Friday, May 30, 2014

What's Up?

This is just a random blog post to talk about recent happenings in our household.

  • I got a haircut. It is my second haircut since I began chemotherapy.  My first haircut was last June.
Here is my hair exactly one year ago today, while I was finishing up my radiation treatment:

And here it is after my recent haircut (about a year from the photo above):

The hair stylist basically just cut off my mullet, evening up my hair into more of a "bob" style haircut.  She also straightened it by blowing it with a hairdryer (I guess they call this a "blow-out").  My hair is normally very curly.  This photo above is likely a rare occasion to see me in straight hair.  It just takes WAY to long to make my hair straight.
  • I literally spent all day yesterday deep cleaning our house (Cleaning showers, mopping, cleaning baseboards, dusting individual blinds, etc.).  I still have a lot more to do, but there was one point in my day when the house looked spotless.    Key word:  "one" point in my day.  That was during Abbey's nap.  I wish Drew could have walked in the door at that moment.  :-)  
  • I am loving the weather lately.  I have been trying to get out every day with the kids and soak up some Vitamin D via the sun.  Also, the great rainfalls we have been having recently have really helped our garden.  It is amazing to me how water from rain makes things grow and green up so much better than our man-made irrigation.  Also, I am continually amazed by God's creation through the act of gardening.  For example, a few weeks ago I planted sweet potato slips.  One sweet potato can produce up to 50 slips, which can each be planted to yield 3 pounds of potatoes each.  Isn't that cool?  I love how cyclical it all is.   Earlier this season we planted some cilantro seeds, and we later really enjoyed eating the cilantro in various recipes.  But, did you know you can let the cilantro bolt and turn to seed, which it does naturally when the weather becomes really warm.   After it flowers, you just leave it in the garden until the flowers turn into little seeds.   Those seeds are what we call "coriander seeds"!  (The cilantro plant is actually called the "coriander plant" in a lot of other countries.)  My little gardening buddy, Luke, helped me harvest our coriander seeds recently.  

It amazes me that this one cilantro/coriander plant produced TONS of seeds--each of which could be planted to produce new cilantro plants next season.  
A lot of folks wait until the seeds to brown to harvest them.  But, I have read you can harvest them earlier and get more seeds.  When they turn brown, a lot of them begin to fall off the plant.  I plan on planting some of them next cilantro season and putting the rest in a pepper mill to use as a spice once dried.  The seed has a plethora of health benefits.
We also recently planted a little pomegranate tree recently.  I am super-excited about the fruit this little tree will someday produce. Especially after trying to buy one recently in the store, and seeing it had a $3.99 price tag (for one of them!)

Drew:  Drew has been super-busy with work lately.  He works from about 7am-5pm.  Then, he comes home and eats dinner and puts the kids to bed.  After the kids are in bed, he gets back to work and works until the wee hours of the morning.  Last night he was working until 2am.  We are both super excited for this project he has been working on for the past year and a half or so to be complete.  The goal date is 6/30.  So, we can definitely see that light at the end of the tunnel.  We will definitely have to celebrate on July 1!  In the meantime, we try to plan lots of fun family adventures for each weekend, when he isn't working.  

Luke:  Luke just finished up his first year in AWANA cubbies.  If you are not familiar with this club program, it is one that teaches the kids bible truths each week.  It also includes fun activities that the parents do with their children each week to reinforce those truths.  In addition, the kids memorize a bible verse weekly.  It is an awesome program!  The kids earn badges for their vests as awards (similar to girl scouts or boy scouts).  Also, they get to shop at the "AWANA store" twice a year, with dollars they have earned based on milestones they have achieved.  I really hesitated to post these next two short videos, but I am going to anyway.  I know my parents mentioned they wanted to see them.  They are not very good quality though, and you can barely see Luke.  He is standing behind the blond girl in the front with the pink shirt on.  Luke is wearing the orange shirt and multi-colored shorts.  You can certainly hear Miss Abbey on these videos.  In the first video, as soon as she heard the Cubbies Director begin to announce the group, Abbey began saying very loudly, "God loves me, God loves you, God loves you all.  Yay, we did it!"  Here is the first video:

In the second video, Luke was one of three kids receiving a special award for completing extra credit work.  Abbey is exclaiming, "Yay, Luke!" very loudly in the video.  She is a proud little sister.  Also, the video is pretty shaky, because Abbey is attacking me while I am shooting the video.

