Tag Archives: family

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THE FAMILY COMPOUND: WHY IT WORKS FOR US

Our resident family explores a close-knit life


We’ve mentioned before that we live very near our extended family.

The word “near” may be an understatement in our case.

You see, in reality, it’s something closer to “on top of” or even “all up in the business” of that family.

Some of our friends think we’re a little crazy, and some folks have even questioned our decisionmaking skills, but the truth is, it may well be the most sound decision we’ve made.

In any case, it’s become fundamental to our entire way of life, and we feel certain that all parties involved are reaping rewards. We field questions about it so often we decided to share why it works for us.

Our little slice of Southern Indiana heaven holds four dwellings and four generations: greatgrandparents, grandparents, parents and children. Together, we share the same address, the same mailbox and the same driveway, though, of course, the sharing runs much deeper than just simple physicalities.

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There’s always someone to hang out with when your family lives next door.

Between us are deep-seeded understandings and shared philosophies, common interests and
collaborated ideas.

This may sound rather utopian and unrealistic. So, in the spirit of full disclosure, we’ll admit to
the struggles as well.

Obviously, there is very little privacy.

For instance, we all know who comes and goes, and at what hour, etc.

Obviously, there is very little privacy.

For instance, we all know who comes and goes, and at what hour, etc.

Next, there are disagreements that naturally arise

The inhabitants here are a group comprised of particularly big personalities with strong opinions. We are not always on the same page in every matter, and this can be tricky at times.

And finally, as humans living in close proximity will do, we annoy each other from time to time.

Things don’t always get put back in the proper places, people aren’t always in the same mood as the others around them, child-rearing strategies sometimes differ. No, it’s not TV-sitcom perfection 100 percent of the time, but the benefits are so vast, we never regret them.

The sheer logistics of being so near make it wonderfully convenient. Say, you’re cooking a meal and need an ingredient, doing a project and don’t have the right tool, or moving something heavy and need a hand. There are three other households full of folks absolutely willing to help
out or lend an item at any time.

Next, immeasurable is the value of the village in which we are raising our children.

In our quiver are eight adults who love our kiddos and are able to shower them daily with wisdom, discipline and time. There is never a shortage of caring family members to share a story, help with schoolwork or reign down a little discipline. No bike tire goes unfixed, no injury
untreated and no indiscretion unnoticed.

When our Sydney received her driver’s permit, she had many more opportunities and individuals from whom to learn than her most of her peers.

Numerous occasions that warranted late night ER visits have been made much less stressful due to willing babysitters who could be there at a moment’s notice.

And when the younger kids and their cousins leave toys and sports equipment laying all over
the property, there is always a concerned relative at the ready to teach a lesson and supervise the clean-up.

Then, there’s the love between us, which supersedes any and all discord that has ever arisen here.

We don’t tolerate each other. Rather, we appreciate one another. We know we’re blessed to have this opportunity, and we choose to embrace this life every day. We look forward to continuing to raise our children in this manner, and, if we’re lucky, eventually a grandchild or two. Hopefully, we won’t drive the other family members on-site crazy in the process.


So, how do our kids feel? Here are their responses to questions we asked them about growing up so close to extended family:

QUESTION #1: WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT LIVING
WHERE WE LIVE?

BRAHM, 8:

“I always have someone to play with me and there’s always something cool to do. Papaw works outside and wants me to work with him, Uncle Cole lets me ride four wheelers and dirt bikes, and Ryder (his cousin) will play in the mud anytime you will let us. And Nanny has a LOT
of snacks.”

MOLLY, 11:

“I’m so glad we live where we live because I feel like it’s the safest place on earth. Everyone who lives here loves each other, and everyone would protect us no matter what. There’s always someone around to know we’re safe and also to help us with stuff.”

ELI, 14:

“It’s never boring here. We always have cousins to play with, friends visiting, people working on something or doing something outside. I love the family meals and the holidays and get-togethers. I love that I get to see my grandparents, aunt and uncle and cousins every day. Most
people I know don’t get to do that. I know I’m lucky.”

SYDNEY, 16:

“I just like having everyone around. It feels great knowing I have so much family surrounding me all the time. Everyone takes care of each other here and I know there’s someone to help me if I ever need it. This is a perfect place to grow up.”

QUESTION #2: IS THERE ANYTHING YOU DON’T LIKE?

SYDNEY

“I guess if you want privacy, this isn’t a great place to get it.”

ELI

“Sometimes, there’s an awful lot of people to lecture me.”

MOLLY

“If I get in trouble around here, everyone seems to know about it.”

BRAHM

“Nothing. I really love it all.”

