Archive - August 2016

» Burdened: Thoughts after Parathyroid Surgery
» Cherry Pie Hospitality and the Mazda CX-5 #Houston
» Personality
» Start of the school year and a string of thoughts on being “different” in public school
» REVIEW: IMVIO Kit (iPhone Lenses)

» Burdened: Thoughts after Parathyroid Surgery

Ten days ago I had surgery to remove a parathyroid gland that had a small tumor inside. This particular condition was causing high calcium levels in my blood and other side effects like bone pain, fatigue and just a general feeling of yuck. The surgery was successful and after one night in the hospital I was released to go home.

What I did not understand about this surgery was how out of whack my calcium and potassium levels would become. Or how much rest was actually required to get well. On Wednesday night I went to bed not feeling well and ended up with an ambulance in my driveway after passing out trying to get out of bed. After an ER visit and a few additional doctor’s visits I’ve gotten things straightened out a bit but it’s still been a struggle to get regulated.

As I sit here, thinking through my “ordeal” I feel almost silly about being anxious or annoyed over my troubles. Yes, it was scary and yes I’ve had some anxiety as a result. But for goodness sakes, perspective. When I hop on Facebook for a few minutes it’s a huge reminder that whatever I have going on… just isn’t that bad. Our connected world is a constant reminder that people are hurting in vast and varying ways. From childhood cancer to car accidents and plane crashes to terrorist attacks…. it’s a broken, evil and devastated world out there.

While all this hurt and brokenness swirls round and round I have access to medical care and a church family that feeds my family dinners until I feel better. And I’m beyond thankful. In fact, my heart is more than full of gratitude and love for the many who showed up for us.

But I’m also burdened.

I’m burdened for those who barely make it through the day with their lives. I’m burdened for those who don’t know where their next meal will come from. I’m burdened for trafficked humans who are enslaved in a treacherous life. I’m burdened for those who sit by a loved one’s side as they battle illness day after day.

And even though I’m buying all the t-shirts that support all the things… man… it’s not putting a dent in all this burden.

The burden and heavy is enough to make you think there is no reason to try. And the hurt of this big world will just collapse on you in a big heap and it’s suffocating. And yet, people are still doing and good is still happening… and Jesus is still there.

There’s no easy end to this post. Don’t we all just feel the weight of it sometimes? But in that weight… we have hope. Hope that this world isn’t all there is and Faith that Jesus IS our Hope.

A Jesus that isn’t formed by whatever current trend is passing through… but a real Jesus who came to make a way. Who knew the burdens of the world and came to make them lighter.

In the heaping, suffocating realization of what our world is… I’ve put my trust in him.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

1 John 16:33

» Cherry Pie Hospitality and the Mazda CX-5 #Houston

Special thanks to Mazda USA for allowing us to test drive the 2016 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD. As always, these opinions are my own.

(this post is from Calvin who visited Houston in July)

Let’s face it, summers in Houston are morbidly hot! When we found out that Cherry Pie Hospitality had ventured into the ice cream business, we were super excited to say the least. So the kids and I decided to buckle up and visit Cherry Pie’s restaurants for ourselves. The company owns and manages some of our old but mostly new favorite Houston restaurants. It was appropriate that Mazda USA sent us out in a Soul Red Metallic CX-5 Grand Touring, like a cherry.

Here are some of our favorite things about the car followed by some great eats with Cherry Pie Hospitality:

2016 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD

I had a blast driving the Mazda6 but the CX-5 is definitely more my kind of car. The sport mode (again) was useful, and many times necessary, in the crazy Houston streets. We were even able to pack 5 people, fishing poles, and all the gear we needed for a fun fishing day trip to Galveston.

all photos © Goodbye Normal

Things we loved:

Style – The whole 2016 Mazda line looks great and the CX-5 is no exception. I can definitely see myself owning a car like this. The black leather interior and black rims are worth considering if purchasing this vehicle.

Interior – All of the driver controls were thought out really well. Nothing seemed out of place or odd and easy to figure out. It became natural within a day to navigate all of the features of the digital display in the center.

