Category - Goodbye Normal

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A letter to my son
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Family Travel: Ethiopia
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Sideline Talk
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» It Takes a Village: Summer Safety
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» REVIEW: Open Goaaal Soccer Goal + Rebounder
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» Dollywood: The Cascades at Splash Country
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» Do supplements really work?
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» Saying yes… our family is headed to Ethiopia
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» Bete Hosanna : Bringing hope to teen girls in Ethiopia
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» Boys’ Trip to Houston in the 2019 Mazda CX-5

A letter to my son

We are standing at the edge of something new, son. I just peeked over the edge and realized that the next phase of knowing you is a steep downhill, just like the ones you power through in cross country. Life is going to move fast from now on and I’ll have trouble keeping up with you at times.

Until now I’ve led the way. Uphill is hard, son. The days were long as I carried you, brought you into the world, fed you and taught you to do things on your own. It takes strong legs to climb UP. But it also takes strong legs to avoid collapsing on the way down.

So here we go, heading into this newness together. Here are a few things you should know:

  • You can always bring your friends home, I’ll feed them.
  • You can always count on your dad and I. We chose to create you and the Lord blessed that. We are committed to you.
  • You can always come home. Or call us to find you and get you there.
  • You can always ask us why. Sometimes we won’t have the best answer, but you’re allowed to ask.
  • You can always trust us. Your best is always on our mind.
  • You can ask us hard questions. If we don’t know the answers, we will sit with you in the wonder.
  • You can count on us to embarrass you sometimes. Because we are parents.
  • You can tell us ANYTHING. We won’t overreact. We’ve been practicing not overreacting for years in preparation for this time in your life. (really, we have)
  • You can expect that there will be consequences if you make super poor decisions. That’s just life bud, and we are going to be good parents.
  • You will be given boundaries and you will be given freedoms. Make good choices and the second will expand.
  • You can believe us when we say we understand you. Middle school is fresh on our minds, even though we are super old.
  • You can be unkind to us, and you will hurt us. But we will do our absolute best to model a response that bears only love.
  • Son, we are your biggest fans. There are no two people in this world that want to see you succeed more. We are standing here cheering you on as you navigate sports, faith, fun with friends, taking quizzes and making it to class without being tardy.

We love you, son. We accept you for who you are and we anticipate who you will become. And we do this without expectations. Do you. Be you. We can’t wait to see it all unfold. We will be running steadily behind you on that downhill and if you reach a hill that’s hard to climb? We’ll be there too.

Family Travel: Ethiopia

I’ll admit it. It’s been an adjustment returning to life in Tennessee after being together, as a family, for a month in Ethiopia. It’s a gift that I’ll be forever thankful for. So often I serve in other countries and return to my family, mind full/heart full, and find it a challenge to re-enter life with all I have seen and done. This time, we all came back with the same thoughts. We know the same people now, we love the same people now.

Working with our Bete Hosanna girls daily was a privilege. Our kids became little brothers and sisters. They laughed and worked alongside the girls seamlessly. Our kids shared who Jesus was to them personally and participated in Bible studies and sharing circles. They helped us welcome teams and they even ate every bit of spicy food handed to them.

I get a lot of questions about how the kids did on the long flights and how their tummies held up in country. The flights were honestly a piece of cake. Movies were enjoyed, games were played and airplane food was eaten. Lufthansa, the airline, was also very kid friendly. They added fun experiences like handing out little stuffed planes, taking polaroids of the kids and randomly bring by little card games or chocolates.

As far as the tummies go. There were definitely a few bumps in the road there. Liam had a couple of sick days and Elliott’s plane ride home was nothing short of miserable. BUT nothing was serious and they rebounded quite well. It’s a small price to pay in the grand scheme of things.

Charlotte and I head back to Ethiopia in just five short weeks. We are leading (I say we because let’s face it, she’s a mini-adult) a team of thirteen people to continue investing in Bete Hosanna and a few other ministries in Ethiopia. To say we can’t wait is an understatement.

I have missed the girls so much since we left. I think of their futures and plan for their futures daily. I have so much hope for them. We all do now.

Sideline Talk

I’ve been a soccer mom for almost seven years now. From the group ball chasing days of four-year-old soccer to a fast paced travel league I’ve seen it all from my folding camp chair. Have ya’ll listened to the things people shout at their kids during soccer?