 

“WE ARE ON A 15-MONTH WAITING LIST RIGHT NOW AND HAVE 96 KIDS, 20 EMPLOYEES, AND IT’S THE BEST DECISION WE’VE EVER MADE.”  –Jenny Hupp, who co-owns Cheerful Children Daycare/Preschool Center with her husband, Scotty Hupp

Cheerful Children, Happy Hearts

“WE ARE ON A 15-MONTH WAITING LIST RIGHT NOW AND HAVE 96 KIDS, 20 EMPLOYEES, AND IT’S THE BEST DECISION WE’VE EVER MADE.”  –Jenny Hupp, who co-owns Cheerful Children Daycare/Preschool Center with her husband, Scotty Hupp

“WE ARE ON A 15-MONTH WAITING LIST RIGHT NOW AND HAVE 96 KIDS, 20 EMPLOYEES, AND IT’S THE BEST DECISION WE’VE EVER MADE.” –Jenny Hupp, who co-owns Cheerful Children Daycare/Preschool Center with her husband, Scotty Hupp

BY LAURA ROSS | PHOTOS BY CHRISTIAN WATSON

Jenny and Scotty Hupp are living the dream.

Daily, they’re surrounded by nearly 100 toddlers and preschoolers and all the glorious mess, chaos, sticky fingers, tearful tantrums, dirty diapers, and boisterous cacophony they can stand.

And, they love it.

The husband-wife team own and operate Cheerful Children Daycare/Preschool Center in New Albany. In 2011, they left jobs in the corporate and business community to follow their passion for children and education and have never looked back.

“I was on my way home from work one night late, and I called my husband and said, ‘I’m done,’” recalled Jenny. She studied early childhood education in college but detoured to raise a family and work in sales for the Indiana Lottery. Starting a daycare was always in the back of her mind, and she knew the time was right.

“My love has always been with kids,” Jenny said. “I thought, I just gave up a company car, great paying job and insurance. What have I done?? But I opened a family home daycare in September 2011, and I ran it for six years. We had 16 children and families and were successful. It was the perfect situation.”screen-shot-2019-03-13-at-4-59-09-pm

Scotty joined Jenny in 2013, and in 2016, a building that formerly housed a daycare came up for sale at 1615 Grant Line Road in New Albany. “Scotty and I walked in and we just had this vision,” Jenny said. “It hit home that we can make this work. We put an offer in, and my husband and his friend renovated the entire inside and outside, working 15 hours a day. We opened Cheerful Children in August 2016 with 32 kids. From there, it went crazy. We are on a 15-month waiting list right now and have 96 kids, 20 employees, and it’s the best decision we’ve ever made.”

Cheerful Children accepts students from 12 months through 5 years old. The preschool is focused on offering a structured curriculum designed to build a foundation of knowledge and critical thinking skills to foster mental, social, emotional, and physical development in a secure, happy environment. Preschool teachers are certified in first aid and CPR and all are cleared through a criminal background check and drug testing.

“Our staff provides a family atmosphere,” said Jenny. “Many have been with us from the start. They love these kids and are in constant communication with the parents. We provide a positive learning experience and keep the children engaged and active all day long.”

Children participate in learning centers and preschool development in the mornings, then enjoy lunch and nap time in the afternoon before

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New Hope Services

Southern Indiana organization covers 20 counties and helps people of all ages and backgrounds

By Lisa Hornung

Courtesy Photos

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Decades ago, a group of parents who were frustrated that their children with developmental and intellectual disabilities weren’t being taught in public schools started New Hope Services. The parents wanted their children to learn all they could, so they banded together to help each other as well as other parents of disabled children.

 

Now, New Hope, a human services agency that has been around for 60 years, is all over Southern Indiana – covering 20 counties – and it’s one of the largest nonprofit organizations in the area. But it’s no longer only focused on disabled children and adults. The charity also helps young families and seniors with family planning, parenting skills and affordable housing.

 

The agency has many long-term employees who stay because of the love they have for their work.

 

“We’re mission-driven here, said Senior Vice President Bonnie Long, who has worked at New Hope for 38 years. “I like being part of something bigger. It makes you feel like you’re giving of yourself and giving to others.”

 

Executive assistant Kim Tungate agreed: “What keeps me here is our mission and what we do, so family oriented. We’re like a big family.”

 

Senior Housing

The latest program to be added is the apartment communities. Adults 55 and older can live in affordable income-restricted apartments owned by New Hope in several locations. In Brazil, Indiana, New Hope undertook an adaptive reuse project and turned two blighted buildings into apartments for seniors. The junior high school and the Davis building were historic properties but are now nice places for older adults to live in and called Davis Zeller. Several other projects, such as M. Fine on Spring in Jeffersonville and The Lofts at Leeson’s in Elwood, continue the ongoing project. Once the mortgages are paid, the rental income goes to support other New Hope initiatives.

