Author - Erica

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Double Digits
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» Rejoice Always
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» Touring D.C. in the 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport
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» REVIEW: Nashville’s Nutcracker 2017
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» 2017 Christmas Gift Guide
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» Leading our families during the holidays
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» Christmas in Nashville 2017
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Review: Hey, Baby! A Collection of Pictures, Poems, and Stories from Nature’s Nursery
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» A new home, a new perspective
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» Review: BROO Craft Beer Shampoo and Conditioner

Double Digits

Today we celebrate ten whole years of Lola. That’s a lot of life when you’re less than four feet tall. I’ve been Lola’s mom for four years now and it almost seems unfair to celebrate ten when I’m missing six of them.

Four years ago, in January, she was a picture on a screen. I saw her just before her 5th birthday. A beautiful little girl with eyes the color of the sea. Our paperwork was approved for a child no more than four and so we set about the task of completing more training and more addendums because of all the children in the whole wide world God spoke her name into my heart. It would be awhile before she would come home to us, approaching six years old and carrying an entire life we didn’t know or understand.

The first couple of years were more than our hands and hearts could carry and our family stretched and grew and even crumbled at times. Thankfully there are greater and bigger hands that held us and continue to hold us as we learn day by day to say goodbye to “normal” and yes to being the family God created us to be.

As we suspected, blindness, although unfamiliar to us, was not a disability but rather a different way of doing life. Lola has accomplished a tremendous amount in the time she’s been home. She is on-grade level in her third grade studies and has mastered braille and is working steadily on grade level Nemeth, which is the code she uses for math. Her social skills are growing daily and she’s becoming more self-aware. She delights in sharing the scripture passages she’s memorized and listens at least 75% of the time when we have family Bible time.

  • Lola celebrating her 5th birthday in China. We were able to send a cake and a new outfit.
  • Daddy and Lola meeting for the first time.
  • Finalizing in China.
  • Lola dominating.
  • Lola taking on a massive, high level ropes course.
  • Lola's 9th birthday.

Taking a step back is immensely important in our journey with Lola. In the thick of it there are times I despair over difficult days but with a bird’s eye view I see the flower blossoming. On paper, when we look at Lola’s background and experiences, there is a lot to fear for the future. But our hope for Lola isn’t in scientific or psychiatric journals and studies… our hope is in the Lord and in his word that says:

Psalm 103:2-5

Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits:
Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from destruction,
Who crowns you with loving kindness and tender mercies,
Who satisfies your mouth with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Lola,
Daughter of my heart… we have loss between us. At times that loss seeks to divide us and turn our hearts against each other. But we also have promises that tell us nothing is beyond the hand of God. I promise to seek him even more in this 10th year of your life. I promise to look beyond your actions and watch for motivations behind them so that I can bind up your wounds. I promise to watch for your successes so that I can give you praise and remind you of your triumphs. May this be the year we call the year of fastening… the year of connection… and a time we rejoice over because it was the year our hearts were entwined in deep commitment to walk as mother and daughter.

I loved you before I knew you,

Mommy

» Rejoice Always

It’s New Years Eve morning. Calvin and Elliott are with our church family this morning and I’m playing nurse at home for the remaining family members. Strep made a last minute stop at our house before the completion of 2017. (have to admit… it was nice getting that last ounce out of our deductible!)

Like everyone else we’ve been reflecting on 2017 this week: looking back at pictures, remarking on the physical and emotional growth in our kids and imaging what next year will look like. There have certainly been years when I welcomed the New Year heartily, grasping for some kind of marker to signal a fresh start. There were years that held disappointments, sickness or difficult trials. 2016 fell into that category as I dealt with illness and surgery, and as I’ve shared before I’m abundantly thankful for the growth that came out of that season. I’ve also developed a deep appreciation for the days I’m given. A day might be good, bad, extraordinary or ugly… but it’s still a God-given day that shouldn’t be wasted.

As we enter 2018 I have few resolutions to speak of… minus the usual clean-eating after baking a bit too much in December… but I AM resolved to remember that each day has great purpose. I’m convinced that if we watch and search for God’s purposes in each day, mundane or extraordinary, we will certainly find them. When our eyes are focused on finding our best life in His plan the surrounding battles and discomforts of life will pale in comparison.

