Thursday, February 26, 2015

End It 2015

2/27 is the annual day to remember the 27+ million people, in today's world, who are held captive and forced to work without pay or the freedom to leave. End It Movement is working hard to bring to light what so many want to keep in darkness because of its extreme profit to their coffers.  Tomorrow, you will probably see, in person and across social media, lots of red Xs on the hands of those who stand in solidarity against modern-day slavery.  Many of you know this hits home oh so acutely for my family.  While I often fight back the bitterness that the world was not alive with passion to end slavery in the 1990s, I do rejoice that this is now an issue that so many recognize as an ugly truth in our world.

$90.  Do you have that much in your bank account?  In your piggy bank?  In your change jar?  $90 is all it takes to buy a slave in most of the world.  This disgusts me.  Human life valued at a mere $90.  How is life valued so flippantly?  How does others not see the eyes of Christ in the ones staring out at them?  I have friends who have started sending $90 a month to Free The Slaves to assist them in their liberation and rehabilitation programs.  One of these families goes without cable each month in exchange for buying freedom for a captive in the name of Jesus.  Another one of the families gave up their gym membership in exchange for buying freedom for a forgotten one.  I stand in awe that those two families alone rescue 24 souls a year just by making a superficial sacrifice.  What could we accomplish if we all dug deep?

I think so many people see '27 million' and shut down.  That number is so large.  I can't picture 27 million of anything.  So often I feel that people become overwhelmed by that number and think that slavery isn't solvable.  We've done all we can to make it illegal all over the world, but we can't stop the evil.  So folks keep living their merry little lives and try to block out the images on TV and social media.

But, God.  Oh, those words  God doesn't stop!  He's at work! God redeems.  No story is lost on Him.  God made justice.  Micah 6:8 is a hip verse in our culture, but that doesn't make it any less true or applicable or important: Do justice, seek mercy, walk humbly with God.  Do justice.  That means in how I talk about people, how I think about people, how I love on people, how I shop, and how I spend my time.

Let's revisit the shopping thing.  I'd love to see an old-school news cast of street interviews with the question being, "Are you involved in the slave trade?".  I guarantee there would be few, if any, yeses.  Yet, we all are involved.  Our global economy is set up in a way that causes us to value a great deal.  The cheaper we can buy what we need or want, the better.  Unfortunately, to buy things cheaply and for the selling company to still make a profit, that often means that those doing the actual manufacturing are not paid much or are not paid at all.  It means that their working conditions are unsafe, unsanitary, and often flat out life threatening.  This is all so that we feel good about our 'deal' and that sweat shop owners, distribution companies, and brand name CEOs live the good life.  The majority of chocolate candies, sugar, coffee, tea, and often fresh fruits and veggies in chain grocery stores are all grown in the hands of slaves.  My friend Given reminds that each time someone bites into a KitKat, s/he is tasting the blood of the slave who grew the cocoa.  I know that's a bit graphic, but the reality is still reality.

Yes, I know that most of us live on a budget.  Yes, I know it's hard to always know exactly where our food and textile items originated.  Even in America, buying something from an American farm doesn't guarantee slave labor wasn't used.  So, what are we to do?  The knowledge, the research, the proof, is all around us.  We can't plead ignorance any longer.  It just isn't a valid excuse for.  Here are some ideas:

~Pay attention to the retailers you use.  The grocery store and the mall are two prime places to find goods made by slave hands.  Look for fair trade symbols.  Organic items are generally fair trade too because of the strict rules governing them to be labeled organic.  Look for these symbols on products:

~Just because a product says "Made in the USA" doesn't mean slave labor wasn't used in its production.  Research the sourcing of the materials in the product.  Something assembled in America can be labeled "Made in America" but it might have cotton sourced from slave labor in Uzbekistan, pieces made in factories in China, or embellishments from sweat shops in Bangladesh.