 

Family Services

The largest division in number of people served, is Family Services. Family Services offer help that includes the Women Infant Children (WIC) nutrition program, promoting breast feeding, help with family stability and more. New Hope operates the HopeCare Clinic, which provides basic medical services, such as breast exams, pap smears, birth control, pregnancy testing and counseling, and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections.

 

The clinic serves women and children from prenatal care up to 5 years old. It’s a walk-in clinic, but it does accept appointments. Services are low- to no-cost, and insurance and Medicaid are accepted.

 

Adult Services

The Adult Services arm of the organization incorporates New Hope’s original mission, that of helping those with disabilities succeed in life. Adult Services includes residential living for those with severe disabilities, as well as employment services.

 

The Adult Community Empowerment Program (ACES) facilitates activities to help adults socialize and engage in their communities. “After 40 years of nursing, this job provides me an opportunity to earn money and be useful after retirement in a fun and creative way,” said Andrea Hannah, lead at ACES.

 

Those in the Adult Services programs can get jobs either out in the community or at New Hope Industries. Local companies contract with New Hope to do things such as collating, labeling, small hand assembly, and a wide array of piece work assignments. Other examples of capabilities include shrink wrap operations, poly bagging and packaging. One of the biggest employers is Walmart. Walmart brings a semi-truck daily full of used cardboard boxes. Employees unload the boxes and sort them for reuse or recycle. If the boxes can be reused, workers add stickers over the bar codes and stack them to go back to Walmart to be used again. Those who are employed work together and take their breaks together, providing not only an income but socialization, too.

 

Over the past 60 years, New Hope has grown and expanded, and will continue to do so. Tammy Mathis, a direct support professional for 13 years, highlighted one of the reasons: “My thing is my love for the clients, even on their bad days.”

 

 

New Hope Services

725 Wall St. In Jeffersonville

812.288.8248

newhopeservices.org

Building a goat stable this fall
was a family (and friends) affair.

FamFitter | December/January 2019

FamFitter

By Adam & Kristin Kleinert

It’s that time again. We feel compelled to close the year with a little reflection, and, this time, we decided to ask the family to give us some feedback. In an effort to keep it simple, we posed two questions to be answered by each member of our crew. We’re hoping to gain a little insight into what worked for us this year, and what we can do in the upcoming one to keep working toward our goal of becoming a fitter family. We encourage you to try something similar with your tribe; it’s fun to hear the different answers and may even be helpful in your own journeys.

 

THE QUESTIONS

In regard to food, fitness or lifestyle, what did we do this year that you liked or didn’t like?

What could we do next year?

 

Brahm, 2nd grade, age 8

 

I like going camping. You know I always want to go camping. I wish we could stay more and more days and go to more new places. Let’s take everyone.

 

Also, I like taking my lunch to school and not eating school lunch. Next year, I want to take my lunch to school every day and go camping all the time.

 

 

Molly, 5th grade, age 10

I love the goats! They are the best new thing we did this year and I can’t wait to show them at the 4H Fair. Now we should get some chickens. They go good with goats, right?

 

I vote next year we get chickens!

 

 

Eli, 8th grade, age 13

So this year I learned I need a schedule. I want to participate in all the sports and

activities I can, but I know I have to do my stuff at home (chores and homework) so

that I’m allowed to do the things I like. I didn’t love having to make a schedule at first,

but once I had one, it seemed like there was a ton of time in my day.

 

For 2019, I’m going to try to keep a good schedule and stick with it.

Building a goat stable this fall was a family (and friends) affair.

Building a goat stable this fall
was a family (and friends) affair.

Sydney, 10th grade, age 15

We cooked some really good meals with things from our little garden this year; especially with the basil, tomatoes and peppers. The homemade pizza we grilled outside on the fire, the lasagna, the caprese orzo salad – those are my favorite things we made.

 

Next year we should try to use as much as possible from the garden, and maybe add another box. Strawberries would be good.

 

Kristin, mom, 30-something

I feel like our focus on family is usually a strong suit for us, and that was no exception

in 2018. Though we are often super busy, overall we were able to strike some balance

this year between the stress of over-commitment and the hustle and bustle of daily

family life.

 

In 2019, as cliche as it sounds, I want to maintain a more consistent exercise schedule. It seems I begin to form a good routine, and then it goes by the wayside before becoming an actual lifestyle regimen. I know plenty of other busy moms who manage to fit in a workout almost daily, so I realize my excuses aren’t unique. I feel so much better, both mentally and physically, when I’m consistently active.

 

Adam, dad, older than Kristin

Risking redundancy, my thoughts are actually a mix of all the others. I would love to do

more camping, look into the possibility of adding more livestock, and I’d most definitely like to cook with more homegrown produce. However, I am excited to try and create more of a schedule than we currently use. No military-type boot camps and bed checks, and nothing that covers every minute of every day. It just seems we are always worried about what we could or should be doing.

