Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Brotherly Love

The light through the window changed, so there are some bad shadows on their faces in these, but their expressions are hilarious! You'd think they hang out with me all day or something!
Ladan was sharing some toast with Gabe (below), and Gabe was so excited his head was spinning!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Healthy Foods at School... and the Ice Cream Man

I was watching the local news tonight, and they did a report on the new healthy lunches they're offering kids at the public schools this year. I think the traditional hot lunch is still an option, but I can't be sure. In any case, one of the options is to choose a "boxed" lunch... basically an assortment of "healthy" foods that represent all the foods groups put into a clear plastic disposable container.

First of all, can you even imagine the number of those plastic containers the school district will go through in a single day... let alone an entire school year... or many school years?!? Talk about a ridiculous amount of waste. As if the packaging from the individually packaged items inside isn't enough.

And more importantly, these are just a few of the healthy items I saw in the lunch boxes: chopped veggies, fruit, Scooby snacks, an "Uncrustables" peanut butter and jelly sandwich, etc.

Okay, obviously the veggies and fruit were healthy options, but come on... an Uncrustables sandwich? It's white bread with peanut butter made with hydrogenated oils and way too much jelly for the size of the sandwich. Scooby snacks? Now, I'm not going to go legalistic and say that one can never eat any of these items for any reason, but putting them in a school lunch and calling it healthy is over the top in my mind.

It's no wonder the lunch prices are going up this year... the problem is that most of the money will likely be thrown in the garbage every day.

Sorry for the soapbox post. I'll move on to other more productive conversations next time.

Actually, while I'm here, maybe I'll go ahead and ask this question: Do the ice cream men who drive through your neighborhood creep you out more than they did when you were a kid yourself? Or maybe it's not the men themselves but the fact that the ice cream trucks look like they're literally about to fall apart if they go over one more railroad track that makes me think it's all a little shady? Now, I'm not afraid of the ice cream men in a way that makes me think they're going to pull out a gun on me or something, but if I'm honest I think I'll say that I'll probably teach my kids to run INTO the house when the ice cream truck comes through. Am I crazy, or what?

Better Pizza

Last night, Ladan and I made pizza for dinner. We put chicken, broccoli, and green onions on most of it, and Ladan chose ham and a little bit of broccoli and a few green onions to put on his portion. I love how he says onions. He pronounces it, "un-ee-uns" as if there are three syllables instead of two. He was so excited to help cook our meal, and he actually touched the gooey dough! He's making progress for sure!

Anyway, we were sitting at the table eating, and Ladan randomly said, "This is not Papa John's. Papa John's is better pizza. Papa John's." And then he kept on eating as if he didn't say anything funny at all. Chet and I burst out laughing, and he looked at us like we were crazy.

For those of you who don't know, Papa John's is headquartered here in Louisville, so it's not surprising that he's heard this slogan a time or two, but it's so random that I never would have expected him to say it out loud... especially since I don't think we've even eaten Papa John's pizza at all in the last two years or so.

On an almost equally exciting note, my chiropractor is back in town after two weeks of having a sub fill in for him. The sub was very kind but just couldn't adjust my back nearly as well as Dr. O'Neil. I had my one-month evaluation, and despite a slight setback the last two weeks, I'm in much better condition. After the evaluation, he did my adjustment, and it was AMAZING! I tend to be very flexible, which makes adjusting my spine more challenging, and yet he can get the adjustments done thoroughly and relieve all the areas of tension in less than 10 minutes. I am seriously so thankful for the opportunity to go and get these adjustments! If you're a person who has back pain, tension problems, headaches, nerve issues, etc., I highly recommend Dr. Dana O'Neil!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Raising Gentlemen

We had a few errands to run today. At one of our stops, the doors were light enough for Ladan to open, so he held the door for me as I pushed Gabe through. Afterwards, I said something like, "Thanks, Bud! You were being a gentleman when you held the door open and helped me. A gentleman is a man who helps others."

He replied, "Yeah, I'm the man." He doesn't even know what this phrase means and was certainly not saying it in a prideful way, but it came out so funny that I laughed out loud. What a great kid!

