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Thursday, December 19, 2013

A sense of hope.

     So much has happened this year. We've had so much change, so much to adapt to, so much...hope. Change is good. Scary-but good. Adaptation is a part of life, a reality. Hope is that stuff you hang on to while you're adapting to change. You hope you've made the right decisions. You hope things turn out as you want them to in the end. Unfortunately, hope doesn't move mountains. The plans our beautiful God has laid out for us do not thrive on hope. His plans are made with love. His love for us is greater than any hope we can possibly have for ourselves. His plans overthrew our hope.

     Six months ago, Jon & I decided to venture out on a journey. Three daughters in tow, Jon quit his job, we moved to the country, and we bought into a restaurant franchise. Crazy, right? We had incredible optimism about the restaurant. Jon has almost two decades of restaurant management experience under his belt. The numbers looked great. The building appeared fresh & new. The food was enjoyable. Even better, it is one of the only restaurants in town. SCORE!

We bought into the franchise, signed paperwork for restaurant ownership, sealed the deal on the lease,  and took over September 1st. Jon & I were ready to conquer the world! Finally. His dream was turned into a reality & I was happy to help at the restaurant during school days and tend to the farm the days I didn't work. We had hope that we would be living the American Dream.

     Sadly, to say we were 'fresh bait' to begin with would be an understatement. The previous owners of the restaurant are wealthy people. In fact, they own a multitude of businesses in town. So wealthy, they had the ability of using the restaurant as a back-yard diner of sorts. The eatery was treated as a place to feed their employees, their families, their friends. Their vast wealth provided them the opportunity to feed the town for practically nothing, all while gaining the appreciation of the citizens who can't afford to pay much anyway. They would provide high-end meats, sides, salads and sell them at a price that was actually lower than the wholesale cost. Essentially, they paid customers to eat at their establishment.

     For reasons unknown to us, they woke up. They realized how much money was walking out the door & decided to sell. They admitted to Jon once that they had no idea how food costs work. Obviously. Once Jon & I got deep into the paperwork, we had to make changes. Why offer costly foods and undercut ourselves? No one can possibly expect high-end steaks, shrimp, etc at an establishment such as this. It isn't our foundation. It isn't what we're about.

    We tried to take things back to the 'corporate' way and it backfired. Badly. The customers protested. The regulars were no longer in attendance. The town balked at having to pay for their food. 'When ______ owned this place we never paid for this!" The previous owner came into the restaurant and literally belittled Jon in front of a multitude of people. Several times. Accused us of being cheap, called Jon a jack-ass, said we refused any of their help. They told friends & neighbors to eat elsewhere, in neighboring towns. Seems as though when you're in a small town... You do what those with money tell you to do. Sales declined. Badly. We're not cheap. We simply can't afford to pay people to eat at our restaurant.

     We've been told this was a 'plan' all along. They were years from ending their franchise contract so their best option was to sell the place, see that it gets run into the ground, new owners flee, then open a place under their family name (a place without any franchise restrictions).  Pretty twisted-right? I refused to give in. My thought process was-stand up for what's right! We've bought into this place and it's legally ours. We'll kill them with kindness. There goes that hope word again. The determination in me fizzled over months of fighting. We're done fighting. We've decided to give it back to corporate (who has been ZERO help with this mess). We've decided to stop hoping and go down a different path.. A clearer path that promises a brighter future.

     Here's the good news: our marriage is stronger than ever. We're not moving from the farm. I've been lucky enough to land a (possibly temporary) job starting in January. Jon has two possibly great leads on employment. Maybe God led us through this mess for the farm itself. I know He put us through thus journey for a good reason, even though the reason isn't clear right at this moment. I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that He has my back.. Even though others haven't. I know He is looking out for me & mine.

     So, our adventure continues. Our story is still being told. Our employment destiny still unclear.
However.....our family is bound that much tighter because of 'The Incident of 2013' (as Jon has begun to call it). Please pray for our family.. As of January 6 the restaurant will no longer ours. Strangely enough, an odd sense of relief fills our house and we look forward to our next adventure!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Our new normal



Fall is in the air. My favorite time of year is approaching and life is finally slowing down for us.
Thank. Goodness. The move was tough. Chaotic and at times, dramatic. We've been living among boxes and the most routine thing said in our house is 'I have no idea where that is'. However, we're getting there. We're trying to achieve normal. The problem was trying to determine what 'normal' is actually supposed to be..

