Category - Goodbye Normal

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Five birthday treats to send to school when cupcakes aren’t allowed
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REVIEW: Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics
3
Say Mama, a reflection on the orphan crisis
4
Let them be little… and have conflicts
5
Clean Beauty Round-Up
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Review: Desert Essence Anti-Breakage Shampoo
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» REVIEW: Tuft & Needle Pouch (Chair)
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» The French Cottage: Renovation Series
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» Making a Home
10
» Asleep by 8:00

Five birthday treats to send to school when cupcakes aren’t allowed

I began my career, fresh out of college, as a teacher. I didn’t spend a long time in that field but I lingered long enough to realize that birthday cakes were a disaster in the classroom. They crumbled, kids licked only the frosting off the top and the resulting sugar high made the afternoon super pleasant. As a mom, I see the cupcake issue from yet another angle. Food allergies are a real issue for many kids and cupcakes have a lengthly list of ingredients, lots of sugar and often artificial food dyes. Perhaps food treats aren’t the best choice to send off to school and into the hands, and mouths, of children we don’t know well. Today I’m proposing five options for elementary aged kids that aren’t food and won’t break the bank. Each item is linked for you convenience.

Squishy Mochi Animals

What’s not to love? These adorable little guys are squishy (sensory input!) and tradable. They come in at $12-15 for sets of 20 or 30 and your child and their classmates are bound to have an extra fun recess that day squishing, stretching and sharing their new little creatures.

Play-Doh

Play Doh is a classic and these mini, party size options give each child just a little bit to enjoy. The party packs also come with little stickers that allow your child to add the names of each friend in class. The price is right at five dollars for 15 mini tubs.

Novelty Food Erasers

Your child’s teacher will be pleased with this “treat” that doubles as a school supply! For $14 you can snag 50 erasers that span every food group. From pizza, to pie and popsicles there will be a favorite (or 2) in the mix for each child in the class.

Mini Rubiks Cubes

My 11 year old chimed in with this option! These little cubes are adorable and will keep hands busy during transition times, recess or the bus ride home. The price point is right at $9 for 18 cubes and it’s just a really fun and cool little treat to share. Great for older elementary.

Friendship cord bracelets

This little treat serves a dual purpose. It’s fun AND it promotes friendship and unity in the classroom. This $12 fifty pack comes with styles that will work for both genders and has plenty of colors to choose from. Bonus points for not being a distraction! This is another treat that could work well for older elementary.

 

REVIEW: Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics

A few years back I learned that you are supposed to rotate and change out your probiotic sources periodically to expose your gut to different probiotic strains for optimal results. For this reason I was pretty excited to partner with Moms Meet for a special review of Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics. It was definitely time to get out of my probiotic rut!

I was immediately intrigued when I discovered that these particular whole-food based probiotics were created with a three year fermentation process. Fermentation maximizes the natural health-promoting properties of each ingredient. Mushrooms, vegetables and spring water are all part of this amazing fermentation process.

What makes this probiotic different? Definitely the fermentation process, but also the blend of pre-biotics, probiotics and post-biotics. You get all three of these necessary strains that promote optimal gut-health in one capsule. This allows your body to grow its own healthy bacteria, something our bodies need to thrive. This formula is also free of gluten, dairy, allergens and GMOs, so it’s a great pick for even the most sensitive systems.

Cold and flu season will be here before we know it and gut health is a huge factor in how well our immune system fights for us. There is no better time to start a great probiotic to support your immune system. I began to notice a difference in my digestive health just days after starting Dr. Ohhira’s supplements. I experienced more regularity, less heartburn and I even lost a few pounds after using them for about three weeks. I chose to do the jump start for intensive rebalancing as suggested on the packaging, and took five capsules in the morning and five capsules at night for the first six days. I feel that this was a key part of my results and a great way to rebalance quickly. I now take just one capsule per day and continue to experience great results.

It’s nice to know that I’m also experiencing greater nutrient absorption as well as the more tangible benefits I shared above. If you are looking for a new, high-quality probiotic I certainly give my gold stamp of approval on this one. But thankfully you don’t have to take my word alone. Dr. Ohhira’s probiotics are the seven-time award winner of the Best of Supplements award as well as the Clean Choice Awards winner of 2015.

Click here to read more!