~Research retailers.  Many websites will have a link at the bottom of their page if they are fair trade/ethically made.  Ann Taylor and Loft, Carters, and GAP (this would include Banana Republic and Old Navy since they are part of the GAP family) are ethically made clothing brands, and they are ever seeking to become more and more transparent with their supply chain.  Shop locally made goods when you can...crafts, clothing, produce/farm goods.  Get to know the providers.  Learn their methods, and enjoy supporting local businesses. 

~I'm not one to jump on the 'ban' bandwagon, but I'm all for letting producers know that you like a product but would like it even more if they changed their production methods to ethically made/ fair trade status. 

~Keep your eyes open.  Slaves are often hidden in plain sight.  A church friend had slaves selling hair bows in her neighborhood recently.  She said she knew something wasn't right but didn't have the guts to call police.  Oh, please call!!  Rescue these dear ones.

~Tell others.  Read up on slavery here.  Share this post.  Then, don't go back to your old ways.  We're held accountable once we're armed with knowledge and then choose to do nothing with it.  I teach about modern-day slavery to my 6th graders each year.  If they learn nothing else in my room, I want them to come away knowing that human life is in-valuable, that our choices matter, and that they can make a difference.  Our children are not too young to learn about this.

~Pray.  God moves in mighty ways, and He cares.We are made in His image for His glory. When you can't find what you need certified fair trade/ethically made, pray for those who made your item.  Pray that God will rescue them quickly and help them endure.

Tomorrow, on this day of recognizing that we still have a long way to go in regards of seeing God's fingerprints in each face, will you commit to doing all you can to ending slavery once and for all?  Then share with others what you plan to do and ask them to hold you accountable.  Let's be in it to end it.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.  ~Ephesians 2:10

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Man Cub: 7 Months

Oh, Sweet Love!

You are our daily joy!  Your personality has bloomed this month, and it is obvious how much love you have for animals and people.  You continue to woo strangers and make everyone near you smile.  Even while teething this month, your happiness has been contagious.  God is using you each day to draw us closer to Him, and we pray that you long to be used by Him your entire life.  We love you forever and always!

You are a much better sleeper this month!  You are once again sleeping through the night!  Yay!  You go to bed right about 7:00 still and will sleep until 6-7 in the morning.  Every once in a while you wake up in the middle of the night because you need a snack, but those days are few and far between.  Your naps still aren't consistent, but you still need a morning nap and an afternoon nap.  We try to convince you to sleep for 1.5-2 hours at each nap, but you think that's just silly some days.  You do sleep really well in the Pognae, so if worse comes to worse and we just have to be out, we pack you in there and off we go.

Eating is an ever growing adventure! You eat 3 meals a day while still nursing.  You nurse in the mornings before your Mama picks you up.  Then she feeds you a banana with Happy Bellies Organic Baby Oatmeal for breakfast.  You then get a bottle of Mommy's milk mid-morning.  At lunch, you get either avocado or sweet potato.  Then you get another bottle mid-afternoon.  At dinner, you get black beans, avocado, or sweet potato, depending on what you had for lunch.  Then at bed, you have oatmeal and then nurse. We've added one new food a week.  You sometimes eat Happy Baby Organic Green Puffs and you do a great job of feeding them to yourself.  You've also had Stonyfield Farms Organic Blueberry Baby yogurt, but it caused your eczema to flair, so we'll try that again a few months.  This week's new food was scrambled eggs, and you were NOT a fan.  We'll keep trying every few days with that one.

You crawl on your hands and knees everywhere!  That started February 3rd.  You can flip yourself from crawling to sitting like a champ.  You pull up to stand on your feet by using absolutely anything you can reach.  My favorite is when you crawl up to Daddy or me, grab our pant legs, pull yourself to standing, and peek through our knees!  You love to push absolutely anything like it's a car...toy cars, blocks, the bathroom trash can, measuring spoons, the dust buster...anything that will slide on the floor!  You love standing in your crib, so Daddy finally had to drop your crib down a level on February 13th.  On February 2nd, your bottom right tooth popped through, and on February 4th your bottom left tooth popped through.  Your two top front teeth are trying to come through, but they aren't out quite yet.  You can also climb out of your bath tub, so we're looking for a ring seat with good ratings. You respond to your name (both English and Zambian) and you look at Isaac when we say "Daddy", and you look at me when we say "Mommy".  You like to splash in the dogs' water bowls.

