Monday, March 23, 2015

Coming to Terms With My Ugly Face

My hair, inherited from my father? Thin and lifeless.

My eyes, also from my father? Hazel--and not an outstanding hazel.

My acne, starting at age 12 and not improving until I nursed my first baby? Well, inherited from my mother, it aged me very young and made for a painful teen and twenties era. I still get some acne, but not enough to cause despair.

And now, at 49, my eyes have developed red streaks from wearing the same pair of extended-wear contacts too long, before obtaining an eye appointment and buying new ones. For the first time since the seventh grade, I had to buy a pair of glasses for my nearly-legally blind prescription. Before, I always refused to order a pair, due to the extra cost beyond the contacts, and because I knew they would be thick and ugly.

But recently, an optician convinced me to order a back-up pair of glasses for when my eyes needed a break from contacts, or for when we ran out of money and couldn't order new contacts on time. He said the glasses would include a built-in bifocal to serve as the reading glasses I now use over my contacts.

He also said, "Oh, don't worry. New technology means they won't be as thick as you think."

My husband picked the glasses up yesterday and I ran and took my loaner lenses out of my eyes, which hadn't improved the ugly red blood vessels very much. Because of the red, irritated appearance of my eyes, the doctor requested I go back to be rechecked before he would give me a contact-lens prescription.

Making a mental drum-roll, I put the glasses on, eager for a solution to my oxygen-craving eyes.

Ugly, ugly, ugly. No doubt about it...ugly.

I wanted to cry. My eyes looked miniscule because of the magnification, and my face was distorted through my glasses. And since I hadn't worn glasses (except reading glasses) since the seventh grade, everything was strange. My children's clothes when I pulled them out of the dryer looked really small. I couldn't tell Mary's clothes from Beth's, or Peter's clothes from Paul's, except from memory. When I perused the cupboard for a can of diced tomatoes, I kept thinking I was looking at tiny tomato paste cans instead of 15-oz cans. Anything circular was distorted.

And to read on the computer, I have to cock up my neck to benefit from the bifocals.

I went on with my mothering duties and tried to forget about my ever-increasing ugliness. I knew my family was, though loving, still dismayed at Mommy's new appearance. I knew my ever-increasing white hairs made everything worse, as did the ever-increasing wrinkles on my 49-year-old face.

When I was living in Sicily at age 12, I liked to walk around our military-housing neighborhood, located on a cliff above the beautiful Mediterranean Sea. A friend from school always walked with me, and still, I vividly remember the time we ran into an Italian teen. He said to my friend after looking me up and down: "She has a good body but an ugly face."  I didn't get the Italian words at the time, but she did and she repeated them to me.

At 49 my body doesn't look too terribly awful, but I won't be posing in it the way Cindy Crawford trustingly did.

But my face? Worse than ever.

What is a woman to do? Before children, I used to buy nice clothes to offset my bad points, but now I can only hope for a few good pieces from Goodwill, and they don't help much.

I was forced to go to Scripture and to my Savior in all things, to process my feelings. There was no salve, no help, no comfort from the world. Coloring hair is expensive. Plastic surgery to fix acne scars is expensive, and laser surgery for nearsightedness is expensive. Even if I had the money I would give more to Compassion and sponsor another child instead of considering these options.

God loves me. He even loves my ugly-to-the-world face. My husband loves me. My children love me. I get to minister to and love them all, and serve them in many ways. I get to. My life is rich. My heart is rich.

Anything that leads to greater humility? It is a gift. And more than that, God does not make mistakes. He loves my face and my hair and my -8.0 nearsighted eyes. And if He loves all of it? If He has ordained it for me? I must love it, too.

Psalm 139:13-14 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

1 John 3:1 "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!"

1 Samuel 16:7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

1 Peter 3:3-4 Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious.

Joshua 1:9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Luke 12:7 Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.

1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Proverbs 31:30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

James 4:6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

Friday, March 20, 2015

Homeschool Journal, Spring Books, Recipes

If you're only interested in the spring picture books, scroll to bottom. There are recipes there too.

Outside my window:
The snow melted and the kids are playing outside everyday, finding moths, flies, frogs and beetles, rejoicing at these promises of more spring and wildlife to come. Nothing on the trees yet and the grasses haven't greened, so it's dreary, but my children's happy hearts dress up my world.

