Washington Reads – A Product Review

One of the reasons I am working on the habit of blogging is because I want to review products for The Old Schoolhouse again. Several years ago, I was on their product review team. What a blast receiving free product in exchange for expressing my opinion! Not much thrills me as much as pointing others toward something that would make their life better or easier and product reviews are a surefire way to make that happen.

TOS has changed the way they do product reviews. Now they have a viral marketing network of bloggers called the Schoolhouse Review Crew. I hope to work with them soon. In the meanwhile, I will occasionally link to several of my old review to give you a hint of what you can expect from me if I get accepted on the Crew.
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When we moved 2 years ago, several of my favorite homeschooling resources went missing. Cleaning out the garage last week, I found a box full of wonders (including my IEW TWSS videos!). These fabulous playing cards were in the box, and believe it or not, they are still of use in our family! Our 11 year old son (we had not adopted him yet when the original review was written) is struggling with reading fluency. These cards are the perfect way for him to practice reading without feeling like he is doing schoolwork!

Here is the original review of these card games, which can be found on The Old Schoolhouse’s review site with hundreds more.

Micah’s Birth Story

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Today marks the end of Birthday Season 2015: my eldest son Christian, my youngest son Levi, my mom, and Micah each have birthdays within a two-week window. Today is Micah’s 15th birthday!

15 years and 1 day ago, a Friday, I thought I might be in labor. My contractions were picking up in pace and intensity for several hours during the day. My son, Micah, was due on February 19th, so it wasn’t quite “time.” My only other labor had been brought on by my water breaking and then intense contractions, so I really wasn’t sure if this was labor.

Several of the teenage girls from youth ministry at church came over to hang out with me for the day. I vaguely remember going on walks with them, putzing around in the kitchen with them, and generally enjoying their presence as a happy distraction. One of the teen’s moms came to pick her up, a nurse who worked at the very hospital where we planned to give birth. I distinctly remember her encouraging me to have a natural birth. With my first baby, I was dead set against epidurals. This time, I had researched and researched and researched, and being very afraid of the pain had decided an epidural was the way to go. I politely argued with the nurse (who happened to be my husband’s aunt and very correct about natural being better) that this was not my plan this time.

Funny how we make plans, right?

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” (Proverbs 19:21)

I had a glass of wine at bedtime (encouraged by the doula at my first birth to do so – wine would help stop contractions that weren’t real, and would give me much needed rest if they were real. She assured me I would wake up with strong contractions regardless of the glass of wine.) At some point in the middle of the night, I woke up. And yes, the contractions were strong. The weird thing is, they never became evenly spaced out. Some were 2 minutes apart, others 10 minutes apart. Some were crazy uncomfortable and others were mild. I REALLY had my heart set on that epidural, tho, so I asked Ron to call the hospital and ask if we could come in.

The nurse on the phone assured Ron it was too early and that my contractions were not regular enough to warrant driving to the hospital just yet. About a half hour later, after a few more strong contractions, I declared that it was time to go to the hospital, whether they thought I was ready or not! By this time, it was about 4am on Saturday morning.

When we got to the hospital, I remember the nurse being annoyed that we were there so soon. She checked me, and found I was “only a 3.” By this time, I felt like I was having intense contractions. She suggested we walk around the hospital, but I knew I could not. I asked to be checked into a room to use the shower (the hand-held pressure sprayer had helped with my first labor). My mother and sister-in-law had arrived in time to hear the nurse send me to the shower and strongly recommend that I spend at least 30 minutes in there. Mom and my sis-in-law decided to run out for coffee and a camera.

My contractions picked up in the shower. I used the coping devices I had learned from my first birth and moaned through them. The water pressure and heat felt fantastic. A half hour went by and I kept thinking, “When can I get this epidural and rest?” Suddenly, I felt the urge to push. I asked my husband to get the nurse, because the baby was coming. He gently reassured me, “You’ll get your chance to push later, honey!” This made me hopping mad. After all, I was the one who felt a baby making his way out of my body! I yelled for him to get the nurse NOW.