Baths, puppy kisses and cuddles, being outside, music, being sung to, the excer-saucer, your Graco Jumper, playing with us and your toys, when we lay on the floor so you can crawl and climb all over us, standing, when your grandparents and great-grandparents sing and talk to you, laughing, cooing, squealing, being flown around like Super Man, being tossed in the air, the Pognae, eating, sleeping, sitting in your high chair when we are eating and eating with us, rings and other chew-on toys, your  cuddle toys, and grabbing anything you can reach.  Chikondi.  Oh that now love to sit under her and play there.  You still squeal and reach for her before bed and first thing in the morning.

Dirty diapers, being too sleepy or hungry, if your oatmeal isn't practically scalding hot

Seven Month Stats:
Weight: 15 pounds, 6 ounces (yep, you gained over 2 pounds this month!)
Length:  25 3/4 inches
Eating: nursing/breast milk bottles 7:00 am, 10:00 am, 1:30 pm, and, 6:45 pm; eating banana and oatmeal around 8:00, avocado or sweet potato for lunch around noon, and avocado, black beans, or sweet potatoes around 5:30 while Mommy and Daddy eat dinner, oatmeal about 6:45, and nursing directly after.
Bedtime: right around 7:00
Awake: sometime between 6:00-7:00
Naps: usually 9:30 and 2:00. 
Diapers: Size 2
Clothes: 3-6 months and 6 months onesies; size 3-6 months and 6 months pants and rompers; 6 months pjs; I've thrown in a few 6-9 month outfits that I deemed too cute to wait even if they are a bit big.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Anti-Semitism on the Rise

The news is full of stories lately of hatred toward Jews.  Europe is seeing a rise in anti-Semitism like it hasn't seen in decades.  Attacks at Jewish centers in America have occurred, though more sporadically, as well.  It makes my fume angry fumes.  As a Christian, I know that the promises made to the Jews are the same promises made to me.  I study the Old Testament, and my family is slowly learning Jewish traditions because they still honor the One True God.  This matters!

Today, this was a headline on Fox News. I know many people don't put any stock in Fox, and that's fine.  But the video doesn't lie.  This Parisian walked for 10 hours around his home city, wearing his kippah.  The reactions to the outward fact that he is a Jew infuriate me.  No wonder Israeli President Netanyahu is encouraging European Jews to emigrate to Israel in droves. **Please don't watch with small children around.  The language used shouldn't have to be explained to the littles.

As Christians, we have to take a stand and teach our children that this isn't ok.  I don't care why someone is different from me or whether I agree with them or not.  We don 't treat others this way.  This just isn't right.  It's not acceptable, it doesn't glorify the Lord, and enough is enough. 

On the flip side, hatred in general, not just anit-Semitism, is out of control. Over the weekend, a storage building at a local Islamic center and school was set on fire.  Arson.  My blood boiled.  Isaac was upset.  We both felt deep sorrow that this would happen in our community.  Hatred doesn't win friends.  Anger and a refusal to attempt to understand each other doesn't right wrongs.

Jesus hung out with all sorts.  He didn't agree with all of them.  He lived His life as an example of how to get along with others and love on them even when we don't agree or they choose to live lives that don't bring glory to God.  We need to teach our children this.  We need to live this.  Evil doesn't prevail.  We know that.  Satan loses this war...he already has, really.  So be light.  Exasperate the darkness with your light. Love, love, love.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Happy Valentine's Day!

Usually, we don't make much of Valentine's Day.  We use it as an excuse to spend extra time together and maybe splurge on our eating habits, but that's about it.  This morning I woke up at 6:30 to a baby who was crying because he'd slept through the night (thank You, Lord!), but no husband to go change his diaper so I could feed him.  What??!  I didn't look around enough to wonder but went upstairs to appease the Man Cub.

