Tuesday, December 06, 2011

None But Christ

We sang this song at church on Sunday, and I am reminded of my sinful tendencies to run after so many things that ultimately do not satisfy. What empty pursuits I so earnestly seek! This is one of my favorite songs and unfortunately it is not available anywhere online to which I can link. That is because it is an old poem, whose author is unknown, or at least debated, and my friend wrote the music to go with it. I wish you could hear the tune, as it makes the words that much more meaningful, but you'll have to be content with the lyrics, unless you ask me to sing it for you . . .

O Christ, in Thee my soul hath found,
And found in Thee alone,
The peace, the joy I sought so long,
The bliss till now unknown.

Now none but Christ can satisfy,
No other name for me;
There's love, and life, and lasting joy,
Lord Jesus, found in Thee.

I sighed for rest and happiness,
I yearned for them, not Thee;
But while I passed my Saviour by,
His love laid hold on me.

I tried the broken cisterns, Lord,
But ah! the waters failed!
E'en as I stooped to drink they'd fled,
And mocked me as I wailed.

The pleasures lost I sadly mourned,
But never wept for Thee,
Till grace the sightless eyes received,
Thy loveliness to see.

That last verse always gets to me. Praise God that he opened my eyes to His loveliness and keeps pursuing me even when I try to replace Him.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Honored and Remembered

Today is the day that our Stephen would have been born. At least, the day he was due, as calculated using our limited human intelligence to determine. But God knew he would never have a home here with us, that his life would be a vapor that lasted only 5 months.

While I've known for a while that we wanted to honor Stephen today, I wasn't sure how we should do it. Until the Holy Spirit brought me the perfect idea, and instantly Dan and the kids were on board . . . we used today as the chance to sponsor a through Compassion.

We searched using Stephen's birthday, June 7th, and found Alexander, a 7 year old who lives in Mexico. Since Elijah is 7, he was adamant that we choose this boy. So this morning, as the family all gathered around the computer, we committed to helping this boy financially, but more importantly, we committed to praying for him.

As tears rolled down my cheeks, Elijah said to me, "At least we know Stephen's death will work out for good - at least I think it will."

Yes, buddy, I think it will, too.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

October Unprocessed

I'm tempted to say that the October Unprocessed challenge was a bust. I'm tempted, because with a death occuring mid-way through the month, which required me to be out of state for 4 exhausting days, and then trying to get back into the groove the following week had us eating most anything that could be prepared quickly and without much thought. That meant that I raided my freezer and pantry, and while it wasn't terrible food, it was far from being unprocessed.

Although I'm tempted to admit failure, the truth is, the month did bestow a few gifts. First of all, I am more aware of what is going in our mouths each day. I'm committed to making healthier choices for all of us, but especially the kids, who are more inclined to snack on highly processed foods than I am. Dan is still a bit of a hold out. He'll eat whatever I serve without complaint, but we still have lively discussions about what constitutes healthy eating.

Secondly, as I type this, I have fresh, homemade crock-pot yogurt in my refrigerator and I must say, I am starting to enjoy the tartness of plain yogurt (okay, with a little homemade granola thrown in) and I think I'm getting my kids to eat it with less sugar than it's highly-processed cousin, Yoplait. I also have resumed making my own bread. And while it is time-consuming, the bread is so delicious and my family LOVES it and it is really hearty and filling. One sandwich goes a lot further on homemade bread than on the air-filled bread we were buying.

I've spent a lot of time thinking about my health this month, and fighting the temptation to think that God owes me a long life if I'm careful about what I eat. But then I'm reminded of a man like Steve Jobs, who was by all accounts a very healthy eater (I think the only meat he ate was fish) and he was stricken with pacreatic cancer and dead by 57. It's been a battle to remind myself that God has my days numbered and while I should be a good steward of my body, and I admittedly feel much better when I'm eating well, it is up to His good pleasure to bring me home when He sees fit. Nothing I do can change that.

So maybe the challenge wasn't a complete bust. I failed it in so many ways, but it didn't fail me in giving me the renewed vigor to make smart choices and to shop differently as we move forward.

I'm hoping to post some of the new recipes I tried this month in the coming days, assuming I have the time. You might have noticed that I don't post as much as I say I will!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A Prayer for Vegetables

Our oldest child has a sincere dislike for most anything from the vegetable family. This does not cause much of a problem at either breakfast or lunch, where fruit tend to dominate, but for dinner - boy, oh, boy - does this ever cause distress.

