Thursday, June 30, 2011

How Keven Newsome Made Me Cry

About a year after we moved to New Orleans a new couple--Keven and DeAnna--and their two children moved into our building. We lived on the same floor and their daughter was around the same age as Jathan so our paths crossed here and there, mainly on the playground. I was delighted when DeAnna invited me over for a play date along with some other mommies and their kids as a sort of I-need-to-talk-to-a-grown-up fellowship. Because I really, really need to talk to grown ups. Since then DeAnna, a budding photographer, has taken my and my kids' pictures and our families have hung out a little. Keven works for Campus Police so we faithfully nod at him as we pass the guard shack each day. You know, normal stuff.

Then I started hearing about Keven's book, some sort of Christian novel. Apparently, I learned, he's into writing and was trying to publish a book. I sort of dismissed the thought and there may or may not have been a slight eye roll involved because, c'mon, how many fancy pants published authors have I actually had over to my house for supper? But the talk didn't stop and now when someone asks me, "So, how many fancy pants published authors have you had over to your house for supper?" I can say, "Just one!"


Keven's first book, Winter, came out earlier this year. First, however, my living room got to play a supporting role in it's live action trailer. (Check out the trailer by clicking here. My living room is at 24 seconds, hee hee.) I have to admit: even after seeing the trailer, I wasn't convinced. Even after the book made it's debut on Amazon, I wasn't convinced. But then I started reading the informal reviews--aka Facebook comments--of friends who had read Winter and my interest was truly picqued. I went to Jackie who was tooling around on the Internet from the recliner one night and said, "I want you to order Keven's book." Two days later it arrived and, though I set to reading it right away, it's taken me a while to get through it because believe it or not things stay kind of busy around our house. I've grabbed moments here and there to read it and then yesterday I found myself barreling towards the end and you know what? I wanted to slow down. It's one of those books that I didn't want to end. I wanted it to somehow magically transform into a television show, perhaps, so that I could get a weekly dose of its plot and characters.

Today when nap time began I was mere pages from finishing the book at last. I sat holding Piper in one arm and griping the book in anticipation with my free hand (because multitasking is how I roll). And then...I teared up. Yes, Keven Newsome made me cry with the content of the last few chapters. And probably not just because I'm naturally a blubbering emotional weirdo--although I totally am--but because the book really gets to you. The plot effortlessly engages you and the characters become people you recognize--in yourself. Yes, the main character is a self-proclaimed "recovering Goth" but it doesn't take long before you realize that she's a lot like you because, as the back cover proclaims, "We're all freaks. It's just a matter of perspective."

So I felt as if I must encourage you all to snatch up a copy of Winter, which just happens to have 5 stars on Amazon, for yourselves. I can't wait for Keven's next book to come out. I certainly won't drag my feet buying it!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Sure to leave a bad taste in your mouth...

Last week my cousin shared a link to an article from a natural health website about one "shocking fact" that you won't find on vaccine consent forms. It talked about the fact that many vaccines (polio; measles, mumps, and rubella, chickenpox and shingles; hepatitis a; and rabies) are grown in human fetal tissue which was originally obtained from abortions performed in the 60s. Our family was aware of this issue; in fact, this was one of the main reasons we chose not to continue to vaccinate our children. We are pro-life and want to live in a way that truly reflects that.

The article also brought up some issues I was completely unaware of, however. Not only have companies begun to use human fetal cells in anti-aging creams but the atrocious practice has made it's way into the food industry as well.

"Cells from an aborted fetus may have been used to create flavor enhancers for your soup or soft drink. Yes, you read that right.

PepsiCo, Kraft Foods, and Nestle are reported to have partnered with a biotech firm called Senomyx, which uses human embryonic kidney cells taken from an electively aborted fetus (HEK 293) in their product testing to find flavors that will positively affect human taste receptors."

How bizarre is that? Now we not only have to worry about the usual additives and preservatives but we've got to watch out for embryonic kidney cells?! At first I didn't believe it. I was unfamiliar with the website so I didn't know how reliable the information was. I went to my trusty friend, Google, for answers. Apparently I've been living under a rock because it was all over the Internet being reported by several big news organizations. There was even already a nationwide boycott going.

