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Saturday, March 15, 2014

11 Reasons I Adore My Man



In honor of my eleventh wedding anniversary, I thought it would be fun to think of 11 reasons that 
 make it easy for me to love my groom...




1.  He loves God more than he loves me. 

2.  He can always make me laugh.

3.  He is an exceptional daddy. Always including Sean is sweet.

4.  He pays attention to things I like and don't like.

5.  He's the world's best gift giver.

6.  He works very hard at whatever he does (servant's heart).

7.  He knows how to fix just about everything.

8.  He offers to run errands for me even when he'd love nothing more than to be home resting.

9.  He's a man's man.

10.  He's fun to hang out with.

11.  He encourages me to dream.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Dishwasher Soap Version 2.0

I started my DIY dishwasher soap making adventure with this recipelink text

Pretty awesome working power and simple. But, I like to try new things, so I found this onelink text.

I liked that I could cube it and throw it in the compartment without measuring.

But, I did not like the white film it was leaving on my dishes! It may work great for some, but not for my dishwasher, who is a teenager and quite sassy...not so much.

She is15 years old.

So, I kept searching.

Then, I found the most absolute perfect oneLink text for my sassy teenager. Dish soap, Sun oxygen powder, and vinegar. That's it.

Results?

Love.

No white stuff!! No extra suds to ruin dishwasher. Literally squeaky clean and only 3 ingredients! Score!

This was a pretty amazing recipe. Even better than my original.

But, I loved the idea of chunking a cube in rather than measuring each time!

So, I took the concept of the cube recipe, only I used the ingredients from the rockin' good 3-ingredient recipe.

Guess what?

It worked!

I won't be switching for a while!

Here's how I did it:

I mixed 1/2 cup of original blue dish soap and 1 cup of Sun "oxiclean".

Kinda cool experiment, actually. The reaction of the 2 mixing created heat. Yep, my mixing bowl was hot!

Then, I got my ice cube trays....yep ...those again...and made what would be equivalent to the single servings of dish soap and sun. It made 48 itty bitty cubes.

I let 'em dry overnight, then popped them right out on the counter and added them to my trusty container.

I put one of those in the dispenser, and place a bowl on the top rack right side up with 1/2 cup of vinegar. My rinse agent dispenser is moody. Remember, she's a teenager. ;) So, this works very well.

And much like a typical teenager, she adapted well to the change and loved the new adventure.

Per batch, I spent about $ .86. Divide that by 48 and that's 1.8¢ per load. That's vinegar included, y'all!!

I buy my dish soap and Sun Oxygen cleaner at WM, and my vinegar at Sam's. That's where the prices came from.

Super-duper impressed with this find.

Happy washing and saving!

If you've known me for any amount of time, you know I'm very frugal and an avid DIY'er.

Is "DIY'er" a word? Well, it is now.

So, with my two older daughters, I really didn't know much about making my own baby food, but I didn't like how much I was spending. After my second daughter was too old for baby food, I found many of my friends were doing this very crunchy granola thing.....making their own baby food!

So, I decided then and there that if there were any more children in store for us, I would definitely do this. There were. ;) So, I did.

I've made some cereals with success, so I wanted to share a few fruits and veggies that I made today. I plan to get Ruth Yaron's, "Super Baby Food" cookbook, but I haven't managed to pick it up yet.

This process was very easy, cost effective, and not too time consuming.

After I washed both the apples and green beans, and peeled the apples, I started by steaming the chopped up apples and green beans for about 20-30 minutes.


The green beans went straight into the food processor.


Nice and baby-foodish


Now, on to the ice cube trays. 3 of these cubes yield about 2 oz(1/4 cup)


I did the same with my bananas and apples.






Once the cubes were frozen, I popped them out, and put them in freezer bags.


Next time, I will make more and devote some more time so I can save time later. We are just testing everything now for our boys' tolerance. I love the idea of it being inexpensive and so healthy!! We would spend a minimum of $5 per day on baby food if I didn't make it myself. That's $150 a month folks. And that's just Stage 1 food! So, I feel really good about doing this. Plus, it's fun for me!

Have you made baby food before? If so, what are some of your tricks?
If not, why not give it a try!?

It's kid tested...mother approved. ;)

He thinks so!


And he says...."After my nap, mom. After my nap."