 

 

Say Mama, a reflection on the orphan crisis

I woke up early this morning, which is typical. I’m a morning person through and through. My best hours are 5-7am accompanied by strong coffee that I constantly forget and reheat. After years of small kids I know no other way to drink coffee. I took out the dog and puttered in the kitchen and then I read, checked email and scrolled facebook for a minute or two, something that is part of work for me and always in my morning routine: a quick scroll, answering messages and posting on the One Orphan page. A sweet little video popped up and I watched for a moment. A darling, blonde toddler was watching the Good Dinosaur and crying a bit over the dinosaur’s accident. He had fallen and was separated. With tears in her eyes she called out to the screen, get up! She said this a few times and then changed her tone, he needs his mama, say mama, she said, say mama she called to the screen.

For a moment I envisioned a world in which all children knew that they could say mama and receive aid. But that’s not our reality. Instead we live in a sin-ravaged world that leaves millions of children without the safety net of family and thousands more within families that cannot care for them properly due to a plethora of situations.

This week, and weeks before, I sent teams to stand in as surrogates. To hold and feed and support for just a minute. They are trained, they know how to enter carefully and minimize their presence… to enter as a supporting role to the overworked and overwhelmed in-coutry staff. To purchase supplies locally, to hire out work locally and to not impress our American ways on another culture.  They know all the things.

That’s the hard part. We know now. We’ve known for a long time. Orphan care got really big in Christian circles in the past several years. But it was also highly criticized. There were even published comments by public officials stating that they would rather see children die in their birth country than be adopted.

I think the criticism was good in many ways. It helped us all examine our motives, our language and our practices. But it also slowed us down. Adoption is on the decline, the foster care needs are soaring and international orphanages are full and struggling.

There are so many children who do not know how to say mama. It’s not in their vocabulary. But friends, it was designed to be part of their vocabulary! I am mother to a child who did not know families existed until we showed up at a dim Chinese government office to take her home at the end of her 5th year. We had to teach her to say mama. And now, in her 10th year, I often find myself rolling my eyes because she knows how to do it a bit too well! It wasn’t easy. But they are all worth it.

It might not look like adoption or foster care for every child. The needs are complex and so are the children. But I’m worried that a little criticism has taken the wind out of our sails. That perhaps we arrived and found a mess we couldn’t fix and retreated rather than just sitting in the mess with them.

I don’t think we get to do that friends. And we don’t have to know all the answers. There are children who don’t know how to call for their mama and the amount is staggering, let’s keep going… adopting, supporting those who adopt, expanding our families when they feel big enough, caring for a child for two weeks through Safe Families or Jonah’s Journey, taking foster care classes, mentoring an at-risk teenager, serving in orphanages overseas, raising money for big needs. Let’s do it all with BIG love in Jesus name. Because when saying mama isn’t an option saying Jesus is even more powerful.

 

Let them be little… and have conflicts

Mom… the neighbor is coming to talk to you. Elliott yelled this in a hurry as he and a neighborhood buddy came bursting in the front door. What did you do? I asked. The conversation that followed included some details about a tomato from his friend’s garden, and how they were tossing it and then some older boys entered the scene and somehow this tomato ended up being tossed at/to one of these kids. So did it ruin his shirt, was he hurt somehow? My questions continued. Both boys answered that no, neither had taken place. I told them not to worry and to just go play, and to keep their tomatoes to themselves.

About twenty minutes later I went out to the driveway to retrieve something and I saw the parent  coming full speed toward me. This man had an intentional stride, body-builder arms and probably 150 pounds on me. And yet he came, bowed up, like he needed to make an impression on his 5 foot 3 inch neighbor in yoga pants.

Is that your son? He pointed to Elliott. I believe so, I said. He proceeded to tell me how the boys had been throwing rotten tomatoes at his boys. He wasn’t present for this bloodbath, he was simply retelling a story without either party present. And his boys? They are older than the boys I was currently representing. But what was particularly amusing is that this daddy proceeded to tell me he was trying to pay it forward, one parent to another because it seemed that my son could care less.

Well neighbor. I bet he doesn’t care. Because it’s summer. And boys throw things. And no one was hurt and their clothes aren’t stained. This certainly wasn’t a charge to your neighbor’s house event and I’m concerned about what will happen if we ever do have one of those!

