Wednesday, September 26, 2012

All those funny saying that make me laugh!

How time does fly.  My little ones are growing up so fast.  I try hard to write down the sweet and funny things that they say so that I don't forget them.

Luke ( a boy in her class at school)told Bekah that he loved her and wanted to marry her. Bekah looked at him and told him that she had options and wasn't sure if she was going to marry him. She said that she might marry him or Crew or Josh or Max. Oh my!

I was giving my husband a hug and a kiss this morning while Hannah sat on the counter watching us. She piped up and said, "Keep your hands to your self!" We both just about fell on the floor laughing.

Hannah whispered to her Grandmom tonight, "If I eat too much, I'll get a baby in my tummy."

Hannah was telling Daddy about two books that the Berinstain Bears wanted to read, "The Three Fighting Kittens" and "The Three Billy Goats and the Gruff". Love how she mixes up the titles.

I wasn't feeling good yesterday and Hannah claimed she wasn't either. She looked at me and said, "Since we're not feeling good let's just not pick Bekah up from school today. Ok? " Umm. . . I think Bekah might have a problem with that.

Our van is in the shop, so we got a rental car. Bekah opened the door to get in today. She was very impressed. On the way to school she told me, "When I opened the door to the car I said, Gosh, then i GASPED because it was so beautiful." Make me laugh so hard.

Bekah, "I'm going to marry Crew!"
Papa, "Well, he has to talk to your daddy before he marries you." Bekah, "He can't ask my daddy. He doesn't know where our house is!"

Stephanie Writebol, so Bekah was sobbing before you were even in the car. Bekah said, "Allie told me not to tell you, but I'm going to tell you anyway. I am moving to Witchita, KS when I am grown up. I'm going to be next door neighbors to Allie. But don't worry mom, I'll still come visit you." Love how they are planning for the future.

Today I watched an advertisement with Bekah. At the end of it the guy said, "I am a mormon." Bekah looked at me with a question on her face and asked, "Why did he say he was a woman?"

Sayings from the girls from June, July, August, September

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Brazillian BBQ Bobby Crocker Style

Auntie Shonna and Hannah played in the bounce house before everyone came over.  I love how Shonna can be so involved in the girls lives.  They just adore her.  Bekah had a great time swinging on the rope swing inside the bounce house.

 Many years ago a bunch of us came up with a fun idea for a get together.  We (all the wives) thought it would be great fun to have our husbands cook for us and compete for prizes.  We set up some ground rules and invited everyone. 

 The rules: The guy has to choose the recipe. 
 He has to shop for the ingredients.  
He has to make the dish and present it to the girls.  
Then the wives would taste everything and vote on the best appetizer, main dish and dessert. 

 We decided to call this fun evert the Bobby Crocker Cook-Off.  We just had fun hanging out and enjoying each others fellowship.  We have been doing it for years.  Some times the girls cook sometimes the guys cook.  We don't care as long as we get to enjoy fantastic food.

On another note, the guys in our group like to go to San Fransisco and eat at the Brazillian BBQ restaurant.   This place serves every kind of meat cooked in amazing, yummy ways.  The guys always came back talking about all the amazing meat that they were able to enjoy.  It is expensive and most of the girls could never eat enough to make it worth while.  

SO I decided to combine the two events.  We had a Bobby Crocker Cookoff, Brazillian BBQ style.  The rules were slightly different this time.  You had to make some kind of a meat dish, plus bring a salad or dessert.   I guessed that we should have something to eat besides just meat.   I made a bunch of batches of Brazillian Cheese Puffs to enjoy too.

We had amazing food: Bacon wrapped Filet Mignon, Tri-tip, Smoked Ribs, Citris Roasted Chicken, Grilled Tuna, Pizza and more.  

 This was so much fun!  We'll definitly have to do this again.

Sue, Morris, Chris and Jared hang out waiting for dessert.  I was so busy eating that I didn't take any pictures until after the main course was finished. 

Can you believe that this is gluten free.  I made a GF version of Caffe Latte's Turtle Cake.  Yummy!

Our friends Karoly,  Alexandra and Madeline enjoyed the food and fellowship.


Byron and Toy

Sue and Morris

Kelly and Wendy

Love this sweet picture!

Our new friends came to the BBQ.  

Love the cute boots!

Adorable Madeline wants to say "Cheese" for the camera.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Gluten Free Apple Pie

I have been getting better at making baked goods that are gluten free.  It is pretty overwhelming at first and less than encouraging when the things I make turn out gross looking and nasty.  Here is how I work around GF issues.

My mom had made a bunch of apple pie filling and gave me a jar of it to use.  So use it I did.  I normally go to a recipe that I use often and love or I go to the The Pioneer Woman's Website or Pinterest and find a recipe that I want to try.  Today I searched Pioneer Woman's food blog and found a Perfect Pie Crust recipe.  I love how she takes pictures of everything and carefully goes step by step.  I used my Maninis gluten free flour and substituted that for the regular flour.  Since I really love butter, who doesn't right, I put 1 cup of butter and only 1/2 cup of shortening in to my pie dough.  I did find that I needed another 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup of flour to make the right consistency of pie dough.  Once the consistency was good, Hannah helped me wrap up the dough in plastic wrap and we went for a walk.  