If you were a fly on our wall at most dinner times, you would get an eye and ear full (that is, if flies have ears?). It seems every dinner is plagued with complaining from one side of the table and pleading and demanding from the other. I'll leave it to you to figure out which side I'm sitting on. But as it is, I refuse to let my child determine his own diet, so the veggies must be eaten.

Before you start leaving suggestions as to how to get him to eat veggies cheerfully, I'm fairly certain we've tried it all. Butter, cheese, ranch dressing, holding your nose, mixing with food, drinking copious amounts of water and even pureeing them to secretly add to the main dish have been attempted and failed on most accounts. When we think we've discovered a way that he will tolerate, more times that not, by the next serving he has changed his mind and once again fights having to ingest them. On more than one occasion, I've reminded him that I caught him eating dog food multiple times as a toddler and then I reassure him that my green beans with bacon are much tastier than that, but no luck. He still won't budge.

So I wasn't surprised when he reported to his grandmother that he often prays that he will like vegetables. We've had that discussion, too. Unfortunately it hasn't seemed to work yet, and he is only too aware of that fact.

So where does that leave me? I'm praying and pleading with God, too. Only not that he would just eat the stupid vegetables and make my life and our dinner time more peaceful (although I would take it!) but I'm begging God to answer his tiny prayer. I'm asking God to give him the ability to do what is right, that is in this situation, to eat his vegetables without complaint, and to make it so powerfully different that he sees it as a direct answer from God. I want him to grow up knowing a God who can and will help you do difficult things and I want him to run to God at every turn, especially when life gets difficult.

Is that too much to ask of my Heavenly Father? I don't think so. Please, God, make yourself real in my child's life, even if it means answering a silly request like being able to eat vegetables.

Monday, October 10, 2011

October Unprocessed On Hold

I'm afraid that this coming week marks a hiatus for our family from the October Unprocessed Challenge. There has been a death in our family, which requires me to be absent from my daily life. As I plan on still doing my best to choose healthy, unprocessed foods while on hiatus, I'm afraid eating out and eating meals prepared by others will limit me a bit. I'll check back in a few days and let you know how I fared.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

5 Days In

Well, we are officially into our October Unprocessed Challenge and I must admit, it is harder than I thought. Mostly it is difficult for the kids and Dan, although he is kinda ignoring my advice and eating whatever he wants when he is on his own.

So here is a breakdown of what we've been eating for the last 5 days:

Breakfast - I went ahead and made my homemade granola recipe with brown sugar. Sorry, I'm not ready to mess with that. Besides, I don't eat it. My breakfasts are almost solely comprised of eggs, re-fried beans (only beans and salt in those!) and sauteed peppers and onions. But for the rest of the family, I'm willing for them to eat healthy, preservative-free granola, with a little brown sugar, than sugary boxed cereal. I'm hoping to get them eating real oatmeal soon, but these sensitive transitions take time. The kids are still drinking milk, but on the rare occasion I eat oatmeal, I use unsweetened almond milk. In fact, I've been using almond milk as a substitute for regular milk in almost all my recipes (except bread).

Lunch - This has been a bit more difficult. So far the kids have eaten pbj sandwiches on homemade bread. We buy Skippy Natural peanut butter, which may not pass the "completely unprocessed" rule, but it is better than the regular stuff. I searched for jelly made without high fructose corn syrup and was amazed to find a couple of brands at Woodman's that are made from fruit, sugar and pectin. Once again, I'm not totally on the bandwagon of sugar-free yet.
I've mostly been eating tuna or egg salad (with beans), although my mayo is processed. Not sure what I can do about that, except I am planning a trip to Trader Joe's this week and maybe I can find something there. Yesterday I made a salad with chicken and beans and without thinking I added dressing. Oops! Should have been homemade, but it was Newman's Own, which is all-natural, whatever that means. As I start to make more soups this fall, I plan on eating leftovers regularly.

Supper - is the easiest. Most of my recipes are made from scratch and while I do fudge a little when the recipe calls for soy sauce or something of the like, for the most part it is the most un-processed meal of the day.