1 Thesselonians 5:16-18

Rejoice always,
pray continually,
give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

» Touring D.C. in the 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

Earlier this month, Calvin and I decided to spend our joint birthday present on a quick trip to D.C. Our last experience with the (2016) Outlander Sport in Houston was excellent, so I was excited when we were afforded the opportunity to test the 2018 model. The driving atmosphere is way different than Nashville with pedestrians and more cars at every turn but the 2018 Outlander Sport handled things nicely. We had an enjoyable trip, thanks to this fun small SUV.

all photos © Goodbye Normal

We thoroughly enjoyed both the vehicle and visiting places such as Georgetown Park, the grand opening for the Museum for the Bible (among all the other museums), Chinatown and tons of places to eat.

We stayed about 15 minutes away from the Monument so we had to drive into the museum district each day to enjoy the sights and sounds D.C. has to offer. The Outlander Sport provided a smooth ride into town then responded well to the multiple turns and stop-and-go traffic that pedestrians often cause. We even enjoyed testing the vehicle with a longer 45-minute trip to Baltimore which also proved to be a comfortable ride. Here are a few things I especially liked:

Panoramic Moonroof – We were fortunate to visit during a mild, rain-free winter where we could enjoy this awesome addition. The moonroof spans across the front and back seats so all the passengers can enjoy the view. I love how this feature can make a car feel bigger than it actually is.

Folding Side Mirrors – The side mirrors on this Mitsubishi fold in automatically once the engine is off in park. This feature is especially useful in cities like D.C. where parallel parking is a necessity. In Nashville, it’s not as common to parallel park but even standard parking spots could spare the car from large purses and shopping carts. 

24/30 MPG – We have always tried to be conscious of our consumption for the planet and our wallet. This compact sport utility vehicle gets great mpg without compromising it’s size and speed.

Conclusion

We have had a small SUV as a second vehicle for a while now and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. I enjoyed the 2018 Outlander Sport and could definitely see us considering one when we’re due for a new vehicle. Whenever you’re in the market, give Mitsubishi a test drive!

 

 

 

Special thanks to Mitsubishi of North America for allowing us to test drive the 2018 Outlander Sport. As always, these opinions are my own.

 

 

» REVIEW: Nashville’s Nutcracker 2017

December, as usual, is already flying by. Both Calvin and I have birthdays in December and it’s also a very busy time of year where I work. Thankfully, by the second week of December we were ready to dive deep into time with family and friends. This year we planned to attend the Nutcracker as usual but decided to allow Char to invite a couple of special friends, the boys were more interested in watching a little football and vegging out. This was an added bonus for me because their sweet mommas attended as well! 

We arrived a few minutes early and hustled the girls over to snag a few photos with the beautiful ballerinas. If you arrive even earlier (1:15pm for us), your kiddos can even learn one of the dances from the show! After a quick photo session we quickly located our tickets and went to find our seats. For this show we found ourselves in the orchestra section. In past years we have sat in the balcony and I must say the orchestra seats were so special! Sitting closer to the stage area made the center seem smaller and more intimate.


This year the Nashville Nutcracker is celebrating their 10th year. We were curious about this and knew there would be added surprises. If you’ve gone in previous years, you’ll notice a little more surprise and delight… we won’t spoil it for you.

Below is the remaining 2017 schedule:

Friday, December 15 at 7 p.m.
Saturday, December 16 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Sunday, December 17 at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
Thursday, December 21 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Friday, December 22 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Saturday, December 23 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Get your tickets directly from the Nashville Ballet’s website.

(All Photos by Heather Thorne)

The Nutcracker continues to be a special Christmas tradition for us. We love the special Nashville elements that show up in the production and sit spellbound through every moment of this special production year after year. To finish off our girls night, we made a nearby trip to Milk & Honey for dinner and dessert!

 

» 2017 Christmas Gift Guide

Have you made it to December without finding that perfect gift yet? Our list is shorter this year as we continue the year of less. We’ve been looking for non-tech gifts that promote creativity and/or spending time with others and these made the short list.