When we got back we were ready to go.  When you are making pie with gluten free flour you definitely need to do things a little differently.  The dough has no gluten to hold it together and so it is a bit, ok a lot, fragile.  I normally lay down wax paper or plastic wrap and dust it with a good amount of GF flour.  Place the ball of dough on top, sprinkle some more flour and then another peice of wax paper or plastic wrap.  Roll out the dough to the desired thickness between the two sheets of paper.  Add flour as needed to keep it from sticking.  When it it ready, I roll it gently around my rolling pin and place it in my pie pan.  It will almost alway rip at some point in this process.  Just patch it back up and pretend it is rustic.  I dumped in my mom's pie filling and rolled out the top layer for the pie.  Once it was on and the edges were sealed, Hannah brushed on a beaten egg wash and then we popped it in the oven.   Since I didn't have the bake time for an apple pie I looked on pinterest and found this:  Double Crust Apple Pie.  So I baked it just like they recommended and it was perfect.  

I had a bunch of dough left over, so Hannah and I made pie crust cookies.  I wish I would have taken a picture.  They were beautiful and flaky and delicious.  We rolled out the left over dough.  Placed it on a cookie sheet and Hannah brushed the left over egg on each one.  Then we sprinkled on cinnamon and sugar and baked it.  They were amazing.  I want to make more pie dough just to make these again.

Of course Hannah had to eat like half of the dough.  I helped her since I too love pie dough.  Then she carefully licked up all the extra flour that spilled.  What a helper I have!!  Don't you just wish you had one of these?

And there you have it!  A perfect apple pie!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Finding Joy in the Dinner Rush

 So I am again reading through the book titled, One Thousand Gifts.   I read how the auther, Ann, describes how she so often feels like she is just going through life seeking meaning, seeking a reason to get up each day.  She discovered one day that the answer to her questions was JOY!

Joy is ultimately what we all seek.

It is true.  What is amazing about Joy is that you don't have to go anywhere exotic or do amazing things to find it.  You can find Joy---true, holy Joy here.  At home, in the midst of the laundry, surrounded by piles of dishes, complete with crayon on your walls: Joy is there if we seek it.

So often I get caught up in getting the kitchen cleaned up and dinner on the table all at the same time and I loose sight of joy.  This happened the other night.

Chris was laying down for a nap while I made dinner for our family.  The girls had been playing outside.  Then they started to argue and someone ended up hurt.  So I gave them each a chore to do.  This is so effective on helping them get a new perspective on life.  After Bekah put the plates on the table and Hannah did the silverware, they both wanted to help make dinner.

I love when they help and especially when they have such sweet attitudes about it.  I already had the rice started, the chicken cut and ready to cook.  I had the dish water ready in case I got a moment between things to wash a few dishes.  ( My idea of a perfect dinner is having every dish washed and drying by the time dinner is on the table.  It rarely happens, but I try)  Hannah eagerly pulled up a stepstool and got busy washing the dishes.  She did a great job and I didn't even have to redo any of them.

Then Bekah wanted to help with the cheese puffs.  Here is where the joy I had started to disappear.  It slowly faded as my sharp tongue and a need to get it all done perfectly entered the kitchen.  I really struggle when what I am doing is taking too long and I just want to get it done.   With a five year old helping that is bound to happen.

I kept snapping at Bekah to do this now or do that faster.  Then I would back off and let her help.  Only to turn around and snap at her again.

Why do I get frustrated at my kids and lose my joy?

They were only trying to help.  Bekah was peeling the garlic, breading the chicken, getting milk poured into glasses and Hannah was washing the dishes.  All these things my children were doing with a smile on their face and joy in their hearts.

 Then I see that the puffs have to go into the oven NOW so the chicken can get cooked and so the rice doesn't get cold.  Instead of holding onto my joy and responding to my children with gentleness and patience, I say "faster" and "I am busy. Stop asking me to help you!" and I get frustrated.

 God doesn't give up on me though.  He graciously keeps reminding me to encourage them, speak in love and hold onto the joy He gives me.  When I listen to Him, my words turn into, "Good job with the dishes." "I love it when you help your momma with a happy heart. " "Thank-you for doing such a great job."  I start to feel the joy bubbling up inside of me and it spills out onto my sweet little girls.  It affects my whole family.

I reward their joyful attitudes and helping hands with beads in our good bead jar.  They smile and hug me.   I remember why I am here and my heart is full of love.  The frustration and irritation melt away.

I think about the fact that God has placed me here to teach them and guide them.  I am here to show them God's way which is always so much better than our way.  I can show them joy.

The other night, my sinful nature and a desire to have the "perfect" dinner almost got the best of me.  Many times it does.  But this time the Holy  Spirit nudged me enough to turn the tide.  We sat down to a peaceful meal with happy children that helped prepare it and a mommy who is one step closer to a heart full of joy.

I need to be constantly reminded of the little things I have that bring joy.   God is so faithful in opening my eyes to let me see His blessings.