I think anyone in the Midwest or East will agree? That was a long, long winter. Our temps have been anywhere from 30's to high 50's this week.

On my mind:
My children are all different, yet I'm reminded this week that they've bonded well and they're accepting of each other. I think family prayer time helps to bond siblings, allowing them to view each other as Jesus does...flawed but precious. I've been counting my blessings as a mother and my heart is full this week. Watching them grow and mature and become who God created them to be is a privilege.

Beth and Paul are rather intellectual and they're both creative. Beth works hard to gather a stack of books at the library and last week she said to me:

"I'm sorry I have so many to carry, but I just really love knowledge." (I laughed out loud at her 6-year-old cuteness.)

She makes up little skits and asks us to be this or that character, and she'll put blankets on her head or special dresses to go with her scene. And dolls! She makes dolls out of everything, but doesn't play with her store-bought dolls much anymore. Stuffed animals are really her favorites; she dresses them and uses them as dolls. Or she'll stuff some socks and glue things on the face and cuddle it like a doll, or make paper dolls from her own pictures and pretend they're real dolls too.  She is never bored and she's always busy.

Paul loves politics and geography and math and writing, so he too, is always busy and never bored. He also enjoys art and creating new patterns and homemade projects like stuffed animals for presents for his sisters. He wishes there were more hours in a day because he always has much planned for his time.

Peter and Mary have similarities too. Neither are intellectual in the traditional sense. They love nature and the outdoors and finding God's glory with their senses. Their bodies need movement. Their minds are intertwined with their senses, and they express themselves orally, not really desiring paper or pencil or books (unless it's bitter winter, in which case they look at and read nature books). When they're outside, they're joyful, and when they're inside, they're restless.

Peter is fully immersed in planning his garden and putting seeds in online shopping carts. He loves this endeavor and starts working on his wish list in January, and he draws up plans for what will go where, and then loses them and starts over.

I'm like Paul and Beth in the sense that I have many plans for my time, and I love reading and writing and thinking. Though unlike them, I'm not creative with my hands. My husband is like Peter and Mary (perhaps more so). He can't stand to be in buildings if he can help it. Daylight savings time is sweet for him because it's still light out upon his return from work at 7 PM (that's coming soon).

Somehow we're all learning to understand and appreciate each other and rejoice in our differences.

I'm Working On:
I'm working on a deeper level of cleaning up our diets--something we began five years ago within our budget constraints. Yesterday I went to two stores, spending four hours total finding better choices, like raw honey, pure maple syrup, less-processed pure cane sugar, organic strawberries, carrots, celery, apples and greens, aluminum-free baking powder, and Jasmine brown rice from Thailand, rather than from the arsenic-rich fields of the American south (though it still needs to be rinsed and cooked like pasta, to further reduce arsenic levels, which permeate rice easily from soil and water).

My shopping trip started at 8 PM and ended at midnight (two stores), and when I came through the door hubby was about ready to call the police. I absentmindedly put my old cell phone that the kids play with into my purse instead of the new one. I told hubby now that I've scrutinized every label thoroughly, all my other trips will be faster.

As I thought, there was no finding a "clean" bread or tortilla brand, and thankfully a bread maker is coming in the mail today, which, I told my hubby, I'm paying for by selling some unused homeschool curriculum.

Fair trade chocolate is available at a very small coop in the college town near us, and we will check it out, but I doubt I can afford it, unless something else goes. We will have to substitute healthy muffins and breads for our chocolate sweet tooth.

Do you find reasonably-priced fair-trade chocolate anywhere?

The budget I'm working with is not any better these five years later, but I'm more committed to finding the money by reducing our milk and meat intake, and by cutting out all commercial bread products. (Shh, don't tell my hubby about the meat). He likes all kinds of foods and perhaps if I concoct new, delectable soups, he won't notice meat's scarcity around here. He, too, cares about eating healthfully but he's very practical (and carnivorous, I might add).

I learned long ago how to make a complete protein when eating legumes (beans, peas, lentils) and grains. It's all in what you combine them with. When we do use meat it will be more to flavor foods, and for homemade broths, and to add some protein, rather than to dominate our main dishes.