1. Chippo

Chippo is a fun game for the outdoors or even larger indoor spaces, think corn hole combined with golf. If you love golf, you’ll love Chippo. If you don’t love golf, you’ll still love Chippo. This was intended for dad but our oldest son who has never touched a golf club (other than putt putt) is always wanting to play a round. The game is best played with two wedges (not included), so make sure you grab an extra if needed.

Chippo website

2. KiwiCo Monthly Crates

Kids love getting mail, especially when it’s for them. After having friends try these out and seeing Facebook ads over the last few months, we had to try the Tinker and Doodle Crate for ourselves. KiwiCo makes science & engineering fun for kids of all ages. These boxes can be for an individual child or make it a family group effort to build or create together. Boxes are typically $20 shipped, but you can save a few dollars each month if you commit to 3 or more months at a time. As I’m writing this, your first box is only $7.95!

KiwiCo website

3. Brain Putti

Braini Putti is the perfect stocking stuffer for all kids. You can use Braini Putti similar to Play Doh but you can also make super bouncy balls with it. We’ve had a few nights around the dining table creating and laughing over Braini Putti.

buy on Amazon

Braini Putti website

4. Local Events

For those of you who are completely doing experiences over gifts, December is a great time to enjoy local events as a family. We’ve created many new traditions with this mindset including the Nutcracker for the family, and a date night seeing a Christmas concert (Dave Barnes this year). If you’re in Nashville, check out this post for events we’re most looking forward to.

 

» Leading our families during the holidays

It’s the Saturday after Thanksgiving and many are driving the long hours home on crowded highways. Isn’t it funny how much shorter the drive home seems? On the way to our destination we are full of anticipation or maybe even anxiety. The thoughts over what is to come makes the minutes and hours drag on as we wait to see what this visit will hold.

Maybe today, on your way home, you are scrolling through Facebook or Instagram. Each swipe displays photos of smiling families digging into turkey and stuffing or sisters in matching shirts announcing their Black Friday plans. But what you don’t see in those pictures is the intense fight that just took place over something that happened three years ago or the deep grief for the loved one who isn’t sitting at the table this year.

When families gather… conflict calls. I’m almost 100% certain that every family, no matter how good-looking, suffers from this ailment. Our hearts are bent toward conflict, sin and strife. We are ungrateful for how our lives have turned out, even in the midst of prosperity and plenty. When our families draw close so does the destroyer. It’s no secret that satan wants our families. And the holidays are the prime time for him to prey upon our festive yet distracted minds. I believe he also uses the happy images displayed by others to make us believe the lie that we aren’t all broken. The resulting pursuit of false perfection rather than the pursuit of our perfect savior takes our minds and hearts captive.

Consider Romans 1:21 as a cautionary tale…. in fact take a moment to read the entire chapter.

Romans 1:21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

The season of togetherness has begun. Let us lead our families to focus first and centrally on the advent during this time. The trimmings, shine and good times come second. All of those things and the expectations that lead up to them will fall flat and leave us disappointed because we were made to honor and give thanks to the one who will never disappoint us.

I can only imagine that our hearts will burst forth with light rather than darkness as we gather in pursuit of Jesus rather than the ideal standard we have created for family gatherings and holiday outings.

 

» Christmas in Nashville 2017

Nashville has a lot to offer when it comes to the year of less. If you haven’t been following along, 2017 for our family has the been the start of attempting to buy less stuff, but instead have more experiences together together. Our family has spent the last few Decembers at home and we’ve found lots to look forward to in doing so. Here are a list of events we are especially making plans to attend in December.

1. SCHERMERHORN SYMPHONY CENTER

The Schermerhorn is a breathtaking venue that feels special no matter what you’re there for. Dave Barnes’ Christmas show has quickly becoming a Christmas tradition for Calvin and I, but there’s definitely some others worth checking out. Make sure you view the Schermerhorn’s upcoming schedule.

We’re most excited about A Johnnyswim Christmas (12/8), Drew and Ellie Holcomb’s Neighborly Christmas (12/10), and a Very Merry Christmas with Dave Barnes (12/18). Also Handel’s Messiah, which has really become an annual holiday tradition for (four performances to choose from) for many families.