Finding joy in discovering my little one cutting up plastic bags under our dinning room table.  Smiling as I see her learning a new skill.  Letting go of the mess.

Hannah and I made play dough the other day.  I loved seeing her playing and making cookies for me.  I chose to let go of the fact that play dough was getting all over the floor.  Joy is a choice.  Each moment of the day I can choose joy or get upset about the messes and the things around me that I don't like.  Or I can relax and just enjoy the special moments that God gives me.

  With Bekah at school now,  Hannah gets to help me out with all sorts of things.  We made an apple pie the other day.  She helped me measure everything.  I choose to let go of the fact that the flour was getting all over her.  Hannah was such a great help and licked the bowl and the spoons as well as helped taste the dough over and over.  While I was doing dishes I heard her giggling.  When I turned around, this was the sight that met my eyes.  She licked that whole counter top clean.  My initial reaction was to tell her no and clean her up.  Then I jumped into the moment with her and grabbed my camera giggling the whole time.

The we got an apple pie to eat!  It was a pie that was made with joy and love.  

What could be better than that?  

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Gluten Free: How Do I Start?

There are so many people who have just been diagnosed with Celiac Disease or Gluten Intolerance.  It can be an overwhelming experience at first.  Having a place to turn to or someone to answer your questions makes all the difference in the world.  Since I have been answering a lot of questions about being Gluten Free (GF) I thought I would just put it all here on my blog.  

First of all: What is Celiac Disease?  How is it different from Gluten Intolerance?

Since others have stated it so much better than I, I am going to just include a few links that I found very helpful. At the begining it is really good to read all you can about your diagnosis.  You need to understand what it is and how it affects your body.  These sites discuss how to get diagnosed as well as tests to have once you have been diagnosed.

Celiac disease-Sprue  This has great definitions, symptoms, getting diagnosed and other things.  This site has some great resources.  I used the list they have of foods that are safe to eat and ingredients that contain wheat.   Whey is good even if it looks close to wheat.  Things to look for, malt, licorice, and graham flour are BAD!

Allergen Free Candy  This was the best site I found for a list of allergens in candy.  This is super helpful so that you know what should be safe to eat when you just want something sweet.

 I also recommend this website: - check out the pages on ingredients and labeling. This magazine does its own excellent research and debunks a lot of myths.

 Buy some books that talk about Celiac disease.  My friend gave me some and they were really helpful.  I just finished the book, Celiac Disease:  A Guide to Living with Gluten Intolerance by Sylvia Llewelyn Bower.  It was so helpful hearing about other peoples journeys to health.  You are not alone.

Where do I find Gluten Free food?

You must find where to shop and where to find Gluten Free (GF) food in your area.  The stores in my area (Northern California)  that carry GF foods are Whole Foods (lots of baking things), Olivers (all their GF things have purple tags-very helpful), G&G Market (slightly cheaper),  Safeway and Trader Joes (they have a print out of all their GF food). 

 Remember that all stores will have food you can eat.  If you stay on the perimeter of the store most of this food is naturally GF.  Dairy, meat, fruits and veggies are all naturally GF and you have a lot of choices in the whole food category.  Most of the items in a regular store that are in the middle of the store will contain wheat.  Stores that sell Gluten free foods will have them all grouped in one section and/or all over the store.  They might have gluten free flour next to the wheat flour, GF crackers next to the regular crackers, ect.  I have found that they keep the GF freezer items together for the most part.  I always buy the frozen pizza crust (Udi's is good) and then have it in the freezer until I want a yummy pizza.

How do I set up my kitchen?

Then you have to figure out how to safely set up your kitchen.  You really need to read every single label on every single thing in the entire kitchen.  I found out that the Pam spray (only one kind) had wheat in it.   All soup will contain wheat.  Soy sauce, ice cream, Nesquik and so much more contains wheat.  Read everything.  I found it helpful to have the list containing ingredients that were safe/not safe on hand during the initial purge.

 If it says it was processed in a place that processes wheat, you can not eat it.  It is contaminated (I found out the hard way.) 

 All shelves and all utensils that might have gotten contaminated with flour need to be washed down thoroughly.  Basically, empty every drawer and wash everything.  Flour gets every where and on everything.

Get rid of all wood and stone ware (unless you put tin foil over the stoneware first, like a pizza stone) plus any utensil with scratches in it.  You can not get them clean. 

Since my husband and my kids could still eat wheat, I kept some regular bread, crackers, pasta and snacks for them.  I put all the things containing gluten in a separate shelf in the laundry room.  It is way safer to get rid of all gluten flour and replace it with gluten free flour. 

 I got NEW plastic containers for the main flours that I use.  I labeled them with a sharpie. 

 You will need a new cutting board that is used for all GF prep.  You also need your own colander.  Parchment paper is great since you can use it on your old cookie sheets and your food won’t be contaminated.

Definitely get a new toaster pronto.   A speck of wheat bread can set off the autoimmune response and you're getting more than that from the toaster. (I've heard a celiac researcher say that even a microscopic amount causes harm.)