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Sean's Expected Earthly Arrival

November 30th didn't feel any different than November 29th. I'm not sure why I expected it to. I guess the anticipation of this day set me up to believe it would feel differently.

See, November 30th was the day that we expected to meet and hold our sweet baby we lost back in April.

We named him Sean.

Feel free to read more about our journey here and here.
We started off the day by taking our girls to the zoo. Here are some pictures of us hanging out!

I love my family!
These girls light up my life and keep me laughing all day


Roger took the day off, to which I was very thankful. We wanted the day to be a celebration.  Later that evening, Roger and I spent some time alone. We had Knotty Pine BBQ for dinner, which was fantastic! Later, we went to Garden Ridge.

I know.

      We sound really old.

Garden Ridge seems to be part of every date night, for some reason!  Anyone else love that place?!
Hmmm....Anyway, we actually went in with a mission this time. We wanted to find a stocking for Sean. Our mantle just didn't seem complete without a stocking for him.  We searched up and down the aisle trying to find the perfect one.  Finally, we found it.



I held it close to my heart and walked through the store with it over my shoulder.  About 15 minutes later, I went ahead and laid it down in the buggy.  I just wished it could be him I was snuggling instead.  

We also picked out an ornament for him.






After Garden Ridge, we went to Starbucks ...mmmm...can I get an Amen? While we sipped our coffee, we took a stroll through Kohl's. While we were there, we picked out the girls' Christmas dresses,  an Advent Gingerbread House(we've wanted one since Mckyla was born), and 3 little two-foot trees. A purple one for Mckyla, a pink one for Abby, and a silver one for Sean. Here is Mckyla with their trees. Abby was far too busy to take a picture.  Yes, much too busy.

















And here is Sean's tree.  It sits at our fireplace and I love looking at it.

Though some may find it depressing to constantly be reminded of the loss, I find it incredibly healing.


Sean is my child. 

He may not live with me, but he will always be my child. His days were written in God's book before one of them came to be. Those days were all spent in my womb, and I am honored that I got to carry him...that God chose me to be his mommy.

So, where am I now?  Emotionally?  With my thoughts?
I am in a pretty good place. Since I lost Sean, I started going to M.E.N.D.(Mommies Enduring Neonatal Death) meetings. It is an incredible ministry.  We meet monthly and encourage one another through our losses. There are women there from all stages of loss. Some babies lived a couple of months, days, hours, minutes, some babies were stillborn, and some were lost as a result of miscarriage.  Notice, I classified the different types of loss? This does not happen at MEND. Can I tell you, I have never had my loss minimized by these women. In fact, it is a guideline that is read before each meeting.

How can that be?? As women, we compare everything, don't we?  But, I am so for real! The reason this group works is because..... no one makes anyone feel like their loss wasn't significant or important.  We are all mommies who lost our babies. Period.
Go check them out:

I have also begun to work on my self -talk. I struggle with extremely negative self-talk.  You know that mean-girl voice inside your head?  That one is really mean to me. A work in progress, is how I would describe myself.

Thank you to everyone who remembers Sean and acknowledges him as our child. His life is worth acknowledging!
I will leave you with this. I have had this Max Lucado daily calendar for about 5 or 6 years. It was a Christmas gift from my Grandma and Grandpa. I wept as I read it, shaking my head in complete awe of how creative God is. This is what it said on November 30th:

Here is what stood out to me, "Those who went unknown on earth will be known in Heaven.  The forgotten will be remembered. "

God is so good.













Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Sean celebrates 6 months in Heaven


It's hard to believe that it has been six months since our sweet baby went to live in his eternal home.  Wow...six months. Sometimes it feels just like yesterday. I can replay every single detail in my mind.  I called my mom and niece to wish them a happy birthday.  We had just bought a new tv, and Roger's dad was headed over to our house to help Roger mount it above our fireplace.  I made pork tenderloin for dinner, complete with tabouli, hummus, and whole wheat pita pouches.

Isn't that strange that I remember what we had for dinner?

Just before Roger's dad, John, arrived, I discovered something very wrong.  I had been feeling crummy all day, but was still hopeful.  We knew this was a possibility. Still, nothing could have ever prepared me for the panic and despair I felt in that moment.  I was bleeding....a lot.  It was obvious something was wrong.  I immediately called my doctor.  The doctor on call was kind and told me that I was likely miscarrying, to call the office in the morning, and that she was very sorry that this was happening to me.