She must have heard my yelling, for she came right in and had me climb up to the table for her to check me. I felt like she was a little irritated, and thought I was over-reacting. A few seconds later, she said, “Oh! Here’s the baby! Don’t push yet, we have to wake up the doctor!” My mom and sister-in-law walked into the room just in the nick of time!

But what about my epidural? Yeah, there wasn’t time for that. A few minutes later and we were welcoming precious baby Micah Caleb Burt into our arms and our hearts! (He was almost Caleb Micah Burt, but we had pregnant friends with dibbs on the name Caleb. Would you believe they ended up having a girl and didn’t use the name? Well, again, I make my plans but God’s will is done. Micah – “who is like Jehovah?” – is the perfect name for him.)

15 years later, and that little baby is 6 foot tall – towering over his shorty parents. He’s an incredible person. He’s artistic yet logical, easy to please, inspirational, creative, scientific, and a deep-thinker. He’s able to look into situations and see things that other people cannot see. You may never meet a more intuitive personality! He can stand back and point out solutions to problems I’ve never considered! He’s got an amazing gift for digital editing and drawing. And he’s compassionate! I remember picking him up from the church nursery a few times and having the care workers tell me how compassionate Micah was, at that young age. If he saw a sad baby, he would cry for them and try to make them happy. He still feels very deeply for others. Even certain movies over the years could break his heart (Charlotte’s Web, I remember!).  All that softness and care, and yet he’s also tough. He holds his own in a house full of rowdy young men (and one rowdy young woman) and will not let them push him around.

My 15 year old, 6 foot baby. Where does the time go?

A Modest Proposal – Use Aborted Babies for Making Vaccines

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While measles is a hot topic of national conversation, this may be the time to get the word out about a sinister aspect of our current MMR and Chicken Pox vaccines. Did you know that both vaccines were developed from aborted fetus cell tissue? Those of you who are pro-life may react as I did when I first discovered this disturbing fact – disbelief and then abhorrence. (Swirling thoughts included Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal and the model essay my own father wrote in the 80’s about selling aborted babies for food. Yuck.)

For a while, there were separate vaccines for Measles, Mumps, and Rubella that were developed from chick embryos and not humans. Currently, Merck and Co has stopped producing these alternative vaccines.

RIGHT NOW is a great time to ask Christians and others morally-opposed to abortion to learn the facts about this matter, and to bring up these facts to their doctors and politicians.

If all of us who want protection from these diseases and yet do not want to profit from abortion would stand up and say, “No MMR without a humane choice,” what do you think would happen? Most doctors want the majority of people vaccinated. The vaccine companies want to sell vaccines. You can bet your bottom dollar that alternatives would be back on the shelf in no time.

Those of us who see the good of the MMR vaccine outweighing the bad of the way the vaccine was developed can still use the power of our words to put the squeeze on Merck and Co and ask them to begin making alternatives available again. Or, we might choose to use the Chicken Pox vaccine (because Chicken Pox is less scary than measles) as a place to practice conscientious objection.

Look into it for yourself. If the truth of where these vaccines were started bothers you, educate others. Complain to your doctors. Ask for alternatives!

For more information, see Vaccines, Abortion, and Fetal Tissue or simply google “aborted fetuses” alongside “vaccines.”

(If you had the choice between fair trade coffee and slave-made coffee, which would you choose? If we can be picky about coffee, we can be picky about vaccines.)

Christian’s Birth Story

I’m not so good at remembering to jot down my children’s birth stories. In fact, my eldest son turns 17 years old TODAY, and I realize I have never written down his birth story! As we enter Birthday Season for our family (3 sons, and my mom, with birthdays in the next 2 weeks), I thought I’d take a few minutes on each birthday boy’s day to record their entrance-into-the-world narratives. (Don’t worry, details are more mundane than gory!)