 Gluten can be washed off any smooth non-porous surface with soap and water. So smooth ceramic, glass, and metal should be fine. Non-stick surfaces are controversial -- some people say they are fine, others say no. Anything with a texture or scratches, nooks and crannies, etc. can be a problem because they can't be thoroughly cleaned (ceramic plates with raised designs, colanders, waffle iron, panini maker, scratched-up old teflon pans or griddles,  spatulas. There aren't any hard guidelines for these things, but if you are having symptoms, err on the side of caution.

 I pre-scrub gluten off of plates and utensils before they go in the dishwasher because my dishwasher is not 100% perfect at cleaning and I want to get big chunks off before they get "glued" on there.
 You should have separate butter and condiments, or make sure everyone in the house is capable of not "double-dipping" when they spread mayo or peanut butter on bread. Only a clean knife should go in the jars, not one that's been used to spread something on wheat bread. Squeeze bottles are useful.

 Products: Remember that "wheat-free" does not mean "gluten-free" because there are non-wheat sources of gluten (barley, rye and oats). Even "gluten-free" does not yet have a legal definition (the FDA is working on it), and a product labeled gluten-free can legally be so heavily cross-contaminated with gluten that it could make a person with celiac very sick. So especially in the beginning, you may want to choose products that have a certification label on them, that state they are tested to less than 20 ppm gluten (parts per million), or that are made in a dedicated gluten-free facility.  So if it's a product you eat often, it's definitely worth it to call the company and see what their policy is. You can find out a lot by just the reaction of the person answering your call - do they understand what you are talking about, do they have a clear, prepared statement and policy? It's handy to keep a record of those responses because it's hard to keep them straight after the first few.

Remember that everything that goes on or in your mouth must be gluten-free, including vitamins, supplements, medicine, lipstick, communion wafers, etc. Non-food products are not covered by the food allergen labeling law (the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004) and so they can have wheat that is hidden. You do not need to worry about other personal care products (lotion, shampoo) because the gluten molecule is too big to go through the skin.

What do I eat now?

For all those that love their carbs, you have to find a good replacement.  I tried so many of the gluten free flours out there.  So many had a nasty after taste or weird texture.  The bread that you can buy is very expensive and not that great.  It is very dense and turns to mush easily.  I have found an awesome flour that I use exclusively now.  It is bought through the Maninis Gluten Free company.  This is a great flour that is made from ancient grain. It looks like flour and tastes like flour.   You can order it online at their website.  This makes great home made bread.  It is fluffy and soft, plus it's delicious.  It is actually less than $3.00 a loaf and that includes the flour, shipping and handling, and other ingredients.   It can be substituted in just about every recipe you have.  I use regular recipes from Pinterest and my own recipes and they almost always turn out great.

 Home made bread with Maninis flour

Dryers and Bryers has wheat free ice cream.  Stay away from ice cream that contains cookies or something that has wheat.  

 See's Candy is safe, but read on ALL other chocolate products, even Godiva.

  All Boar's Head deli products are safe.  I have found that most prepackaged deli meat is gluten free.  Just read the label.

Xanthan Gum, corn starch, and guar gum are all good, they are thickeners.  

We found an awesome pasta, Bionature, hard to tell the difference with the real thing.

Snacks that are safe: Most chips (no Doritos), watch the seasoning on some.  Popcorn is great, pudding, Jello,  and Cheetos.  

We eat a lot of cheese. 

 BeKind bars are the best bars that I've found, Four Kind if you can find them there are really good too.


We eat a lot of tacos.  Most of the corn tortillas are safe to eat.  Just make sure they are not processed in a factory that uses wheat.  I shred the left over chicken or pork that we had for dinner the previous night and use it for the tacos.  This is normally what I eat for lunch when I am home.

 Any meat, use individual seasonings, a lot of the premixed kind has wheat it in. 

 Mrs. Dash is safe and really good. 

 If you want a good side, cook up so cauliflower, mash it like potatoes and add butter, garlic, parmesan, with a bit of salt and pepper (it's healthier than potatoes). 

 We also substitute acorn squash and spaghetti squash a lot for pasta/starches.  The Bionature Pasta is great.  So is the Quinoa Pasta.  I found that the rice noodles are gummy and not that great.  Maninis makes a fresh pasta found in the refrigerator section.  It is a really good pasta and tastes like wheat pasta.

Some good meals that make a leftovers, which are really nice for the week's lunches, dinners are stew, chili, chicken and rice packets, and baked chicken with veggies and potatoes.

  Lettuce wraps are a great substitute for sandwiches.  

Chex cereal (Rice and Corn chex) are gluten free.  Some corn flakes are too.  Rice Crispies makes a GF Rice Crispies.  

All oatmeal is contaminated with wheat in the oat fields.  Only buy the GF Oatmeal that has been grown in special fields and tested to make sure it is safe.

I always have rice cakes on hand.  They are good with cream cheese or nut butters.  I finally just bought the Costco size individual packs of cream cheese so that I could throw one in my lunch with a few rice cakes.

The pasta I mentioned above makes a great macaroni and cheese!

Energy Bites  These are awesome!  My girls absolutely love helping me make them and they love to eat them too.  They are healthy little bites of oatmeal, nut butters, coconuts, craisons/raisons and any other add ins  you want.  Perfect for a snack or a substitute for a sandwich.