I went to bed that night knowing my baby no longer lived inside of the protection of my womb.  I called my doctor first thing that morning.  My friend, Stephanie, kept my girls for me while Roger and I went to the doctor. At this point, no one knew except John and Stephanie.  I couldn't even tell my mom because it all happened on her birthday.

We got to the doctor and our worst fear was confirmed.  There was no baby, only the sac he lived in.  Our hearts sank. We left and started letting family and friends know what was going on.  I picked up the girls from Steph's house and went home to start my new life without our baby being part of it.  Little did I know just how much his life would still be intricately woven into ours.  I went into what was going to be his nursery and just cried, knowing he would never sleep in that crib, or wake us up at night to be changed and nursed. It took a good long while before we named him.  You see, it was too early to tell what gender our baby was.  We felt from the beginning that it was a little boy.  Maybe that was because we had 2 little girls already...who knows?!  We finally decided to name him Sean.

Sean Isaac Howell

His name means, "God is gracious" and "He will laugh".  I find this amazing because we picked out this boy name in case Mckyla or Abby were little boys.  We just weren't sure if we wanted to choose a different name that was more fitting for how short his life was.  But, you know, his name means something pretty significant.  God was and is gracious for allowing Sean to be part of our lives, no matter how short his life was.  I think about Abraham and Isaac in the Bible.  Isaac was the promised son of Abraham and Sarah.  They were very old and well past child-bearing years to our standard.  When they found out Sarah was pregnant, she laughed because she thought her pregnancy window was closed!  I probably would too!  But, what is important about this part of the story is Abraham trusted God and dedicated his son Isaac to God's service.  God provided a ram, and Abraham did not have to literally sacrifice Isaac. The most significant thing is that he dedicated his son's life to the Lord.  We dedicated Sean's life to the Lord as soon as we found out I was pregnant with him.  It is no accident that Isaac was in his name.  We dedicate our lives to bring God glory.

Even when I see his name I long for him to just be in my arms.  If he made it to my scheduled c-section date, he would be here on November 30th of this year.  Crazy...in one month, I would be holding a healthy baby (boy) in my arms.  But, God had different plans, and while I don't like this part of His plan, and while I wish I could hold him, I trust His plan.  I can already see countless ways Sean's life has influenced other's lives.  His days here counted and mattered.

I found this song today at my friend's blog.  It is called, "Home", by Nicol Sponberg.  It sums up my song for Baby Sean.  Mommy will see you soon, sweet baby.






UPDATE

More videos on infant loss I love are...

Selah's, "I Will Carry You."




Watermark's, "Glory Baby"



Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Abby Grace

Today, I celebrate Abby. She is my spunky and quite sassy 3 year old!  Here is a picture of her that captures her essence....
See what I mean?
 She was born on August 28, 2009. 3 years ago today!!  I was scheduled for a c-section the following Monday, but she decided she was ready early.  So, early and unexpected it was! I delivered a healthy baby girl...6 lbs 10oz, 19 inches long. I soaked her in.  Her newness was intoxicating.  
It's quite blurry... but....special, nonetheless

Sweet husband and sisters.  Abby is the small one. ;) Her big sister is Mckyla, only 15 months old at the time.


As I reflect on that day, many things come to mind.  I remember nursing her, cuddling her, getting to know her.  While I am extremely grateful for her precious life, and the life of my Mckyla Beth, I can't help but think....

What would it have been like to deliver baby #3 in November?

How can I not think about him on a day like today?   Reliving my daughter's birthday.  The memories are so vivid. At almost 4 months out, some have encouraged me, sometimes rather forcefully, to "move on".  I didn't imagine I would be thinking about baby #3 so much today.  

But...I was wrong.

I still think about him.  What would his weight have been?  How long would he be?  What color would his eyes be? His hair?  Would he have my fingers or Roger's toes? Would he respond to my voice, my touch?  Would Roger cry as he held his newest baby?

I am left wondering....

And that's ok for me to do that.  It's ok for me to long for the baby I never held in my arms. I will never be the same.  I will never think the same.  I am forever changed.  I will move forward, because he is in my future.  I get to see him again. It just may not be on the timeline some think it should be. 