And here are a couple stories that show we still need some more training....

When we were traveling last weekend, we stopped at the gas station to fuel up, use the restroom, and get a quick snack. A larger woman walked into the restroom, and Ladan asked, "Mom, does she have a big tummy?" Yikes!

A few days before that, we were at an appointment, and a very large lady walked through the door we were exiting. I asked Ladan to step back and help hold the door for her so she could come through (which I would have done if she was 4'10'' and 85 pounds). He said, "Mom, that lady has a big body." Oh gracious!

The thing is that he wasn't speaking maliciously in either of the situations. He was simply stating the facts very politely. Compared to a very tall and skinny 4-year-old, their tummies/bodies were very big. He just has an uncanny ability to state the facts at the most inopportune times. In both situations, we've walked outside, and I've had to explain that, even if those things are true, we just don't say them. I had to explain that, even though adults are constantly telling kids how cool it is that they're getting bigger and bigger, it's not seen as very nice when people talk about adults being big. This is a pretty difficult concept for a kid to understand... that for half of the population, it's seen as a compliment to say that someone is big, and for the other half, it's seen as hurtful and even shameful in some cases.

I'm thankful to the Lord that Ladan doesn't automatically see a large person and think negative thoughts. If he did, it would surely come out in his tone. I'm still trying to figure out how I can explain that he shouldn't say this stuff out loud in a way that makes sense to him and that doesn't cause him to think negative things that he wouldn't have thought otherwise. Any helpful ideas?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep

Oh my goodness. I cannot stop crying! I watched a news report on our local news station a little over an hour ago about a family who lost their little girl just a few minutes after she was born. They knew she was not likely to live through birth, and if she did, she would most likely die very shortly after. So they asked a photographer from a volunteer organization called Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep to come and take photos of their precious little girl while they still had her.

I went to their website, and wow! You just have to check it out. (There is a song that plays at the beginning, so you might want to turn on your speakers.) Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep is a network of about 3200 professional and advanced amateur photographers who volunteer their services to families who are expecting a stillborn child or anticipating that their child may not live long after birth. It gives the parents and families a way to remember their little one. To see some of the images, go to the start page, click on "Our Work" and then on "Image Gallery". These photos are breathtaking! There is one that captures the tiny hands of a baby born at 5 months gestation... her hands are on her mom's finger. The baby's hands are smaller than the mother's fingernail, and yet they are so perfectly formed.

The organization was featured on the Today Show earlier this spring. If you'd like to see the story, click here. It will be totally worth the few minutes it takes to watch the clip.

I kept thinking the entire time I was watching the story and then looking through the organization's website that this is something I would LOVE to do. I'm not good enough yet, but it would be amazing to learn how to take photos like this and do something totally for free that would be such a blessing to parents and families for so long! I know my heart would break every single time I did something like this, but at the same time, it would probably be filled to overflowing with joy at the opportunity to share life with people in such a meaningful way. I would most certainly be indebted to them for allowing me to be a part of such an important part of their lives.

If you are a photographer, maybe this is something you'd like to consider. If so, you can learn more here.

As a parent, I feel like the Lord uses things like this to remind me to be thankful for every moment I have with my children! I mean, I'm thankful for my kids for sure, but it's so easy to just take for granted that they're going to wake up every morning and end each day sleeping peacefully in their beds. No matter whether or not they're healthy now, they're not mine. They are the Lord's, and He can do with them as He chooses. Each day with them is a gift to be treasured. Praise God for little ones, for the ones He takes away and for the ones He allows us to enjoy for a while!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


I was at the library the other day and the Masterpiece Theatre version of the movie Pollyanna caught my eye. I couldn't remember if I had ever seen that movie, so I snatched it up. We sat down to watch it. About half way through, Chet looked over at me, and asked if I had ever seen the movie before... because apparently she reminded him of me. At one point in the movie, the priest/pastor says that Pollyanna really impacted him one day because she started quoting all the "be glad" and "rejoice" verses in the Bible... there were 80-something of them... and he said that it immediately got his focus redirected. This in the middle of a long line of people who came to say that Pollyanna's attitude and "glad game" helped them get out of their funk.