Dessert - this is for the kids and Dan. I really try to stay away from sugar and unnecessary calories myself, so I rarely partake. But snacks and such are a must for the kids and I have to indulge them with more than apple slices sometimes, so here has been our go-to snack for the week:

  • 1 1/2 cups chickpeas (1 can, drained) (250g)
  • 1/8 tsp plus 1/16 tsp salt
  • tiny bit over 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup nut butter (You can get away with using only 3 T)
  • up to 1/4 cup nondairy milk (Start with 1 T, and add more as needed)
  • Sweetener (see note below, for amount)
  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips
  • 2 to 3 T oats (or flaxmeal) (You can omit, but also omit the milk if you do)
Add all ingredients (except for chocolate chips) to a blender or food processor, and blend until very smooth. Then mix in the chocolate chips.
Once again, I used brown sugar for the sweetener (2/3 cup), but hey, my kids are scarfing down chickpeas. I can overlook a little sugar for that fact alone. They love to dip apple slices in this and they are convinced they're getting the most sugary treat possible. I love it!!! I also found some amazingly simple graham crackers in the health food aisle, so when apples get boring, I'll break those out.
Next up is homemade applesauce! I hope to be posting some other recipes soon. I can't say we are doing this challenge completely perfectly, but I love that I'm thinking purposefully about my food! Hope you are, too!

Friday, September 30, 2011

WHAT?!?! Sugar is Processed?!?!

Gearing up for the October Unprocessed Challenge and I read this post which informed me that white sugar is processed. Forgive me for my ignorance, but if the label says "contains sugar" I kinda assumed it was okay to eat. Apparently the processing makes it unnatural. How's a non-crunchy girl supposed to know that? Anyway, I was prepared to make all of our "treats" this month and to use real ingredients (i.e. no cake mix cookies) but this new revelation has me in a tizzy. It changes a lot of ideas I had about what is and is not considered "processed." Hmmm, this is going to be a bigger challenge than I previously thought.

So I've been browsing a couple of blogs for sweet ideas and found some that look really good, using agave nectar or honey as a natural sweetener. The two blogs I have been most impressed with are:

Chocolate-Covered Katie (how can you go wrong with a title like that?)
Deliciously Organic (of which I have already made the homemade coffee creamer)

I'll admit, we have been using up a lot of totally-processed foods this week. Dinner every night has been an attempt to see what I can use from my pantry before I start the challenge and in case I fall so madly in love with the idea of eating real food that I forever banish processed ingredients from my household (thick sarcasm there!)

Anyway, last night was a bean soup mix to which you only add water and I must admit, it tasted kinda artificial. Surprising, since I haven't started yet. Maybe just thinking healthy thoughts has already retrained my taste buds.

Tonight is barbecue meatballs. The meatballs are frozen (probably laced with cyanide or something dangerous like that) and the sauce is made from ketchup (can we say high fructose corn syrup?), soy sauce, which the before-mentioned post informed me was processed, tomato paste (I'm calling that safe) vinegar (safe) and brown sugar, which I'm assuming the Great Value brand is probably akin to eating anthrax. Oh, and white rice that is parboiled, of which I just bought a 5 lb. bag, so that is getting used this month challenge or not. I hope I survive long enough to make it to the start tomorrow!

*Small caveat* Tomorrow is our church's annual chili supper and bonfire, which I can whole-heartedly say is my FAVORITE activity of the year. I'm eating whatever I want and I'm not going to apologize for it. 'Nuff said.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Autumn Finally Arrives

For some reason, my kids are ecstatic about new seasons. Now don't get me wrong, I love Fall and often look forward to it coming, but the kids seem to insist on knowing the actual day the seasons change and they always want to do something special to commemorate the occasion.

Enter Pinterest, that amazing site I blogged about earlier. We (being me) decided that a sugary treat would be the best way to welcome this warm and fuzzy season. And I found the perfect idea.
 Get yourself a box of doughnut holes. (Never you mind my last post - this was a week ago!)

 Smear one end with chocolate frosting. If we ever do this again, I would choose to use Nutella (that's all-natural, right?)

Dip the frosted end in some sprinkles.

 Stick half of a pretzel stick into the end . . .

 . . . and VOILA! You have an edible fall acorn.

Eat and repeat, as many times as necessary.

Happy Fall!

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Unprocessed Food Challenge

October Unprocessed hosted by Eating Rules!

I'm committed (or maybe I should be committed!) to this challenge. Click on the link above to check out the "rules" to this challenge.

Since eating unprocessed is relatively new to me, there are a few adjustments that I will make for our household in this challenge:

1. While I will try to refrain from canned foods with additional un-pronounceable ingredients, there are a few exceptions. Since I eat a TON of beans each month, my pantry is already stocked with cans and cans. I plan on trying my hand at cooking my own beans, but I can't promise that I won't occasionally pop open a can when I'm in a rush. Besides, most canned beans only have calcium chloride added and although a few cans that have high fructose corn syrup added, I'm betting that I wash all that away when I rinse. At least that is what I'm telling myself to stay sane.