For those of you praying for us, please don't cease!  We need it now more than ever.  

In the meantime, I choose to be incredibly grateful for what I do have.  I choose to allow God to continue healing me in His time.  I choose to celebrate Abby's life as I think about her birthday in a whole new way.   Thank you Father for loving me so much and for showing me how precious life is.











Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A Life Worth Acknowledging

I was all geared up Monday, April 23rd, to meet our little secret 7 week old baby. Only some family and a few friends knew about me being pregnant.






This is how I told Roger he was a daddy to 3. The sausage roll bag says,
 "If I'm going to get fat, so are you. Congrats Dad to THREE!"
The girls were equally excited...they celebrated with donuts.

We planned to announce that week that we were having a new addition to the Howell home.  Childcare did not work out for our girls, so we just brought them with us to my appointment.  How fun to see their baby brother or sister on TV! We made the most of it.  They called my name and we headed back for the room.  The sonographer asked me the normal questions..."When was the first day of your last period?  How far along do you think you are?" I answered all of her questions.  She began the ultrasound and looked a little puzzled.  She said, "Are you sure about your calculations?" I said, "Yes, I'm positive."

You see, we were actually planning for this baby, so I knew all of the dates like the back of my hand! I had been through pregnancy twice before and was experiencing the exact same symptoms as my previous pregnancies. She then said, "Well, maybe your calculations are off.  Your baby is only measuring at 5 weeks." "Gestational?" I said.

There is a difference.

For those unfamiliar with that term, gestational, it counts your cycle before the baby is actually conceived. Most doctors go by that protocol, though not all do. My thought was, if it's not gestational, then I'm good....the baby is technically only 5 weeks old, so everything is ok.

She answered quietly, "Yes."

My mind immediately started worrying.  I knew without a doubt I was  7 weeks gestationally. There should be no reason the baby wasn't measuring right, if everything was ok.  I told myself to chill out and just wait for the heartbeat.  Our sonographer said, "Now, don't worry, if the baby is truly 5 weeks, this heartbeat is normal."  So, I watched my baby's heart beat very slowly.  I asked her, "What is the heart rate?" "70.", she said. I looked over at Roger and he continued staring at the screen.

Then, I heard its little heart beating.

It was not the quick, healthy sounding heartbeat I was expecting.
It was slower than mine.  My heart broke.

I still remained hopeful...well, let's see what Dr. Beal says about this.  He will just tell me that my baby is petite and has some catching up to do.  Nothing could really be wrong with my baby.  The whole family took the elevator up to the 8th floor to my doctor's office.  I was called back and then explained everything to my nurse, Sylvia. She couldn't even take a reading on my blood pressure because I was literally falling apart as I told her something could be wrong with our baby.  She said, "We'll worry about taking your blood pressure later.  I'll go get Dr. Beal."

I sat and waited....

Shaking

Crying

Stressing

Roger looked at me and said, "You are no good to yourself or the baby if you don't calm down."

He was right.

Meanwhile, he was managing our then, wild acting kids. It was obvious they sensed we weren't in good spirits.  Mckyla came over to me and asked me what was wrong.  I just said, "Mommy will be ok. I'm just sad right now." She stepped up on the exam table step and just leaned into me so that she could hug and comfort me.  Of course,
I cried some more...
About that time, Dr. Beal knocked on the door.  He came in with a somber face...usually, he is grinning ear to ear.  He came right to me and gave me a big hug and said, "You're having a rough day, aren't ya, girl?" He gave Roger a hug as well.  He stood across from me and started explaining what the plan was and what we could expect.  He said, "I want you to come back next week to do another ultrasound.  By next week, that heart rate should definitely be at least 100. Let's just assume your calculations are off, ok, if that's the case, we will just adjust your due date."

"And if it's under 100?" I asked.

"Then, you will likely miscarry."

 He continued on by saying how sorry he was and how much it sucked.  Yes, my doctor said, "It sucks."

I like him.

He assured me that he was available to me if I needed him, told me what to look out for over the next week, and told us we could go.  He gave Roger and I another hug and left.
I got ready and composed myself...really, I looked like a wreck.  Red, splotchy face, and a bright red nose like my momma when we cry.
The receptionist was so sweet.  She could obviously tell I was upset.  She encouraged me by saying she would pray for me.  She said, "You have 2 beautiful girls, and I know you will have more.  You hang in there, sweetheart."  Well, you all know me...I'm quite "leaky", and let's just say I leaked some more.

