Saturday, November 12, 2011

GAPS and our family

Since embarking on this adventure, many of you have asked me about the GAPS diet so I thought I'd just write a not so little blog post about it.

Basically, GAPS is about rest and healing for the gut, and slowly introducing fermented foods to refill it with good bacteria. Bone broth is very important in this process. The gist is, when you heal the gut lining, issues such as irritable bowel, reflux, ADD, autism, food allergies, and a host of other problems, can be eliminated. For some people it can happen quickly, for others it can take years. Most people are on this diet for 6 months-2 years before reintroducing foods not allowed on the GAPS menu. A sick digestive system decreases immunity and causes psychological disorders, hence the acronym for “Gut and Psychology Syndrome” People are starting to find out that there is a big connection—a lot of times when a kid has autism, he/she also has some kind of digestive/intestinal problem. It makes sense because Riley has struggled with ADD, reflux and other tummy troubles for several years, in addition to being overweight.

As far as what’s allowed and not allowed…

There is a long list of “avoid” and “recommended” but for the most part, no grains, sugar, starch or lactose. These are not easily digested and can cause all kinds of problems. Yogurt and some cheeses and a couple different legumes are allowed. Mostly we eat meats, fruits and vegetables, nuts, eggs, animal fats and lacto-fermented foods. Soups, stews and chilis are a frequent occurrence (which is perfect for this time of year!) Anything bread-like is made with coconut flour or almond flour, and local raw honey (which is great for seasonal allergies, another nuisance of ours) is used instead of sugar.

I first learned about GAPS when my friend Heather and her family went on it, mostly for her husband’s sake, but she and her daughter (and now her son) joined with him and now they are in better health than ever. She has done a ton of research and through personal experience become quite the expert on nutrition. Her blog has a wealth of information about real food, among other topics such as parenting. When I read her posts, it all made so much sense to me and I felt like I was discovering the cure for many of Riley’s ails. I knew it was what he needed, bought the book and skimmed through; it just took us a long time to finally take the plunge. Here are links to a couple of her posts about GAPS (instead of just copy-and-pasting everything she says):

A lot of people ask why I am dieting since I don’t need to lose weight. I’m not going to lose weight because I don’t have it to lose. Riley will because he has it to lose, even while eating the same things as I am. Plenty of high calorie foods and staying away from grains and sugar has left me feeling great and with smoother digestion. It has taken a big commitment on my part to cook almost all our meals from scratch, but it’s worth it. We are already seeing benefits after only 2 weeks. Riley has lost 10lbs without exercise or pills or counting calories, Josiah is eating vegetables which he would never touch before, Julia’s behavior has improved (not that it was terrible before, she is just incredibly more pleasant and agreeable), and doing this together has strengthened our bond as a family. I’ve felt the urge to start this diet for several months now but was too scared. What I think pushed me over the edge (besides the fact that Riley got desperate for change) was the revelation that we are one flesh, my body is his and his mine, which led to the conviction that it didn’t matter that I could eat whatever I wanted w/o gaining weight or having apparent health issues… he needed my support. And if him getting better meant I had to give up some of my favorite foods, well, it’s as if I had to do it for myself, and that was a commitment that I needed to make as an act of love.

So why would want to remove grains? After all, they’re cheap and yummy and filling! The simplest answer is there is nothing you can get from grains that you can’t find in a more easily digestible form somewhere else. There is so much sugar and grain and additives in practically everything that comes in a bag or box or restaurant these days, it’s ridiculous. Which on one hand, makes it harder to only eat what we are allowed, but on the other side it’s so simple. Removing everything GAPS-illegal from my kitchen has simplified things a lot. It has taken some new creativity and different ways of doing things, but we are getting used to it. Life-changing in difficult yet rewarding ways!

Right now we are doing the full GAPS menu, and the tentative plan is to do “Intro” starting in January (more intensive stage of GAPS, starting with just broth and meat and veggies, slowly introducing eggs, cultured dairy, nuts, fruits, etc. when they are well tolerated). We expect to be on the diet for at least 6 months, possibly 2 years or longer.

I’ve found most of my new recipes from Heather’s website and, although searching “grain-free recipes” on Google will produce even more. Many of the meals we ate before the diet are still allowed; some have just required a little tweaking of the ingredients.

Feel free to ask any other questions you may have!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Zesty Chicken Meatloaf (Grain free!)

Oh man, I wish I had a photo. But, this stuff was gone too fast. It's that yummy! Ok, ok, I could've taken a picture before it was devoured, but I forgot.

I found this recipe online, but changed a few things to make it GAPS-friendly (a grain-free diet we are starting soon).