I don't know whether or not I have that same impact on the people around me, but I am always looking for the sunny side of things. It sure helps, because I don't tend to stay down for very long if I get anxious or upset about something. And I tend to have pretty positive memories of most things because I can remember the parts to be thankful for. Of course, this doesn't mean that I'm silly enough to repeat certain things in my life, but it does mean that I can be thankful even for the negative experiences because I've learned something (many times, I simply learn that I DON'T WANT TO DO THAT AGAIN). Here are some of my more recent Pollyanna thoughts to give you a little picture of what goes on inside my head sometimes...
  • If I have a lot of laundry to do (a perpetual issue), I try to remember that I should be thankful that I have a lot of laundry, because it means that we are blessed with a lot of clothes.
  • Often the doctor tells me that my boys are underweight. Rather than freaking out that they're never going to have a single ripped muscle on their bodies, I like to remember that they're skinny because they prefer fruits and vegetables over meat and that they're being compared to a whole lot of kids whose most commonly consumed "vegetable" is french fries. Additionally, I appreciate their skinny size because they're a whole lot easier to carry and they can wear their shorts for YEARS (literally)!
  • When Ladan wakes up scared in the middle of the night calling for me, I could get annoyed. Sometimes I do, but then I try to quickly remind myself that he won't always call for me if he's scared and that I should be thankful that he trusts me to help him.
  • When I miss my dad or get bummed that the boys can't meet him, I tend to think first about whatever fun memory is on my mind, thank the Lord for it, and then thank God for all the things that have happened in our lives BECAUSE He took my dad. Many people have come to know the Lord more intimately (totally worth losing my dad for a little while if it means more people get to join us on the other side), we have been able to be here at seminary because Dad left us a bit of money (which will hopefully be a blessing to many more than just our family), I didn't have to watch my dad suffer in any way before he died, etc.
  • When I sometimes feel like our 995 square feet get a bit cramped, I quickly become thankful that I don't have to clean more than this right now... and I'm thankful that I have a temperature-controlled shelter with indoor plumbing and windows as opposed to a 10x10 foot tent somewhere in the desert like millions of people in the world.

You get the point. So what are your Pollyanna thoughts? I'm always looking for new sunny sides, and you may have some I haven't thought of. Let me know if you think of any.

I'll leave you with a few photos from our last trip to Missouri. Ladan was making some hilarious faces! In the last one, you can see how curly and cute Gabe's hair gets. It's almost too long (because when the curl is starting to fall out, he just looks like a clown), but we can't bear to cut those curls off just yet.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

What You Don't Know Will Usually Hurt You

I've decided that this is a good theme for life.

If you don't know the Word of God, you'll stumble into sin and suffer consequences for something that you may not have even known was sinful (but since we're accountable for even those sins we don't know about, we have to take the consequences).

If you don't do research about your own health conditions and recommended courses of action, you may end up doing something that's actually pretty terrible for your body, or worse yet, you could make decisions about the care of your kids that lead to problems for them.

If you don't ask questions about why a person is making choices to act or speak in a certain way, you'll likely draw your own conclusions, which are often incorrect.

If you don't figure out how to handle finances, you'll likely make some pretty major mistakes and end up either in debt or with a whole lot less in savings than you may have otherwise had. Granted, there can be unpredictable and overwhelming things that come up, but if you don't learn how to handle your money at all, very simple things can seem overwhelming when they don't need to be.

If you don't know anything about a company you're applying for, you're not likely to get the job. Why would they hire someone who didn't do enough research to at least know what they're applying for?

If you don't know what's in your food (and what's NOT in your food), you'll likely buy into whatever marketing scheme is most effective... or you'll just do what's easiest or tastiest... and you'll probably end up pumping your body with way too much junk and not nearly enough nutrients.

If you don't know the Word of God, you won't have it as a resource stored up in your heart/mind when you most need it... and you'll be more likely to act according to your flesh instead of according to the Lord's will.