Luke and Abbey have been loving on each other a lot lately.  Of course, there is also the sibling rivalry thing going on, but it is manageable considering there are plenty of moments like these:

Luke is getting a kiss from Abbey here because he was saddened by an ant who was trying to bite his leg.


We are finding that Abbey is an ornery little girl!  She is also one that picks up new skills at the speed of light.  I've notice her learning curve is super-short.  For example, she waited a few months longer than Luke did to walk, but when she started, she just started---no toddling around or anything.  She just got up and started walking like she had been doing it for weeks.  The same thing happened recently with potty training.  I was bracing myself for some tough few weeks, even though we opted to use the 3 day potty training method again.  I used it with Luke, and it was fabulous.  Of course, he still had accidents periodically following the three days, but we still thought the method was effective.  So, I covered our rugs with tarps, and started the potty training.  The three-day method is a "cold turkey" method of potty training.  Once you decide to do it, you don't wear diapers any longer--only underwear. Well, Abbey was completely potty trained in 2 days!  Perhaps that is normal for girls, but I am still amazed!   I am sort of bracing myself for some type of regression, but it hasn't happened yet.   She has been trained for over a month now.

watching a recent rainfall from our open garage.

I have also been hearing an excitedly exclaimed, "watch me, mommy," a lot from Abbey.  She is pretty proud of all of her new big girl skills.  She just recently started swinging in a "big kid swing" and thought it was cool stuff!  Here is a little video of her first time swinging in the big girl swing for a long time.


Monday, May 26, 2014

Bringing the beach to our backyard

We have some really cool parks around us.  We don't have to travel far, as we have probably 7 or so parks within walking/hiking/biking distance.  That's a huge blessing for an outdoors-loving family like us.  We promised the kids one night to take them to one of these parks.  This particular park includes a small splash park, so they were pretty excited about that.

We put their swimsuits on and headed to the park.   However, when we arrived, we found the splash pad wasn't on.  (I recently found out that this particular one is only open on the weekends this year).  But, it really didn't matter to our kids when they remembered the HUGE, covered sand play area that is next to the splash pad.  When Luke went to the beach a couple of years ago, he really didn't care so much about the water.  He was mainly interested in building sand castles on the beach.  So, this was like a little trip to the beach for him.

Abbey is just getting acclimated to sand.  She has been in a "sand feels weird under my toes" stage for a while.  But, it was during this trip that she became fully acclimated and loved every bit of our time at the park.

Okay--I know--I probably took WAY too many photos.   But, the light was absolutely perfect and I just couldn't get enough of all the great photo opportunities.

There are also some other fun parts of the park.   Like these...

Although the beach is fun, I don't think our kids really care if we go on a fancy vacation to the beach.  I believe the moments they will remember and cherish are times like these.

Sunday, May 25, 2014


Anyone who knows me well know that I am a passionate person.  I actually have a lot of passions, and am always anxious to tell those I come into contact with all about them.  Some of my passions include the following:

1) My salvation through Jesus Christ and the evidence I regularly see of the Holy Spirit moving in my life.

2)  Family.

3)  Photography

4)  Food.!

And most recently, I have been a bit obsessed with investigating everything that I consume and apply on my body.  I am an avid ingredients label reader, and I feel like it is the responsible thing to do to be an informed consumer.  I have come to the point in my life where I actually feel irresponsible if I don't know about everything I am consuming, putting on my body, or feeding my family and putting on their bodies.  I have come to the realization that our government, via the FDA, honestly does not protect us one bit when it comes to the food we eat or the personal care/cosmetics products we put on our bodies.  And what is truly sad is that most people probably assume that things that are allowed by the FDA to be in our food and cosmetics, etc are safe--I mean, isn't that the FDA's job?   I know I previously assumed this.