Parents I’m worried that we’ve driven our helicopters a little too close. We are literally clipping the hairs on their heads with the propeller at this point! Bullying is all over the news, and certainly should be dealt with. But what will happen if our children grow up without these little summer break conflicts? If we handle ever scrape and mean word and tomato for them… man, good luck with your first job. Good luck navigating interpersonal relationships in college and the Comcast guy who comes to your door when you buy a house. We are cutting their legs out from under them.

At some point he headed back before I could say much, because really, I didn’t have much to say. I gathered the boys up and explained that while I expected them both to be respectful to the adults in our neighborhood I wasn’t upset with them. I suggested that perhaps they stay clear of the older boys for now, as it didn’t seem like a good fit and they agreed. And then I thought about it again, and shouted to them as they ran off with some random concoction that resembled a bunny trap… play with who you want, but think about what you do and be prepared to deal with the consequences! They exchanged a look that said she is such a weird mom, but yelled okay! and went on their way.

I’ll sleep easy tonight knowing that hopefully, someday, these kids of mine will make choices, reap consequences and handle conflict with grace. Besides, a little tomato never hurt anyone anyway.

Clean Beauty Round-Up

I spent years paying little attention to the products I used on my skin and face. I slathered on foundation without ever turning the bottle over to read what was actually in the bottle. When we began to have children I cleaned up our personal products, cloth diapered and made many of the cleaners and household items we used regularly. I remember a time when  Seventh Generation was the only decent brand I could find in a store and even that was a bit questionable! The interesting thing about this big transformation is that it wasn’t until the past two years that I considered my make-up and skin care routine. I don’t wear gobs of make up but I love a good BB cream, mascara and black eyeliner. I also love playing with make up if I’m headed to dinner or somewhere special. It was definitely time to turn that bottle of foundation over to read what was really lurking inside. Fragrance (AKA, the beauty industry’s secret code for whatever they want to put in here, unregulated), Parabens, Triclosan, Formaldehyde, Lead… and a whole lot more. To get the full picture click here and read all about it.

For our purposes I’m going to skip ALL the details of the scary story and instead share the GREAT products I’ve found to avoid this yuck. Because here’s the thing… even if you don’t care that your make-up and face products can carry cancer and neurological risk maybe you’ll care that they are actually aging your skin and making you look older. 

I have tried, at length, each of the safe products suggested below and fully recommend them. Please read the notes in order to decide if it’s the right product for your needs. Each product name is linked to their website for shopping ease if you decide you just HAVE to try it.

Foundation/Powders/B.B. Creams/Primers:

Juice Beauty: PHYTO-PIGMENTS FLAWLESS SERUM FOUNDATION

This is a really good medium coverage foundation. It moisturizes the skin and does not set on top of the skin or look cakey. I prefer to wear this with a dab of loose powder on top to set the look and make things a bit more matte. If you prefer a dewey look just skip the setting powder. This also contains an anti-aging serum! (tip: shake the bottle well every time you use it)

Rejuva Minerals:  CONCEALER POWDER AND LOOSE FOUNDATION POWDER

Rejuva minerals makes several foundation items but these were stand-out winners and the items I employed over the last week to create a daily clean make-up look. This was my first go with concealer powder and I don’t think I could go back to a stick concealer again. This organic, mica and titanium dioxide free powder is really easy to apply and target areas like dark circles without pulling against the skin or causing further damage. The coverage is excellent and buildable according to the look you want to create. As a bonus, their packaging is really quite cute. Use coupon code goodb to receive 15% off your order.

Crunchi: BEAUTIFULLY FLAWLESS FOUNDATION 

Crunchi is a fairly new MLM company but they have made a big splash with highly educated consultants. Their Flawless Foundation is a great choice if you like a very full-coverage look. It really lives up to its name.

Lowens: IN YO FACE! NATURAL, VEGAN BB CREAM

This wonder-cream firms and protects your face and just feels wonderful. This BB cream is not tinted and works well as a pre-make up moisturizer or on those days when you skip the foundation and just throw on some mascara. (Which is me four days out of seven) As a bonus, this cream also provides sun protection!

Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics: MAGICAL MORINGA PRIMER

Lush is super transparent with all of their ingredients and they include pictures of the folks who make the products on their packaging, so obviously I love everything they sell. This vegan primer was a new purchase for me after browsing the store with a friend one day. We both sampled it in the store, looked at each other and immediately declared our love for the product and intent to buy it. It quickly makes the surface of your face velvety and matte. Make up stays on longer and I’ve been wearing this alone on days when I don’t want to wear make up. Bonus! It’s full of Argan oil and doubles as moisturizer.

Mascara:

W3LL People: EXPRESSIONIST MASCARA

Mascara is a must for me. I pretty much always have it on. And the blacker the better. The brush included in this mascara is the key. The formula is great, but man, the brush is the best. It’s super skinny and firm and it lengthens lashes beautifully without any clumping. Allure magazine endorses it, so you know it’s good!

Rejuva Minerals: MASCARA MEGA LASH, LENGTHENING & THICKENING

Mega Lash has a mega brush included. If you like a fat, fluffy brush that adds a lot of fullness and depth to lashes you’ll adore this one. The formula goes on easily and leaves lashes channeling snuffleupagus from Sesame Street. This is not a water-resistant formula so definitely skip it on pool days. Rejuva also offers a volumizing formula but I have not personally tried it yet, grab some and let me know what you think! Use coupon code goodb to receive 15% off your order.

 

Blush and Bronzer:

Juice Beauty: PHYTO PIGMENTS BRONZER AND ILLUMINATOR DUO

This bronzer and illuminator duo is pretty fool proof. Bronzer is a favorite “make up tool” of mine and I do have some trouble with powder versions. This smooth, gel-like formula is easy to apply and blend in if you make a mistake. The color also works well with almost any skin type. The illuminator looks lovely applied at the top of the cheeks or corners of the eye.

Rejuva Minerals: PAPAYA PRESSED BLUSH POWDER

This blush has a universally flattering color and is buildable like many of Rejuva’s products. It’s definitely not a blush you can cake on OR overdo. It’s just a sweet pop of color that warms up the skin and leaves you with a summery look. It gets points for being fool-proof and natural looking. Use coupon code goodb to receive 15% off your order.

Lips:

Lowens: LOWENS LIP BALM

Lowen’s Lip Balm comes in 17 fun and delicious flavors. Some of our favorites are Funky cold camelina, Iced mini doughnut and Lime in da coconut. Yes, I’m a total sucker for fun product names but the performance and flavor is equally great. These smooth and tasty lip balms are full of fair trade ingredients (even coffee for some flavors!) like shea butter, rosemary oil and beeswax. Each flavor has it’s own list of special ingredients! This product is a hit with the whole family and must at the end of summer days in the sun. Hit up our instagram to win some for yourself.

Juice Beauty: SATIN LIP CREAM

This satin lip cream is FULL of color. It’s rich, deep and buildable. It’s not long-wearing but my lips feel great when I use it. If you don’t mind reapplying this is a great choice. To be honest, I’m pretty certain that long-wearing lipsticks don’t have great ingredients, including some of the popular ones that make some pretty big claims.

Body Products:

Lowen’s: BUBBLE PASTE

Oh. My. Goodness. This stuff won some awards in our house. First of all, it’s somehow more fun to put paste into a bath than liquid. Second, the blood orange scent is just SO good. Third? We are just really in love with the Lowen’s company and their commitment to really good, nourishing and safe ingredients. Their sweet stories about the products and how they are related to their daughter Lowen really win us over. I have complete and full confidence in every product I use from Lowen’s, not only because I trust their business model but they also have great EWG ratings which takes all the guess work out of the equation. Grab some bubble paste for yourself and give the kids an enjoyable bath you can feel good about.

Lowen’s: BUTTER BALM

This magical salve is like a fix-everything wonder balm. Too many words? Maybe… but it is really good. Lowen’s Butter Balm is completely free of petrochemicals, artificial preservatives, colorants or scenting agents. We have used it on everything from bug bites that didn’t want to heal, to cracked cuticles and rough puppy paws. Basically, if something is irritating your skin, slather some of this on and you’ll be on your way to fixing the issue. It comes in a generous sized tub and kind of melts in your hand as you apply it. We are in the thick of summer activities and this seems to be the most requested item after days full of bug bites, scrapes and barefoot running. I’ve heard it’s great as a diaper rash solution as well!