Some of my favorites:

You’ve got time!
Take a touch!
Get it boogie!  over and over (I think boogie is a nickname??)
Space, Space! Spread out!
Fresh legs! First five minutes!
Think ahead!
That’s the way!
Dig!
You’re all on top of the ball! Space!!!
Cross it!
Wasted opportunity!
Look center!
You’ve got all the time in the world!
Take it up the field!
Come on Red, it’s your ball!!!

So for just a second switch places with your kid and ask them to shout a bunch of random stuff at you while you either mow the lawn, do the dishes or you could even invite them to work and let them shout at you while you work on an excel spreadsheet. I’m sure you would love that right? And your productivity? Super high I’m sure.

All that stuff up there is pure nonsense and these exasperated little sports learners are just trying to get through a game and get the ball in the net, or the basket or just hit it or whatever the game calls for. Calling for them to look center, or get to the corner or dig deep is the coaches job. Maybe sticking to enthusiastic good jobs and great plays is the best route for all involved. Honestly, the kids can’t really hear you any way, so perhaps sparing your sports watching neighbor is really the focus of this post.

And listen, if you’re the mom yelling go boogie through the whole game, I get it. We’re all proud of these kids. The first time I saw my son crest the hill running cross country, tears filled my eyes and I turned red yelling at him to dig deep and cross the finish line. It’s overwhelming to watch these little pieces of ourselves perform athletically. So lets keep the chatter encouraging, uplifting and for goodness sakes be sure the things you yell actually make sense.

(Bless your heart.)

» It Takes a Village: Summer Safety

Remember the kid who ended up in the gorilla pit? I have one of those kids. I remember reading that story and all the outcry and thinking, it’s a good thing we weren’t at the zoo that day because there would have been two kids in the gorilla pit. Kids can be impulsive, unwise and make idiotic choices. They are learning the world, testing boundaries and pushing all the envelopes they can get their grubby hands on. As parents we are here to keep them safe, but we only have two eyes and two arms… despite the rumors about what’s on the back of my head.

Today at the pool while my eyes checked in on one of my four, another mom spotted Liam doing some… shall we say unwise… jumps near her seat. “Don’t jump like that on the edge of the pool little guy, you are making me very nervous!” she exclaimed. I looked over as she said it and gave her a nod and proceeded to back her up. She shouted across that she was sorry, but she just couldn’t keep quiet. My reply? ALWAYS tell my kids to stop if they aren’t safe!

Friends, parents… can we get together on this? If my kid is being unsafe, if your kid is being unsafe let’s let them know. I don’t care who you are or how harsh you are, if my child is being disrespectful, unsafe or unkind in your earshot or line of sight please say something. Alert me if you’re not comfortable, but please don’t stand by if safety comes into play. Of course unkind things may be said between children, and honestly, sometimes they need to just work that out but you’re an adult and maybe a parent and you know when enough is enough. 

Safety talk is on autopilot for me. Especially with boys in the house. Don’t run with sharp things, don’t run on the side of the pool, don’t throw rocks at each other (I’m not kidding) and on it goes. I think my kids are as immune to my utterances as I am! A fresh voice telling them not to make stupid unwise choices every once in awhile might be just what they need!

Bottom line. None of us have this on lock. It’s summer and kids are feeling wild and free as they should. Let’s recognize that we all hold a little power to reign them in from time to time and help another momma or daddy out! As I said two eyes, four kids… something is bound to happen and I hope someone will have my back when and if it does.

» REVIEW: Open Goaaal Soccer Goal + Rebounder

Soccer is a big deal in our family. Between rec and travel soccer, it’s a yearlong sport for us. When we’re not on the fields, the backyard is the next best thing. After trying out various goals over the years, I think we have found our new favorite. If your house is anything like mine, soccer balls tend to find their way over the fence and into the neighbor’s backyard. This goal + rebounder combination from Open Goaaal makes things convenient and ultimately cheaper.

Installation:

Wherever you decide to place the net, know that it won’t be moving anytime soon. The goal will have about 10-12 anchor points that will go into the ground. There are a couple of other things to consider: The ball can still go over the net (and the neighbors fence) no matter what you tell your kids; If you put the net along a fence, you will need to account for enough margin so that the ball doesn’t hit against the fence when the ball goes into the goal. Open Goaaal offers three different sizes so there will likely be an option that works for your yard (we ended up landing on the Standard). With basic tools, one person can be finished in a couple of hours. There are still some moments where two people are needed but not necessary for the whole period.