The meat and poultry industries lack integrity. Period. And I can't afford the better meats.

Now onto our homeschool photos and some great picture books to usher spring in, plus some whole-food blog links and recipes!

Beth worked on initial blends this week in All About Reading 1.

Mary worked on the sound and uses of /oi/ and /oy/ in All About Reading 2. /Oy/ is used at the end of words, and /oi/ is used in the middle.

This stuffed animal is the famous Sparky from AWANA's Sparky class for grades K-2. The word represents the children being "sparks" for Jesus. (My whole family is loving the new Wednesday night AWANA and the church hosting it...and I made a new homeschool friend!--a real life, non-cyber one even, not that my cyber friends aren't totally real and awesome!).

The friendly Sparky visits each Sparky child's house and is returned back to the AWANA teacher the following week with a journal and pictures of his adventures. He joined us in our homeschool and he'll go to the library with us too.

Sparky is doing some drawing.

Sparky is being read to by Beth and Mary.

Sparky has his glasses on and he's reading himself this time.

Sparky is having a spelling lesson.

Goodwill is wonderful for finding any kind of container. Our drawing books needed a convenient home.

"Recess" included vigorous games of basketball and backyard soccer. 

Some yummy dinner and lunches. Black bean soup above with honey wheat corn bread, and taco soup below.

My girls don't care for math because they have trouble recognizing all the numbers dyslexics typically confuse, so sometimes when motivation is low, I offer one chocolate chip for each problem and the rest if there was no complaining.

Skip counting is also difficult for dyslexics, as is any random sequence they have to memorize, though the fives and tens should be easier than they are for Mary. The pennies help her skip count by herself.

Mary has been doing some sewing for two years now. She made a button hole and button for her stuffy and she was so proud! No, this is probably not a properly done job, but it worked.

She'll sew these pieces together for a tiny stuffed animal. I need to get my children into a sewing class soon.

We tried out Kahn Academy this week and Paul especially loves it!

Our weekly trip to the library (last Fri). We took advantage of hubby's trip to Florida to put my van in our mechanic's shop for a (yikes!) $1,200 rust job. ( wonder hubby frowned at the bread maker purchase). We picked hubby up from the airport last Monday, and since then we've been grounded during the day, with the van expected to be done on Sunday.

A neat math program at our library, enjoyed this trip by Peter and Paul.

Mary's favorite thing at this computer station is the library's Stellaluna program (one of her favorite books).

I loved this rainbow by Mary.

All About Reading 2, working on synonyms.

The boys began a new Sonlight science selection, having finished Evolution: The Grand Experiment (debunks all aspects of evolution, from a completely scientific perspective), from Sonlight Science G. This is What's Science All About, which they both enjoy.

Tuesday and Thursday for the boys look something like this, with math on the computer and writing or spelling with mom not included on this list. From their perspective, the other days feel lighter.

I put seven nutrition/cooking blogs on my sidebar to peruse for whole-food information and recipes. I found several wonderful recipes to try.

10-Minute Baked Apples from Back to the Book Nutrition

Slow Cooker Sweet Potatoes With Maple Cinnamon Butter at The Nourishing Gourmet

Potato-Cauliflower Chowder from 100 Days of Read Food

Sausage, Kale, White Bean Soup from 100 Days of Read Food

10 Recipes for School Lunches from 100 Days of Read Food

100 Days of Read Food offers free meal plans with shopping lists

One Pot Chicken and Brown Rice with Vegetables from Back to the Book Nutrition

Spring Picture Books

Spring brings April showers, rainbows and the promise of new life in the Easter Celebration in Super Gifts of Spring, the third book of a new seasonal four-book series by Dandi Daley Mackall. 

Playful rhymes leap off illustrated pages by Katherine Blackmore and give thanks to God for the wonderment created in Spring. The infectious rhyming prose paired with scriptural passages, give gratitude and glory to God as early learners discover the Super Gifts of Spring. Look out for the next book in the Seasons series, Special Gifts of Summer.

Old MacDonald had a ... garden? Yes! Sing along with young Jo MacDonald as she grows healthy food for people and wild creatures. E-I-E-I-O! Find out how butterflies, bumblebees, and birds help a garden to thrive - and how you can help them too. And keep an eye on one mysterious plant. What will it become? Youngsters learn about garden ecosystems and stewardship through this playful adaptation of Old MacDonald Had a Farm.