Brazillian Cheese Puffs  Ok, these are the best thing ever!!!!!!  They are little puffs of bread that is crunchy and salty and amazing.  I make these 3-4 times a week for dinner.  Every person that tastes them asks for the recipe.  I don't mind not eating rolls if I can have these.  

Coconut Chocolate Pie  This is one of the first pies I made when I was gluten free.  I love that the pie crust is coconut.  It is amazing and tastes just like a Mounds Bar.

Have fun experimenting with your meals and snacks.   Just because you can't eat most of the fast food and processed food out there doesn't mean you have to eat nasty tasting stuff.   I think I actually eat healthier and better food than I used to now.  You'll start out with a handful of things and soon end up with tons of stuff that you know is safe to eat.

Please be aware that many chapsticks and lipsticks will contain gluten and can make you sick.  Be aware that anything you put on your body(ie. lotion) and comes in contact with your hands and thereby your mouth can and will make you sick.  Read all labels of everything!!

What do you do about the rest of the family?

I did get rid of all the gluten in the house that would be used in main meals.  Since my family isn't gluten free, I have a section set aside for their snacks and pasta.  I am very careful to clean up the table after they spread their gluteny crumbs all over it.  I normally just put the washcloth straight into the washer after I know it has wheat on it.  All the meals that I cook are gluten free and my family eats them along with me.  There are times, like at breakfast, that I'll get my own meal while they eat wheat toast or cereal.  You'll find what works for you.

Getting a Good Doctor

Find a good doctor that really listens to you and is doing all the tests to see that you are as healthy as you can be.  My doctor didn’t do a biopsy and by the time I realized I should have had one it was too late.  He didn’t do any tests to see if my body was deficient in vitamins or minerals and such.  I finally found a great doctor that is doing all the tests to see where I am.  She had a plan to follow up with me in three months with a biopsy to see if my intestines are healing.  Ask around and find someone good.  This is your life we are talking about.

How do I eat out safely?

Always take food with you if you don’t know they have something gluten free.   I always carry BE Kind bars (these are really good!!) with me.  I take a bar or fruit to church each Sunday since there is rarely something I can eat.  Don’t be afraid to go places or have people over.  I find it is much easier to have people over to my house.  I can prepare safe food and once they learn how to make GF food, they can help bring stuff too.

I have figured out that all restaurants with a cook that is not professionally trained is a dangerous place to eat.  I have gotten very, very sick even after asking a bunch of questions and getting something simple to prepare.

Places that have a professionally trained Chef will understand how to safely prepare your food.  Applebees, Outback, Mary's Pizza and Flavor are four safe restaurants to go to in Santa Rosa.  The Cheesecake Factory and PF Changs can easily make you GF amazing food.   Always ask to speak to the manager about your food before ordering.  They should know what is safe and what is not.  Beware that most of the steaks (besides the very expensive ones) all come preseasoned and are contaminated with wheat.  I find that I rarely eat out now and that I normally will try to do so on a night that I don't have to work, just in case I get sick afterword.

I love ice cream and have gone to most of the stores around here.  The frozen yogurt places are great since there is no risk of contamination if it is GF to begin with.  Cold Stone made me sick once when they mixed my ice cream on the counter used to mix other ice cream.  If it says cake batter or that it contains cookies, it will have gluten in it.

Now What?

Dive into this head first with a smile.  Things will be different but not bad.   Your attitude will make all the difference in the world.  Little by little you will find a bunch of people that live GF and it is like being part of your own special club.  I thank God every day that I was diagnosed.   I finally feel healthy and good.  I don’t remember ever feeling this good.  It is like a new lease on life for me and for you too.  Embrace it and have fun with it.  Experience the joy of having your first really good GF cookie or peice of bread.  I get so excited when I find a new really great recipe.  

About six moths after diagnosis you should ask your doctor about getting your antibodies rechecked (the tTg-IgA test) to make sure you are not accidentally consuming gluten. Thereafter, celiac experts recommend that your antibodies be checked annually. You may want to ask about annual thyroid testing and getting a bone density check. Most celiacs have low bone density at diagnosis. It's good to see a nutritionist. A registered dietitian is best, if you have access to one, and ask about getting tested to see how you are absorbing vitamins and minerals.

Friday, September 07, 2012

My Journey to Thankfulness: Part Two

So contines my journey into finding out how to change my life by becoming more and more thankful.

I copied words from the book, One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp, into my journal.  Words and ideas that I did not wish to forget.  Here are some more of her words.

"How do I live?  Am I living a life fully alive or with empty meaningless motions?  How do I want to live?

Jesus, the God-man who came to save me from prisons of fear and guilt and depression and sadness.  With an expiration of less than twelve hours what does Jesus count as all most important?

" "And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them. " "  Luke 22:19

He gave thanks is the word eucharisteo.  The root word of eucharisteo is charis, meaning "grace".  Jesus took the bread, saw it as grace and gave thanks.  He knew it was a gift.