A few minutes later, Isaac appeared in the nursery, saying his head had been spinning, and he'd gone for a drive.  Yeah right.  I knew something was up.  The pups came upstairs to join the fun, and once Man Cub was fed, all 5 of us trooped downstairs.  I had mentioned I was super hungry and was ready for breakfast.  When I entered the kitchen I saw this:
Yellow roses (to remind me of my great-grandmother), KitKat, and a super sweet card. This was a complete surprise and totally unexpected.  Love!  I then turned around and saw this:
Valentine donuts were a hit.  After breakfast, we went to the grocery store to get that out of the way for the weekend.  Man Cub was supposed to go down for a nap when we got home, but between teething and learning he can now stand in his crib, a nap didn't happen this morning.  We decided to stick with our plans of going to the zoo for the afternoon and let him sleep in the car while we drove and had a side trip to the Chick-fil-A drive thru.

I've mentioned before that Man Cub adores his 4.5 foot tall stuffed giraffe that lives in his room.  Her name is Chikondi.  Last weekend, he recognized a painting of a giraffe face and just squealed and squealed.  His mama of course then bought the painting for him.  This made me very curious if he'd recognize a real giraffe, so we decided today would be a perfect day to find out.

Valentine's Day in Houston is always a toss up when it comes to weather, but today it was a balmy 77 and sunny.  The zoo was crowded, but not unbearable.  We visited the sealions and the primates, took a wander past our favorite elephant herd, and entered the African Forest.  The gorilla house is all ready to go for our gorillas' arrival in May, and it looks fabulous!!  Can't wait.  Man Cub napped through a lot of this, but he woke up just in time to see the giraffes.

Once he rubbed the sleep out of his eyes enough to focus on what was in front of him, his eyes opened wide, and he got the biggest grin on his face.  Those little arms of his just flailed with excitement!  Hi Chikondi was alive in front of him!  This face isn't the clearest, but he was overcome with excitement:

We wanted to stick around long enough for feeding time, so we petted some goats and road the carousel.  We found the giraffe on the carousel, and of course Man Cub thought that was absolutely amazing.  Then the ride began, and he was even more excited.  The sweet boy was just in baby heaven!  We were in heaven watching him!
In line:
 Waiting to ride:

I then stood in line for 20 minutes to get lettuce while the boys stared and stared at the giraffes.  My sweet love was absolutely mesmerized.  His squeals when it was our turn to feed Daddy Mtembe could be heard clear across the zoo, I'm sure.  Mtembe's tongue might have grazed Man Cub's hand as we fed him, and I'm pretty sure that same little hand got a pat on Mtembe's nose as well.  This boy must get to Brevard Zoo in Florida were giraffe petting is not just allowed but encouraged ASAP.  Road trip, anyone?  I can't wait to see what this boy does when he see a wild giraffe this summer!!

We wound down our day at home with steak filets and all the fixings, homemade strawberry cupcakes, and a little boy who has decided he's big enough to pull himself up on absolutely anything.  Feet are amazing things, friends.  Watch out, world!
 Happy Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Five on Friday

This sweet boy has a grandma that takes him for pictures when Mommy can't.  Aren't his Valentine cards the best?!

Young Living's Boswellia Wrinkle Cream is totally rockin' my world right now.  Since my allergy rash on my face *seems* to finally have bitten the dust, I can now see the difference that using this cream on my face for the last 7 weeks has made.  Fine lines are smoothing out, and crows' feet around my eyes and lips are fading.  30 isn't so bad after all!  ;) If you'd like more info on how to get Young Living products for yourself, sent me an email or leave a comment. 

After many of you started telling me that I was totally missing out by not watching Parenthood the last 5 years, so I'm jumping on the wagon now.  Better late than never, right?  Thank you, Netflix.  I'm ready for the 3rd episode, and I'm already hooked.