Barbara Cooney's story of Alice Rumphius, who longed to travel the world, live in a house by the sea, and do something to make the world more beautiful, has a timeless quality that resonates with each new generation. The countless lupines that bloom along the coast of Maine are the legacy of the real Miss Rumphius, the Lupine Lady, who scattered lupine seeds everywhere she went. Miss Rumphius received the American Book Award in the year of publication.

Violet runs the fastest, sings the highest, looks the fanciest, and talks the loudest. Everyone agrees that she's the best. Except Rosie. Rosie isn't fast, or loud, or fancy, but she's tired of hearing that Violet is the best. When their class grows pea plants, Rosie's and Violet's are the first to sprout! But Violet's is a little taller. So Rosie pushes some soil over Violet's sprout to slow it down. And for a moment, Rosie's plant is the best -- but she feels terrible.
And she feels even worse when she learns that Violet has the chicken pox. So for the next two weeks, Rosie waters her plant -- and Violet's too. She turns them in the sun, and sings them quiet growing songs. And her teacher says that Rosie is the best gardener she's ever had. Definitely the best.
This empathetic story captures every child's desire to be noticed and praised, and the subtle competitions that go on in a classroom. It's a book to swell every shy child's heart. 

A vacant lot, rat-infested and filled with garbage, looked like no place for a garden. Especially to a neighborhood of strangers where no one seems to care. Until one day, a young girl clears a small space and digs into the hard-packed soil to plant her precious bean seeds. Suddenly, the soil holds promise: To Curtis, who believes he can win back Lateesha's heart with a harvest of tomatoes; to Virgil's dad, who sees a fortune to be made from growing lettuce; and even to Maricela, sixteen and pregnant, wishing she were dead.

Thirteen very different voices -- old, young, Haitian, Hispanic, tough, haunted, and hopeful -- tell one amazing story about a garden that transforms a neighborhood.
"As a vacant lot is transformed into a community garden, these vignettes give glimpses into the lives of the fledgling gardeners. As satisfying as harvesting produce straight from the vine." -- School Library Journal

In the Middle Ages, people believed that insects were evil, born from mud in a process called spontaneous generation. Maria Merian was only a child, but she disagreed. She watched carefully as caterpillars spun themselves cocoons, which opened to reveal summer birds, or butterflies and moths. Maria studied the whole life cycle of the summer birds, and documented what she learned in vibrant paintings.

This is the story of one young girl who took the time to observe and learn, and in so doing disproved a theory that went all the way back to ancient Greece.

Lydia Grace Finch brings a suitcase full of seeds to the big gray city, where she goes to stay with her Uncle Jim, a cantankerous baker. There she initiates a gradual transformation, bit by bit brightening the shop and bringing smiles to customers' faces with the flowers she grows. But it is in a secret place that Lydia Grace works on her masterpiece -- an ambitious rooftop garden -- which she hopes will make even Uncle Jim smile.

Sarah Stewart introduces readers to an engaging and determined young heroine, whose story is told through letters written home, while David Small's illustrations beautifully evoke the Depression-era setting.
The Gardener is a 1997 New York Times Book Review Notable Children's Book of the Year and a 1998 Caldecott Honor Book.

A funny, accessible chapter-book series about an irrepressible third grader.
Marty McGuire's third-grade class has a special assignment: Save the Earth! Even more exciting, the best project wins a special award. Marty's pretty sure her classmates' ideas won't stand a chance against her plan to turn the garbage from the school cafeteria into fertilizer. All she needs is a little help from her teammate and best friend, Annie -- and the worms in her grandma's garden.
But it turns out that worms are awfully SLOW eaters. And when the critters escape, the whole class starts grumbling. Can Marty save the Earth without losing her friends?

An ode to muddy hands and feet, brown earth, and new grass. Simple text and exuberant illustrations will make children and their grown-up friends want to sink their feet into gooey, gloppy, mucky, magnificent mud.