Full schedule and tickets available at NashvilleSymphony.org

2. NASHVILLE’S NUTCRACKER
Nashville Ballet is celebrating 10 years of Nashville’s Nutcracker December 2-23, 2017, at TPAC’s Jackson Hall with all-new magical elements to mark the occasion. Our family spent the day in Nashville last year, anchored by this great performance! If this has also become an annual tradition for your family, your kids will be surprised by a few new elements this year in celebration of its 10th year, including snow falling in the audience during the snow scene!

Visit magical lands with the Sugar Plum Fairy, the Mouse King, the Nutcracker, the Dancing Bear and many historic characters from Nashville’s past.

Nashville’s Nutcracker at TPAC’s Jackson Hall has grown to 16 performances:

  • Saturday, December 2, 2017 at 2 p.m.
  • Sunday, December 3, 2017 at 2 p.m.
  • Saturday, December 9, 2017 at 2 p.m.
  • Saturday, December 9, 2017 at 7 p.m.
  • Sunday, December 10, 2017 at 2 p.m.
  • Friday, December 15, 2017 at 7 p.m.
  • Saturday, December 16, 2017 at 2 p.m.
  • Saturday, December 16, 2017 at 7 p.m.
  • Sunday, December 17, 2017 at 1 p.m.
  • Sunday, December 17, 2017 at 6:30 p.m.
  • Thursday, December 21, 2017 at 2 p.m.
  • Thursday, December 21, 2017 at 7 p.m.
  • Friday, December 22, 2017 at 2 p.m.
  • Friday, December 22, 2017 at 7 p.m.
  • Saturday, December 23, 2017 at 2 p.m.
  • Saturday, December 23, 2017 at 7 p.m.

Tickets available at NashvilleBallet.com

3. NASHVILLE PREDATORS

IMG_3108

The only cold temperature we enjoy is from the Nashville Predators ice. Our kids love hockey when it comes to the food, the chants, and the crazy fans. Liam still loves singing (and shaking it to) Tim McGraw’s “I like it I love it” every time the home team scores.

There are plenty of home games in December to check out. Tickets available at Ticketmaster.com

4. Gaylord Opryland’s A Country Christmas

Nashville friends, looking to do a staycation? Look no further. In addition to the expected 3 million holiday lights and 48-foot tall Christmas tree, Gaylord Opryland will be hosting a brand new Broadway show for its 34th annual “A Country Christmas.” Cirque Dreams Holidaze will showcase 20 acts and feature original music and seasonal favorites at the Grand Ole Opry.

This year’s theme for the ICE! attraction is “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” The exhibit will include 2 million pounds of ice sculptures completed by 40 master artisans.

Opryland will also host an outdoor snow tubing hill covered in 1.5 million pounds of real snow.

“A Country Christmas” runs from Nov. 10 through Jan. 1. Click here for more information.

 

Review: Hey, Baby! A Collection of Pictures, Poems, and Stories from Nature’s Nursery

I kept our copy of Hey, Baby!: A Collection of Pictures, Poems, and Stories from Nature’s Nursery on the top of the fridge for over a week as I anticipated the after Thanksgiving slump. I knew my kids would need a pick-me-up after spending a fun week with cousins and grandparents. Tonight, as they sat around our breakfast table discussing what to do I pulled out the beautiful book created by National Geographic and they immediately lit up. They knew right away, after spying the array of baby animals on the cover, that this book would become a fast favorite.

The book itself is exactly what you would expect from National Geographic. The pictures are stunning and capture sweet moments between baby animals their parents and other baby animals. Our favorite was a photo displaying a dog feeding a baby sheep with a bottle. I mean seriously… how can you even stand that! We oohhed and ahhed over every. single. page.

Hey Baby is a hard cover book that would look great on any coffee table. In fact, I’m certain that it would be a great conversation piece for adults as well as children. The book contains cute poems and information about each animal including their habitat and the culture of the area where they live. While reading Hey Baby, kids will also learn about earth’s different biomes and how animals adapt to each.

Our kiddos give Hey baby two thumbs up, each, so eight thumbs up from the Goodbye Normal crew in total! We also highly recommend scooping up a copy here for a fun and reasonable Christmas present!

 

I received a copy of this book as a Moms Meet ambassador, all opinions are my own.