As you probably know, one decision has completely changed our lives in every aspect. Less than a month ago, we lived a medium-city life, taking for granted all of the conveniences of the modern world. Within two or miles of my house were two grocery stores, numerous restaurants, gas stations, banks, nail salons, hair salons, dental offices, etc etc etc. Our move to the country was not without a culture-shock. This week, we were beyond excited to learn the gas station ten minutes away actually bakes & sells pizza. Apparently, it's a big hit 'round these here parts.

It feels as though we've stepped back in time. Elderly folks sit on their porches and wave as you drive by. The owner of the local general store knows us by name, car, and where we work. The sheriff & his deputy close up early on Wednesdays to go fishing. My kids go to one school that holds grades Pre K-12. Everyone in town knows which house is ours.. People we've never laid eyes on know who my family is, where we work, & where we're from. Our arrival brought the number of residents in town to an astonishing 215.

I thought Mayberry died out a long time ago.. My ignorance had me convinced that places such as this no longer exist. Somewhere between a girl growing up and the woman I am today; I lost sight of what life can truly be. I feel as though my back as turned to genuine... Life. For our family, we've found home. I live in a place where I don't worry my girls will be hit by a car if they simply step off the front porch. The faces of the waving elderly are becoming familiar as I wave back. I don't regret choices we've made in the past-they've brought us to where we are today. Maybe my ignorance was best..for I can now actually appreciate the joy of country life.

Last Saturday, I woke up very early and decided to wake Samantha (my 11 year-old) as well. We took blankets into the back yard, laid on our backs and gazed at the millions of twinkling stars above us. We snuggled under the chilly morning sky and talked about the constellations, the galaxy, and just enjoyed the view. It was one of the best moments in my life. Tonight we lit a fire in our smoker as the girls ran around the yard with Buckeye & Lexie.. Another awesome moment.

I know this life isn't ideal for everyone. I realize the move we made was a complete risk for our family. I know people call us 'crazy' for the moves we've made. After all of the messages, texts, emails, and phone calls we've received over the past few weeks, I just felt compelled to tell everyone this: we're ok. We're great, actually. If you want to come out & feed a horse, climb the loft in the barn, pick figs off of the tree, stop Buckeye from barking at the neighbors cows, or lay with us to see the stars at night... We'd love to have you. Just make sure, on your way down... You stop for pizza.











Monday, July 29, 2013

Turning a dream into a reality.. and the emotional roller coaster we're on to get there


This year has been a crazy year for my family. When the summer began, I resigned my position as a Director of a child care facility to stay home with my children. The decision to leave my job was a tough one, involving a lot of prayer and deep discussion with those who I am close to. Turns out God was pointing me in the right direction as we have made another (well, TWO, actually) huge decision for our family.

We bought a restaurant. 
....and a house on 8 acres... In the country.
Let's make things even more interesting and throw in a donkey and a horse...and...wait for it...a PREGNANT horse. We've never owned a horse before...or a donkey. In fact, the largest animal we own is my beloved and incredibly overweight yellow lab. I can't even tell you the difference between a donkey, a mule, a jackal. I'm willing to learn though.

Insane, right? I mean who in the world buys into a franchise in the country and who in the WORLD wants to raise their children in the sticks? Just call us, Hillbilly Jon & his doting wife Sara. :) 

You see..it's always been my husbands dream to own his own business. So..when an opportunity comes along..who are we to pass it up? Who are we to argue with Gods plan for us? In church just this past Sunday the pastor reminded me that as a wife my job is to respect & support my husband. Jon's dream is to own his own business.. MY dream is to see our family happy and successful. Kind of lucked out with a two-fer here. 

We've had people say it's 'CRAZY'. How on earth are you going to raise three children in the country? We've had people remind us of the amount of stress we're going to be under. We've had people say it just won't work. We quietly remind people if we don't try...we'll never know. I told a dear friend of mine the other day: maybe I should give them my shoes so they can tell me how & where to walk my mile. On the flip side, we've had those who support us %110. Those who believe in where we are going and have offered to help in every way possibly. We're so grateful to everyone who has offered their opinions. The Negative Nancy's only drive us to work harder and the Positive Penelope's give us the comfort we need in times of doubt. 

Decision made? Check!
Paperwork signed? Check!
Pack our stuff/start the kids in school/start work/deliver a horse?? Ehhhhhh... that's laying in front of us now.
I can't wait to share this experience with you.. and to see how the rest of our lives play out.