2. I figure most of my meals will have to be completely homemade, but once again, in the rush of our busy life I will be willing to use a previously prepared meal that I have frozen. I use my chest freezer a lot and often make a double batch of a recipe so that I can freeze one for later. I'm not going to waste meals in a lame attempt to worship this challenge. The idea is to serve us, not for us to serve it.

3.  Still haven't decided what to do for breakfast. I don't think I can manage cooking breakfast every morning, especially on Sundays, so the occasional bowl of sugary cereal may be consumed.

I'm hoping to blog my way through this challenge, as time permits. Homeschooling has overtaken our schedule like never before! I hope some of you will do this with me so we can encourage each other toward a more healthy lifestyle!

With only 5 days until the challenge starts, we better get busy eating up all our junk food! ;)

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

First Day of School 2011

It seemed like a late start this year, but we finally had our first day of school today.
Elijah complained that his handwriting wasn't nearly as good when writing with chalk, but I convinced him it was worth the picture. He is my perfectionist 2nd grader!

Alli did not complain, but she is about as much of a perfectionist as her older brother.

I had a couple of fun surprises for the kids on their first day . . .
including a package of Pop Rocks. My kids had never experienced the strange candy sensation that is Pop Rocks, and they did not fail in exciting them tremendously!

Elijah woke up to a new place mat with the solar system, as we will be studying astronomy this year in science.

Alli got a place mat that has instructions on how to set the table. She was so excited to use it for dinner tonight, and mommy was happy to allow her that responsibility!

Overall a good first day, even after a pretty rough start first thing this morning. The kids belong to a home school co-op that also met today, so they were excited to see their friends and attend the classes. With the fall weather we've had these past few days, it really felt like the start to a new school year. Let's hope and pray that we continue to go strong.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Pinterest Ignites my Craftiness

I don't know if you have discovered Pinterest yet, but let me warn you in advance, it is a bit addictive. Basically, it is an online pin board, which allows you to save all those great pictures, quotes, recipes and such that you find around the internet. It also allows you to follow people's pins (luckily I have amazingly crafty and stylish friends!) and see what the larger community of "pinners" are interested in. I've found some amazing ideas and last week decided it was time to quit looking and thinking "someday" and actually try some of those crafts out!

First up: Mod Podge scrapbook paper onto tiles, add felt on the bottom and voila! you have new coasters. Here is my attempt.
Next time I'll cut the paper a bit smaller and maybe round the corners, but I like them.

Second project: Mod Podge (I was on a roll with a new bottle!) scrapbook paper over an oatmeal container to store headbands on the outside and bows and such on the inside.
Alli loves it, but I must admit that the paper bubbled a bit under the mod podge, but who's really going to see that, when covered with all those headbands? I will warn you, a 12x12 scrapbook sheet doesn't fully wrap around the container, so I had to cut and glue an extra piece, but I put that part towards the wall.

Now, on to all those other projects that I have been "pinning" all day!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Energy Balls

I've been looking for snacks and treats that are easy to make and relatively low in sugar to give the kids since they seem to be ravenously hungry 99% of their awake hours. Somehow, last night, the memory of these quick bite no-bake cookies came to my mind and I decided to look up the recipe and make them. They are a perfect recipe to have your kids "help" you make.

Quick Energy Pick-Me-Ups

3-4 crushed graham crackers
1 c. powdered sugar
1 c. peanut butter
1 c. chocolate chips
1/2 c. instant non-fat dry milk
3 Tbsp. water
optional: coconut

Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Using a tablespoon measurment, scoop out dough and form into balls. Refrigerate for 1 hour before eating, then keep refrigerated.
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Thanksgiving in Grief

Last week a friend returned from 7 1/2 long months in Afghanistan. While he was away, I prayed for his safety, but probably more often I prayed for his wife. Their children are grown and so she had to live by herself while he was deployed. I can't say which I would hate worse - being away from my husband for so long, or having to sleep in an empty house each night. Either way, there was much rejoicing this last week when word came he was home.

I found myself praising God for his safe arrival. I thanked Him for keeping our friend alive and for being everything his wife needed during this extended trial. I saw God working in her life, specifically, I saw her leaning on Him to get her through each day and I appreciated her opening up her heart to others when they asked how she was doing.

Yesterday was the first day I was able to see our friend since he came home. I hugged him as I entered the church before the service began. I told them both that I had been praying for them and praising God for bringing him home.