I could go on. Now, don't misread this. I am not saying that a person can avoid all peril and hardship if only they know enough. I am, however, saying that I think we spend way too much time making poor decisions, often because we're simply ignorant... and not enough time in the Word and reading/researching to learn the facts in order to make GOOD decisions.

Thanks to all of you who help me continually develop my thinking skills, point me to good resources, and help me make better choices. I pray that the Lord continues to provide people like you in my life until I die!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Rescue In the Jungle

Many of you have heard or read about the 15 hostages in Colombia that have been recovered and freed. If not, you can read about it here. Twelve of them were Colombian, and three of them were Americans. They have been in captivity in the jungle of Colombia in something like a concentration camp environment operated by the guerrilla army in Colombia. These guerrilla armies have basically held the country under their control for 40 years. In addition to the 15 hostages recovered today, it is thought that they still have 700+ other hostages (according to CBS World News).

When Bill Clinton was in office, he executed a program to help the Colombian government, law enforcement, and armies to regain control of their country. President Bush fully supported this effort when he took over. Throughout the last 10 years or so, the American government has spent something like five to six billion dollars to help strengthen and train Colombian intelligence and military efforts.

Today's rescue was an entirely Colombian effort executed by Colombian intelligence and military forces. Apparently, the rescue went off without a hitch. Ingrid Betancourt, a French-Colombian politician, was one of the individuals rescued. Of all the hostages held in Colombia right now (including the other possible 700+), she was the highest profile. She was the person the rebel guerrillas used as leverage to get what they wanted from the government. The guerrillas have lost an important "weapon" as a result of this rescue.

When I was watching the news report, I had tears in my eyes. I was excited that these people were rescued and that they can be reunited with their families. However, there was more behind my tears. It was the fact that this was an entirely Colombian operation. The US has been supporting them with funding and training for about a decade, and now they're at a point where they have very effectively won a battle against the guerrillas. Sure, the war is still going, but this seems to be a HUGE victory on so many levels. They are becoming more self-sufficient and successful at carrying these operations out on their own.

You know that my brother (Vernon) and his wife (Amber) as well as Chet's sister (Megan) and her husband (Mike) are involved in ministry in Southern Sudan. My brother and Amber have started an organization called His Voice for Sudan, and Megan and Mike work with a church in Midland, Texas that became involved with the ministry in Sudan when my brother was on staff there.

From the beginning, my brother's heart was to help the Sudanese people to become self-sufficient. He did not want to create a situation where the Sudanese in that area become permanently dependent on American churches. Instead, his goal has been to help develop and train the people in the communities to be able to take over for themselves... to produce their own food, educate their children, sell their goods, improve their health, and most importantly, to grow to love the Lord and train their children according to His Word. They work with the Southern Sudanese church leaders to achieve their goals. Whenever they start a new ministry or community development project, they hire all indigenous people and train them. These people will then turn around and train future generations. The goal is that, eventually, these communities will be strong enough to invest their own earnings into the development of the regions around them.

When I heard the story about the rescue in Colombia tonight, I was so encouraged! I just couldn't help but think about the ministry in Sudan (and other ministries to countries in similar situations) and get excited! These "small" victories are worth it all! All the money, investment of time, danger, hardship, heartache.... Christians all over America and Europe are involved with efforts to help the people of Southern Sudan rise up from under the oppression they've suffered for so long. The HARD work is worth it! These people are worth it! Ultimately, even if their circumstances on this planet never change, it is worth it to encourage them with the Truth of the Word. Their eternity is at stake. May the Word go into all Sudan and bear fruit. May there be a turning point in Sudan that brings peace and unity between the North and the South. May the Lord use the Christians of Southern Sudan to impact and change the rest of Southern Sudan, Northern Sudan, and the world! May the people of Southern Sudan execute a great rescue operation in their own country!