1. Preheat your oven to 350 and grease an 8x4 loaf pan.

2. Mix together in a large bowl:

2 eggs
1 pound ground chicken
3 tablespoons salsa
3 tablespoons taco seasoning (I used a pre-made mix but when we're officially on GAPS I'll have to make/find one w/o sugar and other additives)
1.5 cups ground walnuts

3. Pour into the pan and bake for 1 hour.

4. Top with shredded cheddar cheese and sour cream (optional)

Super easy and yummy! I was a little nervous about how it would turn out with the walnuts instead of bread crumbs but I decided to go for it and I'm so glad. When I put it in the pan it was NOT like a big moldable lump like my usual meatloaf, so I thought we'd end up with a big mushy mess but alas, once it cooked, it turned out to be the best consistency ever! I could actually slice it without it falling apart like every other time I've made it. It tasted great and I will definitely be making this again. =)

Let me know how you like it!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Mom's Last Days: The Facts (and a few feelings)

It's been 18 days since my mom passed away, and as you can imagine, I've had countless thoughts and feelings about everything... and let me tell you, God has really been changing me through this, in ways I didn't expect. But before I get into everything personal, I wanted to share the basic story of what happened for those of you who haven't heard the details.

Riley and I and the kids took a road trip to Midland to visit his sister and her family the weekend of 9/23-25. On the way there I called my mom to see if she could meet us in Abilene (about halfway between DFW and Midland) on the way back for dinner on Sunday (she lived in Novice, 40 minutes south). She agreed and we looked forward to the visit, especially since we usually only see eachother 2-3 times a year.

We had dinner at Cracker Barrel. Enjoyed the food, the visit, the beautiful weather outside, sitting in the rocking chairs on the huge patio out front, watching the kids race back and forth and racing with them, dancing and laughing and talking. It was great! We didn't know it was the last time she'd see us and talk to us. Had we, it wouldn't have been so sweet. I am absolutely certain now that that time together was a gift from the Lord.

Mom was feeling bad on Tuesday and Wednesday, stayed home from work and everyone including the doctor just thought she had the flu. Jimmy (my stepdad) let her have the bed to herself so she could be more comfortable with all the pillows she likes to sleep with. He checked on her every hour or so in the night to make sure she was okay. Early Thursday morning he went in and she wasn't talking straight. Then she had a seizure and started gasping for air. He yelled for John (my 23yo brother) to come in and call 911. He did so, and also performed rescue breathing on my mom, successfully resuscitating her. Go John!

The ambulance came and rushed her to the hospital. On the way there is when I received the call from John about what all had happened. This was at 6:something a.m. He said he'd keep me updated. I had been asleep and so was Riley; I told him what happened and we prayed. I wondered if we would need to go out there, if she was going to die, etc. I remember having this feeling like we needed to go and that she wasn't going to make it, but I just tried to go back to sleep, which didn't happen. I sent out a message to our church's prayer chain. Around 8 we were all up and eating breakfast, and I got another call from John. He said they'd made it to the hospital (in Coleman, 20 min south of Novice), that she was doing better and that she'd be fine in a couple days. Whew! I was so relieved.

Riley headed into work and the kids and I lazily went about our morning. I took a shower around 9 and I remember thinking how glad I was that she was OK. As soon as I got out the phone rang again, John. He said that she had another seizure, they kept having to resuscitate her, that they were going to do a spinal tap and CT scan, and that we should probably head that way. John had already talked to Riley so I called him to see how we were going to do this. Barbara (my stepmom) agreed to keep the kids for us so I packed them and ourselves up enough for a couple days and I just walked around putting stuff in bags feeling like I had no idea what to expect, pack, do, think.

Riley came back home and helped me finish up, then we headed out the door. Right then Jimmy called and told me they had found out what was wrong: a blood vessel had burst in her brain and that she might not make it. This was when the first tears came. He said they were careflighting her to the bigger hospital in Abilene. I was happy about that because it is a better hospital and also a shorter distance for us to drive. We dropped the kids off at Barbara and my Dad's house. This was at 10:something a.m. I don't think we stopped the whole way there. I made a few calls, texts, FB posts while Riley drove, to let people know and ask for prayer. Crying off and on.

At some point John called and said they had arrived in Abilene (Hendrick hospital) and were going to do surgery for a subarachnoid brain bleed. When we were almost there he called again and told me that the doctor had just given them the bad news talk, saying that she was basically brain dead because there was no brain activity (after the seizure in Coleman she went into a coma).

We got there around 1 or 2 and met John and Jimmy in the parking lot. Jimmy said that brain activity had increased and that there was a glimmer of hope for survival. Exhale.