The derivative of charis is a greek word, Chara, meaning, "joy".  That has always been the goal of the fullest life-joy.  I long for more life, for more Holy Joy.  Was this the clue to the quest of all most important?  Deep chara joy is found only at the table of the euCharisteo-the table of thanksgiving.  Is the height of my chara joy dependent on the depths of my eucharisteo thanks?

 As long as thanks is possible, then joy is always possible.  Joy is always possible.  Whenever, meaning-now; whereever, meaning here.

Charis.  Grace

Euscharisteo.  Thanksgiving.

Chara.   Joy.

Eucharisteo-thanksgiving-always precedes the miracle.

Non-eucharisteo, ingratitude, was the fall-humanity's discontent with all tha tGod freely gives.  That is what has scraped me raw: ungratefulness.  Then to find Eden, the abundance of Paradise.  I'd need to forsake my non-eucharisteo, my bruised and bloodied ungrateful life, adn grab hold to eucharisteo, a lifestyle of thanksgiving.

If our fall was the non-eucharisteo, the ingratitude, then salvation must be intimately related to eucharisteo, the giving of thanks.  We only enter into the full life if our faith gives thanks."

As Ann kept pondering Thanksgiving and joy and the grace that God gives us she tried to find a way to make it real in her life.  She wanted it to change her at her very core.  A friend of hers challenged her to write a list of a thousand things that she loved.  This is how it started: in her own words.

"Could I write a list of a thousand things I loved?

To name one thousand blessings-one thousand gifts-is that what she means?  Sure, whatever.

I begin the list.  Not of gifts I want, but of gifts I already have.  They make me smile. They are just the common things and maybe I don't even know they are gifts really, until I write them down and that is really what they look like.  Gifts HE bestows.  This writing it down-it is sort of like . . . unwrapping love.

Well, if all these were gifts that God give-then wasn't me writing down the list like. . . receiving.  Like taking with thanks.

Paul writes, "I have learned how to be content with whatever I have.  I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything.  I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether i is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little."  Philippians 4:11-12

There it is-the secret to living joy in every situation, the full life of eucharisteo.  Paul had to learn.  I would have to learn eucharisteo.

Thanks is what multiplies the joy and makes any life large, and I hunger for it.

The discovery that naming offers the gift recognition-that is priceless.

This naming really does call now a gift, a gift from God.  I look at a day, a thing, an event in front of me, and it may look manna-strange: "What is it?"  But when I name it, the naming of it manifests its meaning: to know it comes from God.  This is a gift.

In naming that which is right before me, that which I'd otherwise miss, the invisible becomes visible.

The space that spans my inner emptiness fills in the naming.

God is in the details;  God is in the moment.

God is in all that blurs by in a life-even hurts in a life.

Though pastors preached it, I still came home and griped on.  I had never practiced.  Practiced until it became second nature.

I am happy in all these little things God gives.  I laugh.  I am changed!  Surprised by joy!

Joy is the realest reality, the fullest life, and joy is always given, never grasped.  God gives gifts and I give thanks and I unwrap the gift given: JOY!

Gratitude for the seemingly insignificant-a seed-this plants the giant miracle.  Do not distain the small.  Thw whole of the life-even the hard-is made up of the minute parts, and if I miss the small moments, I miss the whole.  Give thanks in this one small thing.  The moments will add up."

And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Ephesians 5:20

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The more of her book that I read, the more I was challenged.  I had heard so many times growing up that I needed to give thanks to God and not grumble and complain.  I often thanked God for the big things He did for me and sometimes for the little things too.  But I had so made a habit of complaining out loud and in my heart.  It was going to be hard to break that.  But I was determined to try.

I got out my journal that my sister had given me.  And I started a new chapter in my life.  I figured I had to try to reach at least one hundred things.  I was going for a thousand, but that is a lot!!  When I tried to  thank God for things I normally gave up after I thought of all the obvious things and I got bored.

 At first my list of gifts God had given me were simple.  My husband's faithful love,  Hannah's slobbery kisses, I whispered "I love you" from Bekah, Warm patches of sunlight on the floor, little girls laughter, God, the smell of freshly baked bread.  I thought that I would just start out that way and some where along the way I would have really spiritual insights of the gifts God gave me.  As I kept writing His gifts down day after day, I realized that He poured his blessing on me continually.  I had never really looked for them.  All the little things that He did for me I had never named and so had never truly received them as a gift.  I was slowly starting to see His gifts all around me.  I started to write down the experiences that God had given me that blessed me: *Worship songs sung with our congregation.  Truth in each word.  Worship of our great God.  *Two deliveries at work.  They were born lifeless, after working on them, they were fine and stayed with their mommies. Such a miracle. * Hannah asked Jesus into her heart tonight.  She loves God with all her heart.  What a wonderful day.  *I went to wake Hannah from her nap today.  Her room was flooded with sunlight.  She was asleep all spawled out on the bed, wearing her bumblebee dress and Chris's Fourty-niner socks pulled up to her knees. That made me smile.  *My attitude with the girls has been so good lately.  I am calm and quiet instead of grumpy.  *Bekah is enjoying school and learning so much.  * New friends made today.  Excited about having them over to our house.