And then it hit me. I don't know if I've praised God for anything since we lost our baby. The Spirit pricked my heart during the worship service and immediately tears filled my eyes. I thought I had nothing to praise Him for - how could I be thankful for the tears and heartache we've experienced over the past 2 1/2 months? But that one instance of thankfulness reminded my heart of the joy gratefulness brings. It reminded me that although I have been remiss to thank God for much of anything these last few months, He has been and continues to be very gracious to me. And I can be thankful, even in grief.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Power of the Written Word

I was cleaning up today, and as I gazed around the dining room looking for articles out of place, my eyes rested on a pile of cards. Nothing belonging to the kids, but a stack of letters and cards that have been arriving in the mail since we lost Stephen.

I gazed at them for a moment. They have collected on a cherry hutch since mid-June. The first few weeks after our loss, they came every day, many in each mail delivery. As the weeks passed, the flow of sympathy cards diminished, but their power did not.

I found every bit of condolences offered as very touching. In this technological world, many of the messages we received were over Facebook, email or texts. Those were great. They were nearly instantaneous and greeted me every time I sat down at the computer. But there was something special in those cards. The fact that someone took the time to carefully select a sympathy card, and then to write a personal note acknowledging our pain was immeasurably comforting.

Feeling the grace and kindness from others expressed in a handwritten letter has been incredibly healing. I am resolved to be better about it myself as I encounter others who grieve. And less you are tempted to think that it is too late to send a card, that too much time has gone by since your friend experienced a loss, let it be known that some of the most touching letters we received arrived weeks, even months after our loss. Please don't think that the time frame matters as much as the sentiment. I know people who have cherished notes even years after their loss, knowing that someone realizes they still mourn.

I decided to put those cards away today. But not before I read each and every one of them over again, pausing for a moment to relish each sentiment. The tears came, as my heart swelled with the remembrance of each grace given in every note. I tucked them into the box of things I have for Stephen and put them away in my closet. Out of sight, but of course, never out of mind.

So if I can encourage you to say something to those grieving around you, can I also encourage you to write something? Take whatever time you need to do it, but do it nonetheless. I guarantee you will bless the hurting around you.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Father's Day 2011
Elijah ~ 7.5 years
(Still working on natural posing . . .)
Allison ~ 5 years old

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Don't Say Nothing

I know it is awkward. I remember feeling the same way. I've had others tell me they don't want to make me cry, that it is hard to know the right words to say. My brain can comprehend the fear, but my heart can't grasp the reasoning. If you have a friend, or even an aquaintance, going through the grieving process, don't say nothing.

First of all, there is no "right" thing to say, like there exists the perfect, magical phrase that will make the pain go away, or at least serve some higher purpose. And because everyone grieves differently, I can't say with certainty what any one person might desire to hear. But silence can be as painful as the worst, most insensitive comment.

Silence gives the impression that my pain doesn't matter. It makes me feel like your desire for comfortable conversation is more important than my life-shattering trial. And as much as I long for easy-breezy interaction, my heart won't allow it if you can't even acknowledge the bludgeoning my soul took with this death.

It doesn't have to be the first thing you say to me. It might not be the right moment, but don't ignore the trial altogether. A simple "I'm so sorry for your loss . . . I've been thinking and praying for you . . . Is there anything I can do?" is more than adequate. And don't worry about making me cry, knowing you care enough to talk to me about our trial makes up for any smeared mascara that may result.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Worst-Case Scenario

It happened 3 weeks ago. The worst-case scenario unfolded in front of our eyes. Admitted into the hospital with signs that my water had broken, we waited as my temperature rose and then endured an amnio only to find out what my heart feared most: my water had broken and an infection had entered my uterus. Fatal for my 18 week old child, and equally dangerous for me.

Stephen Ryan Zempel was born on June 7th, weighing only 7.8 oz. He was perfect and beautiful and we buried him next to his sister.

Right now, we are all grieving. Probably me, most of all. The tears come often, the questions are even more frequent. I don't understand why God chose to send us through this grief again. I don't know what to do with this hole in our family that didn't exist 5 months ago. Fear and worry threaten to overtake me at times and I'm devouring all I can find and read on grief. This time seems to be even harder than losing our baby girl. I think it is because we are mourning both now.

I don't know what this blog will look like over the coming weeks and months. I don't know if I will share more of my grief or if it will remain silent as I grieve. I guess you'll have to wait and see. I guess I will, too.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Asking for the Best Case Scenario

Life has been pretty eventful since my last post, happily announcing our unexpected blessing of another child. I believe most people who read this blog know about the loss we experienced the summer of 2005, when I delivered our 22 week-old baby girl too early to survive. We mourned and buried her, fully aware that the physical complication that caused her premature birth could prevent us from ever having another full-term baby again.