We went inside and they showed us the special little waiting room they'd been given and I instantly knew it must be really bad. I never knew these rooms existed, but it didn't take long to figure out why they were so pretty and private... they're for families whose loved one is dying. Sally (my 21yo sister) was in there and we just hugged and cried. Later on my stepsister Jodi (Jimmy's oldest daughter) showed up with her husband.

I asked if we could go in to see Mom. We went down the hall to her room (in ICU) and I'm sure I cried at the sight of her laying there in that bed. Tubes and machines everywhere. Her chest rapidly going up and down like nothing I'd ever seen, but came to find out that was her own breathing and that the ventilator was just down her throat in case she needed it at some point. It was obvious she was fighting. We met her wonderful nurse, Stephanie. This young lady was so informative and kind. Probably the best nurse I've ever dealt with.

She told us about the numbers on one machine, primarily oxygen level, cranial pressure and blood pressure. She told us about all the medicines that were going in. It was all a vicious cycle, one fixing one problem but then the other problem getting worse, etc. There was a blanket covering the top of her head, where a tube had been inserted to drain blood in hopes of relieving the pressure so that they could do surgery on the aneurysm. As it was, if they were to open up the head, her brain would swell outside her skull. Stephanie showed us that a couple of Mom's reflexes were still working: being poked in certain places caused her to move her arms in a defensive motion. But no pupil constriction or other response showing good brain activity.

And there began the long road the rest of the day. We took turns going in there with her, waiting down the hall, eating, talking, making calls, etc. Mom always had at least one of us with her. We still didn't know what to expect as far as timing, but Stephanie was honest enough to tell us that there was only a little chance of survival, and even then, she wouldn't be the same: eating, talking, walking, personality, all that would suffer in terms of normal function. She told us that Mom could hear us so we continued talking to her, telling her how wonderful she was as a mom and wife, and how much we loved her. I read her a list of reasons I was thankful for her, mostly silly things I remembered from my childhood, which I had written on the car ride. We held her hands and kissed her cheeks. Time seemed to disappear.

The swelling kept increasing and the oxygen levels weren't high enough, and the little brain activity that had presented was no longer there. By the end of the night the new nurse on shift told me that Mom was no longer breathing on her own, so the ventilator was keeping her alive. She said the doctor would be coming in the morning to reassess and talk to us. Mom was the nurse's only patient, so that was comforting to know she was in good hands.

Riley and I slept across the street at a dorm-like hotel house that the hospital hooked us up with for hospital visitors. I got about 2 hours, from 1-3 am, then Jimmy called to tell me the cranial pressure was up to 60. For reference, 7-15 is ideal.

I couldn't get back to sleep and finally around 5 I woke up Riley and started talking about all I was thinking and feeling. We went back over to the hospital around 645 and met with the neurologist. Mom looked totally different. Thursday she just looked asleep but at this point it seemed as if she was already gone. It was hard to see. I kept thinking about how we had just seen her on Sunday and she was happy and healthy, and how I just couldn't believe she was laying there before me, dying.

The Dr. told us that what we were dealing with was brain death. They would do a brain flow test to confirm what we already know, and then we could all say goodbye and they would remove the ventilator. They wouldn't be able to do it till 10 though. So we all just cried and held eachother and waited and kept caressing and talking to Mom.

As the time drew near for the test, Stephanie came in and I was the only one in the room with Mom. Tears were streaming down her face, as were mine. She said something to the effect of, "I'm sorry, I always try to hold it together, but..." I think I told her thank you for everything she'd done or something. She went on to say that it wasn't my mom's condition that made her cry, but rather witnessing how our family interacted with Mom and with each other. Wow.

She asked if my mom's organs would be donated and I told her no, then she informed me that in that case we didn't legally have to do the test, only if we wanted to be 100% sure. When Jimmy came back in, she told him the same and the decision was made to forgo the test, since they would have to take her to some other part of the hospital away from us for an hour, then wait another couple hours for results. At that point we were allowed to all gather in there together around her, take our turns saying goodbye and then Jimmy wanted to be alone with her before and during the withdrawal. Riley said a prayer while we surrounded her; I don't remember all the words but it was powerful and peaceful and loving. The whole time we were there, he was a rock, a spiritual leader for everyone, and my admiration for him soared.

Throughout the day and then this one last time I put my ear and hand to her chest to feel the warmth of her skin and the beat of her heart. I'll never forget it. I just cried and told her how she was such a great mom and how much I loved her and would miss her. I told her to save me a spot in her mansion in heaven. We all knew that's where she was going, and we knew she wouldn't want to just be kept alive while in a comatose state. I felt ready to let her go, free of the struggle. We stepped out of the room one by one and just held each other, sobbing.

We proceeded down the hall to wait for Jimmy to come out. I think it was around 11a or 12n when he walked into the room. He said Mom went peacefully. Her last words (backtracking to before she went into a coma the day before) were "I love you." I'm thankful that John was able to bring her back to life even if for just this "one phone call".