Mileage – After driving around Houston for a full week, we put a lot of miles on this vehicle. I found the 26 city / 35 highway mpg to be accurate and friendly on the wallet.


I loved the CX-5 Grand Touring AWD more than the Mazda6, simply because I prefer a crossover SUV over a sedan any day. The car was perfect for our trip and would make a fun commuter or family car. Driving through the stop-and-go traffic in Houston in this car made for a comfortable ride, even when it was 100+ degrees outside. The back seat can get a little tight with three people riding but you also have to consider that we are in the booster seat phase.

Cherry Pie Hospitality

1. Lee’s Fried Chicken and Donuts
601 Heights Blvd, Houston, TX 77007

Ever since last year I’ve made Lee’s a mandatory stop whenever I travel to Houston. Hot chicken is a big thing in Nashville and Lee’s has recently added a Hot chicken of their own. The flavor and taste was great, and to my friend’s surprise, still crunchy on the reheat later that night.

all photos © Goodbye Normal

We won’t be surprised if we see Lee’s hot chicken make an appearance at next year’s Nashville Hot Chicken Festival. Other new notables are the Hot Chicken Taco and the Donut Double Scooped Ice Cream Sandwich! Yup, Lee’s Fried Chicken is one of way to get Lee’s Creamery Ice Cream, more on that below.

2. State Fare Kitchen & Bar
947 Gessner, Ste. B190, Houston, TX 77024

This was my first visit to State Fare and it was quite amazing. My favorites included the Dill Pickle Dip, Texas “Caviar”, the Hicksburger-Beef Pattie, and last but not least the Mac Daddy, a Mac n’ Cheese dish with short ribs and Roasted shallots. The portions are very generous at State Fare so come hungry. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves and I know what you’re thinking… yes these were taken by us (on an iPhone)!

all photos © Goodbye Normal

The Frito Pie is under the bowls category but I would argue that it should be an appetizer, either way it’s a must. The space is inviting and is a great place for a business meeting, date night, or even a family night (yup, they have a kids menu!).

3. Petite Sweets
601 Heights Blvd, Houston, TX 77007

Earlier this year, we visited Petite Sweets as they added Suzie’s pies and cookies by the slice. They have a large variety of treats but the macarons will always be our first love. This time, the kids and I were able to join in on treating ourselves to Lee’s Creamery.

all photos © Goodbye Normal

This premium ice cream is made from milk from grass-fed Jersey cows in nearby Tomball, in addition to cage-free Texas hen eggs and all-natural ingredients. The creamery will produce more than 50 rotating flavors. Two flavors that were surprisingly good for me were the Sweet Cream Corn and Avacado Lime. Vietnamese Coffee which sounds great (wasn’t available at the time so we’ll just have to come back) is also on the rotation.


» Personality

Have you ever looked at one of your kids and realized they are you? I have. And it’s quite helpful because for the most part I can predict how he will react or not react to certain things. I can predict whether a consequence will have an impact and I can always tell whether or not he’s actually listening. Because I know is personality.

This week Calvin and I took personality tests (I’m ENFJ-A, the protagonist and He’s ISFJ-A the defender) Yes. We are quite the combo. But what we focused on during these tests, besides my overwhelming extrovertedness and his overwhelming introvertedness, was how these particular personalities affect our parenting.

Four kids close in age has had us spinning for a couple years and we often find ourselves at odds in how we wish to deal with many of their antics. We also come from two different types of homes. Calvin is an only child from a quiet, respectable Chinese household. I am one of three children from a loud, bustling, move-a-lot military household. Our upbringing couldn’t have been more different.

This brought us to exploring the personality test for some insights on how to parent well together when we both want to do things our own way. Especially me, because I feel that I’m always right. I also like to solve ALL problems, fueling my need to fix every. single. issue. with our kids. The shocking thing is that I’m not always right and it’s quite a blow to realize my ISFJ-A partner may have more insights to our children’s motivations than I do at times.

