Zevia — A review and giveaway

I cut out soda (or pop depending on where you live) several months ago. In fact, Zevia was the first soda I’ve had in probably 10 months or so.  Zevia is made without the use of artificial sweetners.  Zevia is made with Stevia is a  plant from the sunflower family and originally native to South America. The stevia leaf is up to 300x sweeter than sugar but has no caloric value or effect on blood sugar levels.

I was given 6 different flavors of Zevia to sample. The packaging said to make sure it was chilled before drinking, I generally don’t like warm soda but I have read some reviews of folks that tried it warm and said it really is much better cold.
It could have been me, especially since I haven’t had soda in so long, but it was really sweet and really fizzy. My boys thought it was great, but for me and my pregnant taste buds the original cola and Dr. Zevia were both a little too sweet for me. I did like the Grapefruit citrus flavor the best, I think because it was pretty tangy.
My husband liked the Mountain Zevia. He said it wasn’t as syrupy as the popular counterpart, but it wasn’t a dead ringer for the taste.

The only one that didn’t get positive reviews from my family was the caffeine free soda. I don’t like caffeine free soda in general, it kind of tastes flat to me and this did too.
There are 15 great flavors of Zevia to choose from. If you want to learn more and try a better soda option connect with Zevia:
I received the above products through Sublime Media Connection in exchange for an honest review. In no way was I asked to give a positive review.
a Rafflecopter giveaway


I posted on Facebook this week about a family we met at church. But as it rolled around in my head, I think it warrants a whole blog post.
They are expecting their 10th child. They are stoked. Kerry asked the father how many children he had (Kerry hadn’t seen all of them) and the dad said “We have 9 and are expecting our 10th, The Bible calls them a blessing and reward and we believe that. I feel very blessed and feel even more so as I get older.” Wow that was refreshing! I kinda wanted to say “Hey! Us too!” but didn’t want to interrupt.
I just have to say though, it really isn’t about how many children a family has, but how those children are viewed. We absolutely view children as a blessing, and because we desire the blessing God has for us, choose not to limit our family size. There are a number of reasons that we believe this and we’ve given it a lot of thought and prayer, that’s not the purpose of this post though.
The truth is, whether you have no children or 50, they are blessings…God says so and we believe Him. So many times though we hear parents bemoaning the fact that they are expecting another child or that they can’t handle the ones they have. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard parents tell me “there is no way I could spend all day with my children”. Really? Then how do you expect anyone else to? It’s not just about homeschooling or desiring children, it’s about the attitude children are viewed with.

Sure they require lots of time and sacrifice, of course it can be tough and trying to raise little ones but oh what a reward it is! There is nothing better than being surrounded by your children, watching them laugh and play…or better yet laughing and playing with them! I can’t tell you how many times I have been blessed by hearing one of my children walking through our home singing a song or doing something kind for one of his brothers.

It breaks my heart to hear children being torn down and spoken to with words dripping with disdain and irritation. I long to take hurting children in my arms and tell them they are special and they are loved. How often our paths cross those of children who are hurt at the hands of those entrusted with loving and caring for them. A child sat in my backyard this last week and said wistfully “I wish I lived here with you.” It was all I could do to not pull that child into my lap and tell her she is loved and cared for. All I could muster was “You are always welcome here” and try to hide the tears that were welling in my eyes.

Children are often viewed as “things” be avoided and prevented and tolerated. They should be embraced, welcomed and celebrated. They are gifts from God, they are rewards and blessings. We are missing out if we forget how fortunate we are to have them in our lives.

Psalm 127: 3-5

3 Behold, children are a gift of the Lord,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one’s youth.
5 How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them;
They will not be ashamed
When they speak with their enemies in the gate.