Before you get too grossed out, the cells are not actually in the finished food product. From my understanding cells from the original abortion (a little boy whose remains are now lovingly referred to as HEK 293) have been used for years and years in research. They have helped create vaccines, drugs that treat arthritis, and the abortion pill. According to the watchdog group, The Children of God for Life, the Senomyx company began using the fetal kidney cells "to function like the taste-receptor cells we have in our mouth. This way, Senomyx can text millions of substances to see if they work as different types of taste enhancers without subjecting human volunteers to endless taste tests." Unreal.

I immediately wanted to join the boycott of these companies. If we consumers allow this, where will it end?

Can one person make a difference? Maybe not. In all likelihood they'll never miss my business and, as Jackie has pointed out, I can't avoid every company that does unethical things. But I refuse to shrug my shoulders, give up, and attempt to believe that ignorance is bliss. So the last two times we shopped, we refrained from putting any Pepsi, Nestle, or Kraft products into our cart and you know what? It was difficult! The market is absolutely saturated with their goods including some of our families favorites--Capri Sun, Carnation Instant Breakfast, and THE SPAGHETTI IN THE GREEN BOX. It is definitely hard to dodge these companies and still buy convenience foods. So I'm looking to go more natural and perhaps make more things from scratch so that I can choose what ingredients go into the food my family eats. I really want to focus more on eating fresh fruits and vegetables.

My kids will drink only chocolate milk which is why we were buying Carnation Instant Breakfast. It is loaded with vitamins and has less sugar than regular chocolate drink mixes so it seemed like a good choice. Practically every chocolate drink mix at the supermarket is manufactured by one of the questionable companies so I wondered what I was going to do. Today I made my own powdered chocolate milk mix as well as my own chocolate syrup. We're doing our own taste testing (without the help of embryonic kidney cells!) to see which we prefer. If you're interested in making your own homemade chocolate milk here's how we did it:

For a dry mix...combine 1 cup cocoa, 1 cup sugar, 1/2 tsp salt, and 3 cups dry milk. Use 2-3 TBSP with 8 ounces of cold milk. Shake well.

For syrup...combine 8 ounces heaving whipping cream with 4 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate (we used Ghirahdelli). Bring to a gentle boil in a sauce pan, stirring until smooth. Store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks using it to taste in your cold or warm milk.

I also found a website that had recipes for several different mixes and convenience foods that you could make from scratch in order to choose your own ingredients and their manufacturers if you're interested. Click here to view that site.

I really don't want to come across as some sort of crazy extremist but this is just something I've been convicted about. I feel like God is calling me away from certain foods (my beloved Dr. Pepper was the first!).

It's definitely more work but I'm finding joy in choosing and preparing food for my family that we can consume without abandoning any morals and I hope that I can learn more about eating naturally and become a better cook!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sunday (School) Shoes

Girls, did you have a pair of patent leather Sunday shoes when you were little--the ones with straps and the heels that clicked in an oh-so-grown-up way when you walked? Or am I the only one with a shoe obsession that extends all the way back to preschool? Yes, I remember my aunt coming over to my house when I was little and slipping out of the heels she'd worn all day at work to rest her feet. I was delighted because that meant I could slip right into them and clip clop around the house the whole time she was there.

Well not many things have changed. That same aunt (and another one) still send me shoes every now and then. You can bet if you've complimented me on a pair of cute shoes they came from one of them. And ever since we joined FBNO and have been a part of the 20-something Sunday school class I've noticed one thing in particular: everyone's shoes! In fact on occasion I've been intimidated by the awesomeness of other people's shoes compared to my own.

Just today there were sandals, cowboy boots, loafers, ballet flats, kitten heels, metallic thongs, and several other fabulous examples of footwear. But today I was rocking some shiny silver shoes so I felt up to par, ha ha! Yes, today I was that little kid in my aunt's shoes again.

And to everyone in my Sunday school class, please don't laugh if you catch me glancing at your feet with envy. = P

"...As it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!' (Romans 10:15)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Hittin' the Pool

Today, on Piper's one-month birthday, I decided to venture out to the pool with the kiddos. We went lots and lots last year but that was when Ryland would nap in the stroller and I could splash around with Jathan. I wasn't sure how Ryland would like it this year and I was even less certain that Piper would sleep peacefully in the stroller since she much prefers her mama's arms. But we went anyway and I made sure to bring the camera!