Because I have spoken so much about food in previous blog posts, I am going to save the food information for another post.  But, if you have never watched Food, Inc., I implore you to watch it.  You will not be disappointed.  (You can watch it for free by clicking here.)  Or, you can watch it for free as an Amazon Prime member on Amazon Prime.   From the website: "In Food, Inc., filmmaker Robert Kenner lifts the veil on our nation's food industry, exposing the highly mechanized underbelly that has been hidden from the American consumer with the consent of our government's regulatory agencies, USDA and FDA. Our nation's food supply is now controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health, the livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of workers and our own environment. We have bigger-breasted chickens, the perfect pork chop, herbicide-resistant soybean seeds, even tomatoes that won't go bad, but we also have new strains of E. coli—the harmful bacteria that causes illness for an estimated 73,000 Americans annually. We are riddled with widespread obesity, particularly among children, and an epidemic level of diabetes among adults."

For this post though, I want to write about something my eyes have been truly opened to since the beginning of the year.  After I was stricken with cancer, I began looking into all of the areas of my life that could be improved with regards to cancer prevention.  I figured that God wants me to glorify him with everything--all of me, including my body.  I figured he probably wouldn't want me to put harmful chemicals on it and consume toxins.  I knew my diet could change in a positive direction.  But, when I began truly reading and understanding every ingredient label, I began getting a bit angry at the nasty stuff the FDA allows in our food.  Many of the ingredients are banned in other countries because they are known to be toxic carcinogens.  I soon realized that we really cannot count on the government to protect us from harm when it comes to products we purchase.  It makes me so sad, because most people probably have no idea about these toxins.  If you watch Food, inc., you will probably be even more upset about it.  Thus, I began cooking most of our food from scratch and became extremely picky about any "packaged" food that I purchased.  For some reason, after totally beginning to live super-clean with regards to food that we consume, I didn't even connect the issue with other products to which I was exposing my body.  I finally realized that we absorb about 60% of what we put on our skin.  This means that most of what we put on our skin goes directly into our blood stream! Towards the end of last year, I began investigating all other products with which I come into contact.  I have completely changed the make up I wear, soap, shampoo and conditioner, deodorant, laundry detergent, dishwashing detergent and so many more products I use based on the information I learned.  I don't mean to overwhelm you, but here is just some of the information I stumbled upon (pasted directly from

When it comes to beauty products, the effects of the ingredients they contain can be more than just skin deep. The cosmetics industry uses thousands of synthetic chemicals in its products, in everything from lipstick and lotion to shampoo and shaving cream.
Many of these substances are also used in industrial manufacturing processes to clean industrial equipment, stabilize pesticides and grease gears. And we can all agree that an ingredient that effectively scours a garage floor may not be the best choice for a facial cleanser.
In the U.S., major loopholes in federal law allow the cosmetics industry to put thousands of synthetic chemicals into personal care products, even if those chemicals are linked to cancer, infertility or birth defects. At the same time as untested chemicals have been steadily introduced into our environment, breast cancer incidence has risen dramatically.
Following are some of the chemicals commonly found in cosmetics and what they do to us.


Knowledge is power. Learn how to avoid the nasty chemicals in personal care products.
Tips for choosing safe cosmetics >
Phthalates are a group of endocrine-disrupting chemicals that are found in cosmetics like nail polish and in synthetic fragrance—both perfumes and fragrance ingredients in other cosmetic products. Phthalate exposure has been linked to early puberty in girls, a risk factor for later-life breast cancer. Some phthalates also act as weak estrogens in cell culture systems.


Triclosan is used in antibacterial soaps, deodorants and toothpastes to limit the growth of bacteria and mold. The chemical, which is classified as a pesticide, can affect the body’shormone systems—especially thyroid hormones, which regulate metabolism—and may disrupt normal breast development. Widespread use of triclosan may also contribute to bacterial resistance to antimicrobial agents.


1,4-dioxane is not listed on ingredient labels. It is a petroleum-derived contaminant formed in the manufacture of shampoos, body wash, children’s bath products and other sudsing cosmetics. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has ranked it as a possible carcinogen, and the National Toxicology Program (NTP) has identified it as a reasonably anticipated carcinogen.


