Embracing Everything Emma

Enjoying Life One Baby Step at a Time…

Because We Love Her June 29, 2012

Filed under: Embracing Everything Family — erinnlinkous @ 6:00 am

Writing a will is miserable. Being the one’s on the other side is miserable, too. When I was 19, my parents went out of town together and rewrote their will giving me custody of my then 15 year old brother in the event that something happened to them. I was a wreck, to say the least. I cried their whole flight there and their whole flight back, and then some more in between. I have never been a fan of the time period of writing a will. And there is SO MUCH responsibility put on those listed in the will when kids are involved. Good grief, the stuff put in a will can seriously divide a family. And the root of it all? We’re all horrible, selfish people at heart who want, want, want. I want the money. I want the house. I want the furniture. I want the kids. Oh what, Joe Bob is dead? Well, I hope I get his STUFF.

I am writing this post because although I despise the YUCK that comes along with it, a will is necessary.  Think not? Well, let’s just go back and revisit Joe Bob. Joe Bob dies (without a will) and unfortunately, his wife goes along with him. They have 3 small children and wonderful grandparents, on both sides. Where do the kids go? What happens to the money? Do they get it then or save it until later? And let’s just be honest- having a living will is about as important. Do you know the guilt a family member can live with not knowing if you want life support or not? Sure it seems simple enough, but not really.

Due to the scenarios above and several more than entered my worrisome mind (I know, I know- I can only dwell on TODAY) , JR and I knew this was a must do for us. I won’t lie, we put it off for a few days. And then months. And then it dawned on us- we could fall over dead at any moment. Our days are numbered and none of us know when our last breath will be. What kind of parents would we be to leave Emma grieving a situation and then add to it that we didn’t explain ANYTHING about what would happen. Because we love her too much, this couldn’t be an option. Despite the pain and agony that came with writing a will, she was too worth it NOT to do it. Now I won’t lie, JR and I were miserable all day long. We pouted with every step we took and keep envisioning leaving our sweet precious daughter behind in a world without us. It’s an awful thing to think about and may make you vomit. But you know what would make us vomit worse? Leaving our sweet precious daughter and nothing explaining what to do next. For our peace of mind and with a desire to cause her no harm, we went to Dave Ramsey’s website and purchased the pre-written package since we have no legal expertise and went to work. It’s AMAZING- it walks you through everything and you have no question at all about what to do. Be sure to browse and see which plan is best for you and your family. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. So with our written wills in hand, we went to a notary and witnesses to sign those bad boys. It’s sickening, but remember the alternative. Not having a will doesn’t mean you won’t die, it just means you’ll die STUPID (sorry if I offended you but COME ON, you know I’m right!). So take the plunge, show your family you love them and go create your will today. After your done, be sure to start work on your legacy drawer.

What is your advice for writing wills? Any recommendations for the best route to go?

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Going to the Chapel June 28, 2012

Filed under: Embracing Everything Emma — erinnlinkous @ 6:00 am

When I was younger I loved this song. It was so cute and sweet…it made me want to get married. And then I grew up and realized this song is not what marriage is all about. Not in the least. I worry about Emma growing up and getting married and having these same expectations. I want to show her what my parents showed me about marriage and what I think we should ALL share with our children about marriage:

*Wearing a white dress: the other day I heard someone ask if someone was wearing “white” in her wedding. I was astounded. I couldn’t believe someone would ask such a question and be so blunt about it. Something I want Emma to know is where she finds her purity. We all make mistakes and fall short of the glory of God. As long as she seeks His forgiveness it doesn’t matter what was done it her past- she will still be white as snow. Also, I’m a firm believer in a dress not having to be stark white and that doesn’t mean she’s the town harlot. Once again, her purity is found in Christ alone.

*Budgeting the wedding: I want Emma and her future spouse to have the wedding of their dreams but I also want it to not cause them to go into debt and squash any dreams they may have down the road. I want us to be able to help them financially for their wedding and also help teach them how to use their own saved money for this special day.

*The wedding should be less important than the marriage: so often times we put SO MUCH into the preparation of the wedding and not enough time into preparing the marriage. Something I would like to recommend her and her future spouse do is premarital counseling. This is more than just making your marriage about Christ (which is MOST important)- it’s about learning to budget, learning how to argue, learning how to make decisions, and more. It also partners you alongside other believers who have been married and through a lot in life. Another thing that was crucial to us and is still crucial to this day as we hit life’s ups and downs and try to raise up Emma is having a mentor couple. We have best friends who are the world to us. They have helped guide and direct us throughout our dating relationship as well as our marriage. They are also Emma’s godparents. They weren’t someone we randomly selected- they were people we were able to watch and see evidence in their relationship with God, their marriage, and their children that made us want to look to them for advice and guidance.

*Be a wife of character: Instead of writing everything, check out my blog post on being a Proverbs 31 woman.

*Your marriage ceremony: Make it about God. Plan and simple. This ceremony sets a standard for the marriage to come. Spend time thanking God. Spend time praising God. Spend time sharing God with your guests. Also, focus on one another. This is a once in a lifetime experience that you’ll only have once so enjoy the time you have here with one another.

What advice do you plan on giving your children when it comes to marriage?

 

Clean Up Your Act June 27, 2012

Filed under: Embracing Everything Emma,Embracing Everything Mommy — erinnlinkous @ 6:00 am

Back in 2009, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was one of the most trying times of my life and also one of the biggest moments of blessing. I was terrified for the life of my mother and what that meant for the rest of us. My mom has always been our rock and that never changed. Not during the surgery, the chemo, or even the days of worry. If it wasn’t for my mom, I’m not sure we would have made it through her cancer. It’s a crazy statement to make. I’m so grateful for my momma and praise God every day that she is here with me and Emma Grayce. I know several people who lost their mothers to this battle before their own children were born and because of this, I feel beyond blessed.