From Publishers Weekly ; Introduced in Fletcher and the Falling Leaves, the cute little fox Fletcher now discovers spring. Seeing blossoms swirling through the air—Beeke renders them as a flurry of white smudges—Fletcher becomes convinced that the snow has returned. Feeling bouncy [and] full-of-importance, he sounds the alarm to his forest comrades, who are not a little peeved when they realize Fletcher's mistake. All is quickly forgiven as they revel in the glories of the season: The animals scooped up pawfuls and clawfuls of blossoms from the ground, and covered him in a tickly shower of fluttering white petals! The distinctly British lilt of Rawlinson's prose should prove captivating for preschoolers. But it's Beeke who gives this book its reason for being. Working in her signature naïf style, she gives each character a vivid personality (the steadfast porcupine and slacker rabbits are particularly memorable) and conjures up an irresistible forest: bathed in warm greens and yellows, punctuated with impish bursts of color, and just imposing enough to be a suitable setting for adventure. Ages 3–7.

How was your week, friends? Thank you for visiting.

Weekly Wrap-Up

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Brown Rice is Now Dangerous?

I was unaware that rice grown in the south (on former cotton fields) contains high levels of arsenic. This was actually reported in late 2012, but I've only just learned about it, when Consumer Reports updated their guidelines for safe rice- and rice-product consumption. 
American cotton farmers used an arsenic-containing pesticide which is still in the water and soil, contaminating rice now grown in that region. Yeah, brilliant idea to grow rice on arsenic-infested land
Rice grown anywhere has some arsenic, but in lower levels than the American south, which now produces 12% of the world's rice. Brown rice soaks up more of the arsenic than white rice does, due to its whole grain covering (80% more arsenic found in brown rice!).
And wouldn't you know it? About 18 months ago we started eating brown rice about 1 to 3 times per week, but fortunately our diets didn't (and still don't) contain any other rice product. I am upset and a bit worried, but this is par for the course for the concerned American food consumer. Our food supply is tainted by big business concerns, as our government agencies succumb to their lobbying pressure. There was arsenic in our chicken too and it took the FDA a long time to be honest about it and ban arsenic from the chicken-feed, while at the same time Pfizer agreed to stop selling the arsenic here.
Why didn't they put warning labels on the southern-grown rice and rice products, suggesting consumers limit their consumption and alter cooking methods? And what about babies, who have for a long time consumed baby rice cereal, which was found to have high levels as well? 
This whole fiasco has bothered me for the last three days, and I've researched about five hours total over the three days, looking for information and then recipes for feeding my family as healthfully as possible. We had already made many changes five years ago, but it was time to make even more. 
I'll have to start making my own tortillas and purchase a bread machine, for starters. We have neither a Whole Foods nor Trader Joe's in this area. The alternative markets here have mostly food supplements, rather than groceries. 
I will also force the children to drink purified water--something they've fought me on for years. Only Paul recently started drinking it all the time. No more Country Time Lemonade with its yellow dye. Real 100% juice has too much sugar, even if it is only natural sugar, so I limit that to six ounces a day.
Also, I will quit shopping at Aldi's, as their foods are of inferior quality, with just a few exceptions. Even their off-label probiotic yogurt has two food dyes and HFCS! Dannon's Activia probiotic is better and it's our brand, but it has its problems too.
I won't be soaking grains or fermenting my own yogurt, however. I'll try putting honey in plain yogurt for starters. And grains? I'll vary the type we eat, rather than relying so much on 100% whole wheat, but I won't reduce our total whole-grain consumption. If you have a sensitivity, it's fine to cut most grains, but none of us has any sign of food sensitivity to grains of any type, nor does anyone in my extended family or my husband's.
We will also cut out breakfast cereals. We were buying plain Cheerios and non-BHT shredded wheat, and switching them with oatmeal and whole-wheat toast. but most cereals have enough processing that it's best to avoid them if possible (if you're not rushing out the door in the morning). We'll rely more heavily on oatmeal and baked oatmeal, and I will also add some eggs a couple times a week in the mornings. The breadmaker will help with breakfast as well.
The kids are on board with more detail-oriented food preparation and have promised to help. I've already considered that we'll have to end school earlier as our meals will require even more prep. 
As moms all we can do is the best we can within our budget, and considering our time and location. I just wish we had a food regulatory agency that actually cared about the citizens, so we wouldn't have to spend so much time finding reliable, non-hysterical information. 
If you or your children eat rice or rice products, see these guidelines (pasted below) for tips:

Here’s what you can do: 
-- Limit your rice consumption.
Organically-grown and conventional rice both contain arsenic. But arsenic concentrations in rice appear to vary based on the variety and the region where it is grown. White rice -- particularly basmati, jasmine and pre-cooked “instant” rice -- tends to have lower concentrations of arsenic than brown rice because arsenic accumulates in rice bran. Rice varieties grown in California or imported from Southeast Asia are often lower in arsenic than rice grown in other parts of the U.S.
Consumer Reports suggested that adults eat no more than one to three servings of rice or rice-based foods per week, depending on the food type. It recommended that children eat a maximum of 1.25 servings of rice, rice pasta, rice breakfast cereal or rice pasta per week or one small serving of rice-based infant cereal per day. Consumer Reports urged parents not to give children younger than five rice-based beverages regularly.
-- Rinse rice and cook rice in extra water.
Rinsing rice before cooking may reduce arsenic content to some extent. Some research indicates that the amount of arsenic in rice can be cut by as much as 40 percent if the rice is boiled in a large volume of water like pasta and excess water discarded.  Here's a recipe. Cooking rice like pasta is a good option for brown rice, whose superior nutritional benefits must be balanced against higher arsenic content.
-- Do not give infants rice cereal as their first solid food.
Parents were once advised to start infants on fortified rice cereals, touted as non-allergenic and nutritive, but nutritional guidance is shifting. With some exceptions, parents are no longer encouraged to delay introducing other, potentially allergenic foods. Soft fruits, vegetables or even meats are great first sources of complementary nutrients for a breast- or formula-fed baby. Try bananas, avocados, sweet potatoes and squash.
-- Choose other grains.
Powdered cereals are convenient and often used to thicken baby purees, but Consumer Reports found significant quantities of arsenic in all three brands of infant rice cereals tested. Look for non-rice whole grain or oat cereals, or make your own by pureeing grains in a food processor before or after cooking them. 
The American Academy of Pediatrics convened an Expert Work Group on Arsenic in Rice with a mandate to examine the safety of rice-based foods for infants and children. The Work Group recently concluded that oats are a preferred grain for infants and children who require thickened foods due to special medical needs like reflux (AAP 2014).
--  Buy processed foods that don’t contain rice.
Look for alternatives to rice-based processed foods such as breakfast cereals, rice flour, rice pasta, cakes and crackers.  Consumer demand for gluten-free alternatives to wheat-based processed foods has spurred a proliferation of rice-based products, but they're not the only option. Low-arsenic grains include barley, faro, couscous and bulgur wheat. To avoid gluten, consider amaranth, buckwheat, millet, quinoa, oats, cornmeal, grits and polenta. Read labels carefully and investigate products with these alternative grains.  Some flour mixes for baking contain no rice or gluten.
-- Limit consumption of products whose labels list rice syrup as a sweetener.
Energy and cereal bars and other processed foods sweetened with brown rice syrup can contain elevated arsenic levels (FDA 2013; Jackson 2012).  Such products are often aimed at the "natural" foods market.  But “natural” does not mean “safe.” Read labels and use EWG’s Food Scores database and app to avoid rice syrup sweetener in foods you eat frequently.
-- Do not use rice milk as a dairy substitute for cow's milk. 
Great Britain's Food Safety Authority cautions parents to avoid rice milk as a dairy alternative for toddlers from age one to four and a half. Consumer Reports tested samples of two common brands of rice milk and found arsenic levels ranging from 17 to 70 parts per billion -- all exceeding the federal drinking water maximum of 10 parts per billion.
-- Do not give children non-dairy drinks that list rice syrup as a sweetener.
At least two brands of hemp milk contain brown rice syrup. In many cases, dairy-sensitive children can be given water and other dietary sources of calcium instead of a highly processed dairy substitute.
-- Check your drinking water.
Arsenic taints drinking water in many parts of the U.S. Read the Consumer Confidence Report that your water utility is required to send you once a year, and check EWG's Tap Water Database to see if arsenic has been detected in your water. Use EWG’s Water Filter Buying Guide to find filters certified to remove arsenic from your water. If you drink well water, contact your local health department to find out if arsenic could be a problem, or get your well tested. Testing is not expensive, and it's worth the investment. 
Rice is a specifically risky crop. Eating less rice and foods with rice-based ingredients will decrease the amount of arsenic in your body.
Lead and cadmium risks are distributed more broadly across the food supply. To lower Americans’ exposures to these contaminants, governments must take a number of actions, including crop monitoring programs to single out foods that are particularly contaminated, and soil testing to find highly polluted fields and orchards where these crops were grown. 
The FDA should investigate agricultural practices that add heavy metals to cropland, including the use of sewage sludge as fertilizer.  The FDA and other government health agencies should clearly communicate risks to consumers so they can make informed choices about how often they eat specific foods likely to be contaminated.