Christian 1517 years ago last night, January 21st, 1998, my husband and I headed to lead the Jr. High youth group at our church. Usually we split up the Bible Study and game portions of the evening, but I was off duty that night since our firstborn child was due to arrive in just 10 days. As I sat in the back of the Jr. High room, I realized I had to go to the bathroom. In the bathroom, I went a little longer than I thought I needed to. Maybe a lot longer? Suddenly, I realized my water had broken! I snuck back into the Jr. High room and motioned for my husband. Ron came to the back of the room and with wide eyes I whispered that my water had broken. I thought he would be the typical new dad (you know, like the kind I had grown up seeing on television) and begin stressing out and want us to leave immediately.

He acknowledged, “Alright! Let’s finish Bible Study and then we’ll go home.”

“But, but…my water broke!”

“Here, you can sit on my jacket.”

So there I sat, in the back of the Jr. High room for an hour while hubby wrapped up the bible study. I let some of the darling middle school girls know what had happened, and confessed I was freaking out that it might look like I had wet my pants. After youth group, they gathered around me in little tight bubble and walked to my car, one unified blob, protecting me from embarrassment.

Thankfully, just about 8 months earlier, my good friend had her water break 10 days before her due date. I had the same doula she did, and was well-versed in what to do should this happen to me: let the doula know, relax, and if contractions do not begin within 24 hours, go to the hospital. I wasn’t supposed to go right to the hospital unless I thought something was wrong, and I wasn’t to worry about not having immediate contractions.

At home, I double-checked that my bags were packed (including a darling nursing nightgown with matching baby blankie – oh how I wish I had a set like this for every baby born), drank a glass of wine and went to bed (I’m not much of a wine drinker, but had a glass of wine at the beginning of several of my labors so I could get some sleep without apprehension). Sometime in the middle of the night I woke up with very strong contractions. Very strong. I had understood that early labor was supposed to be mild, and these first contractions were anything but mild. The strength of them threw me into a panic. All I could think of was, ” If this is what mild contractions feel like, what will the tough ones feel like?” I suddenly realized why my doula had laughed when we had been discussing the pain and I asked if I might just take Tylenol to relieve it!

We waited about 1/2 hour for the doula to arrive. She calmed me down a little, but I really kept imagining the pain doubling or tripling and was pretty frightened (it never did get any worse). During the actual contractions, I was able to relax and be at peace. My doula had taught me to say the word ” low” in a low, moaning voice. It really worked wonders, and was something I held on to and used throughout all four of my other births. However, I could not shake the idea that the contractions were going to build up immensely in intensity and this scared me.

Setting up a pattern for each birth to come, my contractions were all over the place. A really hard one, then an easy one. Never evenly spaced either. I think it has something to do with my very random personality! At the hospital, I begged for drugs. The doula talked me into Stadol, because she said it leaves your system faster than the others. It was horrible. It felt like laughing gas. Falling in and out of sleep between contractions, I deliriously babbled about crazy dreams. Suddenly the pain would hit so hard that I’d be shoved back into reality for a few minutes. Several hours like this were surreal and uncomfortable. I’m glad I was able to avoid narcotics in subsequent births!

Eventually, it was time to push. I had to push for 2 hours, which is not unusual for a first birth and probably had something to do with the narcotics. Finally, the baby was ready to emerge! We were so excited to find out if he was a boy or girl (the umbilical cord was hiding the privates during the 20 week ultrasound). How exciting to learn we had a son, Christian Joseph!

And with his birth, I was ushered into motherhood. I remember a friend visiting later that evening at the hospital and asking if Christian and I had bonded yet. I’m not one who tends toward dishonesty (I have plenty of sinful habits but being honest comes easily to me), but I looked at her and lied.

“Of course!”

And I wondered what in the world “bonding” with a baby looked like? I had no idea how to get about this business of bonding.

Well, I’ve definitely bonded with him now. My now-17 year old son is an amazing young man. He’s a hard-worker, friendly, outgoing, eager to try new things, adventurous, a risk-taker. He cares for others. He loves the Lord. He’s handsome. He’s smart. He’s good at fitting in with others while retaining a unique sense of who he is. He makes friends and keeps them. He’s serious-minded but with a healthy sense of humor.