New Recipe Monday — Pumpkin Bread

It’s fall and the cooler weather has been wonderful for baking. One of our family’s favorite fall recipes is Pumpkin bread. This recipe is different from any other recipes I’ve seen and it comes from an Amish cookbook I was given as a gift (by the way, if you ever want to know what to get me…cook books. They’re my favorite, especially church or community cookbooks).
Here it is…
3 1/2 cups flour
3 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups pumpkin (cooked fresh or canned) I usually use a large can when I make my recipe.
1 cup oil
2/3 cup water
4 eggs
12 ounces peanut butter chips
1 cup walnuts, chopped (I omit these as my husband doesn’t care for nuts)
1 cup raisins (I omit these too)
Grease and flour 3 loaf pans (8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 1/2).
In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, blend pumpkin with oil, water and eggs.
Add the dry ingredients gradually until well blended.
Stir in the chips, nuts, and raisins.
Pour into loaf pans and bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes until cake tester comes out clean.
I have also used butterscotch chips, which my husband prefers (I like the peanut butter ones). This bread is especially good with a little honey butter or plain for breakfast. We made “homemade” butter last year for a homeschool project and ate it on this pumpkin bread. The boys loved it!
PS. I made this last week and completely forgot to take a picture, rather than risk infringing on someone else, you’ll just have to make it yourself. 🙂


This last week Kerry and I went to a pastor’s get together for 3 days. We met lots of new people (well…everyone has been *new* to us in the last month or so). It was refreshing…and surprising.
It felt so good to connect with other families who have been where we are. Who have relocated their families, taken on pastorates in unfamiliar places and tackled tough stuff. We were joking about how we were probably going to be the only “weirdos” (ie family with lots of kids and homeschooling) at the event. Funny thing…everyone started introducing themselves and we heard “we have 4 kids and we homeschool” or “we have 5 kids and we also homeschool”. I felt myself feeling more comfortable and connected with those sitting around me. I was thankful.
I hadn’t realized how much I have missed, in just the 4 weeks we’ve been gone from Pueblo, the connection with others. Adjusting to being a full time stay at home mom, Kerry working outside the home and being in a new community and church has been harder than I expected. It’s been lonelier than I thought it would be (there I said it, something hard for me to admit). We’ve been very “busy” but it still feels very alone sometimes. Being able to sit, laugh and talk with other moms and wives felt good. I told Kerry on the way home that the the fellowship probably did me more good than listening to the speaker.
This weekend also made me realize other “connections” we share, some happy and some sad. As I near my “mark” with this pregnancy, the weeks where I lost Lily and Knox there are moments when I start to get anxious. I try not to worry, I pray and I trust, but there are moments when it creeps in. I’ve also started to show a bit more this week so Kerry and I decided to announce our pregnancy to a group of strangers when we introduced ourselves the first night. (In truth, it felt good to say it and to not have everyone wonder if I was really *that* fat). But in our down time, for whatever reason, I found myself in the middle of a conversation about the babies I lost and the baby that we are expecting. I shared our story surrounded by women I had just met, women who cared for me when they barely knew me. They prayed for me and I felt loved.
The surprising part for me, though was as the next two days unfolded, the mothers and fathers who came to Kerry and I and talked about their own losses. The grief and hurt they suffered. I stood there, I was so grateful that they shared with us. I was grateful to hear the stories of how God had carried their families through and delighted in the joy they experienced when they were able to welcome a healthy baby after their losses. In the evening I sat and prayed for each of them. I was astounded at the thread of grief that connected so many of us, but also the grace and the blessing God has given. I didn’t have words of comfort, words of wisdom or explanation, but I had words of a parent who has walked that trail too. It was a time to remember and connect in a way that I don’t think any of us would have expected at the beginning.
I have been thinking lately about the connections we left behind, the ones we’ve made and the ones to come. I’ve been thinking about the threads that tie us together with those around us. It is a beautiful thing that God is making, weaving our lives together through events that often make us feel so alone, but He ties it together to make something glorious.

Five Minute Friday — Wide

This is where a brave and beautiful bunch gather every week to find out what comes out when we all spend five minutes writing on the same topic and then sharing ‘em over here.
Now, set your timer, clear your head, for five minutes of free writing without worrying about getting it right.

1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
3. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is, like, the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community..