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Adjusting to life as a stay at home parent.. the reality


Since having my children, I've pretty much always been a working mom. I was that mom who worked and resented working. I was the mom who worked all day, came home, and basically crashed after doing the mad must-do-homework-make-supper-give-baths-with-a-quickness dash. Every working mother knows that dance. It's a couple hours of evening insanity that not only are you experiencing, your neighbors are probably going through that same...joy...as well.

This year, my husband and I decided that we were tired of doing the evening-o'-hell-dance. We
were tired of cramming an entire days worth of parenting into two or three not-so-fun hours. We were determined to make a change. Our oldest daughter is headed into (GASP) dreaded middle school. Our youngest daughter is heading into Pre-K. We've come to the realization that our kids need us more now that they're in school. So, we decided I would quit my job and be a stay at home mom. We took the plunge

I was so excited to stay home with my girls. I had visions of a spotless house, perfectly well-mannered children, a vegetable garden growing in the backyard, and a beautiful home-cooked meal laid on the table every evening. I imagined my family life was simply perfect..Southern Living perfect. How can someone not be excited about staying at home with their family?

Reality slapped me in the face with a quickness. I never did have the unrealistic expectation that I'd sleep in every day and that staying home would be easy. I certainly did not think that I could change the dynamic of my family overnight.. I did, however, hope that we could jump into the swing of our new lifestyle rather quickly and that the adjustment would be an easy one. Life has a funny way of proving me wrong. Quite often, actually.

You see...my kids are now together 24/7. They miss their individual friends and tend to take that out on each other. Sisters naturally tend to disagree but when they don't ever...EVER...get a break from each other, the disagreements quickly escalate from bickering to WW3. It amazes me how kids can be so mean to each other! To keep drama at a minimum, we try to keep activities going and we attempt to get out and explore our community.  Until the rain comes in...and this summer has produced so much rain that I think Mother Nature is straight up telling me 'Nah, Nah, Nah, Boo, Boo! You quit your job so I'll show you!' Much to my dismay, Mother Nature does not have a complaint department that I can email my problems to. We're wrapping up the wettest summer in history and we've pretty much just had to suck it up.

I've also learned cooking is not my forte. In the beginning, I googled countless recipes. With excitement and long grocery lists, we tackled the grocery store in search of random items such as zucchini (for a family that considers corn their staple veggie..this one is huge), ground ginger, garlic cloves.. We'd come home and I'd 'whip up' meals that somehow..every time..seemed to qualify for the Pinterest FAIL blogs. Not one to give in easily, I'm still trying to get it right. For someone who is in her (VERY) early 30's, you'd think I'd have cooking down pat. The good news is.. my husband is one who will happily choke down the disaster I place in front of him. He'll smile and say 'Yeah..it's great!' while our kids are bawling because they've discovered they loathe zucchini. They're far more transparent than he is.

My point to this rambling blog is this: It's hard to be a parent. Period. It's not easy when you're working, away from our home and children because you feel as though you're missing out on so much in their lives. Your house is always a disaster and you find yourself in the middle of a rat race, feeling as though you're always coming in last. It's just as hard though, to be a stay at home parent. You find yourself missing out on the adult world. You will have days when your husband comes home and you BOLT out of the house.. trying to seek out whatever peace and quiet you can. Your house is a mess, either way. Your kids are sassy, either way. Laundry will pile up, either way. You are stressed either way.

I don't regret my decision to stay home with my girls, for my family it's what needed to happen. I will say...without a doubt... being a stay-at-home mother is the hardest job I've ever done. I do miss working outside of the home and the face-to-face interacting with adults but when I did work I missed my kids even more. I see working moms that resent home moms and I also see mother who stay at home who resent the working mother. There simply is no happy medium. Reality is..parenting is hard.

The most important thing is.. I'm lucky enough to have the children God asked me to look after. I love being with them and I hope that they love being with me. Working or not, I've decided to care for them to the best of my abilities...even if that means forcing them to eat horrid zucchini.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Got Mail?

Valentines Day is one of my favorite holidays!! Love is in the air...everyone has decorated with red, pink, purple...the world has settled down from the Christmas scurry.. Bliss!!


I can't say the original part of the idea is mine...it's not. BUT I can tell you that my kids have had a lot of fun with this. They love racing down the stairs in the morning, checking their very own mail boxes, and reading why mom & dad love them OH so very much. 


I found these little boxes at Target, decorated them with vinyl from my Cricut, and voila! V-Day success.
I set them on top of Mason jars (save your spaghetti jars :) so the girls can place their love notes inside and read them whenever they'd like. 