Jathan has been a few times with a friend earlier this summer so he felt right at home and jumped right in!

I put Piper in her stroller and crossed my fingers.

Turned out Ryland prefered to hang out pool side. The learn-to-swim suit? Not so great. I'll be bringing the float next time.

So I followed him around and held Piper because she was so not into laying in the stroller.

Ryland walked here and there checking out the pool chairs and throwing balls to Jathan. I nursed Piper and ended up hopping in the (baby) pool with her (still nursing!) to grab Ryland when he flopped right in at one point! Yeah, I totally had everything under control. Just thank GOD that he didn't go near the big pool!

It wasn't long before some friends came over and played with the boys! It's nice having girls around who like playing babysitter. = )

We even played in the rain for a while but then it began to thunder and lightning and we all cleared out.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Dollars and Sense

So I've been thinking about money. It's a topic that comes up a lot whether you have a lot of it or little of it. There's been much talk about the economy lately. Everywhere you turn people are saying, "With the economy the way it is these days..." Even the Bible contains over 2,000 verses that have to do with money, finances, stewardship, etc. It's something that no one can avoid thinking about.

As a woman, a mother, and wife--of a seminary student no less--it's something that I've definitely had to think about. There are questions we all face but "Will I work outside the home?" is one at the forefront of marriage and motherhood it seems. I did work for several years but then when God called us to New Orleans, He blessed me with the opportunity to stay at home. This was 100% the best thing for our family and completely Biblical in my opinion (Titus 2:3-5). That's not to say it has been easy. There have certainly been times when I've wondered if our family would come out on top financially should I return to a culturally traditional job. I've wondered if we could then manage to get by without assistance. I've wondered if my husband would be able to cut back his work hours and focus more on school. I really feel as though that would have been outside the will of God for me, however, and am thankful that I haven't listened when doubts have crept in.

But they do creep in. Especially when other women talk about why they have chosen to work and send their child/children to daycare or to school. They certainly seem proud of themselves for contributing or in some cases fully supporting their families (although we know it's the Lord that truly cares for all of our needs). "If they're doing such a good job, what does that say about me?" I ask myself. I ask God. Yeah, yeah, I love, nurture, and educate the kids, keep the house clean, prepare meals, do all of the laundry, etc. but what about the "real" bottom line? What about the moolah?! But then I got to noticing articles here and there about the cost of not breastfeeding. Hmmmm. According to recent studies if all women breastfed their babies the nation would save about $13 billion dollars a year in medical costs. That's about $3,250 a year per child if you're wondering what costs your child incurs for you or the government. That's almost $10,000 I'm saving a year for the three children I've breastfed/am breastfeeding! (It's also noteworthy that over 900 babies could be saved from death if their mothers breastfed them!) What's the biggest obstacle that prevents mothers from exclusively breastfeeding their babies? Being working moms.

Of course the $13 billion dollars pertains only to the children who would benefit and doesn't take into account that the breastfeeding women would also reap health rewards since women who nurse their babies around less likely to get breast cancer, diabetes, ovarian and endometrial cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, or suffer from infertility. They also experience easier weight loss and enjoy greater emotional stability!

Aside from the medical costs, formula costs around $2,000-$3,000 for the first year of a child's life. That's another $6,000-$9,000 I've saved!

Another issue that came to my mind was school. Public school is free! I could send my kids off and go to work and come out on top, right? Depends on how you look at it, I guess. A lot of people want to gripe about people being on Medicaid and food stamps and other forms of government assistance but how exactly is that different from accepting free, taxpayer funded education? I looked up the costs associated with public schooling to the taxpayer. According to as of January 2011 the average annual cost of sending one child to public school in the United States is $9,154. (You can look up information for your particular state by clicking here. I found this all fascinating!) And apparently the public schools are doing a very poor job since 2011 studies report that 70% of 8th graders in the U.S. read below their grade level and 67% are performing below their grade level in math.

From "Home school students do exceptionally well when compared with the nationwide average. In every subject and at every grade level of the ITBS and TAP batteries, home school students scored significantly higher than their public and private school counterparts (Figure 1)."