To be continued...

Sunday, June 12, 2011

How To: Homemade Chicken Stock

A few months back I made my first batch of homemade chicken stock. I felt so proud and upon the first taste (made into a soup, of course) I could just feel myself getting healthier. And then one time when some bones went to waste, I was devastated. I love to use this stuff in all the soups I make, brown rice, lentils, etc. If you don't already know, homemade chicken broth is one of the best things you can put in your tummy. Here are a few benefits:

1. Promotes healing: successful in treating gastro-intestinal disorders, including hyper-acidity, colitis, Crohn’s disease, and infant diarrhea.
2. Digestive aid: Aids in the digestibility of grains, beans, legumes, vegetables and meats
3. Macro minerals: Contains highly absorbable forms of the calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, sulfur and fluoride as well as trace minerals
4. Gelatin and Collagen: rich in both; promoting bone and joint healing in addition to supporting digestion
5. Protein: adds easily digestible protein to your diet
6. Amino acids: Glycine, proline, hydroxyproline, and lysine are formed, which is important to detoxification and amino acid production in the body
7. Joint support: Glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, and hyaluronic acid are produced and present for additional muscle and joint support
8. Immune system: Promotes the assimilation of vitamins and minerals and thus supports the immune system
9. Delicious and nutritious: use as soup, cooking liquid, sauce or as a tea.
10. Synergy: Finally by initially healing the GI tract, broth creates an environment for all of the nutrients being taken in, whether by food or supplementation, to increase their bio-availability to your body.

-From Lance Roll, CEC, HLC1,  The Flavor Chef

"So why can't I just go pay $2.50 at the grocery store for it?" you ask. Well, unfortunately it's just not the same. Most store-bought stock-in-a-box is full of MSG, "natural flavors" and other undesirable ingredients, and void of the nutritious gelatin you get from making it yourself.

"Wait, there's jello in your chicken soup?" Not exactly. Gelatin (as you'll see in the last photo down below) is probably the best part when it comes to homemade stock, and comes from the bones.

"Gelatin was found to be useful in the treatment of a long list of diseases including peptic ulcers, tuberculosis, diabetes, muscle diseases, infectious diseases, jaundice and cancer. Babies had fewer digestive problems when gelatin was added to their milk. The American researcher Francis Pottenger pointed out that as gelatin is a hydrophilic colloid, which means that it attracts and holds liquids, it facilitates digestion by attracting digestive juices to food in the gut.

The gelatin in homemade bone broth helps the lining of the intestine. Many of us today have leaky gut, diverticulitis, Crohn’s and other intestinal problems. By helping to strengthen the gut walls, this also supports immunity. It also strengthens digestion which helps you absorb more nutrients.Gelatin also helps people digest milk and dairy products.”

-From Sally Fallon, "Broth is Beautiful" 

"Ok, so how is this done?" Well, take a little walk with me to my kitchen...

I usually just use a whole chicken which I cook in the crock pot. We eat whatever we want off of it, put the bones on a plate, and when we're done with dinner I pull the rest of the meat off the other bones and use it the same week for another meal or two. 

There's usually already a lot of natural juices that came out of the chicken during cooking, which I use in making the stock as well. So, I've got my bones all separated from the meat. 

 They're in separate bowls because after pulling all the meat and bones out, I poured what was left in the crock pot in another bowl. Ok, so next you want to place a steamer basket into the crock pot you used to cook the chicken in the first place. No need to clean the pot first, it's all the same stuff you just cooked and you don't want any of it to go to waste!

Then you just put all your bones back in there. You can do this without a basket but it's just easier with it, because then you don't have to separate everything from the liquid with a spoon when it's done. After the first time doing this the hard way, I went out and bought one. It's totally worth the $7 or whatever.

 Next you want to add some carrots, onion and celery (if you have them, otherwise don't worry about it... it'll still be chicken broth). And a bay leaf.

Now top it all off with the chicken juices and enough water to fill up the pot. If you're using a huge stock pot instead, just put as much as will cover the bones and veggies. Then add a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar.

You'll probably notice that I put the vinegar in before the water (just this last time on accident) but it's probably best to do it after the water so that it mixes in better. Oh well. Ok, so put the lid on and let it sit for an hour.

Set your timer for 12-24 hours (I usually do 18 and it's done the next afternoon) and turn your crock pot to low.

When it's all done, just pull the steamer basket out and do whatever you want with the bones and veggies. Feed them to your dog, add them to your compost (actually I'm not sure if you should do that), throw them away... I usually go with that last one. 