Acure: BRILLIANTLY BRIGHTENING FACE SCRUB

Yes, I know. I’ve written about this one before. But if it’s not in your life yet, go ahead and make sure it is. This scrub gently exfoliates with things like sea kelp and French green clay. It’s like a 2-minute spa day and I promise your face will feel refreshed and detoxified. I keep this on my amazon subscribe and save because I can’t. stop. using. it.

And there you have it! My current favorites, all with the highest standards  and practices. I’m really thankful for these companies and the ethical practices they employ. The result is high performing products that don’t have shady or irritating ingredients. All products can be verified on the EWG website if you want to double check me!

 

Review: Desert Essence Anti-Breakage Shampoo

We began switching our personal care products to natural, socially conscious brands several years ago. We quickly discovered that not all natural products are created equal. Especially when it comes to shampoo. I tried dozens of “natural” shampoos that left my hair dry and dull.

For the past few weeks I’ve had the opportunity to try out Desert Essence Shampoos with my family and we’ve truly been impressed. Their Anti-Breakage Shampoo performed well with our varying hair types, thin and straight to thick and curly.  After using it consistently my hair seemed calmer (no frizz!) and it had a nice shine that wasn’t present before using the shampoo. I also really enjoyed the conditioner. It’s on the thiner side and absorbs quickly into hair unlike thicker/creamier conditioners. The smell is very mild in both products, it has a mild herbal smell with a bit of tea tree mixed in. I can’t wait to see how my hair continues to improve with continued use!

My son has very dry, tight curls and we added the Desert Essence Anti-Breakage mask to his weekly routine. His hair felt so silky after the first use and we had a much easier time detangling his hair that after his bath. I’m hopeful that with continued use his dryness and manageability will improve even more.

About Desert Essence:

This is my first experience using Desert Essence products but they have been around for quite some time! For 35 years Desert Essence has been sustainably sourcing the purest and highest quality ingredients from all over the world. They do not use artificial colors or fragrances in any of their products. As a company centered around making a difference since 1978, Desert Essence is a certified B-Corp Corporation. This means that Desert Essence meets the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency and legal accountability. If only more companies operated under these standards! Additionally. Desert Essence donates a portion of their sales to help girls in impoverished areas get access to education.

More about Desert Essence Anti-Breakage Shampoo:

  • Infused with an exclusive blend of Country Life Maxi-Hair® plus Biotin, this breakthrough formula with Keratin and Pro-Vitamin B5 helps reduce breakage up to 61%.
  • Rich in nourishing Jojoba and coconut oils, aloe, and saw palmetto, these ingredients smooth and fortify hair cuticles, and revitalize hair strands to minimize breakage.
  • The botanical oils and radish seed extract provide incredible shine.
  • The aloe and moisturizing shea butter in the Anti-Breakage Conditioner help detangle and condition hair.

Desert Essence is currently offering 30% off all Gluten-Free hair products. You can also snag a free lip balm with your order of $30 or more! Use code DELovesMomsMeet to get 20% off the rest of their amazing products! Click here to shop! 

 

 

I received this product for free from Moms Meet (momsmeet.com) to use and post my honest opinions. Compensation for this post was provided and this page may contain affiliate links.

» REVIEW: Tuft & Needle Pouch (Chair)

For the last few years, I’ve worked from home. I’ve slowly created a workspace that fits my needs for function and design. My space isn’t quite large enough for a couch so I went on the hunt for the perfect chair. So when Tuft & Needle asked us to review their new Pouch chair, I knew it had potential for the home office! Tuft & Needle has already been known to disrupt the mattress market with dozens of other brands following their lead. Now they’ve introduced what has become my new favorite seat in the house.

A few days after placing our online order, our UPS man delivered the Pouch right to our doorstep! The box required both Calvin and I to get it to the right spot. Be ready, these chairs weigh approximately 70 pounds! As you’ve probably imagined, there is no assembly required. Just open, unwrap, and patiently watch the Pouch expand before jumping on. I love the design of this couch, it is nice enough for any room in the house, not just tucked away in the corner of a bonus room.

 

A post shared by Erica Ho (@goodbye_normal) on

The Pouch.