What we discovered through our personality tests is pretty simple. I’m good at a lot some things and bad at some things and he’s good at some things and bad at some things. When we were able to identify these things and discuss them we could then form a plan of communication regarding our children and work on it together rather than against each other.

Communication is a beautiful thing. It’s scary and messy and inconvenient at times. But it’s a beautiful thing. It’s ties us together, helps us understand each other and unifies us toward a common goal. Add knowing how the other person functions to all of that and you’re headed in the right direction

I encourage you to head over to 16Personalities and take this thorough and free test and get to reading about yourself and your spouse if you are married… and especially if you are a parent. Often, understanding yourself is the key to understanding them or at least trying to!


» Start of the school year and a string of thoughts on being “different” in public school

I threw all my clever 3-4 word post title ambitions out the window on this one. Because there is nothing neat, clean or tidy about starting the school year when your child is a bit different.

When you walk in to meet the teacher night, heart-racing, and hope that there is no pause on the other side after you introduce your child. When you’ve had 900 meetings and emails just to get to this point. When you aren’t sure that the woman you’re handing your child off to really understands how she works and doesn’t work sometimes. When you’ve worked all Summer to prepare said child educationally and socially and hope that one week doesn’t undo months of progress. When you are scarred from past blunders within the school and special education system. When you aren’t certain that everyone is really on your team.

If you are a parent of a child with a special need, disability, illness or other special circumstance you know about this heart-pounding, finger-nail biting week called back-to-school. You know about the emails to the new teacher explaining the behaviors, needs and triggers not listed on the IEP. You know how much the teacher needs to know those and you know the despair you’ll feel when the teacher feels attacked rather than empowered. When all you hoped to do was give her a glimpse into understanding this neat kid that you call son or daughter.

It’s desperate times. And we try to stay calm and collected. But the appeasing replies and scripted emails fall flat as we search for those that really want to help our kids soar, like we know they can.

And sometimes, we get those bright and shiny people. The people that are happy to rejoice in the diversity of humankind. The extra-mile school people. Who order bumpy mats to go in front of swinging doors so your blind child will have a warning. Who ask you to walk the building to make sure it’s safe and properly prepared for your child.

In those moments and with those people the world feels a little bit safer and warmer for our kids.

After 3 years of advocating within our school system those warmer people are appearing more and more. Perhaps it’s all part of watching a child bloom… but it’s also the result of advocacy and pushing and questioning and suggesting and 900 meetings. It’s the result of one child pushing past her circumstances and embracing a life full of promise.

So…friends who are approaching the start of school with different, perfect and wonderful children… keep speaking. Keep standing, keep emailing, keep suggesting. And know that we are all standing in solidarity together. Through every IEP meeting, teacher conference and email string… we are together.

Start the school year strong. Speak for your babies.


» REVIEW: IMVIO Kit (iPhone Lenses)

Disclaimer: The folks at IMVIO kindly allowed us a unit for this review. As always, the opinions are my own.

Fish-Eye and Wide-Angle lens for your iPhone

With four kids, it’s difficult to carry anything more than what I absolutely need. That includes my DSLR camera. After searching for a happy medium, the IMVIO lens kit sounded like a great addition with minimum impact. After a few weeks of use and going around town, I love this little accessory. The two lenses come in a case that attaches nicely to your keychain and you can easily screw/unscrew the lens as needed. You are required to use the case that the kit comes with.

IMG_6357 copy
IMG_5255 copy


There’s not much more to say about this product other than it works and it makes pictures fun. There’s no additional app needed so setup is literally just the time it takes to swap the iPhone case. The lens does not make your image quality any better since it’s still using your phone as a camera. Lighting is always important but I’ve found that with the lens attachment, it helps to have more (brighter) light. With the recent price drop to $40, any mom (or dad) would love this little gadget. I’ve also seen Coral color as low as $37.50 on Amazon!

  • iPhone with No Lens
  • Fish Eye
  • Wide Angle



All Content © Erica Ho, Goodbye Normal