I couldn’t ask for a more wonderful firstborn son! Happy birthday, Christian!

Untying Knots

CJ PretzelMy 2 oldest sons (you see the top of one and the bottom of the other), about a decade ago.

The other day I woke up grumpy. Very grumpy. Part of it was that I hadn’t truly slept enough to warrant waking up. I’m in the middle of trying to do Gentle Sleep Training with my 11 month old and we’d had a rough night. Walking around dragging my feet, begrudgingly making breakfast, whining at my husband, and grumbling at my kiddos were the items at the top of my to-do list for the day.

I then stole a minute to check Facebook. Just a few posts in to my newsfeed and my morning took a turn for the better.

The weird thing is, I didn’t come across a cute kitten video, or a picture of a friend’s newborn. I wasn’t inspired by a scripture or a someone’s admonition to carpe diem. Instead, I found that a  friend had published a little rant wherein she swept a moral issue (one I care particularly deeply about) under her proverbial rug. Of course, in reality, it was probably none of my business. Perhaps I should have left it alone, but my soul leapt  (leapt!) at the challenge of responding in a friendly, winsome, and convincing way.

I hurried and engaged the children in an activity to keep them busy for a bit, and sat down to think deep, prayerful thoughts about my friend’s  post, to understand her perspective first and then and figure out the best way to (possibly) touch her soul.  About a half hour later, I emerged from the computer satisfied that I was ready to disclose my comment. I had attempted to “speak” truth in love and kindness, but with impeccable logic (well, you know, as loving and/or logical as one can get in a half hour while having a somewhat-silly, easily discounted experience of frantically leaving a carefully crafted comment on Facebook, ok?). As I rose up to complete my typical morning tasks, I realized that I felt good.

Really, really good.

Why on earth was my heart soaring? Why could my mouth not hold back a smile? Why was there a bounce in my step?  I could hear the cheer and goodwill in my tone of voice as I buzzed around my house. Puzzled, I wondered how leaving a Facebook comment had lifted my spirits so very much?

I realized it was the simple act of taking the time to communicate with others while focusing on love and logic together that left me feeling very satisfied. The exercise of digging deep into my heart while simultaneously stretching my brain filled me with endorphins. I have a very strong need to express myself, and I have a strong desire to make sense, and help others make sense, of the world. Sometimes these 2 driving forces seem to be at odds with one another – one is so light, so emotional, while the other is so heavy and so serious. When I am given the chance to figure out a puzzling question philosophically and then express the answer vividly and with emotion, I suddenly feel fulfilled.

And this, friends, is one reason why I am pledging to blog this year. I have the strong inner desire to be doing these 2 things it seems I was created to do – analyze perplexities and share my findings for the purpose of making a difference in the world.  Writing is one way I can provide my brain the space to think, analyze, wonder about the Big Questions in life. Writing is one way I can share with others the truth, goodness, and beauty that I come across and embrace as they overflow in my heart. I often feel tied up in knots from the many  thoughts and feelings churning and jumbling around inside. I am hoping writing provides the venue to think through deep thoughts and express myself, allowing me to lighten up and fully enjoy the short days I’ve been given with my family and friends. 

As I attempt to explain the burning desire within me to think on a computer screen through my fingertips, I fear you may think I’m attempting to extrapolate from a lofty, know-it-all perch. I do not and will not write because I have everything figured out already. As my fingers on the keyboard click away, the synapses in my mind fire, my heart palpitations accelerate, and my eyes begin to see. The very act of writing enables me to understand confusing and complicated ideas.

Someone once said that Christianity is simply one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread. When I chose the name One Beggar’s Bread for my blog, it was with the intention of communicating that any ideas I share here are not from a holier-than-thou or high-rise position. By the grace of God, I do hope to continue to grow in wisdom as He would give it. I pray for logic and love both to be poured out from heaven as I spend time pondering life. As I find sweets and savories that are not of my own invention, I will happily set them out for you to pick through. To mix metaphors, please feel free to eat the meat and spit out the bones. (Eat the chocolate chips and spit out the raisins, maybe?)  I hope and pray that my blog, at least occasionally, will be used by God to point one dear beggar or another to where he or she will find bread that satisfies and ultimately points to the Bread of Life, Jesus Christ.