If you want to really get a kick out of this, take one of the bones between your fingers and crush it. See? All the good stuff that was in there before is now in your stock. So much yummier than a calcium pill.

Alright so now you have this pot full of chicken stock. You can use it right away to make soup, or you can store it in jars. 

See how greasy it looks? That's the kind of fat that's good for you. And probably what turns into gelatin later. I'm not an expert, can you tell? I just know grandma knew what she was talking about when she told you to down some chicken soup when you were sick.

I end up with 8 cups on average, ranging anywhere between 6 and 10. You'll probably want to wait a little while to let it cool off so you don't burn yourself pouring it all in and handling the hot jars.
Don't put them in the freezer right away, even if you know you won't be using it this week. Let it cool in the fridge first so the jars don't burst. I used a quart the next day for dinner then put the rest in the freezer. It thaws pretty easy in a sink full of hot water.

Alright so the next day, you can look at your jars and see how the gelatin has formed and risen to the top: YAY!

So when you go to use this stuff, don't throw out the gelatin! It's like pure medicine right there in your dinner.

Ok, so try it out and let me know what you think!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

One Hundred Posts! Go ME!

I did it! Woohoo!

Now what?

More blogs, of course. =)

It occurred to me this morning while brushing my teeth (or was I putting my contacts on?) that I need to go back and reply to some of your comments! Rest assured that I DO see them (email notification) so forgive me if you were expecting a response and didn't get one. It's on my list for sure. =)

After I get caught up on that, I have many more posts floating around in my head...

like, The Story of Riley and Me, Life According to my iPhone, Homeschool?, Is Your Body More Important Than Your Soul?, Fit For A King, I Have a College Degree In Marriage, Fun At The Park, Movie Reviews, How To Make Your Own Chicken Broth, and more giveaways!

Don't worry, they won't all come at once. It might even take all summer. And it's still spring.

Anyway, thank you so much (as few as y'all may be) for taking the time to read my blog! I enjoy writing when I can do so without interruption (ha! HAHA!) and it's so nice to know that my thoughts are actually going somewhere. I hope you'll stick around!

Monday, May 9, 2011

It's fun to stay at the...


Sorry, I just had to.

For the record, I don't know any other Village People songs. At least, I don't know any that I know are theirs. I'm really bad at knowing who sings what.


So, I have a gym membership at the YMCA just outside our neighborhood.

Let me back up a bit... when we lived at our last apartment in Bedford, I went to the 24 hour fitness a few minutes down the road. It was alright. I did the machines some, but mostly walked the treadmill to train for a 5k that I never actually went through with. The childcare was free but I never knew if they were going to be full and therefore have to go back home, which was a pain in the rump.

Then when we were about to move we tried to figure out where we wanted to work out. There was a 24hr 10 minutes from our new house, the Y we go to now, and some other one that was quickly eliminated from the running. We decided to go with 24hr. It was the really nice kind that they don't have very many of. Like, they really are open 24/7, have tons of classes, indoor pool, outdoor family pool and lap pool, sauna, childcare that always has room for your kids, a zillion machines, you get the picture.

But it was a drive especially during rush hour, and I just got into a phase where I plain ol' didn't want to go workout. Riley wasn't going either. So long story short, we decided to switch to the Y when they had an $11 enrollment fee special going on at the end of January. It's cheaper than 24hr, takes 2 minutes to get to, and the kids really enjoy playing there.

So why am I so excited about a gym? Don't I hate to exercise?

Well, the thing is, I finally found what works for me. I go twice a week, either before lunch or after 4 (the kids area closes from 1-4, which is fine because Josiah naps after lunch). It's not as big and fancy as 24hr but it's got exactly what I need, which isn't overwhelming like the other place was.

Here's what I do: 40 min cardio (mostly treadmill, sometimes I bike 1-2 miles for the first 10 min), then they have these 2 rows of machines that I go through in about 25 min. I skip a few that annoy me (guess I can't figure out how to adjust them properly, oh well). All the major muscle groups, bam bam bam DONE. Love the machines, they're so easy, and I know they are working because I've been able to increase the weight on a lot of them so I must be getting stronger! I've gained 5-10 pounds in the last few months so maybe it's muscle? I hope so.

Anyway, so simple, and I'm really glad that I've finally found a workout program that fits me. And fun, now that I finally put some songs on my phone! Listening to music really makes everything go by super fast.

OH and another good thing is that they have a break area with couches, tables, chairs, coffee and vending machines. Not that I care about the vending machines, actually it's ridiculous for a health-oriented facility to sell sodas, but I digress. There has been at least one or two occasions where I've just dropped the kids off, walked over and sat down to read a book or magazine, crochet, whatever. It's grand! And I refuse to feel guilty about it =)

They have classes that I haven't tried, but if I get bored with my current routine I'll probably try them out. Oh, and when the pool opens at the end of this month, you better believe I'll be spending a lot of time (alone and with the kids) there!