 

My goal is to utilize a calendar that is efficient enough to allow us to actually enjoy our free time when we have it.

A kind Walmart employee helps load a minivan full of turkeys headed to New Hope Services.

ENCOURAGING GRATITUDE THAT LASTS BEYOND THANKSGIVING

By Farrah Alexander

 

When I was pregnant with my first, Daniel, I craved Thanksgiving food the entire duration. No pickles and ice cream for me; I wanted mashed potatoes and sweet potato casserole. Pumpkin pie visited me in my dreams.

 

I love Thanksgiving. The decadent food, the time spent with my wonderful family, the pre-meal mimosas, the browsing Black Friday ads – what’s not to love? Hop into your stretchiest stretchy pants and enjoy this beautiful, gluttonous holiday.

 

But I’ll admit, I often get caught up in the chaos of the holiday and sometimes lose sight of the theme of gratitude. The word “thanks” is in the name of the holiday, after all. It should be easy to remember to remain grateful and express your blessings, but it’s so easy for those ideas to slip away.

 

It’s hard enough for a grown adult to maintain a sense of gratitude, it’s certainly a challenge for little ones. But teaching your kids to be thankful and express gratitude at Thanksgiving and beyond is a truly worthwhile goal. Grateful kids are happier and even more of a joy to others. (Watch an adult’s face light up when a small child thanks them. It’s impossible not to smile.)

 

Teaching your children to say, “thank you” when appropriate is a great lesson of course. But it’s really just good manners. Teaching your child to regularly practice gratitude is a philosophy that they can adopt and will serve them well their entire lives.

Farrah’s son Daniel’s first Thanksgiving.

Farrah’s son Daniel’s first Thanksgiving.

Farrah’s daughter Penelope’s first Thanksgiving.

Farrah’s daughter Penelope’s first Thanksgiving.

A kind Walmart employee helps load a minivan full of turkeys headed to New Hope Services.

A kind Walmart employee helps load a minivan full of turkeys headed to New Hope Services.

So, here’s some simple ways to do it:

 

  • Expand on your “thank yous.” When you thank someone, add a little something genuine and personal that shows why you’re grateful. For example, say after you cook dinner, your kid says, “thank you.” It’s a nice gesture and you’re glad your kid is being polite. But, what if your kid instead says, “Thank you for making dinner. I know spaghetti’s not your favorite, but it’s my favorite and you make the best spaghetti.” See how genuine that sounds? It’s a great way not only to make the person being thanked feel fantastic, it’s a great way to reflect on gratitude and express why you’re sincerely grateful.
  • Call out your blessings. If you feel grateful for something, say it out loud in front of your kids. It doesn’t have to be anything huge; any ordinary, seemingly insufficient thing is perfect. If you feel grateful, just say it. Saying things like, “I just love having the opportunity to spend time with you when you get home from school” or “I love when we have dinner together as a family” are simple but meaningful.
  • Regularly ask your child what they’re grateful for or what their blessings are. It’s a good opportunity for them to reflect on their days and remember how blessed they are. If they’re stumped at first, you can share a few things you’re grateful for and then challenge them to come up with three of their own. It doesn’t have to be profound. If they name three friends at school they have or three of their favorite toys, that’s fine. No wrong answers.
  • Get into the habit of charitable giving or volunteering if you’re able. You don’t have to give a detailed account of all the ways people across the world suffer, but you don’t have to sugar-coat that people do suffer either. There are countless ways to help and many people in need of help. So, find a way your family can help others. You can make a holiday tradition of volunteering at a local homeless shelter, donating food to a local charity or forgoing some gifts of your own to give to others instead. Get creative!
  • Turn your gratitude into a festive display for Thanksgiving. I’ve seen some really adorable seasonal crafts perfect for this. You can get a large pumpkin and ask your children what they’re grateful for each day and write it on the pumpkin. By the time Thanksgiving rolls around, you have a pumpkin filled with all the many blessings your children are grateful for. You can even have a pumpkin for each child. Then, on Thanksgiving, you can review all the blessings. It could be a meaningful tradition for your family to reflect on the many things you’re thankful for instead of being asked on the spot.
  • Consistently thank others and encourage your kids to do the same. If anyone does any kind of service for you – holding a door open, serving food at a restaurant, loading your garbage away – be sure to sincerely thank them. You’re not just being polite, you’re showing others respect and dignity. By taking the time to sincerely thank everyone, you’re showing your child that everyone is worthy of your respect.

 

You’ve probably caught on by now that you are directly involved in all of these suggestions. Kids learn by your example. If they see their parents doing or saying something, they’ll take notice and try to mimic your behavior. (Trust me, I let a minor swear word slip three years ago and my son still brings it up. Kids are sponges.) Plus, let’s be honest, can’t we use a little gratitude in our lives?