Function:

We’ve had other nets before without a rebounder but as children grow, their strength and ball speed increase. That’s when our older and smaller nets just couldn’t cut it anymore. The rebounder does what it’s meant to do which makes practicing alone more enjoyable. You can adjust the tightness of the net with the supplied carribeaners, this is necessary for the ball to come back to the player.

Design:

This net is big! As it should be. So make sure you have enough space in your yard. The net goes a few feet deep and although the net is narrow, the mounting structure stretches out both width and depth. In about five minutes, you can take the net/rebounder off the ground and raise it up, similar to a set of blinds. This allows you to mow and edge easily.

Conclusion:

We have loved this product from Open Goaaal! Neighbors from all over, even some we had never met before, come over to kick around and play World Cup.

Open Goaaal website

buy on Amazon




I received this product from Open Goaaal to complete this review, but the opinions expressed here are my own.

» Dollywood: The Cascades at Splash Country

As always use Dollywood coupon code: DWINSIDERS to get $10 off your tickets when you buy in advance online!

Summer is in full swing and so are the soaring temperatures! Thank goodness for Splash Country and the break from heat it provides. Our family recently went on a three-day Dollywood filled adventure and chose to spend the first day in Splash Country enjoying the many water slides and working on our tan lines. 

We’ve realized over the years that Splash Country can be enjoyed several days in a row due the the size and variance of attractions. In fact, many people never make it to the back of the park where our favorite area lies in wait; The Cascades!

The Cascades area boasts an 8,000 square foot lagoon style pool with beach entry, cascading waterfalls (thus the name!), two slides, geysers, interactive water play areas, water jets and more! The pool area is also surrounded by generous seating and waterside retreats and canopies. The retreats and canopies are available for rent and worth every penny.

There is so much to do in this sizable area tucked in behind Fire Tower Falls and Bear Mountain Fire Tower. Our younger children delighted in the geysers and water play area while our older kids enjoyed zipping down the slides over and over again with little to no wait. It was easy to keep an eye on everyone from our perch at the beach entry side of lagoon and we had peace of mind as the ever-vigilant life guard staff patrolled the area. In fact, the Splash Country lifeguards have some awesome tips for parents here.

The Cascades is truly the perfect place to kick back while the kids explore. This “secret cove” is sure to become one of your favorite places to recharge and connect as a family while beating the summer heat. It has been for us!

As always use Dollywood coupon code: DWINSIDERS to get $10 off your tickets when you buy in advance online!

» Do supplements really work?

I probably obsess a bit too much about my personal health. The obsession is the product of inheriting some less than stellar genes and having some interesting medical struggles at a young(ish) age. Additionally several people, including kids, in our family have some variation of the MTHFR genetic mutation. Something that freaked me out to begin with, but no longer worries me. A bit of research and understanding and paying attention to bloodwork has helped us utilize supplements and diet to counteract the effects of having such genetic mutations.

We have also come to understand that health and healthy living is not one size fits all. Many of the methods that were recommended to me personally, to lower my hereditary high cholesterol didn’t work. I had to really pay attention to what worked for me by trying a lot of different things. In the end a mostly vegetarian diet, cutting out dairy, upping cardio, taking a raw multivitamin, adding fish oil and working on inflammation specifically made the numbers drop. Addressing inflammation through diet was one of the last frontiers for me and it seemed to be the thing that really tipped the scale.

The question posed in the title of this post is “do supplements really work?” In our experience they absolutely do. This has been backed up by significant changes in our bloodwork. Even our children have had full panels done. I encourage you to do this for your kids too! We learned so much about how their bodies were processing nutrition and what they needed and what they didn’t. There was a drastic change in their deficiencies after I targeted their supplements and diet to their needs. Here’s the thing about kids though… mine are certainly not picky, but they also aren’t down to eat some of the weird concoctions I whip up to meet their nutritional needs. Supplements help us meet in the middle by filling in the gaps left by the American diet and our food sources.