Figure 1

So by homeschooling, not only am I providing my children with a superior education in a loving, Christian environment but, should I educate all four of my children at home through high school, I would save the taxpayers close to $500,000 not providing for inflation.

I may catch some flack for saying this but to me this just points to the idea that maybe God had the right idea situating women in the home and even providing them with a natural, incredibly healthy way to provide sustenance for their babies.

However you feel about it there's no arguing that stay-at-home, homeschooling mamas are worth their weight in gold. Incidentally I calculated my weight in gold and it's $2,629,314.90. Ha, ha!

I also calculated my "mom salary." If someone had to actually be paid for everything that I do it would equal up to more than $117,000 a year. You can calcuate your mom salary by clicking here.

I'm so glad I took the time to look at the subject of finances in an outside-the-box sort of way! And please don't take everything that I've written as me judging anyone for working or for feeding their babies formula or sending their kids to public school. These are very personal decisions and a lot of factors play into the conclusions we come to individually. The fact is, however, that things might be different than you think. It might be more financially beneficial for you to be a stay-at-home mom. Or perhaps you need to look at us stay-at-homers in a different light!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Happy Birthday, Keeleigh!

In October of 1998, I discovered that Keeleigh was on the way. I was 15 at the time so the news wasn't universally received as joyous news but I was really so excited. Even as a child I'd always envisioned spending my life as a mother. No, at the time I had no idea what that truly meant but Keeleigh has taught me well over the years. God blessed me with exactly what I needed and there's no doubt that Keeleigh's very existence has made me a better person. I'm so thankful for her.

I will never forget seeing her for the first time as a little jumping peanut up on the fuzzy ultrasound screen. I was amazed that I could see the heart and the legs and arms of such a tiny creature. She was already beautiful to me.

June 10, 1999...5 days to go!

June 10 1999

Months past and things got easier and harder all at the same time. I guess that's part of growing up. I was 37 weeks pregnant when I developed high blood pressure and the doctor decided to induce. One of the main things I remember is that my doctor's appointment had been a morning appointment and I'd counted on eating out for lunch but then I didn't get to and was starving! I felt like my labor with her was difficult. I was a 16 year old who didn't know what all was happening who was also sick with pre-eclampsia. I hated the way my legs felt with the epidural, I was nauseated, and felt really alone. Then Keeleigh arrived and I'd never have to worry about being alone again. I'm so glad we captured her first breaths on film! What an exciting moment.

We spent the next 7 days in the hospital because my blood pressure issue didn't resolve itself immediately. Keeleigh got comfortable in the nursery!

And in my arms...

Then the whole next year flew by and all of a sudden I had a toddler. For her first birthday we threw a big party with friends and family. We decorated with Pooh and she pointed her little finger at a big Pooh balloon and whispered in her little baby voice, "Pooh."

The years kept coming...

And coming. I thought she looked absolutely adorable on her 3rd birthday in a little sundress and her brand new pink roller skates.

Check out her 6th birthday cake with a four-wheeler on top! She's always been a outdoorsy girl who also happens to look adorable in pig tails!

8 years old...

Cake & Keeleigh

For Keeleigh's 9th birthday she had a big pool party since it would be our last year living in Alabama...we were on our way to New Orleans the next month.


She had a great time splishing and splashing with friends.


Having a June birthday makes pool parties a great thing apparently because that's what we did for her 10th birthday as well!

A fiesta for an 11 year old...

I love that Keeleigh has always been surrounded by family and friends on her special day. I love that our pictures are memories frozen in time filled with the smiling faces of people who love her and love spending time with her.

And now all of a sudden...Keeleigh is a gorgeous young lady (who can wield a curling iron like no body's business).

Aren't her blue eyes stunning?

Here she is blowing out her candles at her Nana and Pappy's house.

Sadly we won't be together for her 12th birthday since she's in Alabama but I know she's having a blast with my parents and brother and a couple of her long lost friends. = ) They are spending the day at the zoo and hopefully someone is remembering to take lots of pictures on my behalf, ha ha!