Acure's Marula Oil (affiliate link) has done wonders for my split ends and frizzy hair.  I've lost so much hair since Man Cub was born, and the little wispy pieces stick out all over the place.  I put just a dab on the tips of my hair before I blow dry it, and in just 2 weeks it is already so much smoother. 
Today was the 3rd annual school wide video on my campus.  We all end up in the gym to film the last scene.  Today was a treat hearing 1200 teens singing, "Don't stop. Never give up.  We won't stop giving all we've got." They mean it too.  I can't wait for the day the Lord tells me stay home with my son, but if I have to be away from each, there's no other place I'd rather be.  

Linking up here:

The Diary of a Real Housewife

Thursday, February 12, 2015

10 Years

February 12 is Lincoln's birthday, my Sissy's birthday, and the day I was diagnosed with endometriosis.  This day marks so much for me, and I can't believe it's been 10 years since it all started.  Oh, praise God from whom all blessings flow!  I think often of John 13:7: Jesus replied, "You don't understand what I'm doing now, but later you will see."  Oh, how I didn't understand that agony of those awful years, but I see their fruit now.  Satan can still tempt me into falling into fear that the endo will return, but fear is no way to live.  I know many women don't suffer from stage 4 for years on end, and many think this disease is no big deal, but it's absolutely debilitating for some of us.  To be free and healthy for 7 years is a gift I don't ever take for granted.  Lord, allow me to keep serving you, whatever may come!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Oh, Hey 30!

Oh, hey 30.  You've only been with me a month and a day, but the allergy induced rash on my face that is still clearing has kinda reigned over my 2015.   If only we could pinpoint a trigger for it, I could probably wipe it out for good...

I woke up on my birthday not feeling well at all, but Isaac encouraged me to stick with our plans anyway.  I'm so glad I did.  A shower, curls, and a decent dose of make-up for the rash did wonders.  

It's not a secret around here that we bleed both maroon and blue.  Poor David and I never dreamed our two teams would play each other in basketball so often.  UK and the Aggies were scheduled to play in College Station on my birthday, so Dad bought all 7 of us tickets to celebrate.  Even Man Cub had a ticket!  

This game was a roller coaster of emotions.  We didn't want UK to lose their undefeated streak, but we can't quite bring ourselves to ever root against our beloved Aggies either.  Oh, being a heart divided!

The Ags blew us away by getting on the board first and staying there for over 5 minutes!  What?!  I knew the Ags were having a great season, but to be able to do that with the #1 team?  Gig 'em.

 At half time, the Ags still had the lead.

The 2nd half was so intense I wanted to change our late lunch plans to the Dixie Chicken, but I refrained.  :)  It took TWO overtimes, but the Cats pulled out the win.   I was happy with that...the Cats stayed undefeated and the Aggies put forth an awesome game .

Can I say how weird it is to see inside Kyle Field?!!  Can't wait to see the final product of the renovations!

We all went to Blue Baker for a late lunch after the game.  One of my professors, Dr. B, and her hubby Paul joined us.  It was so great to eat some of my favorite foods and catch up.  

Isaac, Man Cub, and the family made sure I had a great day turning 30.  I love them so much, and I'm very excited to start this new decade.  The best is yet to come!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Aggie Belle is 4!

 Some how this:

is no longer my baby girl.  I have a BIG baby girl who thinks she's still the little 9 pound puppy we brought home after she was rescued from a box on the side of the road with her mom and sisters.  Sigh.  She's such a good girl.  Aggie Belle is so fabulous with Man Cub, and we couldn't be more proud of our velcro puppy.

To celebrate, we brought home this adorable dog cookie from the cutest barkery that's down the road from our house.  Local friends, check out Buddy Bites!!

Bailey couldn't get left out, so of course he got a tiny puppy cookie too!  He's so totally his Geno's grandson: he ate off all of the yogurt frosting first and then ate the cookie!  

Happy birthday, my only daughter!  We all love you so much, even when you hog the covers.  Now, go chase a squirrel to celebrate!
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