3 months later, God blessed us with another pregnancy, and a surgical procedure allowed me to carry that baby girl to full term, although it required constant monitoring and modified bed rest for the majority of the pregnancy.

After that taxing 9 months, Dan and I knew that making the decision to have another child would be difficult. We knew what trial we would have to endure, and so we decided to be content with the 2 wonderful children God had blessed us with, but knowing that if God should so choose, we could still have another child.

That brings us to March of this year, with a 7 year old and *almost* 5 year old and plans-a-plenty for summer fun. We found out that I was expecting again. Surprised but overjoyed, I knew the temptations for fear and worry would rear their ugly head and they did. I was certain I would miscarry.

I didn't miscarry in the first trimester, which meant that I could have the same surgical procedure that protected my pregnancy with Allison, which I had 3 weeks ago. One week ago I went in to have a check-up on the surgery and the Doctor found that it was failing. I was admitted immediately and the surgery was repeated. Since then, I have been on a stricter bed rest than I ever had with Alli, but not confined to my bed 24/7. I have to have in-home help every day.

Those same demons of fear and worry are back. I am fighting them still. You may see me cry and you may hear me express worry and doubt, but that does not mean I'm not fighting and I'm not trusting. After losing our first baby girl, God's grace was so present and helpful through those dark days. I know His grace will be there again, new every morning for exactly the battle for that day.

All of that being said, I have been asking friends to pray very specifically. My last prayer request was that the surgery would take and that I would be allowed to go home on bed rest, as opposed to being hospitalized long-term. God was gracious and it appears the surgery did work and thus my last 7 days have been at home. Friday is my next appointment.

I am asking you all to continue to pray. I know you will pray for peace and grace and for victory over fear and worry, and all those are necessary, much-appreciated prayers. However, I fully believe that it is honoring to an Omniscient, Sovereign God to speak honestly about our desires. He knows our heart already! He is my Father, who earnestly desires for me to come to Him like the needy child I am. So before next Friday, June 3rd, I'm asking you to pray specifically the following:

1. that the surgery is still performing it's intended purpose. To be graphic, that my cervical length has not shortened - at. all.

2. that the current bed rest arrangement will be adequate for another 2 weeks until my next appointment.

3. that the baby would continue to be safe and healthy - it is difficult to know that it is my body threatening the loss of this otherwise healthy baby.

4. that the next 6 weeks would go by quickly and uneventfully!

Please know that we are all to aware of the potential of the loss of this baby. We are trusting God that it is He who gave us this gift and it is He who will have to preserve it. Please don't think that if the worst-case scenario occurs, it will mean that God failed us. We know who is in control. We are trusting no matter what happens. But please pray with us for the best case scenario!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Cozy Corner

Usborne Greek Myths - If you have never looked into an Usborne book, you are missing out on beautiful illustrations that captivate children's eyes! This book is no different. Composed of 17 common Greek myths, this book retells them in a simple style with gorgeous pictures. My kids loved the stories, although I will comment that many of the Greek myths are quite violent. I remember reading them in 4th and 5th grade, so if you don't think your child can handle scenes of war and bloodshed, maybe wait until they are a bit older. I liked explaining that many common sayings and words in our modern language come from the Greeks, like Pandora's box, narcissist, Midas' touch, etc.
My verdict: Fun retelling of the most-known Greek myths, but my caveat is that the stories are a bit violent and I had to keep reminding my kids that these gods are nothing like the one, true God!

Henry Huggins by Beverly Cleary - An enchanting book about Henry, a young boy who thinks life is pretty boring, until he meets a friendly dog, seemingly lost and looking for a home. Henry adopts the dog, names him Ribsy, and then all sorts of exciting adventures begin to follow them everywhere! This book was perfect for the ages of my kids. Elijah loved that it was about a boy, and Alli just giggled the entire way through each chapter.
My verdict: Your kids will love this book! Also a great reader for those a bit older (maybe 8-12).
Little Pear by Eleanor Frances Lattimore - Little Pear is a young boy who lives in China and is always looking for excitement and adventure! He doesn't have to look far to find himself involved in all sorts of exciting situations, but it is usually because he has disobeyed instructions from his mother and father. The parent in me did not enjoy this aspect of the book, even though Little Pear is reprimanded, it is also implied that his family just shakes their head at his mischievous ways. And after reading the last 2 books, where each chapter was a stand-alone story about a character, I was ready for a book with a character where you see some growth and development.
My verdict: Take it or leave it. While the kids liked the stories, I would only give this book 2.5 stars out of 5.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

At Your Service

Allison heard the word "butler" the other day for the first time. She naturally came to me to ask what it meant.