Oh and Ahem, if you would take pity and turn off comment verification, it would make leaving some love on your post that much easier for folks!
OK, are you ready? Please give us your best five minutes on:::


Sometimes a word is just too big. It encompasses too much for me to write, I have a hard time finding words to fill the space. Wide is that word to me.
I can’t put the significance into words for me. Wide, His arms spread wide, held there by nails. Paying the price for my sin and my wrong so that I could be redeemed. I should have been separated from Him…I deserve it. But He loved me enough to send His son to take the punishment in my place.
I have believed it from the time I was small. I have learned to trust it, really trust it, in the last year or two.
I think often of the trials this last year has brought for our family. Family confrontation and abandonment, the loss of our son, then our daughter, the upheaval of interviewing for a job hours away from what had become so comfortable. Now here I sit, in our new town, new home with a new church…at times feeling lost. My life has changed so very much in such a short time. I am learning a new role in a place that is different. When I think about “before” here, it seems so far away and I long for comfort of normal, known, close.
I have relied on the hope that I have in Christ to carry me through so much. I am so thankful for the hope I have in Him. I’m thankful to know that when I have moments when where I’m supposed to be seems so very far away that I am right where He wants me. Where I am reliant on Him for what comes next, for my peace and my direction.
His arms are always wide open. Waiting to hold me, comfort me and remind me that He has me every step of the way.

Susan Brown's Baby — A review

A few weeks ago, we moved to a new town for my husband to pastor a new church. We have been shaking a lot of hands. It’s not always possible to wash our hands right after introductions and it’s not terribly polite either. We don’t generally use a lot of hand sanitize, but I was thankful to be able to put  Susan Brown’s Baby Moisturizing Hand Sanitizer to the test. As the mom of 4 little boys (when one gets sick they all get sick and it takes forever to get out of our house), I was looking for something that isn’t as harsh as the commercial hand sanitizers found in stores.
About Susan Brown’s Baby:
“Our pure and gentle luxury products are the result of years of research by my family. My father, a chemist of over 30 years, has been producing naturally hydrating cosmetic ingredients for some of the best-known skin care companies in the world such as Estée Lauder®, Chanel®, Clinique®, L’Oreal®, and Neutrogena®.
When I was a baby, he would bring home his wonderful oils for my mother to use in the nursery and over the years I have continued to use them to keep my skin soft and smooth. Because they were so effective, my mother and I gave them to friends and family to enjoy. And now I would like to share them with you.” – Susan

I have to say, this product far exceeded my expectations. Initially it does smell like alcohol, as do most hand sanitizers, but as it dries it leaves a light scent behind which I love. It didn’t leave my hands feeling dry or irritated, in fact they felt like I had just put on lotion and were quite soft.
I also had the opportunity to try some lotion and lotion to powder from Susan Brown. Such neat stuff! I don’t generally use powder on my children because I don’t want them inhaling the particles, but I like the way it feels especially in the warmer summer months. The lotion to powder is a great solution and the boys thought it was fun putting lotion on.
I’ve enjoyed these products so much that they’re definitely going to become a staple in our house (and probably for every baby shower gift I give).
To see the full line of Susan Brown’s Baby products check out their website. For all the latest information be sure follow Susan Brown’s Baby on FacebookTwitter!
I received the above products for free through Sublime Media Connection in exchange for an honest review. In no way was I asked to give a positive review.

Real Kids Shades Review

I don’t know about you but when it comes to sun glasses for my children, I have always purchased the cheapest and easiest pair I could find so that when the kids broke them I wouldn’t be out a bunch of money. With 4 little boys, sunglasses don’t really last very long around here.
Recently I was given the opportunity to review a pair of sunglasses from Real Kids Shades. At first I thought, there’s no way these things are going to last at my house. And to be totally honest, I thought “there’s no way I would spend $15.00 on a pair of sunglasses when they’re only going to last a couple hours.”
I was so surprised when these glasses came.
First, I got a pair for 7-12 year old children. The boys picked the Glide style. They came in a really nice carrying case and some great literature for parents to read.
One of the things I learned after reading the information included was why “toy” (see cheap) sunglasses are actually more dangerous for your children.
Toy Sunglasses Can Do More Harm Than Good
Most children’s sunglasses are sold
 as toys. Toys are great fun, but not so great at protecting something as vital as your child’s eyesight. In fact, most children’s sunglasses do not protect children’s eyes from harmful UV radiation. Don’t confuse the dark shading of lenses with their ability to filter out these harmful rays. Colored lenses on most toy sunglasses – no matter how dark – will not protect your child’s eyes.
The truth is, wearing cheap toy sunglasses can actually do more harm to a child’s eyes than not wearing anything at all. Shaded lenses without 100% UV-A/UV-B protection will relax pupils, causing them to dilate and let MORE harmful radiation into children’s eyes. What’s more, not all sunglasses with “100% UV” protection labels pass the test.
The second part that surprised me about these sunglasses is durability! We’ve had them for several weeks and they’ve held up nicely with the boys. They’ve been passed around to try from oldest to youngest. The older two boys (9 and 7) both commented on how comfortable the glasses were to wear and wore them for several hours at a time. The glasses came with a strap for really active times, but the boys felt like the glasses were secure enough without it and asked to take it off. I was so impressed that these glasses didn’t fall off the boys’ heads! Even the little guy (2) could wear them and they didn’t slip and slide, although they were a bit big for him. Real Kids Shades has a line for infants all the way up to 12 year olds!
Some features of the Real Kids Shades glasses include:

  • UV400 Category-3 Lenses
  • Polycarbonate Lenses (shatterproof and impact resistant)
  • Polycarbonate or Flexible Rubber Frames
  • 100% UV Protection (FDA-Approved)
  • Lead-free
  • No BPAs
  • No Phthalates

Here’s a note from Real Kids Shades:
Sunglasses are important gear for your child during back to school time and throughout the year! Your child’s backpack should always have a pair of sunglasses handy so they can put them on when they’re outside at recess, or walking home from the bus stop.
We understand that back to school time can be stressful for families. The calendar fills up and so does the “to do” list. We also understand that the endless amount of school supplies, clothing, and gear that need to be purchased can put a real financial strain on parents. Real Kids Shades is helping out families by offering two special Facebook promotions.
20% off Coupon
Now through September 27, 2012, we are offering 20% off all items on our website. Click here to register and receive your coupon code.
$250 Visa Gift Card
Enter for a chance to win a $250 Visa Gift Card from Real Kids Shades. This gift card is just what you’ll need to cover some of those inevitable back to school expenses. Simply click here to enter.
After reviewing this product, I plan on buying pairs for each of the other boys. I was impressed with the quality, the durability and the high level of protection it provides for my children.
I received the above products through Sublime Media Connection in exchange for an honest review. In no way was I asked to give a positive review.

New recipe Monday — Field Mice

Ok, so I’m a little late with this post, it’s Tuesday but I forgot to schedule this one for Monday. Sorry about that.
Our family is super excited for football season. We enjoy watching it together on the weekends and one of my favorite things about football season (other than the actual game) is the food! Here is one of our very favorite recipes. Super easy and way good! I usually double it.


  • 6 fresh jalapeno peppers, halved lengthwise and seeded
  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese
  • 12 slices bacon


  1. Preheat an outdoor grill for high heat.
  2. Spread cream cheese to fill jalapeno halves. Wrap with bacon. Secure with a toothpick.
  3. Place on the grill, and cook until bacon is crispy.

You can also broil these in the oven if you can’t grill.
**Side note we call these field mice at our house. The stems on the peppers make them look like little mice**


Defiance of fear

Today I won a small victory against fear. I will be 11 weeks pregnant this week, rapidly approaching the mark in my pregnancy where I lost Knox and Lily. I try not to dwell on it, I try not to let the fear seep it’s way into my daily thoughts. There are fleeting moments where I think…”what if it happens again?” I can usually push it out and keep going.
Every morning I am greeted with three tubs. They hold my maternity clothes. And I struggle.