God was working in my heart in such amazing ways.  I started really focusing on all the little things that God has given me, all the tiny blessings.  I found myself smiling more.  I was experiencing more joy in my heart and more peace too as I focused on all the blessings God gives to me.  Why had I never done this before?  Well, I can tell you that I wanted that to continue to be my daily attitude.   I still fall back into the habit of complaining, but now it is just so much easier to snap out of it and start thanking Him again.

I challenge each of you to read this book and start your own list of One Thousand Gifts.  Oh, how have I done on my list.  Well, I made it to 100 gifts and kept going.  Over the last eight months I have continued to look for and record the gifts I see.  I am at 807 right now.  I am aiming for 1000 and then I will keep going.  This is going to be a habit that I hope to continue for many, many years.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

My Journey to Thankfulness: Part One

Almost a year ago my sister, Megan, had recommended a book to me.  She had borrowed it from the library and had read a part of it and loved it.  It was called One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.  I wrote it down on my wish list for Christmas and forgot all about it.

On Christmas I received this book as a gift.  My sister also sent me a gift of a beautiful journal with a picture of my family on it and the words, Things I love . . . , written on the front.  After reading the book she recommended, I started using it in a way that would help me refocus my thoughts and bring praise and glory to God.

But I am getting ahead of myself.  I have waited quite some time to share this with my bloggy friends out there.  I wanted to read the book cover to cover and allow its message to work on my heart.  Today I want to share with you things that have challenged me as well as encouraged me over the last eight months.

 One Thousand Gifts is a book describing the journey of one woman through her loss of a sister at the age of four years old to a place of peace and thanksgiving to God.  It is her insights to different things that God did in her life to change the way she thought about Him and related to Him.  I love the way she is able to put words on a page.  The way that she encouraged me to start looking for the gifts that God had given me.  This is about her journey to write down one thousand gifts that God had given her and how it changed her life.

As I read her book I wrote down things that I wanted to remember in my journal.   They are things that challenged me or opened up my eyes a bit more to what God has done for me.  I am going to share a few of those things with you.  So here goes. . .

All that is in italics are quotes from her book.  I do not wish to plagiarize, just share with you a bit of what she shared.

"It started with Satan, in the garden, wanting more power, more glory.  He is an ingrate.  Satan's sin became the first sin of all humanity: the sin of ingratitude.  Adam and Eve are, simply, painfully, ungrateful for what God gave.

Our fall was, has always been, and always will be, that we aren't satisfied in God and what He gave.  We hunger for something more, something other.  They saw God as He truly was: good.  But we are lured by the deception that there is something better.  After the fall we no longer see God for who He really is or perceive Him as wholly good.   We try to fill our emptiness.  But God has a purpose for each one of us.  ""His secret purpose framed from the beginning is to bring us to our full glory."" I Corinthians 2:7  He means to return us to our full Glory.

Grace: it means favor.  A free and ready favor.  We choose to take the grace offered at the cross.  Do we CHOOSE to live each day as one being filled with His grace?  It is a choice, each moment, each day.

As we go through life and face really hard trials where we have to seek God or turn away, what will be my choice?  Will I let Him nourish me and work through me to see His grace and love?

I wonder too . . . if the rent in the canvas of our life backdrop, the losses that puncture our world, or own emptiness, might actually become places to see.

To see through to God.

That that which tears open our souls, those holes that splatter our sight, may actually become the thin, open places to see through the mess of this place to the heart-aching beauty beyond.  To Him. . . To the God whom we endlessly crave.       Maybe so.

But how?  How do we fully live-to live full of grace and joy and all that is beauty eternal?  This is a dare to live an emptier, fuller life."

That was just a peak at the first chapter.  What she said made me start thinking about the choice that I make each and every day.  Am I making a choice to be ungrateful to God and ignore all that He has done for me?  Or I am making a conscience choice to be thankful for all He has give me, all He has done for me?

 When I think about it, I am over come with thanksgiving for His grace and His blessings on my life.  He saved me as a small child from a life that was in bondage to sin and to Satan.  I am now free to serve Him and love Him.  He has covered me with grace and love and mercy.  I don't deserve any of that.  But He has given all that to me and made me into the woman that He wants me to be.

But how often do I really think of all He has done for me.  How often do I praise Him for the big things He does?  Do I ever really thank Him for all the little things?  The more I thought about it, the more I realized that so often I was making the choice to complain and grumble about all that didn't go my way.  I wasn't really looking for the blessings that God gave to me daily.  I decided to make a choice to start doing that.  But how does one just start being thankful day in and day out?  The rest of the book helped me to change my daily habits into ones that turned more and more toward God and all He had done for me.

This is one of my greatest blessings!

Sunday, September 02, 2012

What is it like to be a NICU Nurse?

I have been a NICU nurse since I graduated in 2003.  I was hired at my first interview at Children's Hospital in Oakland, California.  It was a great experience and was everything I had ever dreamed of.  God allowed multiple circumstances into my life to bring me to the place where I am now, Sutter Medical Center of California.  I have been working in Sutter's NICU for the last 8 1/2 years.