:)



Saturday, January 21, 2012

Sadness

I discovered this fabulous website through a girl at work. When playing with pictures, I wanted a website that would do cutsie stuff to my pics..but not one that charged me an arm and a leg to do it. Soooo... I was told to 'picnik it'. HARK!! I was introduced to countless hours playing with family pics..editing..making subway art.. just in my zone. When I checked my email this am (cup of coffee in my hands..still fuzzy eyed), I was saddened to read the email informing me that my beloved site was closing April 19th of this year.



The good news is today through that date..all features are now free (including 'Premium' features that required payment prior to today). If you were one who purchased 'Premium' features, you should be reimbursed in full.. see site for details. Until April..I plan on fully utilizing this site.. with a tissue in hand. :*) Thank you, Google for such a great site!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Pinterest Hazards..be careful what you Repin!

While browsing Pinterest tonite (shocker, eh?), I came across a few pins showing off gorgeous home made toys/activity bags/etc. created for children. I was SUPER excited to see what these gifted crafters came up with, and even more excited to try it at the center I run... I clicked on the pin, searched the Blogs, and then came to a SCREECHING halt when I realized what my peepers were showing me.. Choking hazard after choking hazard after CHOKING HAZARD!!

Ok.. your typical parent is not a Director of a childcare facility and would have no way of knowing what these hazards may be. Truthfully, until I started to get down & dirty in my position, I didn't know either. Sooo.. I decided to post what I know. Even if this was to potentially save the life of ONE sweet child, I have done what God is leading me to do.. Please note I'm not trying to be Debby Downer. I just don't want any child to get hurt.. SO..Here goes... (this information was found at this link: http://www.health.ny.gov/prevention/injury_prevention/choking_prevention_for_children.htm


Important Facts

  • Choking is the fourth leading cause of unintentional death in children under the age of 5.
  • Children under age 5 are at greatest risk for choking injury and death.
  • Toys, household items and foods can all be a choking hazard.
  • The most common cause of nonfatal choking in young children is food.
  • At least one child dies from choking on food every five days in the U.S., and more than 10,000 children are taken to a hospital emergency room each year for food-choking injuries.
  • Toy manufacturers label toys for choking hazards and some food manufacturers voluntarily label food products as posing a potential choking risk; however, any food can present a choking risk.
  • Education regarding choking risks, precautions to take in avoiding these risks, and known life saving procedures are necessary to eliminate senseless and tragic injuries and deaths caused by choking.
  • Pediatricians, family practice physicians, health care workers, parents, grandparents, day care workers, school personnel, older children, siblings, babysitters and communities as a whole play a key role in the prevention of injuries and need to share information with caregivers to identify potential choking hazards.
  • The size of a young child's trachea (windpipe) or breathing tube is approximately the size of a drinking straw in diameter. Imagine a piece of popcorn being lodged in this small area!



So now what? Here's some tips I recommend for all parents whether you have infants or teenagers. It's a great idea to be educated!

-Keep an eye on items your children play with/eat/are exposed to. Just because a toy is adorable and keeps your wee one entertained does not mean it's safe.
-Go ahead and purchase a 'Small Parts Tester' (can be purchased here:http://www.perfectlysafe.com/choketester.htmlThese little guys are super handy and will let you know if the item baby wants to play with is a hazard. Please note there are some items that are exempt from these testers, such as balloons. If a balloon becomes lodged in a child's throat (no matter what the size is), it is extremely difficult to remove.

-Take a CPR/First Aid course!! I know if my children get into harms way, the last thing I want to do is stand back, helpless. Become educated.. There are links below that will give you worlds of knowledge..allowing you a piece of mind!

-Never EVER give your young preschooler hot dogs. They are one of the leading foods children choke on (along with popcorn, grapes, nuts, hard candy, etc..). Also.. suckers (or lollipops..whichever term you use). Certain brands don't attach the candy to the stick very well.. if you give your young one a sucker and the candy comes off of the stick, it can easily lodge in their throat. EEEKK!!
-Check items for labels such as these before you purchase them for your cutie pattotie: 






There are many sites, dedicated towards keeping children safe. These listed are just a few:

http://babyhalfoff.com/index.php/Midwest-Monkeys-Safe-Sizer-Choking-Prevention-Plate
http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=113518

http://swpediatrics.net/pdfs/Choking.pdf

http://www.safekids.org/safety-basics/safety-resources-by-risk-area/choking-suffocation-and-strangulation/choking-prevention-safety.html


If you have any other info you feel would be important to share, let me know :)