Me: a butler is someone who takes care of everything you would need. It's his job to help you out with anything you ask.

Alli: Mommy's my butler.

Truer words have never been spoken . . .

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Cozy Corner

Still making our way through the school year, cherishing those daily moments where we read and cuddle on the couch. Here are 3 more of the books we have read this school year:Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater
This is a delightful book! The story is about a man and his love for the Antarctic and the explorers who venture there. He becomes the unlikely owner of a penguin and the story revolves around how he rearranges his house and life to accommodate his new friend. Really playful and funny, the kids ate this book up.
My verdict: buy it and read it again and again!

Mountain Born by Elizabeth Yates
Sonlight has a tendency to group books that are age-appropriate with some more difficult books in their core. This was one that falls in the latter group. We started it on a Monday, and only one chapter in, I could tell the language was going to be too complex for my kids. I always struggle with just giving up on a book, but when I saw the suggested ages on the back cover said 9-12 years, I was easily convinced to shelve it for later. I understand it to be a book about a boy's friendship with a sheep, but I can't confirm that since we didn't get past page 8!
verdict: skip this one for your 4-7 year olds. We'll try it again in a few years.

The Year of Miss Agnes by Kirkpatrick Hill
This story is about a small, one-room school in a remote part of Alaska, set in the mid-20th century. All of the teachers the village brings in end up leaving after one year, complaining of how hard it is to live there. The story is told from the perspective of 10-year old Fred (Frederika) and it is obvious that not much has been learned in this little school. Everything changes when Miss Agnes arrives, who does not teach like her predecessors. The children begin to thrive and learn, but will she stay for more than one year?
This book was very enjoyable to me, but the descriptions and Alaskan vernacular were more difficult for the kids. They didn't complain, but questioning them after I read each day, I found they weren't really able to grasp exactly what was going on.
verdict: I'm glad we read it - maybe it stretched their minds a little bit. But possibly save it for 8 or 9 year olds next time.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Elijah's 7th Birthday

Somehow, beyond any reasonable explanation, we now have a 7 year old. I don't know how that happened. There is something about 7 that sounds soooo much older than 6 . . . *wiping tear from eyes*. Even though he battled the stomach flu the day before his birthday, we still managed to have a great day and celebrate this momentous occasion!All month long we had been teasing Elijah that his only present was going to be a box of vegetables - even Alli joined in the teasing! At least now he can't claim we were lying!

A Lego cake for a Lego birthday . . .
Just one of the sets he received.
A few days later, he had his friend spend the night, and conveniently his friend has a sister the same age as Alli, so it was sleepover central for Elijah's birthday. His birthday dinner was postponed until the sleepover because his stomach couldn't have handled the waffles and pie filling supper he requested.

It was a fun week to celebrate (except for the vomit) and we are still in awe that he is 7. I think 4 or 5 fits him better . . .

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

My "Crazy" Diet, the Wrap-up

***update: I forgot one major positive change! It is added below.***

I wrote about my family's health issues and my own concerns that led me to embark on a healthier lifestyle here and here. Ultimately, it led me to see a nutritionist who put me on what many people think is a "crazy" diet, and although it took me a few weeks to get into the swing of things, now I view it as a completely normal and decent way to eat.

I've been meaning to write about what positive changes I've seen in my own life, so I'll take a few lines here to do just that. For brevity, I'll use bullet points:

  • Headaches - I used to have 2 to 3 headaches a week. Not migraines (although my nutritionist does deal a lot with people who suffer from those) but more of the end-of-the-day, tired-as-all-get-out kind of headache. Sometimes I would take a Tylenol or ibuprofen for them, and sometimes I would just go to bed and sleep it away. I do not have headaches anymore (unless my neck is out - but that is a different post).
  • Cholesterol - mainly the #1 reason I went to the nutritionist, my cholesterol levels had only been going up as I got them checked each year. And although my numbers were not dangerously high, they were elevated and at the tipping point. My family history did not bode well for them ever going down naturally on their own. After only 2 months of the diet, my overall cholesterol number went down 18 points and my triglycerides dropped 30. I'm actually pretty excited to get them checked again this summer and see how much lower they have become.
  • Sensitive stomach - if you've know me for any decent amount of time, you know that lack of sleep, late nights, strange foods, or too much excitement in general will affect my stomach. As a child, it always manifested itself in throwing up. Always. Like at every slumber party I've ever attended. As I've grown older, it has started to affect my digestion in different ways, but unpleasant just the same. Since starting this diet, I have traveled and stayed up late and eaten unfamiliar foods without it affecting my digestion. Massively huge difference this has made!
Some of the less tangible benefits have been an increase in energy, and most of all, an overwhelming sense of health and vitality. I used to obsess about every ache and pain and imagine what terrible diseases I probably had, but going off sugar has had the most significant benefit to me. I used to be embarrassed to give sugar that much credit, thinking it showed my spiritual immaturity to give a food (or lack thereof) credit for changing me. But I had a friend tell me, "You cannot separate your physical body from your emotions." In other words, God created our body to respond to certain stimuli. And if my body was reacting to all the sugar I consumed and it was affecting my mood and emotions, then it isn't cheating God of His glory to admit a diet brought about changes in my emotional well-being. After all, that is how he intended our bodies to work!