Website with the above info found here.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Dance and Be Joy, My Daughter

Psalm 45:13 All glorious is the princess in her chamber, with robes interwoven with gold.

You are a miracle, do you know that? God planned you. Before you were knitted in your mother's womb, he knew you. He cherishes you, no matter where you've been, no matter what you've done, no matter where you are now. He loves you and marvels at you and wants you for His daughter.

You, my beautiful friend, are a daughter of the King.

Isaiah 61:10 I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

I want you to dance around and wear that. I want you to look in the mirror and see the wonder that is you, created by Him. He wanted you and chose you.

Do you look around at this big world and feel insignificant, like no one cares about your comings and goings or the sorrows of your heart?

Lies...all lies, put there by the enemy.

As you wash the sticky floor, fold socks for the one millionth time, put a meal on the table for the third time today, weary and hoping no one complains, I want you to feel like you're serving your King--a grateful daughter smiling her joy at being His.

He knows every cell of you. He reads your very heart and soul

He knows your weariness, your challenges, your fears and doubts. You are never alone in any of it, even if the room is empty of well-wishers. Even if the bank account and the gas tank and the refrigerator are running low and your favorite sweater that lasted for years, now sports a hole and you have nothing decent to put on for church tomorrow.

Your significance doesn't depend on what's stored up or what's on the outside. Your significance comes from being chosen as His.

The Lord of Lords, the Almighty God, the King of Kings, Emmanual, El Shaddei,YahwehElohim, Father. He chose you.

You are His. Let your significance be this: Daughter of the King, dearly loved, wholly cherished.

You don't have to worry about making your mark in this world. You don't have to worry about success or significance. You can be as a child...wonderous, free, simple, innocent.

Your Daddy watches over you, loving you, and you are free. Dance in the wonder of that truth. Dance in the glory of that truth.

Dance and be joy and let His glory shine right through you. 

Have you ever seen a little girl dance in all delight and abandon, fearing nothing and singing into her pretend microphone like the King himself is listening to her beautiful song? Her up on that pretend stage, letting all the passion flow?

Be joy and be passion. Live like a Daughter of the King pure and simple, brimming with His love.

Images: here, here, here

Saturday, March 14, 2015

I Dare You to Share Him

It was a long drive to the Cleveland airport--at least for antsy kids--but my husband's flight made it safely to Florida yesterday. The closest "real" city to our township is Akron, but their airport isn't very impressive so we opted for the longer drive to Cleveland.

He's in Florida to check on his 92-year-old father, who refuses to move here or go to an assisted care facility. And he's already called us three times. He misses us on these trips, that is clear. Absence makes a man's heart fonder?

Maybe, or just more grateful.

His flight was delayed so he spent some time talking with an Albanian college student who wanted to know more about Florida, where he was going to visit family. Husband asked him about his life in Albania, and then attempted to witness to him about the Hope and Life found in Jesus Christ. Husband started that arm of the conversation by mentioning that he once knew some missionaries in Albania.

"Missionaries?" questioned the Albanian. "Are those the people who walk around with the Bibles?"

Hesitantly, husband said yes, hoping the Albanian wasn't referring to Jehovah's Witnesses or Latter-day Saints.

"I always stopped to talk with them to work on my English", explained the Albanian.

Husband and I shared a laugh about that, sure, but it reminded me of something.

We never know who is ready for the Gospel, which is why we should try to bring it up as a rule, whenever we have the opportunity. If someone appears not to be a seeker, or is not the least bit interested, we can stop, so as not to annoy or harass, but some percentage of the time we will come upon someone ready to receive the Hope and Life Jesus freely offers to all who believe.