Parabens are a group of compounds widely used as an antifungal agent, preservative and antimicrobial in creams, lotions, ointments and other cosmetics, including underarm deodorants. They are absorbed through the skin and have been identified in biopsy samples from breast tumors.

Ethylene Oxide

Ethylene oxide is found in fragrances and is commonly used to manufacture popular brands of shampoo. It is classified as a known human carcinogen and is one of the 48 chemicals that the National Toxicology Program (NTP) identifies as mammary carcinogens in animals.


Shaving creams, spray sunscreens and foundations, and anti-fungal treatments that contain the propellant isobutene may be contaminated with the carcinogen 1,3-butadiene. Exposure occurs mainly through inhalation. This chemical has been found to increase mammary tumors in rodents. 

Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs)

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are a group of chemicals that occur naturally in coal, crude oil and gasoline. One of the more common PAHs is naphthalene. Some cosmetics and shampoos are made with coal tar and therefore may contain PAHs. They have been shown to increase risk for breast cancer.

Placental Extract

Placental extract is derived from human or animal placentas and is used in hair conditioners, shampoos and other grooming aids, particularly those marketed to women of color. The National Toxicology Program (NTP) has identified progesterone, the major hormonal contaminant in placental extracts, as a reasonably anticipated carcinogen.


Lead may be a contaminant in over 650 cosmetic products, including sunscreens, foundation, nail colors, lipsticks and whitening toothpaste. Lead is a proven neurotoxin, linked to learning, language and behavioral problems. It has also been linked to miscarriage, reduced fertility in men and women, and delays in puberty onset in girls.


Aluminum is found in some underarm antiperspirants. Like cadmium, aluminum is a metal that mimics estrogen and can also cause direct damage to DNA. Studies have not shown a direct causal link to breast cancer risk, but breast tissue has been shown to concentrate aluminum in the same area where the highest proportion of breast cancers are originally diagnosed.


Many sunscreens contain chemicals that exert significant estrogenic activity, as measured by the increase in proliferation rates of human breast cancer cells in vitro. Studies show these chemicals are accumulating in wildlife and humans. 
And last week, a new study found 102 chemicals (many of which are in personal care products and are allowed by the FDA) that are linked to breast cancer.  You can read about that here.  I truly don't want to overwhelm you, because it really can be overwhelming.  I think the most important thing is that we educate ourselves and others about all of these harmful toxins in the products we use every day.  I also think it is extremely important that we read all ingredient labels for products we consume and expose our bodies to.  Please don't just look at the advertising on the front of the product that uses wonderful sounding phrases like, "natural", "non-toxic", "eco-safe" or even "organic".  Until you read the ingredient labels, you really do not know if what you are consuming or putting on your body is completely safe.

I plan on trying to break this information up into smaller, useful pieces that are easier to take action on.  Our little family has implemented a few changes each week and I have not felt it to be overwhelming at all.  I will share some of these on the blog in later posts in case some of you are interested.

I will leave you with a great little video that covers a little bit about the "cosmetic system" in the U.S. Watch The Story of Cosmetics HERE or below.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Drew and I went surfing in Texas

It's true.  Drew and I tried out surfing in the Houston suburb of Sugar Land last weekend.   It looked like this:

Okay, so maybe not the kind of surfing you were thinking.  But, it was still fun.   It made me think about snowboarding though--oh, how I would LOVE to do that.  The most fun part of all of this was that we did it with all of these people:

Our nephew, Mitchell, Drew's sister, Erica, and Papa and Mimi
Most chose the "sledding" option, which was obviously the safer option (and maybe smarter).   I only tried the surfing option twice, and I crashed once.  Thankfully, I was traveling slow enough that I had plenty of time to plan my fall.

Mitchell tried the head-first, belly down sledding option.  It looked like fun.

Brother and sister....getting ready to race.

Luke flew down the hill faster than anyone else.
Abbey is getting a little push from papa here.
Erica also tried the head-first, belly down option after seeing the fun that Mitchell was having.