 

Be thankful this Thanksgiving, but be grateful your entire life.

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WHEN WE THOUGHT WE WERE BUSY…

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Eli, Molly and Brahm pose in front of the old grist mill while on a camping trip at Spring Mill State Park.

By Adam & Kristin Kleinert

We love camping. We grew up enjoying camping trips with our families, and we’ve camped with our own crew since our eldest was just a few months old. We don’t go as often as we’d prefer, but it’s been a cherished family pastime and, now that we think about it, a catalyst for family bonding.

At the risk of sounding overly nostalgic, camping has been a venue for really getting to know our children. A number of factors play into this occurrence, beginning simply with the act of leaving our home and setting up “new” quarters together. The scarcity of electronics (sometimes, heaven forbid, even phone service) coupled with the absence of the usual chores that hang over our heads at home allow our natural focus to shift. We listen to one another, we chat and discuss, we philosophize. Giggles are plentiful and there’s lots of time to be silly.

In addition, there’s the slight sense of adventure. While we’re not scaling cliffs and battling fierce animals, we do spend a great deal of our time hiking, exploring and discovering. Over the years, we’ve seen so many beautiful trails and vistas, gorgeous creeks and streams, fascinating caves and historical sites. The kids have built fairy houses, climbed rocks, watched birds and chipmunks, and petted snakes and toads. We’ve judged contests over who jumps the highest and runs the fastest. We’ve huddled together during downpours and found our way back to camp after taking long detours on the wrong trail. While our experiences aren’t exactly Homer’s Odyssey, they’re our own adventures, and we love that we enjoyed them together.

Campgrounds in and of themselves are like little neighborhoods existing in a separate time. Pace of life is slower, everyone is friendly and it’s perfectly ordinary to see your neighbor carrying a toothbrush and shower supplies as they pass you on their way to the bathhouse. It’s in these magical spaces that all four of our kids learned to build a fire, ride bikes without training wheels and make fast friends with complete strangers. We seem to behave a bit differently, needing much less stimulation than when we’re at home. For instance, there’s a mini chess/checkers game the kids’ grandmother keeps in her camper; the magnetic travel-kind, nothing special. Our kids and their cousins adore playing this game at the picnic tables in the campgrounds, to a point where they actually fight over who gets to take on the winner of each round. This would never happen at home.

When we get away from the hustle and bustle of our busy home life and live more simply than usual, family becomes the focus, and that’s always a win.

 

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Cultural Pass Expands to Southern Indiana

screen-shot-2018-06-05-at-12-41-58-pmPass provides free admission to numerous arts-related institutions

For the first time, the 2018 Cultural Pass will be available to kids in Louisville and Southern Indiana. The provides free access to many of Greater Louisville’s arts and cultural institutions and is valid for one-time general admission at each of the participating institutions and is valid through Aug. 11.

Created from Vision Louisville, the Cultural Pass is an innovative initiative to promote art and culture and improve summer learning in our community. The 2018 Cultural Pass is presented by Churchill Downs, in partnership with Metro Louisville, Fund for the Arts, Arts and Culture Alliance and the Louisville Free Public Library. Additional underwriting for Southern Indiana families to participate is made possible by the Bales Foundation, Duke Energy and the Horseshoe Foundation of Floyd County, in partnership with the Jeffersonville Township Public Library and The Floyd County Library (formerly known as the New Albany-Floyd County Library).

Nearly 200,000 passes have been issued since its inception in 2014. The 2018 Cultural Pass can be picked up at The Floyd County Library, Jeffersonville Township Public Library and any of the Louisville Free Public Library locations. For more information, go to fundforthearts.org/culturalpass.

Can’t beat a summer trip to the creek.

WHEN WE THOUGHT WE WERE BUSY…

Can’t beat a summer trip to the creek.

Can’t beat a summer trip to the creek.

By Adam & Kristin Kleinert

Summertime is almost here. We Kleinerts are anxious to close out the semester, and everyone in the household is looking forward to a few mornings of sleeping past 6 a.m. Sitting at the dinner table together recently, one of the kids mentioned how quickly the break seems to go. The others all agreed and seemed concerned about getting in some fun and relaxation before they have to head back to school in August.

“We should plan for this summer to be more like when we thought we were busy.”

You see, when the kids were little, our summers seemed packed. We remember going to bed exhausted every night after chock-full days of activity. Yet, until now, we haven’t really examined how we used to spend the time back then as compared to how we’ve done it during more recent breaks. And after reflecting a bit, we’ve learned our game plan for the next few months needs to take a lesson from our younger selves. This year, we plan to enjoy our summer together by slowing it down…at least a little bit.