It’s a bean bag but it’s the size of a large comfy chair. Just like their mattresses, the Pouch is delivered in a tall box right to your doorstep. This makes the Pouch a whole lot easier to bring upstairs if needed.

Specs

  • 48″ W x 48″ L x 48″ H
  • Filled with Certipur-US certified T&N Adaptive foam
  • Soft, quilted cover with locking zipper
  • Made in the USA (yes!)
  • 100-day trail
  • 3-year warranty
  • Available in 3 colors

I love to sit on it with my feet propped up on a nearby ottoman or coffee table. Our kids love to get a running start and dive into this “giant fluffy cloud” as they’ve described it. Speaking of kids, the cover is completely removable and machine washable in case a child (or a pet in our case) does the unthinkable. We’ve already moved the Pouch to different rooms in the house but I think the office is where it’ll stay.

Conclusion

I love the sturdiness and quality of the Pouch. Some folks may think the $450 price tag is steep but it is nowhere near the $850 price tag of a similar product by Lovesac. Even with heavy use, I imagine the Pouch to last in our house for at least five years.

Tuft & Needle website

buy Tuft & Needle on Amazon

 

 

 

 

I received this product from Tuft & Needle to complete this review, but the opinions expressed here are my own.

» The French Cottage: Renovation Series

I have been obsessed with this idea of living in a cottage or a bungalow for quite some time. I think that obsession is what fueled the desire to downsize into a cozier home. That… and the desire to not spend my life cleaning square footage. Our new home has a cozy kitchen that I initially dubbed too small, but after ripping our flooring out and pondering and staring at it, and staring at it some more… a few very warm and comforting feelings have come over me. Maybe it’s a good thing to have a just-big-enough kitchen where you bump into each other as you brush past to unload the dishwasher or boil the pasta water. And so, I have embraced those intimate cottage feelings and now have a direction for the low-key styling and renovation of this home. It started with the cement tiles I laid in the entryway after work this week. My kids were all at camp for three days and it seemed like the best project to knock out. I didn’t want to fuss at them if they accidentally stepped on it before all was dry and set. Thankfully Lowes now has a pretty good selection of tile, and I made a decision quickly. Click here if you want to connect with that exact tile yourself. The Lowes website classifies the tile as “bathroom tile” but I envisioned our entryway, which is small, shouting a big hello. This tile certainly does that. I think this would look awesome in a hallway or laundry room as well. In fact… someone please put this in a laundry room, it would be amazing.

Back to the subject. I tiled. And I was super nervous because although I have tiled a backsplash or two, this was different. It was a bit daunting to know that we would walk on top of it for years to come. For this reason I was extra careful and meticulous with the job. First I laid the hardy backer and screwed it in, with probably more screws than I needed, and then I carefully laid out each tile with spacers and made all the cuts I would need in advance. I used a little tile cutter and a wet saw.

Once I had the pattern laid out and cuts made I took the bravest step and used thin set to spread out on the floor and lay the tiles. I am certain that no one is messier than me when working with these materials. I was covered in thin set by the time I finished. We have some awesome guys working to put a covered porch out back and they looked a little astonished when I came out to get some air. They were busting concrete and digging up dirt and were cleaner than I.

After the tiles had time to cure on the thin set (is that even the right phrase? I don’t know) I added the dark gray grout. I just love it. I never in my life, ever, want to clean white grout. Even if it was the inest thing to ever be in. I will always choose dark grout. After the grout had time to harden and do its thing I cleaned the tile off and sealed everything up with a spray sealer. And Ta-Da! This is what 4.5 hours gets you. My knees and back are definitely feeling it today!

So what’s next for our faux-French cottage? Definitely some flooring for the rest of the house. We went wild and pulled everything up, because we really needed to, and are currently walking on subfloor. I am hopeful that the rest of the flooring will be decided upon and installed this week. Additionally, as I mentioned, an amazing porch is being added behind the kitchen and my heart is just so full when I envision that space and the people that will hopefully fill it for cook outs. I am also planning what I call a “kitchen refresh.” This will include adding some bottom cabinetry to what already exists, floating shelves and possibly some IKEA butcher block. But… first floors.