The walk from the receptionist to the door took forever.  I had to walk through a room of happy pregnant women with absolute despair on my face.  We made calls and sent texts to those who knew and asked for prayer.  I remained pretty much hopeless the rest of the day.  I was mourning the life that hadn't even been lost.  The next few days got better.  I still remained realistic, but was incredibly hopeful.  I began praying over my baby so earnestly, asking God to please heal my baby, to make its little heart beat faster, and to miraculously make my baby grow.  I learned a lot those few days.

Looking back now, I'm very glad our girls were with us at the appointment, because that was the most they would see their baby brother or sister in this life.

We didn't make it to our next appointment.

April 30th, our sweet baby went from my womb, straight into the arms of Jesus. Sort of ironic, considering our baby was already in His Hands as He was knitting our child together.
God does not make any knitting mistakes. The moment the baby was taken to heaven, it received a new body. Psalm 139 says that all of our days are ordained for us before one of them came to be....even those inside the womb.

Don't make any mistakes...God did heal our baby.  He just chose to heal him in Glory...in His presence...in the perfection of Heaven.

Roger and I felt from the beginning that we were having a baby boy. So, when we refer to the baby, we do so as, 'he, him, his, etc'.

Here is the only picture we have of him.
I cherish it.

My baby never breathed fresh air, he breathed Jesus instead.

My baby never felt me hold him in my arms, he went to Jesus' arms instead.

My baby never heard my voice, the first one he heard was Jesus' voice instead.

My baby remained unnamed, yet he received a name the moment he entered God's prescence instead.

My baby didn't get to meet his momma, daddy, or his sisters here, instead, he met our family already in Heaven.
-His Nana, his cousins, his aunts, his uncles, his great grandpa's and his great grandma's.

We plan to name him here, though he already has his Heaven name. We have not decided on one yet. Just wait...we'll get to Heaven and lo and behold, there will be a cute girl there waiting to greet us after we went through our life believing she was a boy!  ;)
One night, I went to turn off my Scentsy, and noticed something incredible.
My pregnant figurine has remained.
Then, notice the figurine holding the baby.
(This figurine is actually called, "Grandmother").
Next, notice the picture of Roger with his momma...
Do you see the beautiful picture God allowed me to see?
Keta now holds my baby in Heaven.









So, here we are now in June, and I am finally physically better. My body took a long time...over 6 weeks... to realize it wasn't pregnant anymore. My pregnancy hormone levels are coming back down, though they are not completely gone. Emotionally, I am still dealing with the loss of our baby. I felt I was doing better, but as it turns out, I'm really not. My girls are suffering the consequences of this. I am physically there for them, providing them shelter, food, love, protection, though I have emotionally checked out. I am trying desperately to check back in, because they need me for more than physical needs. They need my attention...they need their mom back. No other time have I felt like a failure as a mom, than right now. I know, I know....I am not a failure. I am a good mom. I won't listen to the lies of the enemy. It's just my temporary circumstances have me so invested, that it is hard to think about much else. But, I cling to My Father and His Word.

 A big thank you to my friends and family who have prayed for us, called and checked on us, loved on us, held us when we cried, listened when we didn't make sense, made us meals, invited us into your homes, sent cards, helped out with our girls, helped me clean my house...the list goes on.  Your service to our family has not gone un-noticed and I am forever grateful.

Though the ache will never go away and I will be forever changed, I will be more normal one day.

It's just not today.

Though, this is the hardest thing I have ever gone through in my life, I know God is carrying me through every step. It is undeniable!  When people ask me how many children I have, I will no longer answer, "Two."  I will answer, "Three.  Two live with me, and one lives with Jesus." Maybe you have lost a baby.  I encourage you to mourn in your own way.  I don't fault you for not telling others if you don't want to. Life begins at conception, which means you are a momma at conception.  You are a daddy at conception.  You are a momma and daddy, even if you never got to give birth to, or hold your precious baby. Don't let anyone tell you differently.  I decided before I ever lost this baby that this is a life worth acknowledging.

Bless each of you who has lost a child, whether inside the womb, or out.