When it comes to managing family schedules, busy creeps up on you. One moment you agree to allow your kiddo to play a couple of all-star baseball games at the end of his or her regular season. Next you find yourself shuttling that kid to practice four nights a week through the entire month of June and then playing in several tournaments in July, often traveling out of town and engulfing multiple, full weekends. Add in academic enrichment classes, open gyms and league practices and suddenly, the family calendar begins to look very similar to the regular school year. It’s a slippery slope because the opportunities offered are positive experiences for the kids. The vast majority are things the kids want to do and some are even obligations. The point is, positive experiences or not, it all adds up and before you know it, summertime has disappeared. This description is nearly identical to the format of our most recent summers and, in the interest of making a change, we’ve decided to aim a little lower this year.

It’s kind of a perfect year to make the shift. By some fortuitous twist of fate, there are no required varsity sports practices this time, no significant league play we have to attend, and we’ve chosen to forgo all-star baseball participation this season. Already it’s looking promising.

Now, we aren’t entertaining fantasies of long hours spent laying in the hammock drinking iced tea and lemonade. Not only are those delusions unrealistic when it comes to our high-energy crew, they’re not at all what the kids were referring to when they mentioned the summers we used to enjoy. Those months of yesterday were as busy as ever. The difference lays in the activities in which we occupied the largest chunks of our time in summers past and, even more significantly, the sense of obligation we lacked in those years.

We won’t be lounging by any means; rather, we’ll fill our days to the brim. But we’ll fill them with very few scheduled activities and lots of flexible fun. Creek visits, dips in the lake, evening fishing sessions and trips to friends’ pools will top our to-do lists. We’ll enjoy easy summer meals together and eat them outside any chance we get. We’ll attend vacation Bible school, wash the cars in the driveway, stain the front porch as a group and stay outside way past dark while the kids run around with their friends in the yard.

Reality will take over now and then, of course, and we’ll have to go to dentist appointments and fit in well-child visits at the pediatrician. There’ll still be work for Dad and Mom and chores for all. Eli will want to go to open gym some nights, and Syd will need to hit the driving range when she can. But for the most part, we feel like this summer is an opportunity to make strides toward being the kind of “busy we used to be” and we’re looking forward to the adjustment.


WHAT’S ON OUR AGENDA THIS SUMMER?

screen-shot-2018-06-05-at-12-59-01-pmBRAHM, 8: “I’M GONNA DIG SOME WORMS AND GO FISHING AND I’M GONNA PLAY IN THE CREEK. I’M GONNA PLAY TRUCKS IN THE DIRT AND THEN GO SWIMMING IN THE LAKE AND I’M GONNA SLEEP IN MY TENT. WE SHOULD GO CAMPING, TOO.”


screen-shot-2018-06-05-at-12-59-14-pmMOLLY, 10: “I WANT TO SWIM! AND I WANT TO MAKE CRAFTS, VISIT MAMAW AND PAPAW, AND HAVE MOVIE NIGHTS WITH POPCORN AND ROOT BEER FLOATS. OH, AND GO OUT FOR ICE CREAM! AND I’M GOING TO SLEEP IN, LIKE, A LOT.”


screen-shot-2018-06-05-at-12-59-22-pmELI, 13: “I WANT TO SWIM IN THE LAKE, DO FLIPS OFF OF THE HIGH DIVE AND GO TUBING. I WANT TO HAVE FRIENDS OVER FOR COOKOUTS AND PLAY BASKETBALL OUTSIDE UNTIL IT’S REALLY, REALLY LATE. I CAN’T WAIT FOR THE FOURTH OF JULY PARTY!”


screen-shot-2018-06-05-at-12-59-30-pmSYDNEY, 15: “I’VE GOT SOME BABYSITTING JOBS LINED UP, AND I’M EXCITED TO MAKE A LITTLE MONEY DOING THAT. I WANT TO SLEEP IN SOME MORNINGS, WORK ON MY GOLF GAME, AND SPEND TIME AT THE LAKE AND THE POOL.”


screen-shot-2018-06-05-at-12-59-53-pmKRISTIN (MOM): “I’D LOVE TO TAKE THE KIDS SWIMMING AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE AND FINISH A FEW SMALL PROJECTS AT THE HOUSE AS WELL. I PLAN TO EXERCISE WITH ADAM AT LEAST THREE TIMES A WEEK AND DO SOMETHING ACTIVE WITH THE KIDS ON DAYS I DON’T. A WEEKEND OF CAMPING WOULDN’T HURT MY FEELINGS EITHER. OH, AND MAYBE WE CAN GET OUT THE OLD CROQUET SET AND HAVE SOME HEALTHY COMPETITION IN THE FRONT YARD!”


screen-shot-2018-06-05-at-1-00-00-pmADAM (DAD): “I DON’T KNOW WHAT EXACTLY WE’LL DO THIS SUMMER AND THAT IS ABSOLUTELY PERFECT. TO GO INTO EACH DAY WITHOUT ANY AGENDA OR SCHEDULE (BESIDES WORK) SOUNDS AMAZING. RAIN OR SHINE, AS LONG AS WE ARE TOGETHER, IT’S GOING TO BE A GREAT SUMMER!”