We just added the downtown Y to our membership for $9/mo which will allow Riley to do indoor lap swim before or after work or on lunch. That's his cup of tea!

And now, we're signed up for a 5k on May 28. Super excited! Who knows, maybe we'll even do a 10k later this year! Walking though, of course. Running's just not my thing, at least right now.

Ok, so for those of you who hate the gym or can't leave your kids with strangers, I have a recommendation! My friend Dr. Cindy is the new owner of Stroller Strides Arlington/Mansfield/Hurst! I haven't tried it out but many of my friends have and say that it is awesome! A great workout that you can do with your kids in tow, and have fun with friends at the same time. So you should definitely check it out =)

Friday, April 29, 2011

How To: Rain Gutter Bookshelves

Over the past 3 years our children's book collection has grown exponentially. And boy am I glad. Julia loves to read and be read to! Josiah is more interested in playing with trucks at the moment, but he'll get there.

Although we have always felt very blessed with to have so many books, for a long time it was a big challenge trying to figure out how to store them. I don't even remember where they were at our first apartment. At our last one, we had them stacked on the fireplace hearth. I tried to find "sling" bookshelves like you see at doctor's offices, classrooms, libraries, etc. but never came across anything affordable.

Then one day not long before closing on our house, I don't even remember where, I came across rain gutter bookshelves. Huh? You mean those things that run along the roof of my house? Yessiree.

I'd never heard of anything like it. I looked around at more pictures online and just KNEW it was exactly what we needed! I immediately put it on our list of things to do for our new home.

The books take up absolutely no floor space, don't fall off and everyone can easily see which books are which. It looks great on the wall too! I suppose you could paint them if you wanted, or decorate them some other way as well.

So, how do you get this? You go down to Home Depot/Lowe's and get a 10 ft rain gutter. White vinyl. Decide how many shelves you want to split it into, and get end caps (right under the gutters on the same aisle) for each shelf. Haul the gutter over to the cutting section (unless you can fit the gutter in your vehicle and do it at home) and saw away. Or try to talk an associate into doing it for you! We used some special scissors they had there, I forget what they're called, but the people there will know what to suggest. We divided ours into three 40-inch pieces.

You'll need some heavy duty screws to support the weight of the books. It's also a good idea to secure them into as many studs as possible. Just for reference, there are 60 books on ours right now, so you can see how many you will need.

I situated mine onto the wall so that the kids would have access to the bottom shelf, and put enough room between each so that tall books would fit anywhere. You can stack them, put one on each wall, one in each child's room, stagger them... lots of options!

Alright, how good of a deal is this?

10 ft rain gutter: $4.99
3 pairs of end caps: $17.97
(Of course, if you decide to do fewer or more shelves the price will be affected because of the number of end caps needed) 
12 Screws: already had some ($0)

Total cost including tax-----------$24.85 =)

Now I dare you to show me some bookshelves for $25 that are as great as these!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

"There Was This Black Guy"

Before I begin, let me apologize for the lack of a photo. I just couldn't find anything appropriate, non-cheesy, or un-biased. There was one of a baby with the caption "arrest black babies before they become criminals" but I don't want to give the wrong impression. Besides, I'm not certain what message it is meant to convey.

Moving along.

Sometimes I need to vent. This is one of those days. As you can all see from my picture on the left, I am White/Anglo/Caucasian/European-American/whatever. If that matters.

I have this pet peeve, see. When someone (non-black) is telling me a (true) story about something that happened to them or that they saw, more often than not, if a Black/Negro/African-American person is part of the story, they are going to specify the race.

For example,
"I was walking down the street and these 2 black guys stared at me as I passed them"...
"This big black lady at the grocery store was my cashier and she was so rude"...
"We went to the park this morning and this little black kid pushed my kid off the swing"...

You get the point.

I have to bite my tongue because I always want to say, "Um, does it really matter that they were black? If not, why did you mention that fact?" Maybe I should sometime. I just don't particularly enjoy putting people on the spot. Usually.

Why is it, that people feel the need to tell me that the person in their story is black? I almost feel like it's pretty safe to assume they are white unless I am told otherwise. Now, of course, sometimes Asians and Hispanics are mentioned too, but never in my life have I heard (at least from a non-black person) "So I was driving down the highway, looked over at the car next to me and this white guy flipped me off." No, they're just going to say, this jerk, or this dude, or the like.


Does this mean that people are trying to prove that blacks are more [insert adjective] than non-blacks? I don't get it. Does it really matter in your story that the person you are telling me about is black? Do you think it would make me feel differently about the person if I assumed they were white?