We had a wonderful weekend there.  A huge bonus was that Drew's Aunt Cindy and Uncle Doug were also visiting.  Thus, we got to spend some fun, quality time with them as well.  Here are some other picture memories from the weekend.

Our niece, Audrey
Uncle Doug and Aunt Cindy with the great nieces and great nephews.
We celebrated Uncle Doug's birthday while we were there.  
Abbey and Aunt Cindy

Mitchell---enjoying his ice cream, as evidenced with his partial ice cream mustache.
Our niece, Lauren, at the zoo.
Abbey is checking out the elephants in this photo.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

"Sibling Rivalry"...I mean "Sibling Love"

Luke and Abbey LOVE each other...but sometimes their love for one another looks a little different than others.

There is this kind of love...

August 2012 (Abbey was 7 months, Luke was 2.5)

And this kind of love:

August 2012

They absolutely adore playing with each other.  But, sometimes they like to "pester" each other.  It is inevitable that when I go to the grocery store, the pestering comes out full force.  Perhaps it is the close quarters and containment of the shopping cart that gets to them.  If you run into me at the grocery store, it is very likely you will here phrases exclaimed loudly like, "Abbey's leaning on me!", "Luke is touching my steering wheel! (when using a race-car shopping cart)", or "Abbey is kicking me!"  There may even be some screams coming from the cart.  Yeah, that's me and my crew.  I gave up trying to manage it and play "peacemaker" long ago though.   I used to buy packaged snacks, just so I could feed them during the grocery store visit.   I figured out that when their mouths were full, the pestering ceased.  But, the first snack (consumed at lightning speed) was always soon followed by the words, "I'm still hungry" (stated in a whiny voice).  I spent so much time searching for and unwrapping packaged snacks, that it made my grocery store visit even longer.  My recent strategy is to organize my grocery list and plow through that store at lightning speed.  I let them manage their own conflicts.  I ignore the whining and complaining and pestering, knowing that it will soon be over.  I remind myself of one of my favorite Bible verses, 2 Corinthians 4:17, which says, "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all" (keywords: Light and Momentary).

These tough moments truly are light and momentary in comparison to eternity.  And, Luke and Abbey love each other beyond what words can express.  They are each others' best friends.  My favorite sound is that of the loud, deep-belly giggles coming from the two of them as they play together.  Making each other laugh hard is a favorite past-time for both of them.   

A couple of nights ago, we had some very loud storms, which brought with them lots of rain that we needed.  But, the thunder terrified Luke.  The lightning seemed to flash non-stop.  Storms are very rare here it seems, so Luke really hasn't experienced too many of them.  After we put him to bed, he ran downstairs several times, saying he couldn't go to sleep.  This NEVER happens.  Once Luke goes to bed, he is down until the morning.   One of the times I put Luke back to bed, I told Luke what my mom used to tell me when I was young and afraid to go to sleep.  She told me to think about happy things.  So, I asked Luke about some of the things that make him happy.   The first word out of his mouth was, "Abbey."   Then, he started rattling off stories from the day, all including the funny things that Abbey did. His re-telling of the stories made me laugh as well.  I left his room with a big smile on my face.Luke never did come back downstairs after that until it was morning.  That boy cherishes his little sister.  I am so thankful for these two blessings.  For I know they are truly gifts from God.  
The next day after the big storms, I wanted to find the biggest puddles and let the kids have a blast in them together.  And so they did...

I even joined in on the fun and took a photo thanks to the camera self-timer.  I want these kids to remember I had fun with them.  (And, notice the little pony tail.  Praise the Lord for hair that is growing!)  This puddle was a miniature one though.
Abbey didn't care about the size of puddle though--she was still able to make a good splash.

You may notice there are a lot more photos of Abbey than there are of Luke.  She had a BLAST jumping and playing in the water and didn't want to stop.  Luke, as you see, moved on to the big boulders and had fun playing on them.

I also managed to capture a little video of Abbey playing in a little puddle.  I cherish these little memories with the kiddos.

I call this video, "Watch Me Throw This Rock, Mommy".