To get to the point, here are the supplements that we currently use that are working well and showing results confirmed by blood work and how we feel on a daily basis. We specifically choose whole food and in some cases raw whole food vitamins. Overusing synthetic vitamins can cause their own slew of problems. Some of our most pressing issues were low amounts of B12 and D.

Erica’s Vitamins:

Ultimate Omega by Nordic Naturals
Garden of Life Vitamin Code Raw Women’s Multi
(I take only a half dose of this per day)
Dr. Ohhira’s fermented probiotic
I switch probiotics all the time, as it’s best to continually expose the system to different strains, but this is a really good one I currently use
Green Superfood
This helps to ensure that I get plenty of greens and helps detoxify

Calvin’s vitamins:

Turmeric with Curcumin
Gaia Daily Wellbeing for Men
Garden of Life spray B12

Lola and Liam:

Doterra Kids Multivitamin Chewable
Nordic Naturals Jr.
Renew Life Kids Probiotic tablets
Renew Life Kids Digestive Enzyme (when needed, after consuming dairy etc.)

Charlotte and Elliott:

Amazing Grass Capsules (they take 3 capsules)
Mary Ruth’s Organic B12/D3
Nordic Naturals Jr.
Renew Life Kids Probiotic tablets

» Saying yes… our family is headed to Ethiopia

I’ve shared a bit about the work I’m involved with in Ethiopia here and there on the blog. For the past several years I’ve gone without my husband and children and as Ethiopia has solidified it’s place in my heart I have yearned to share that more deeply with my family. Our son, being from Ethiopia, has consistently shared a desire to be more involved as well. Last week those things collided with a need for me to spend a month in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia over the summer. Within hours of assessing the need our family decided to say yes to packing up for a temporary relocation to Addis Ababa.

Now begins the physical, mental, spiritual and emotional preparation. As well as the task of fundraising a portion of our trip expenses. We are thankfully in a place where we have prepared and don’t need to raise 100% of the expenses but we do have to get to work on the rest. We have set up a page that allows for tax-deductible online donations and are prepping for several fundraising pushes including an online auction, selling items from our home and doing some extra work as we can pick it up.

What will we be doing? America World, my employer, just opened a home for teen girls who have aged out of the government orphanage. We will be working daily with the girls to support their emotional and spiritual needs while working to implement a life skills curriculum that I am working on with several volunteer leaders. We will also work with in country staff and help facilitate the volunteer teams that visit and work during that time.

This is exciting on so many levels. We will be serving as a family, caring for some pretty incredible girls, spreading the gospel and growing as a family all at the same time. It will be our joy to share our journey with all of you!

» Bete Hosanna : Bringing hope to teen girls in Ethiopia

I recently returned from another trip to Ethiopia. I’ve shaken the jet leg and processed the images of my son’s beautiful first home. This trip was unique among trips because this time, I was house hunting. House hunting for a home to house teen girls aging out of the government orphanage in Addis Ababa. A home that we have named Bete Hosanna. Bete, is house in Amharic… Hosanna means rescue. The house of rescue. Not because we are rescuers… but because we are the rescued thanks to what Jesus has done. And because of that great love, we cannot look away from what we have seen.

One of my amazing volunteers Melinda Salle shared the following:

“Images of their beautiful faces flash through my mind a hundred times a day. My team was forced to leave them in January. We left them alone and in the poorest living conditions I have ever seen. We circled around each of them in prayer that night as we left them in the dark, scared and feeling probably more alone than they had ever felt in their lives. I realized in those moments that no one had ever taken care of these eleven precious girls. Eighteen years old and not a soul in the world who cared. No mother had ever cautioned her about the dangers of the streets. No father had ever counseled her on how to spend or save her hard earned money. No one had protected her from evil or harm or taught her how to protect herself. No one had taught her that she was created for a purpose by the God of the Universe who never leaves or forsakes. There was not one adult who cared to say goodbye or walk her out as she struggled to carry her meager belongings and walked out the gate of the orphanage completely alone. How many of us remember the day we got dropped off at college with our cute bedding, some pictures for the walls and a rug? Our parents double and triple checking that we had everything we could ever possibly need as they left us with food, clothing and a credit card “just in case”. The contrast is so stark I can hardly bear it. These girls are the definition of strength, beyond what we can understand.  They have NEVER had anyone believe in them, encourage them or defend them. They urgently need people who are in their corner. People who believe in them and love them and pray for them.  People across the globe who are willing to give up additional comforts in order to change the entire life of an eighteen year old girl whose only options may be prostitution, drugs or death. Please consider entering in to these girls’ lives. As someone who has personally looked into the eyes of each one of them, I pray that you will not be able to forget this story, just as I am never able to “unsee” what God showed me there that day. Please join us in fighting for justice and hope for each one of these eleven.”