Forgive me, because I just don't understand. I'm not jumping to conclusions that these people are racist, it just makes me wonder WHY people have to unnecessarily include race in their descriptions of events. As if they think I need to know that the person was black so that I can perpetuate whatever mindset I have toward that race.

So, I ask you (whether you consider yourself racist or not):

Should race always/never/sometimes be indicated? Do you find yourself doing this? Should it only be mentioned when absolutely essential? Why or why not?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

7 Minutes to a Clean House

Most people, if you're like me, enjoy having friends and family over! Spending time with those you love (or are getting to know) is one of the simple pleasures in life.

I don't know about you, but I get really excited the days/hours leading up to the time someone is supposed to arrive. BUT, something that can really squeeze the life out of that excitement is a dirty house.

Now, don't get me wrong: Our goal should be to bless, not to impress. We're not talking perfection here, just a place that makes people feel welcome. I for one am more relaxed when my house is in order. If it's not, I just can't get comfortable.

For those of you who have a bad habit of procrastinating, or have the occasional short-notice visitor, I've come up with a 7-minute quick clean-up so your home can be company ready!

Let's say your guest is coming at 2:00.

1:53-- Grab your laundry basket, do a quick walk around and pick up all the stuff in each room that doesn't belong. If your laundry basket is full, put the clothes back in the dryer. If the dryer is full, put them on your bed.

1:54-- Return as many of those things as you can to their home, then place the basket in a closet to do the rest later (don't forget to finish after they leave).

1:55-- Move all the dishes from the sink to the dishwasher. If the dishwasher is full, stack the dishes in such a way that you can place a large cutting board across the sink for a cleaner look.

1:56-- Put some music on and/or light a candle.

1:57-- Check the bathroom they might use. Do a quick wipe/scrub of the toilet and floor if needed, and make sure there is enough toilet paper.

1:58-- Clear off your kitchen table and set with snack plates and/or cups.

1:59-- Sit down, wipe the sweat off your brow, close your eyes, and say a prayer that it would be a time of refreshing and encouragement for everyone! Ask God to use you to bless them in some way while they are in your home.

2:00-- Knock, knock! Enjoy your time together =)

Friday, April 22, 2011

My Favorite Things Giveaway!

Well, it has taken me almost three years but I'm so excited to be on the cusp of 100 posts! What does that mean? GIVEAWAYS! They will all be a few of my favorite things (that money can't buy), and I'm really looking forward to sharing them with you. =)

First up, is the greatness that is called Bare Fruit Cinnamon Apple Chips. I started buying these at Sprouts a while back and it was love at first chomp. Riley never gets any because they just don't last till he gets home. Poor baby. One time I actually polished off a whole bag (each one contains 5 apples, mind you) solely on the 17 minute ride home. Although I may have shared one or two with the kids, hehe. They also come in Fuji Apple and Granny Smith, but I like the cinnamon ones best!

So. Anyway! I found them online by the case, for less than what I was paying before. If I don't share, they'll be all gone in no time. Being the bighearted girl that I am would like to be, one of you is getting half the case! That's six 2.6 oz bags of this delicious treat. You can thank me as soon as the last chip is devoured. Oh, and these aren't your run-of-the-mill chewy apple rings you find on every corner. They are crunchy and sweet (but not overly so) and will leave you and your friends/kids/spouse begging you for more. I really need to audition for their first commercial, don't I?

The best part (besides being so yummy) is that they are 100% organic, bake-dried and the only ingredients are apples and cinnamon. That's it. No sweeteners, preservatives, GMOs, trans fats, MSG, common allergens, gluten-free, and manufactured in a nut-free facility. What's not to love?

Ok, so here's how you can win:

Leave me a comment stating your new favorite snack!

And for extra entries (winner will be chosen via

~Surf through my blog, find a post you like, comment on it, come back here and leave another telling me you did so.

~Post the link to this giveaway on Facebook, leave another comment.
~Tweet this giveaway, leave another comment.
~Blog about this giveaway, leave another comment.

You must leave a separate comment for each entry in order to increase your chances of winning! All comments must be left here on the blog (not on FB) to be valid. Make sure your name is included somewhere.

You've got till 3pm Central time (US residents only) on Tuesday 4/26 and the winner will be announced later that evening.

Ready, Set, GO!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

20 Easter Egg Treats Sans the Sugar Rush

The last couple of months I've been thinking about Easter coming up and the imminent surge of candy that it typically brings, i.e. egg hunts and baskets!

While I love to watch my little girl find those colorful little eggs and open up her basket, it would be so nice if we could avoid all the junk! Don't get me wrong, I love candy and so do my kids. But it's just not good for them, especially in such large amounts!