There have been other benefits from this diet, but some are too personal to share on a public blog! ;) So I'll leave it here and tell you that although my diet might look crazy to you, it has been a gift to me, and one that I'll gladly share with you if you want more details.

God bless!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Nude Hosiery and Being a Slave to Fashion

As I got dressed for church yesterday, I put on a pair of nude hose under my pants. My mind went racing back to my freshman year at college, and all the drama that hose brought up.

Let me begin by explaining that I went to a conservative Christian day school that required all girls to wear skirts and to have some sort of stocking on their feet. Since ankle socks with dress shoes were only appropriate for those 8 and under, most of us wore hose. (It seems so funny now that as a 12 and 13 year old, I was completely comfortable in hosiery!) Anyway, I had a drawer full of boxes of Leggs brand, mostly in black and nude, as those two colors covered the bases for all my leg-covering needs.

Fast forward to my freshman year at college, where I attended an equally (if not more so) conservative Christian Bible college that also required girls to wear nylons or tights. Since the fashion industry hadn't reinvented tights into the cool, lycra-infused samples we have today, most girls didn't wear them because of the dreaded "elephant ankles" they produced. So I packed up for college with my suitcase full of Leggs, prepared for them to last the entire semester, or until my mom offered to buy me more. Once again, nude and black were the colors of my choice.

Oh, mournful day, when my new roommates (older and wiser) informed me that no one wore nude hose on campus. They were soooo 80's. So there I was, with boxes upon boxes of nude hosiery, and wanting to fit in, I couldn't (or wouldn't) wear them.

I convinced my mom to buy me a few more pairs in the more acceptable colors of white and cream, and steeled myself to take extra care of them so that they would not develop a run and force me to wear the old lady shade.

And none too soon, I myself joined in making disparaging remarks about the clueless girls who dared to wear such out of date nylons.

I'm so ashamed of that girl, who was such a slave to fashion and popular opinion. And yet, I'm not that different now. Sure, I have less time to agonize over my wardrobe like I use to, and I'm learning to be confident in whatever I wear now, but all too often I find myself thinking way too much about what other people think of my clothes.

I'm still growing and trying desperately to remember that being clothed in Christ's righteousness is more important than any designer label, but the pull of fashion still has a few of it's claws in me. The funny thing is, looking back at pictures of myself in high school and college, I thought I was dressed so fashionably! And I laugh now at how silly I looked. I guess that is one of the lies of slavery to style - you look fabulous for a day, and the rest of your life you will be mocked for your choices. Thanks be to God that His clothing for us will never go out of style!

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

The Cozy Corner

We are half way into our school year and I forgot to start blogging about the read-alouds from our Sonlight curriculum, so I'm going to try to catch up here in a few different posts.

We started out our year reading the classic, Charlotte's Web.
Do I really need to give a synopsis for this book? I had forgotten how sweet as well as funny the story is. The kids loved it, and although it took us about 4 weeks to finish, they seemed very engaged the entire time. We rented the movie (the newer, live action one) and enjoyed it a second time as a family.

My verdict: perfect for us!

The second book we read was Homer Price by Robert McCloskey. I was familiar with McCloskey's book, Make Way for Duckling, which is a children's picture book, so I was really curious how his writing would translate to a longer, chapter book.
Well, it was much funnier, in a subtle way. There was some slapstick, obvious humor, like in the story about the doughnut machine, but much of the humor was lost on my kids. Not to say that we didn't enjoy the book - the stories were interesting enough to keep us all engaged, but I found myself giggling and then trying to explain what made me laugh.

My verdict: read it now to your 4-6 year old, but maybe again in a few years when they can grasp it better. Or save it and have them read it for themselves!

By the way, I found both of these books at Half Price Bookstore, so if you want to save a few bucks and support local businesses, check there before going to Amazon.