 

» A new home, a new perspective

We have been living, full and loud, in our new home for about three weeks now. In that time we’ve broken a window playing wall ball, annoyed the neighbors and been compared to living in India. The living in India comment came from my sweet neighbor, who grew up there, the night my oldest had every boy in his class over for tag and other boisterous outdoor activities. It was a compliment and one I happen to be proud of. Kids belong out in the cul-de-sac after all! We are pretty good neighbors… we mow the lawn on time and keep it quiet after dark. There are just a lot of us and a lot of joyful noise accompanies that number. I’ll admit… the noise isn’t all joyful. My kids are normal and they fight and skin their knees on occasion.

So the new house. I have tried very hard to reflect on our home as we worked to organize and settle in. It’s so very different from our previous home… the one we put together with our own hands; changing, re-shaping and renovating. The one that boasted shiplap hand-laid by Calvin and my dad. The one that displayed all the farm house items I found at antique stores and junk sales. It was lovingly curated.

As we house hunted, I looked for practical. I looked for smaller. I looked for just-enough and just right. We considered the profit from the previous house and made a line in the sand on what we could spend. We felt blessed to be able to make a profit on the house and wanted to honor that by being good stewards with the new purchase.

What happened is interesting. After looking and looking and more looking, the house presented itself. It was a little smaller, it had the driveway desired for basketball, and it seemed just right. Just right for a family of six, just right for filling with friends and just right in regards to proximity to the new school. It’s more than what I would have asked for… but it accomplished every goal, thought and desire for good stewardship. And so, we became home-owners for the third time.

As I began to make this house home I was overwhelmed by my desire for simplicity. To paint one color, to decorate with the things I have, to display things that are meaningful. The urge to find and curate has slipped away in many ways. Changing homes reminds you what home is.

Home is breaking windows because you are outside being wild together. Home is a nook for coloring and writing notes to friends. Home is an area to gather for meals and share them with others. Home is a door wide open to those who need it.

When I look at my new home I imagine ways to make this more possible… to eliminate the boundaries to more community and family time. I never want to stress over things breaking or being messed up when there are people that need to be loved and encouraged.

I still love to decorate and style my home. But I have a hard time imagining myself ever putting as much effort, time or resources into it as I once did. It’s funny what a few moves will do to change your perspective.

» Review: BROO Craft Beer Shampoo and Conditioner

We were recently selected to review BROO Craft Beer Shampoo and Conditioner through Moms Meet. As always we had a great time sampling and it was especially interesting to try the different varieties on the many different hair types in our household. The packaging is quirky and fun with reminders like do not drink this. The BROO brand also aligns with many of the things we look for in our body and hair products.

BROO contains NO:

  • Parabens
  • Sulfates or phthalates

  • Dyes or artificial fragrance
  • Silicons
  • PEGs, DEAs, MEA, TEAs or dioxane

So how were the results? I’ll be the first to admit that I often have trouble seeing top-notch results from “natural” products. We tried moisturizing, invigorating and thickening. Each provided the intended benefit and really surpassed our expectations. My hair is curly/wavy and has a coarse texture. The invigorating variety of BROO was my absolute favorite. It energized my hair with it’s minty tingle and caffeine and left my hair very soft… thanks to the aloe leaf! My girls also enjoyed using the products and we found that BROO made their dark black hair silkier and shinier than many products we’ve tried. And as you can see below… you can still work up a generous lather without all the yucky sulfates.

Why Craft Beer? I recall my grandma talking about doing a beer rinse on hair but I didn’t put much stock into that idea. Until now! Apparently the hops in beer are full of essential oils that protect and nourish hair… making it super shiny and soft! Thankfully, using this product does not make you smell like beer. The scent is light comparable to a creamy citrus.

Where can you find BROO? BROO products are currently available at Walmart for just $7.49. You can even pick up some via online order. You can feel good about your BROO purchase. Not only will your hair benefit, but BROO donates a portion of every sale to clean water efforts world wide. Grab your $1.00 off coupon here.

Guess what? One Lucky winner will receive a pair of BRÖÖ Craft Beer Thickening Shampoo & Conditioner in an organza bag! Simply like our Facebook page and share this post! Easy Peasy! We will announce a winner on Wednesday night! (11/1/17)

All Content © Erica Ho, Goodbye Normal