I can't believe that Keeleigh is 12--she can finally ride a bike or rip stick without a helmet! I can't believe in one more little year I'll be a parent to a teenager. It's been crazy looking back through all of my pictures of her and seeing how she's grown.

Time. Flies.

Happy birthday, Keeleigh!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

2 Weeks Old

As of 2:16 this morning, Piper is 2 weeks old. Cue the reminiscent sighs of mothers out there and the eye rolls of the fathers. I happened to mention the fact that Piper was almost 2 weeks old last night to Jackie and got just that--the eye roll. I guess guys just don't get it. But being the sentimental female person that I am, it saddens me. Though I was quite round and somewhat uncomfortable 2 weeks ago I honestly wasn't in a hurry to have her. When I knew that she was going to be born the next day, I started paying attention to her every movement wanting to savor those last few moments of our ultimate connection.

Maybe it's because I'm getting older or maybe it's because Piper's the fourth child but all of a sudden my "remember this" switch has been flipped. As the space grows wider between that moment when I first knew that she existed and the present, I cling more and more to the essence of those seconds, hours, and days. Not only her but Keeleigh, Jathan, and Ryland as well. Even Jackie. I want to drink in this season of our life and slurp up the last drops at the very bottom not in an effort to freeze time but because I know I'll look back someday and realize there were things I should have done differently. I'll wish I'd taken it slower, held their hands longer, and gazed into their eyes with love no matter the hour of the day.

I want to remember the softness of my newborn's fingers wrapped around mine and the exact color blue of her eyes. I want to bury my nose into the crease of her neck and breath in that sweet, sweet scent as often as I can. I want to stand in the dark and sway back and forth with her chin on my shoulder as long as it takes. It's hard being a mother but I've finally realized that I really do want to pour all of myself out and right into them so that they will know love and so that love will go on. And when doubt creeps in and I wonder where I will get the strength just to hold my eyes open, I want to remember to praise God for these children and this husband and find strength in Him.

Honestly, that's what I did last night when I danced Piper around the bedroom past midnight. She cried (and cried) and Jackie grumbled as tired fathers do, but I bounced and rocked and swayed and prayed. I thought about these fleeting moments and I thought about others who might be struggling with children and I thought about others who will never have the joy of struggling with their own children. I thought about mothers who've lost their babies and babies who've lost their mothers and that puts everything into perspective.

I also took an inventory of all that's passed already in Piper's little life. The latest check-mark on the list was next to having her umbilical cord fall off. Yes, that thing which connected her physically to me for all those months is just a mummified blue stump which, yes, I saved! Because I'm weird like that.

Hopefully not so weird is the fact that I take pictures like a fiend. A tie to my sentimentality, I suppose. So, of course, I made 2-week photos of Piper today. The boys snuck in on a few of them because they've been so well trained to say cheese whenever a camera is on.

I'm still in awe of her little head of dark hair...

In the things that knit for her minus the too-small hat (I'll have to rework it!)...

Making a cute little "oh" face with her owl taggie blanket...

Wearing her orange owl outfit I made...

Small, smaller, and smallest...

Getting kisses...

Baby feet...

I wonder how many Tuesday nights I'll glance at the clock and remember where I was x number of weeks ago? I'm sure I'll stop before long but for now I'll keep getting teary eyed at the thought of my growing babies and Jackie can keep on shaking his head in disbelief at me. = )

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Thing I Love About Babies # 912

I love the way that Piper roots around looking for milk. It starts out slowly like the thought just came to her then she gets more serious about it twisting and turning her head. I imagine her talking to her little baby self saying, "Now where did I put that boob? I KNOW it was around here somewhere! This side? No. Over here?!" It cracks me up.

Don't judge me...I'm sleep deprived. = P

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Loving Shutterfly Lately!

A little while back I got a coupon for a free hard-cover photo book from Shutterfly at Winn Dixie which I used to scrapbook my pregnancy with Piper and her birth and first days. I thought it was a great deal especially when as a new customer I got 50 free prints as well. My order said that I saved a total of almost $38!

Right now they're having some great deals as well. I made these cute birth announcements using one of the great pictures DeAnna took for us and got 5 free (about $15 worth).

Stationery card
View the entire collection of cards.

They have several good offers going on right now if anyone wants some free cards or a percentage off gifts for Father's Day!