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A Weight Loss Journey I’m Afraid to Share

screen-shot-2018-06-05-at-3-17-35-pmMY NAME IS ZACH MCCRITE and I am an addict.

I’m the same sort of addict as one you probably know or are related to or might even be yourself.

I’m no different from the guy who can’t kick the crack habit or the gal who just can’t stop smoking or the one who bellies up to the bar night after night after night.

I’m just like those people. I’m just like you.

I’m an addict. My addiction is food. And it always will be.

Since November 2017, I’ve lost 80 pounds. Now, I’m proud, don’t get me wrong. But I hesitate to talk about it. Much less celebrate it.

Please forgive me for this different kind of weight loss story. A lot of this piece will probably be all of the hesitations that I feel about sharing the story in the first place.

For instance, when our fearless editor-in-chief insisted that this would be a good topic to swing at in the latest issue of the best publication in the Metro (pardon the brown on my nose), I hesitated… again (you will see a growing theme).

In the end, I reluctantly said I would. I hope she still feels good about her insistence now that I’ve written it.

Regardless, I hope it resonates, because my hope is that this space is more a tale about the successes and failures we all endure in our lives – both health-related and otherwise – and how we deal with them.

That said, the hesitations to share my story are plentiful.screen-shot-2018-06-05-at-3-17-22-pm

I FEEL GUILT, EVEN WHEN I LOSE WEIGHT

Partly because it opens old wounds. Talking about it opens up the pain that I know others share about not being looked at like the “rest of the crowd,” but becoming so used to it, you joke with others about it.

Hesitation also comes partly because I feel guilty for how my weight affects the people who choose (or, in my family’s case, have no choice but) to include me in their lives, but have to rearrange their cars, houses, weekend activities, big ticket purchases, vacations, etc. to accommodate “the big guy.”

And even more hesitation because – and I know this is backwards, but – I had found a personality inside this humongous frame that I thought some people were starting to latch onto. And that felt good, even if my health sucked!

But one of the biggest hesitations is this.

I’VE BEEN HERE BEFORE

Back in November, I tipped the scales at 377. As of this writing, I’m weighing in at 297 lbs. Awesome, right?

But, I’m sure most of you know how the story sometimes goes from there. The majority of people with weight issues do the “yo-yo” a lot. Get fat, lose some weight, feel good for awhile, use food to celebrate because “we deserve it,” put all the weight back on.

Rinse. Repeat.

The latest yo-yo for me began around four years ago, when I had worked my way down to about 270 lbs. from 388 in a little over a year. And then…

Rinse. Repeat. Back to 377 just six months ago.

No rinsing or repeating this time. At least not yet.

And that’s one of the problems: I keep saying “yet” as if I’m destined to put it all back on again.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m happier than I’ve been in quite a long time. My parents, my wife, her parents and our extended families have been beyond supportive. Life is good.

But, I got so used to being fat that, even with a lot of weight gone (and plenty to go), I get into this seemingly-neverending internal struggle where my inner voice is telling me, “Hey man, you’ll be back up here in the 400s eventually,” and I come out of the gate swinging saying, “Nope, not this time.”

Ring the bell. Let’s go. Let yet another weight loss fight begin.

I throw a left jab at the inner voice. Then a right uppercut.

But, like George Foreman in “The Rumble In The Jungle,” I’m in that boxing match with my inner voice, swinging and landing punches (and shedding pounds) like I never have before.

Jab. Jab. Jab. Right hook.

But my inner voice won’t budge. It’s taking every punch like it’s been hit with a feather as my energy and willpower are nearing empty.

Jab. Panting. Left hook. More panting.

All the while, my inner voice is whispering back at me.

“Is that all you got, Zach?”

Apparently, my inner voice is as strong as Muhammad Ali.

And I was tired of getting beat by him.

SO I ASKED FOR BACKUP

Let’s go back to April 2017 for a second. My wife was pregnant with our second child – a boy (Monroe officially joined the family a couple of months later).

My weight was climbing (again), and I had been bumming because I lost all of the weight the previous time around due in large part to not wanting our firstborn child, Remi, to be subject to an obese father. But, she was born and my inner voice had told me, “Mission accomplished, now come on back to the dark side.” And I had.

Anyway, we knew our health insurance deductible for the rest of the year was going to be met with the birth of Monroe in July, so I threw it out there joking, “We should go ahead and get all the medical work done we need if insurance will pay for it all.”

I threw out the option of weight loss surgery, but I figured that wasn’t even possible. I figured insurance wouldn’t cover such a thing.