The work with Bete Hosanna exceeds any challenge I have ever taken on. Our girls need hope and healing and those things will be hard fought for. The girls spent their very first night safely in the home this week and big emotions and challenges are settling in. I hope you’ll consider partnering with us in prayer and perhaps supporting in a small way. I look forward to sharing more as we wade into the deep waters.

» Boys’ Trip to Houston in the 2019 Mazda CX-5

When one of your son’s best friends wants to go to an NBA game for his birthday, you go to Houston! After six months of planning, we introduced our good friends to some of Houston’s best offerings, leaving them wanting more after the trip. The 2019 Mazda CX-5 crossover took us up, through, and down Houston’s Beltway and Interstates this time around.

Here are a few things we especially liked about the car followed by a rundown of our Houston adventures:

Design – We are still in love with the redesign that continues to improve from 2017. The interior comfortably seats five even with a group of crazy boys that tend to extend their arms and legs in all directions.

Interior – The interior of the CX-5 gets better each year. Every detail is well thought out, making everything in arms reach without having to take your focus off the road. The heated leather seats are offered for the front and rear seats to make everyone comfortable in the coldest winter months.

Safety Features – With a group of rowdy kids, it’s easy to lose focus to detail with the additional distractions. That’s more reason to appreciate Blind Spot Monitoring and Rear Cross Traffic Alert. At just the right times when parking, the Mazda would display multiple angles of the vehicle to assist with parking.

Houston can be a stressful place to drive with lots of traffic and lane closures. The CX-5 made the drives fun and enjoyable. The attention to detail and response of the car make you feel in control and safe at all times.

Houston Boys’ Trip Highlights and Destinations:
After the plane ride, the boys were pretty restless so we booked it straight to the Museum District to visit Houston’s Children’s Museum. This has always been a favorite so my boys were excited to introduce their friends to this one. Anyone can safely plan a three-four hour trip here.


After running around for a few hours, the boys were starving. We headed to for a ten minute drive to find The Pit Room, a not-so-secret BBQ restaurant in Montrose.

There’s no wondering why this spot made Texas Monthly’s list for Top 50 Barbecue Joints in Texas. At the time of our visit, the line was not too long and went quickly. The environment is nice with a large outdoor seating option during the warmer months. We had some hungry guys so we went for The Feast, which feeds 4-6. The brisket was tender and the jalapeño sausage was a favorite. Make sure to macaroni and cheese as one of your sides. The George Jones’ hits on the house speakers come at no extra charge.

After a lazy Saturday visiting with family, our quick weekend birthday trip would be topped off with the Rockets facing the Magic for a Sunday night game. We showed up early to watch players warm up and maybe get an autograph or two. The Rockets do an incredible job from the way the employees greeted us, the family-friendly environment they promote, and the high standards they put on production quality. In short, the birthday game did not disappoint.

Before the big game, we visited BuffBurger in Montrose. Where do I begin? The smell is great when you first walk in, it must be the wood fire grill. The beef is high quality from Ranch 44 and tastes like beef should. The parmesan truffle fries were perfect say the least. We definitely ate more than we should’ve.

Kids eat free on Monday and Tuesday (with purchase of a regular dine-in meal). The Little BuffBurger was a big hit. We opted out of the soft drinks to indulge on the great selection of ice cream.

Conclusion about the Mazda CX-5
For our trip, this car was perfect. We didn’t require a ton of storage since we were only staying for two nights. The gas efficiency and option for Sport mode are great for daily use. Houston driving always keeps you on your toes, and the Mazda’s safety features helps you focus on the important things when it comes to navigating the streets. We love this car as much as we love Texas, and that’s a big deal.

Special thanks to Mazda USA for allowing us to test drive the 2019 CX-5 Grand Touring. As always, these opinions are my own.

All Content © Erica Ho, Goodbye Normal