but without extra sugar or food dyes… minus the Nutella dippers, those are obviously NOT low on sugar. They receive the entire bag and are responsible for rationing their snacks throughout the trip. This teaches them to be responsible, make choices for themselves and keeps me from having to hand things out while driving. My snacks, usually popcorn (479 Degrees GMO-free popcorn is my fav!) or something salty, are taken out of the original bags and placed in resealable ziplock bags. It reduces mess and spills and fumbling around with a bag while driving.

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Activity Bags: The activity bags contain things like new blank notebooks and new markers or crayons. I found scented markers for $2 a box and that made the bag extra fun this time around. I also include a book and a small toy or novelty. As we drive I give the kids writing/drawing prompts. “Try to draw a picture of our van, what does it look like driving down the road?” Or, “Write a couple of sentences describing what you see as we pass through this town or rest stop, what do you think the people like to do here?” We only have two that are writing sentences, so the others draw pictures or just doodle. I am hoping that as they get older they will embrace the idea of a travel journal, we shall see.


Screens: We do limit screens but they definitely become an asset on car trips. After the snacks and activity bags have lost their luster and we’ve passed through the “time tunnels” in North Carolina and sang 25 car songs and taken some short naps the kindles are allowed to come out. Thanks to Great Grandma and Christmas we have four kindles at our disposal. They will generally play or read on the kindles for an hour or so until one of them falls asleep again or gets car sick. That leads me to my next must-have.

Pod Casts/Radio Shows: This is obviously a personal choice but for some reason talk radio, a good podcast (This American Life or a recent Sermon series) really keeps me awake and alert and also in a good mood. Music starts to become background noise after a few hours, as much as I love it. I also feel like I’ve invested time in something or benefited when listening to a podcast or sermon series.

The Portable Potty: This is my final tip for no-hassle car trips. Small children have no timer on their bladder and we have used the portable potty more times than I can count. It’s so much easier than hauling four cranky kids into a restroom. It also saves a lot of time. In fact, on occasion I have swallowed my pride and used the portable potty. When all the kids are sleeping peacefully after hours in the car I’m certain you would use the Portable potty too. Just don’t forget the toilet paper!

Goodbye Normal readers, we want your input! Please comment with YOUR best road trip secrets.



Christian Alliance for Orphans Coming to Hendersonville!

Tennessee friends, we have a wonderful opportunity coming our way. The Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit is coming to Hendersonville, TN this year! The Summit is being held at Long Hollow Baptist Church, where we attend, and there are many ways to get involved. You can volunteer, attend or become a host family. In fact… PLEASE click that link and volunteer. We need you. And guess what? Volunteering = Free Admission.

What will you see and do at CAFO?

The Christian Alliance for Orphans’ CAFO2015 Summit inspires and equips Christians to care for orphans with wisdom-guided love. The CAFO Summit has become the national hub for what Christianity Today called, “the burgeoning Christian orphan care movement.” Last year’s conference drew 2,600 foster and adoptive parents, orphan advocates, pastors and leaders from 35 countries. Together, we explore effective foster care, adoption, family preservation and global orphan ministry. CAFO2015 will include unforgettable plenary sessions with top national and global speakers, stirring music, more than 100 workshops, and an array of one-of-a-kind experiences you won’t find anywhere else.

If you are thinking about adopting, fostering or going on mission to serve orphans this is the conference for you. If you know families who have built their families through adoption this is the conference for you. And if you are a church leader wondering how to respond to the rising interest in orphan care this is the conference for you.

Hope to see you there!

REVIEW: Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry (Charleston, SC)

Disclaimer: The folks at the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry very kindly provided our family admission for this review. As always, the opinions are my own.

Keeping with tradition, the Goodbye kids and I hit the road over Spring Break and trekked down to Charleston, SC. How we love the Lowcountry! We had the opportunity to check out a new adventure on this trip, The Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry. The Museum has 9 very hands-on exhibits: The Art Room, Medieval Castle, Garden, Water Room, Pirate Room, The Market, Raceways, Infant/Toddler play space, and an outdoor area and Fire truck.

My kids, who range from 3- 7 1/2 years old, chose the Water Room, Raceways and the Medieval Castle room as their favorite activities. Raceways (ramps and golfballs!) and the Water Room are both very sensory experiences with water to touch, sounds to make and active play. And we loved seeing the poster for Water Missions International featured in the Water Room.



The Pirate Room and Medieval Castle allowed the kids to really get into imaginary play. I thought we would never leave the castle!

The Market gave the kids a chance to live out their desire to scan, bag and shop at the grocery store. ALL BY THEMSELVES. They were delighted to discover that the scanner actually worked, along with the cash register and payment system.

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The Outdoor area and Art room were interactive and fun as well.
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The Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry was a great experience overall. The kids were able to explore Lowcountry history and culture while participating in lots of sensory and imaginative experiences. If you are in the Charleston area, or visiting with kiddos this should definitely make your list of things to do. We can’t wait to visit and play again!

Parents of children with special needs, disabilities or sensory issues:
The best areas for Lola were the raceways, water room and the market. The Art Room workers brought her mounds of play dough and cookie cutters which was great. She enjoyed de-stressing a little and just taking a break from all of the movement. The museum is very accommodating, even providing a sensory friendly time twice each month.

Lola had some trouble with the medieval room. Lots of steps and low ceilings, places where ducking or crawling are necessary but I think with a little more lighting or color to identify the steps (I have already e-mailed this suggestion to the kind staff at the museum), she and others could navigate a little better. The Children’s Museum is open before hours from 10:00am -12:00pm the second and fourth Sundays of every month for children with special needs and their families to visit the Museum for FREE. Children are able to explore and play in the Museum without the crowds and over-stimulation. How about that! If you’re interested, registration is required, click here for more information.


All Content © Erica Ho, Goodbye Normal