All I could come up with on my own to put in Easter eggs was miniature raisin boxes. Exciting, I know.

So naturally, I googled for ideas.

I found some really great ones that I'd love to use! If you're like me and want some candy alternatives without having to forgo the fun, try filling your eggs with these instead:

1. Coins
2. Marbles
3. Stickers
4. Dice
5. Top
6. Hairclips
7. Beads
8. Squeeze ball
9. Seashells
10. Polished rocks
11. Lip gloss
12. Whistle
13. Nail polish
14. Jewelry
15. Temporary tattoos
16. Small plush animals
17. Playdough
18. Silly Putty
19. Mini bottle of bubbles
20. Confetti

* Obviously some of these could be choking hazards so be careful with little ones and choose only things that won't end up in their throat!

Have fun! 


Monday, April 11, 2011

My growing Hunkaboo

I started writing a status update on Facebook about "little" Josiah, then realized it was turning into a blog post. So here you go!

The prince of the house is 20 months now, well closer to 21. What's new:

~ He's been walking up and down the stairs for a few weeks now. One day I just noticed him doing it and was like, whaaaa?! He usually says "ats" though if I'm close by because he wants to hold hands while going down. Doesn't really need it, but how could I object? It's so sweet.

~ Just started climbing out of his crib 2 days ago at naptime. So far, he stays in there to sleep then just gets out when he wakes up at the end of nap or in the morning. *I'm hoping it stays that way!*

~ Still pretty picky about veggies but everything else he devours... especially fruit and meat! If he's all done and I get him out of his chair (or he takes his own tray off and climbs out, haha) and Julia leaves the table and there's food left on her plate, he climbs up to her seat, sits on her stool and snatches it all up. Watch out girlfriend!

~ He used to give me kisses after every nursing session but then he got too old for that I guess. I was sad! But now he's giving them again, except now he actually makes the kissing sound! Happy momma =)

~ Loves to clean! This is refreshing because it takes some real skill to get Julia to pick up after herself. But this boy, oh my, he wants a napkin for his hands after he eats; if he spills something, he finds a towel and wipes it up; when I sweep/mop/vacuum, he grabs another from the pantry and joins me; when I'm doing laundry he helps put the clothes in. It's pretty awesome! I'm already thrilled for his wife ;)

~ I can tell he understands a lot because he follows instructions really well. But he doesn't say much yet, although I hear that's the norm for boys. Here's his vocabulary:

   ah-puh: diaper
   a-ee: daddy
   ap: cup or up
   at: outside or light
   ats: hands
   ah-mun: i don't really know, one time he actually was talking about almonds but he usually just says it when he wants something... maybe he means mommy? ;)
   beep: when the oven beeps
   ar: car
   baby/beebee: his stuffed monkey
   af: off
   no: oh no
   ba-ba: bye-bye
   ups: chips
   ith: outside or cheese

I think that's it.

~ He's really starting to get independent... doesn't want to stay in the sling as long, and hits the ground running anytime we go outside!

~ If you're wondering, NO signs of potty-training.

~ If you're wondering, still nursing (Julia stopped at 21 months but Josiah will probably go till 2 or later).

~ For close to 2 months now, he's been MUCH better about going to sleep on his own. I still nurse him at bedtime but it doesn't take near as long because once he's done I can put him in his crib whether he's asleep or not. This is huge!

~ He's grown a little attached to his stuffed monkey, which he started calling "baby" or "beebee" while we were on vacation in San Antonio last month.

~ Loves going outside. Like it's the first thing he wants to do in the morning, even before breakfast. I usually make him eat first but the whole time he's pointing at the glass door to the backyard.

~ He can take his cup (no lid) with one hand, and push the spigot on the filtered water container on the island, and stop before it spills.

~ Does pretty much everything Julia does, which gets them both in a lot of trouble! For example, pushing the chair into the kitchen, climbing up and pulling out whatever he thinks is cool and trying to cook.

~ Can take his own pants off for bathtime, and if he ever doesn't have pants on any other time of the day, the diaper comes off pretty quick! Ooh, maybe it IS time to potty-train! Maybe after his birthday.

~ Record time for going without me is 22 hours. Will be doing that or a little longer next month!

~ If he knows you have an ouchie, he kisses it. So precious.

~ I can't remember who got it for him for Christmas, but he loves his "scoot-n-zoom"... rides it all around the house, takes it outside, carries it up and down the stairs. Great gift!

~ When we sit down to eat dinner as a family, he holds his hand out to me before we pray (and I caught him closing his eyes last time!)

Okay I guess that's enough for now. Love that boy!

This is actually the first time he's ever fallen asleep in the highchair, which was always a frequent occurrence with his big sister!