The week before Knox was born, I had just unpacked all of my maternity clothes and hung them in my closet. I had finally told work I was expecting because my regular clothes were looking suspiciously tight and not in the “she ate too many chili fries” kind of way. Co-workers who knew me well had already guessed. So before we came back for our Thanksgiving visit, I unpacked, hung up and folded maternity clothes.
Then Knox died.
The night before I went to the hospital I stood in front of my closet and pulled all of those clothes out. I put them back in their tubs…I wouldn’t be needing them after all and I knew I wouldn’t want to pack them when I came home. I cried and I mourned and I was angry. I could hardly see through the tears I was crying as I folded my favorite black sweater I wore with Zeke.
So when I got pregnant with Lily, I decided not to get maternity clothes out until I had passed 15 weeks. I didn’t want to have to pack them away. But I had to pull a few things out because regular clothes were just too uncomfortable. I kept them in their tubs though. Nothing maternity went in my closet. And then she died too.
So now, here I am. Almost 11 weeks pregnant, starting to struggle to button my jeans and not look “frumpy” in anything else. There is a little bulge where this baby is growing and while most of the time it just looks like I ate too many donuts, I could use some clothes that are a little more forgiving. In addition to that, we moved 2 weeks ago and I really hate unpacking clothes. I’m sitting there thinking “if this baby makes it, I’m going to be putting these all away in a month anyway” (I hate thinking that “if” but it is a reality I know now).
But I haven’t been quite daring enough to take the lids off the bins that hold those clothes that signify the “thick around the middle” isn’t fat…it’s baby. I pass those bins sitting at the foot of my bed every morning when I wake up. They remind me of my fear, of my hurt and of the hope that just might be this time. Every day they have psyched me out and dared me to open them. And until this morning I have left the right where the guys who unloaded them put them.
Until today.
In a moment of defiance, of sheer “screw you fear”, I decided to unpack them. “It’s going to be a time waster to unpack my “regular” clothes now and put them away in a month”, I told myself. “They’re just clothes” I reminded myself as I pulled shirt after shirt, paneled pant after paneled pant out of the bin and put them in my closet. “This isn’t going to determine the outcome. God does.” Every so often I would pause and wonder if I’m doing the right thing…if I should wait until…
But I know that God has numbered this baby’s days before he or she was ever created. God knows. He has a plan. Psalm 139:13-16 says…

13 For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
14 I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
16 Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.

So I unpacked. And I prayed. I prayed for the health and safety of this baby. I prayed that I would find someone who would care for me, who would support me in my quest for another home birth or at the very least another VBAC.

They hang together in my closet, clumped to one end…but they are there. The empty tubs sit now in the storage room in our basement. If I have to put them away too soon, so be it, but today I defied the fear and the reminder of “what if” that has greeted me every morning.


We’ve been in our new home for 2 and a half weeks.

We are learning to live in a smaller town again. And to live in town. Even though we lived in Pueblo West, where our home was located we felt very much like we were close to the country. I enjoyed being able to look out and see the mountains. Here I see a wonderful backyard (with grass!) but also other buildings close by. I miss open space a bit.
Some of the things our we’ve adjusted in just the short time we’ve been here…
I have to plan my grocery lists a little differently. There is a small local grocery store, but it’s a bit more expensive than some larger stores in bigger cities. We now have an “every day” grocery list and a “city” grocery list for when we make the hour trek to a larger city.
Speaking of grocery stores, Zeke has to learn it’s okay for a guy to follow us out with a cart of groceries. A young man was helping us to the car with our groceries this last week. Zeke saw him following us and said “Mom!” and pointed emphatically towards the man behind us as if to say “that guy is following us!” He wasn’t sure that it was okay. I told him, that’s the difference between a small town and a big one. They help you out with groceries. 🙂
We have to mow grass. For the last 5 years we didn’t have grass at all. Our lawn care consisted of pulling weeds and spraying if they got too big. Here we need to mow once a week. It didn’t occur to me until we got here that Zeke and Titus have never seen a push mower up close. They’re not thrilled. Zeke sits on the porch and plugs his ears the whole time.
Literally everyone we have met in the last two weeks is “new” to us. We trying to remember names and stories. It’s been interesting to connect dots and try to learn new people. It’s been a while since we’ve moved so maybe we’re a little rusty. It’s kind of like college at K-State all over again. Being willing to turn to the person next to you and shake hands and introduce yourself. I’ve been pleased to watch the boys open up and become more outgoing, and seem even more comfortable with it than I am.
Unpacking isn’t fun no matter where you are.

We are still unpacking boxes of clothes and bathroom stuff. The kitchen (above) is done as is the play room and other major rooms of the house. We’re still trying to figure out where everything goes and what is going to work best for our family. It’s been a challenge to find the best “system” and I’m sure I’ll be tweaking it for months yet. For my type A personality, it’s hard to be patient, especially after having a system that worked well for our family before.
We are adjusting to life here and liking it. We keep reminding ourselves it will take time, but we have been called here by God and know that this is where we’re supposed to be. We know that He is faithful and He will give us what we need to be here.