But, the more and more my wife and I talked it out and researched it, we started to find that this sort of thing was, indeed, covered by our insurance plan with one big, fat (no pun intended) contingency: I had to be medically supervised for six months on the same diet and exercise plan to prove that I was invested in this process and not gain one pound over that time. I was to come in to the doctor once a month for a weight and wellness check.

Only then would the insurance company decide whether or not to count the surgery as “medically necessary” and, therefore, covered at 100 percent by insurance.

“OK, then, I’m in. I’m doing this,” I remember telling myself. Only to hear the inner voice tell me over and over: “Six months without gaining a pound? Yeah, right.”

And I’m not gonna lie. There were times I was convinced the insurance company was going to come back and say “denied.”

But there was one more hurdle. One more hesitation that’s tough for me to share.

There was a part of me that was sort of hoping I would get denied the coverage I needed to go on with the surgery.

I was ashamed that I was even using this route. I didn’t want to tell anyone I was going to have the surgery. Why? You know why.

Because everyone would’ve thought I took the easy way out.

I was already having nightmares about how people would talk about me after the surgery.

“Zach is so weak. He couldn’t do it the old-fashioned way, huh?”

It was debilitating. On one hand, I NEEDED HELP to reach health goals that I had not been able to maintain. I still do.

On the other hand, I hated the very notion that people would consider me weak-minded for not being able to lose weight and keep it off the traditional way.

I can remember the justification I made in my head. “If the insurance company denies me, that’s OK. I’ll still be fat, but I can work on it again, and when I lose all this weight on my own, everyone will look at me as strong.”

I could hear my inner voice chuckling.

Anyway, the six months rolled by. I lost a little weight on my own and the insurance company, to my surprise, accepted the cost of the surgery in full.

I was a mixture of scared and ecstatic. Scared to tell my friends and family that I was taking the “easy” way out.

But then I started to attend all of these meetings with Dr. John Oldham and my other doctors at the Bariatric Center at Baptist East Hospital in preparation for the surgery. They wanted to make sure I knew this wasn’t an easy fix. It was cemented into my head that this was going to be tough.

I couldn’t leave the place any of the umpteen times I went without hearing something to the effect of “Remember, this surgery is just a tool in helping you lose weight. If you don’t use the tool, the tool becomes useless.”

In other words, I have to get over the psychological addiction I have with food as well. The vertical sleeve gastrectomy procedure, commonly referred to as the “sleeve” would remove 90 percent of my stomach. Ninety percent.

But, the addiction to food for many can be so overwhelming that the stomach removal just doesn’t matter. The patient still eats even though they receive signals of being full way quicker than they ever had before.

It’s yet another reason I am afraid to share my story. Because here I am – my story thrown on paper with ink that will last forever – and if my addiction wins out over my new “tool,” I’ll want to literally eat every one of the magazines this story was printed on as a way to shred the evidence of me having ever told my story.

BUT I DID ITscreen-shot-2018-06-05-at-3-16-32-pm

But, that’s the chance I took on Nov. 6, 2017.

Pain after surgery was real. Making me walk an hour after leaving the surgery floor as to get my body back to normal as quickly as possible – not fun. Eating broth and drinking liquid protein shots for days upon days after the surgery – not fun. Watching others chow on the delectables I used to shove down my piehole without taking a breath – sometimes not fun.

But, all worth it.

A little over six months later, my excitement and enjoyment of life is outweighing all other feelings at the moment – although, I know this story of all of my worries would likely prove otherwise.

But I share my worries because I think they are important to the overall story.

In the end, I’m ecstatic because I know getting this tool would help me reach my ultimate goal of not being an obese parent for my children. They are about to turn 3- and 1-year-old, respectively.

I’m glad I still have a little longer to push more weight off before they start to have true memories with their father that they’ll tell their kids about down the road, much like I had with my dad, and still do.

And, believe me, I’ve still got a long way to go to get to a “healthy” stage. My journey has just started.

In all, the real reason I ultimately decided to share this is so when someone else is struggling with the decision to change their lifestyle forever, that they know that they’re not alone.

It’s a lifelong battle.

I’m here to help. So are others. You are not alone. You need the accountability. So do I.

Because I’m an addict.

And I’m happy.

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Kid Talk

PHOTOS AND Q&A BY JENNIFER MCNELLY

SOMETIMES, KIDS SAY THE DARNDEST THINGS. OTHER TIMES, WHAT COMES OUT OF THEIR MOUTHS CAN BE ENLIGHTENING, HEARTWARMING AND ENTERTAINING, TOO. WE SENT PHOTOGRAPHER-WRITER JENNIFER MCNELLY OUT ‘N’ ABOUT IN SEARCH OF YOUNG PEOPLE WILLING TO LET US KNOW WHAT’S ON THEIR MINDS.