If you are interested in learning more about His Voice for Sudan, please visit their website. When you visit their homepage, you'll see that you can sign up to receive e-mail updates from the ministry. These e-mail messages are very helpful and encouraging, so I highly recommend that you take advantage of this option. For an overview of the history and current state of Sudan, you may want to check out the CIA World Factbook entry on Sudan.

As a side note, my brother has been doing a series on depression on his blog. There has been some very interesting dialogue in the comment section, so check it out if you get a chance.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Doctor

I'm keeping my promise to write about my doctor appointment, but I've got something else to write about, so I'm going to move quickly! Here are the details:

For years, I've struggled with being quite tired (even though I push myself to get a lot done). Additionally, my cycles are somewhat strange. They're a relatively normal length, but within the cycle are some strange things going on. If you read the family planning posts before, you'll remember that I mentioned that I think charting is so helpful, even if you think your cycles are normal. My experience is the perfect example. It used to be the case that even the length and frequency of my cycles was abnormal, but now they're more reasonable. If I wasn't charting, I might think everything was fine. However, I know it's not.

As a result of these issues mainly, I have wanted to find a doctor who would know enough about my body to help me figure things out and possibly find remedies without just jumping to hormonal treatments. I was looking for someone who would be able to help me look at my lifestyle, diet and possible nutritional deficiencies and include modifications to these things as part of my overall wellness plan... if at all possible, anyway. One of my friends here described that she had just this type of doctor!

When I got the appointment, the office staff sent me my new patient packet to fill out. It was about 12-15 pages of questioning about my medical history. AMAZING!!!!! Included in the questioning were ALL of my symptoms along with many that I don't struggle with.

So, I went to that first appointment. The doctor read through my new patient packet in his office and made notes before he came in to talk to me. Then we basically went through the whole packet together. He did a little bit of basic examination. He found that my spine is out of whack and recommended that I visit a chiropractor. He said that my thyroid is a little bit bumpy and ordered a blood test to check this out. His suspicions are that I'm possibly dealing with a low adrenal function, irregular thyroid function, iodine deficiency, and vitamin D deficiency.

He asked what our insurance is like and whether or not he could run with the testing or if he should rank them in order of priority. Also AMAZING! So, he told me that the adrenal testing and the thyroid testing is the most important and gave me the option to do the iodine and vitamin D testing if it was cost-effective. I called the lab on my way there and determined that I'd skip the optional tests for now. The iodine test was about $450, and the vitamin D test was about $225... yikes! Our insurance covers 90% of lab testing charges, but this would still be an extra $75 for something optional. I figure it would probably be better to go ahead and add a supplement for these things anyway, so I'll just do it that way.

One interesting thing that the doctor pointed out is that the adrenal glands and the ovaries work the same way. So, if the adrenal glands are lacking what they need to function, then they strip it from the ovaries. The adrenals are necessary for life, whereas the ovaries are only necessary for reproduction. Isn't it cool to learn yet another example of how the Lord created our bodies to work so intricately?!? I knew that thyroid function impacted the function of reproductive organs, but I didn't realize that the adrenal glands are so directly tied to it as well. So he's ordered some very thorough testing of both the adrenals and thyroid to see if we can find what's going on. In the meantime, he gave me the name of an adrenal supplement that I can start if I want to.

As we talked through my family history, he described that MANY of the health issues my family has dealt with are often the result of insulin resistance. That made total sense to me as I look at the dietary choices and other problems many of my family deal with. So, while he doesn't suspect that I'm dealing with much insulin resistance, he recommended that I stick closer to a diet that supports insulin sensitivity. I don't need to freak out and quit eating all whole grains and fruit or anything, but it's definitely a good thing to keep in mind.

So I've started going to the chiropractor. Because chiropractic care can also often help heal many of the problems I'm dealing with, I decided (with the support of the chiropractor) to wait a couple of months before starting the adrenal supplement. Then I'll know if it's the chiropractic care that's helping or if I really do need something else.

I go back to the doctor the first week of August. We'll review my test results then and talk through a plan. He said it may take up to 2 years to get things really going well (which is what the chiropractor said in his office too). That's okay with me, especially if those two years are characterized by a gradual improvement throughout.