Now, perhaps if my husband had an incredible testimony of wretchedness-to-glory, he could bring more people to Christ. We just don't know. He was saved at age 7 and has never looked back, so there's no drama, just steadfastness.

Those of us who have a more dramatic testimony? We should look upon it as a special opportunity to share the reason for our transformation...the reason for our hope.

And the rest of us can be ready to tell a story of God's faithfulness in our lives, or try to always bring a missionary book of incredible stories (Missionary Stories With the Millers is a great one, and each story is short), or something else we can share that will make a person marvel and ask questions, so we can at least open them to the possibility that Christ is Life.

We make our lives about so many things; we complicate daily life in so many ways, but really, life to a Christian should be Christ, period. To live is Christ, to die is gain. (Philippians 1:21)

I'm not much of speaker, being the shy sort. But I love to write and random people come to this blog all the time, even though I'm not successful as a writer or blogger. I've been at this since 2007 (two years on a different blog, in which real names were used) and there's been no growth to speak of. Readers come and go.

I haven't the time to do the things necessary to grow a blog, and I'm not a business woman at all. Social media of any kind, other than this blog, would just cause me to neglect my family. This is the forum God allows for me, knowing that the stress of having special needs children would draw me into escape mode with social media, wasting my mothering time. If there is ongoing stress or insecurities in our lives, social media can be more of a detriment than a help. God will let you know how many "medias" you can handle for His glory.

Incredibly, God uses this small blog. I wrote a post on self-pity as a sin years ago which brings a lot of hits, and a few on marriage that bring people. And because I write a good number of spiritual posts, I get random hits on all sorts of spiritual topics. Also, I have my testimony as a page on my blog, although not everyone finishes what they start reading, I dare say, depending on whether they're a seeker or not.

If you, like me, aren't much of a speaker and you don't travel frequently, and you don't minister in inner-cities or other places allowing you to share the Gospel, I encourage you to start a blog. It's free and it doesn't matter how many people read it, really, because God can bring the right people at the right time to your heartfelt words--people who may be either profoundly changed or prepped for the Hope in Jesus.

It doesn't matter if you're never aware of the spiritual success of your blog; comments don't matter, though they're nice when you need personal encouragement. Think of it as an obedience, if nothing else. We all have little testimonies of the work God is doing in our hearts and lives. These are stories meant to be told and in the information age we no longer need to get on a plane, train, bus, or vehicle to share the Gospel.

Maybe that is ideal because it's more personal, but with a little courage we can be personal with our words, even though we can't reach out and hug or share the joy in our eyes, with the recipients.

Just pray for the random hits, pray for your readers, and pray for the transparency needed to be up close and personal about God's work in your life.

1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

And if you share with other moms and other Christians, if your house is a mess, don't pretend that is isn't. If your house is modest and the veneer is chipping off your dining table, don't try to hide it. If you're a spiritual mess because you didn't read your Bible for a week or a month, don't try to hide that either. Talk about the glory of going back to the Word, and back to your Peace, because the Lord guarantees your success as a Christian. 

He never leaves you nor forsakes you, and that means also that he produces spiritual fruit in your life, guaranteed, even if it means making you miserable when you forget or fail to make time to read your Bible and pray.

Talk about all of it, while protecting your children with some amount of anonymity, if you deem it necessary. But don't try to be someone or something you're not. Be who God created you to be, in all your messiness, because it isn't about you at all. We're merely passing through here, with our eyes on Eternity, while we take advantage of the down payment on our inheritance--the Holy Spirit.

Ephesians 1:13-14 In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation-- having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of His glory.

If you hate writing but love creating, then make quilts, dolls, stuffed animals or whatever, and attach a Gospel message or spiritual story and donate your items to hospitals, perhaps, for patients who may be looking for Hope? Whatever work God has given you to do, do it for Him, boldly, and let go of the outcome. 

Because the outcome is His.

Scriptures about victory in Christ:

2 Timothy 1:7 For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

Isaiah 55:11 So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Deuteronomy 20:4 For the Lord your God is he who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory.’

2 Corinthians 2:14 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.

Luke 1:47-49 And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Romans 8:11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

What work has God given you, allowing you to share the Gospel?



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