What about you? What floats your boat? What is one of your driving forces? What actions (or non-actions) make you feel satisfied or fulfullied? Please share in the comments!

Marquez Lentil Soup

I have tried several lentil soups over the past 15 years, and I always come back to the first lentil soup recipe I ever tried.  I loved it the first time, I love it still.  And it is so easy!

This is a Trim Healthy Mama E meal, as long as you keep your sausage lowfat. I’m skipping the sausage tonight and throwing in some frozen spinach.

Marquez Lentil Soup

1 cup lentils, sorted and rinsed

1/2 medium onion

1 tsp or so olive oil

14 ounce can Italian Stewed Tomatoes

3.5 cups of water (I add more as I like a runny soup more than a stew)

1 tablespoon granulated chicken bouillon (or homemade broth, or Better than Boullion)

1 clove of garlic

8 ounces sausage of choice, chopped

Saute onion and olive oil.  Add broth, stewed tomatoes (in their juice) lentils, and sausage.  Stir and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes or so.

Add Italian seasoning to taste (I add basil and oregano)

(I originally posted this recipe here, on my old gluten-free recipe blog.)

Cheeseburger Bug Soup (THM S)

We had this delicious Meatball Cabbage Soup on the menu tonight (the meatballs are TO DIE FOR, and low carb too), but I just couldn’t make it happen. Sick hubby, sick kids, tiring day. Making a two-step meal sounded exhausting.

I decided with similar ingredients I might be able to make a Cheeseburger Soup! I googled a few recipes (here and here) to tweak, scoured the fridge and pantry, and came up with this delectable yumminess. My 3 year old daughter was convinced the bits of dried basil were ants. She called this Bug Soup and was very reluctant to eat it! The older boys liked the name, so I think it will stick. Bug Soup is GOOD!

Cheeseburger Soup(Not the best photo, is it? I would have taken another, only I actually dropped my iPhone into the soup right after snapping this one! Whoops!)

Lowcarb Cheeseburger Bug Soup

2-3 lbs of ground beef

1 yellow onion, chopped

Steak seasoning (sprinkle to taste)

Salt to taste

About 3 tablespoons dried basil

8 cups of beef broth

5-6 carrots, peeled and sliced

6 stalks of celery, diced

About 3 tablespoons of minced garlic (jarred kind)

About 4 cups of raw baby spinach

1/2 cup turkey bacon (would be even better with pork bacon!)

1/4- 1/2 cup sour cream (all I had left, so I had to use yogurt too)

1/4 – 1/2 cup Greek yogurt (leave it out if you want to use sour cream only)

A heaping tablespoon of red palm oil (mentioned in THM book for health properties – I never know how to use it!)

A 1/2 cup cheddar cheese (all I had left – would be good with more)

Heavy whipping cream (to taste – until soup is a pretty color)

Brown ground beef and onion with spices. Add it to the beef broth and begin to simmer. Saute the celery, carrots, and garlic a little bit (I added a bit of water to soften quickly – everyone was HUNGRY), then add them to the soup base as well. Toss in chopped bacon. After about 15 minutes, throw in the spinach. After another 10 minutes, add the sour cream, yogurt, and cheese to your preference. Add the cream right before serving. For special presentation, you could have bacon and cheese available to sprinkle on top.

This soup was delicious and very nourishing. I couldn’t stop going back for refills of the broth to drink! Rich, just a little creamy, a beautiful, deep yellow color, sweet from the basil – yum! This is definitely going into my menu rotation.

(Carrots aren’t usually part of S meals. I don’t think there were enough carrots in here to make much of a difference. I gave most of mine to my 11 month old, tho, just in case!)

Recipe as is made about 10 hearty servings.

*Please note that all measurements are estimated – I don’t really measure! I do plan to make this again and will come back and edit this post to refine the instructions.