» Making a Home

A series of interesting events led us on a bit of a detour/adventure this past year. We had high hopes that didn’t pan out. But God’s plans really are better than high hopes. In fact they are a heck of a lot more solid than hopes. Any discomfort or displacement we may have felt during this time, and now, are for the good He is continuing to orchestrate. I say this with confidence, but if you have talked to me lately you might question that resolve. I haven’t cried this much since I was pregnant. Whew.

Home is so important to me. Building and curating a place of welcome. Stocking a fridge with things that aid hospitality. Yet I’ve been dreaming about a downsize and in our culture less room seems to spell less room for people. This year when everything shifted and left us scrambling to sell our home of ten months and buy another, in an extremely crazy market, we were forced to downsize. Sure we could have extended a bit, added a bit more to the payment, compromised on our budget. But all the signs pointed toward actually doing what we’ve felt led to do for years: downsize and create room for others nonetheless. And so, we did it. We bought a house that was considerably smaller but checked many boxes for our family of six. It needs work and it apparently has a history of heartbreak. It has stretched me… it has made me uncomfortable. Mostly because the A/C unit promptly went out when we moved in. (Please kick in home warranty!) It’s embarrassing to admit all these first world thoughts and problems. But our struggles, no matter how frivolous are sharable. Perhaps for you, but perhaps for me as well. Sharing puts my heart on display in a way that helps me examine it for what really lies inside, it helps me throw out the clutter and refine what needs to belong.

As I moved into this house my friend and co-laborer (because she doesn’t just live in this world, she’s works in it) handed me a beautiful emerald book that said so many things that I want my heart to feel and accomplish consistently. In The Gospel Comes with a House Key Rosaria Butterfield states that hospitality is not just moral posturing. Hospitality is loving your neighbor at every opportunity and at every cost.

Whoa. Holy cow.

In my tears, the loss of space, and dirtiness of current space and disfunctionality of space… all things that will be fixed… were directly associated with my desire to be hospitable and open with my home. But if hospitality is loving your neighbor, that has little to do with what your home looks or feels like.

The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
There is no other commandment greater than these.
Mark 12:31

The list of DIYs is long. And yes, I still want to curate a beautiful place to sit with others through whatever joy or trial they are facing. I want to create a space that my children come home to and bring others with them. But above all I want to do what God requests of me. Create in me a pure heart Lord, one that loves my neighbor well and opens my table to a stranger. If my home can be a peaceful resting place along the way, then so be it. I hope you’ll come along for the ride as we work on this space, and our mission, as a family.

 

» Asleep by 8:00

There were days on this parenting journey that would leave us sound asleep in a child’s bed by 8pm. Those were the days of one more drink of water, one more story or I’m scared of what might be in my closet. After an early morning out the door, a long day of work, a healthy home-cooked dinner and family time there wasn’t much left of us. And so, on most nights, we would find each other sprawled out in a bed, snoring, with a baby or toddler either sitting fully awake on top of the sleeping parent OR completely asleep in a way that we couldn’t risk waking them.

Those days were pretty good and I’m finding that although I enjoy relying on my kids to wipe their own bottoms now…  I long to hear their voices call out with funny made up words and lispy f’s and r’s. Our kids are still young, ranging 6-10, but the baby has all but worn off. They are growing long and lean, with firm calves and arms from dance and soccer. They have budding plans and good friends. They have ideas and projects and personalities.

Lately, we’ve found ourselves falling asleep at 8 and 9pm again. We work so hard to fill the hearts and minds of our children with the things we value as a family. We toss them around to tire out their tireless bodies, because the boys seem to need pure exhaustion to fall into a peaceful sleep. We read the Bible and cook together. We apply essential oils and talk over their days. We pull them close when they are angry, trying desperately to show them that love always trumps anger. We discipline, often, because they are incredibly naughty and have developed some interesting ways of expressing their displeasure with our guidance.

And we question ourselves constantly, understanding that we are molding small people who will become big people in an even bigger world. I’m thankful that we can trust Jesus with our children because we will always fall short!

We fall asleep at 8 and 9pm because we know that these years are so very short. Just as we miss the squishy legs and lispy voices, we will miss ornery 10 year olds who don’t like to put away their laundry but let us brush the hair out of their faces at night and kiss their foreheads. We survive through the valleys and challenges of parenthood so that we can be blessed by the sweet crest of the hill, the tender moments that bind our hearts together.

All Content © Erica Ho, Goodbye Normal