I absolutely love my job working with sick newborns and premature babies.  People always ask if how I can stand to work with the babies.  They think it is too hard.  But most days it is amazing and wonderful.  I am assigned one to three babies to take care of depending on how sick they are.

The really sick babies need one or two nurses taking care of them every minute.

 I love these babies.

I love making sure that they get the absolute best care possible.  I try to find little ways for their parents to bond with them and see them as their sweet treasure instead of a little one that they are separated from.   I personalize their care by making a cute name card for them.  I want the parents to know that we see them as a person and not just "the seizure baby" or "the vent baby".   I help them learn how to touch their baby in a way that brings comfort to them.  They are encouraged to talk to them and get involved in their care.

 These babies are challenging as they require vital signs at least every hour, sometimes every 10 minutes or more often.  They have central lines (IV's in the belly buttons), antibiotics, other meds, xrays, suctioning.  Often they are on oxyen support with a ventilator, CPAP (a tube on their nose that pushes air into their lungs making it easier to breathe) or other support.  They  often forget to breathe and turn blue in seconds if you don't open their airway, suction them or just touch them to remind them to breathe.  It sounds overwhelming, but it is just second nature to me now.  I can figure out what they need quickly and step in to make it right and settle them down.  It is amazing holding a fragile life in your hands and realizing that you are part of the big picture in helping them to heal.

I also enjoy the preemies who are in our unit learning how to eat and trying to grow big enough to keep their temperature up all by themselves.  We call them our grower/feeders.  For the most part, these babies are past all the issues they faced when they were just born.  They can breathe with little to no support, we can wrap them in blankets and hold them instead of keeping them on a table with just their diaper on and they are learning how to eat.

 The nights I take care of two or three of these babies are so relaxing for me.  I still have to take their vital signs and monitor them carefully, but I also get to snuggle them in my arms as I feed them.  There is nothing like rocking a tiny infant who has fallen asleep in your arms while the unit is quiet and calm.  (I work nights and in between admissions we have very quiet and peaceful times in the unit)  I'm not allowed to kiss them, but I do love stroking their foreheads and smelling the sweet baby smell.  My favorite babies are the 3-5 pound infants.  They just fit in my arms perfectly.

 On good nights with no potential admissions looming over us, I bathe them.  Often I wrap them in a blanket and let them soak in the tub under a warmer.  This allows a baby that normally would flail and cry through a bath to just relax and almost go to sleep.  They have been hurt by us so often that they really need time where they can feel soothed when they are touched.  I love doing little things like this for babies that have been in the NICU for months and have had so many painful experiences.  A gentle, calm touch goes a long way.

Most nights however, are not spent in direct patient care with a baby.  I am often the charge nurse on my unit.  When I'm in charge the night for me can be calm or super crazy.  My basic duties are to complete all the paper work, do a few audits, give breaks to every nurse on my unit and generally help out a nurse who has a busy assignment.  If a mother/baby nurse needs someone to assess her baby to see if it needs to be admitted to the NICU, the charge nurse will do that as well.

Here are some of the fun L&D nurses that call me to the high risk deliveries.  Love those girls!

 I am also the go-to-girl for every high risk delivery.  If an Labor and Delivery (L&D) nurse thinks that a baby may have a problem, she will call me to attend the delivery.  (can I tell you how cool it is to see so many babies brought into the world!!!)   I attend the delivery of all babies who heart rates are consistently dropping during contractions, have meconium (baby poop) in the amniotic fluid, need a vacuum to get them out, are premature or just looks "bad" on the fetal monitoring strip.  Many times the baby will need a few minutes of help at the beginning and then they are fine and can stay with their momma.  However, they sometimes need quite a bit of help and/or need more monitoring and help than they can get in the room with the mom.  At that point we take them to the NICU to admit them.

Normally I will do the full admission on them since everyone else has a full assignment already.  Our team is awesome though.  If the NICU nurses are not actively caring for their patient, they will come over and help out.  A stable NICU admission requires at least 4 hours of hands on care and paperwork to get everything ready for the next nurse.  If they are sick and need a lot of intervention, they will generally need 2-3 nurses helping out for 4-8 hours to get everything done and to get them stable.  I enjoy these nights too. It is a challenge to me to give them excellent care while still getting everything else done.

Mother/Baby staff that I love working with.

Occasionally we get a call from the ER asking us to come help start an IV on a patient that they can't get.  Normally it is on a newborn or one year old.  Their veins are sometimes smaller than the lead in a pencil.  They are very difficult to start IV's on.  I've gotten called down for several babies/toddlers and I'm proud to say, got every IV start but one.  It is a whole lot different starting IV's on bigger kids who fight back really hard but still don't know enough words to tell you to go away.  Most of the kids are too sick to fuss much anyway.

That is my life on most of the nights that I work in the NICU.  I have great days!  Days where I go home and can say that I have literally saved a babies life.  They are hard days, but so rewarding.

This is the hospital where I work.   I love working for Sutter.  One of the paramedics that came to the ER to drop off a patient had said, "Kaiser has the gold, Memorial has God, and Sutter has Soul!"  I totally loved it.  We do have soul.  The people that work at Sutter are passionate about what they do and we strive for excellence.