After mom’s surgery and treatment, I began hearing crazy words I had never heard before, or at least not knowing their relation to cancer. Words like parabens,  estrogen based, progesterone based, hormone and steroid addictives, and more. The sad thing is, this really didn’t hit home with me. I should have been smacked across the face. Then I had Emma and realized all the cancer causing agents found in HER baby products. Can you believe that? I am using cancer-causing agents in MY BABY PRODUCTS. When I heard this I flipped out. I wanted to call my mom and fuss. And I did. How can we knowingly do this to ourselves and more importantly, our children? I’ll tell you why. After years of over processing and finding the “easy” and “cheap” ways to mass produce items, we’re left with food lasting longer than it even should have and lotions rubbing cancer right into our skin just for the sake of smelling good. I decided that the Linkous family was going to take a stand. We were going to make a change. And here’s what we did-

I nursed. By nursing, I reduced Emma’s chances of getting breast cancer by 25%. If she nurses her future children, it reduces it by another 25%. I can only do my end, but hope she will do the same for her health and the health of her future children. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m NOT saying formula feeding is wrong. I’m just saying that with the cancer pattern in my family, this was what I felt was the best choice for us. Check out this information for nursing moms:

  • Making milk limits the ability for breast cells to produce anything else
  • Most women have none or few menstrual cycles during their pregnancy and their nursing time, which lowers estrogen levels and the amount exposed to
  • While nursing, most women eat healthier and avoid smoking and alcohol, which can also be linked to cancer

We have begun buying unprocessed foods. For example, we have been buying Duchess Brand Milk (local brand) which is steroid and hormone free. Now, you will find other milk that claims to be but read it really close. Some brands have a low enough amount that they can say this and then in the fine print it lists the steroids/hormones being used. Are you KIDDING me? Our little girls are growing into women (in size and development) by the age of 11 and this isn’t just because or by chance. It’s because of all the food with added hormones and steroids so be sure to watch your milk, chicken, and other meats. We buy a lot from our local farmer market and always by wild caught fish at the grocery store. We also use venison for our ground meat. We rarely taste the difference plus it’s cheaper…and safer. We also buy a lot of our other items (ie: rice, quinoa, etc) from King’s Produce in Wytheville, VA. If you live close it’s worth the drive. We love that place! If you don’t live nearby, I recommend researching local stores that offer healthy alternatives as well as chains that are known for their good quality and healthy foods.

We have also been buying our fruits and vegetables free from pesticides. We focus mainly on the farmer’s market and try to buy what’s in season. There are sometimes they don’t have what you need and in these cases you can either stock up when they have it and store it in your mom’s freezer (love you mom!) or buy organic. Organic is expensive and sometimes not feasible, but we try to follow this tip on what to buy organic when we’re having to cut our budget back.

And we have begun doing research on other ways to keep ourselves healthy. There are A LOT of foods out there that do their job for you. We use this chart to focus on what things need to be a necessity in our diet.

Another area we’re beginning to do better on is our health and beauty items. What does it help to eat unprocessed chicken if I’m covering my skin in paraben every morning? We have started this adventure and are so grateful for sites like Vitacost where we can get these items for much cheaper. There are also several brands available that I had never heard of before but have excellent reviews. Here is my most recent orders from there. Love it! Also, if you sign up via my account, you can get $10 off your first order! I get $10 for you ordering, and you get $10. It’s a win/win! And if you sign up more people, you keep getting money off for their first orders. I highly recommend checking out the baby/kids section on here. They often times have items the same price as I would pay at Target but much healthier options.

So this is what we’re doing to work towards a healthier, cleaner lifestyle for us…and for Emma. Does this mean we’ve beat cancer and are the healthiest we’ll ever be? Nope. But it means we’re a little bit closer than we were yesterday. If breast cancer runs in your family, be sure to make an appointment with your doctor to get a baseline mammogram scheduled and find out what ways you can prevent breast cancer in your own life.

What are you doing to help your family get more clean? Anything I missed?

 

Chef Maman June 26, 2012

Filed under: Embracing Everything Emma,Embracing Everything Mommy — erinnlinkous @ 6:00 am

When I began thinking about Emma and what I wanted her to eat (other than milk, of course), I thought of everything under the sun. I want her to be a well-rounded eater. I want her to be a HEALTHY eater. It doesn’t mean much if I watch what I put in me to give her healthy milk if I just give her junk otherwise. So, off we went to discover how to make fresh baby food!

When I started this adventure, I was certain I would spend hours at a time making food. Slaving over a hot stove. I prepared myself for the long day of work and knew it would all be worth my while. The good news was this- making baby food doesn’t take all day. It really doesn’t take many hours, at least in the LABOR part of it. For this blog, I’m going to show you how we make one of Emma’s favorite meals—

AVOCADOS

The first time I decided to make avocados I thought I might need a recipe book. Then as I began looking online, I found some amazing sites that give these tips for FREE. This one is one of my favorites so far.

Step 1- Peel the avocado. This part makes cutting it up easy. The first time I made these I skipped this part due to my excitement. I wasted a lot more time and a lot more avocado than I would like to admit.

Step 2- Cut the avocado. I start by cutting mine in half, and then pulling it apart where the pit is. Isn’t this beautiful? My mouth is already watering. After this, make sure to cut it up into a few stripes just to make the mashing a little easier.

Step 3- MASH AWAY! This is one of my favorite parts with one of my favorite baby gifts. Avocados are amazing because you can mash them a little for finger food eaters or a lot for newbies. Emma loves them both ways. I also love these because you get to skip Step 4, blending. I love my blender but love not having to wash it even more. I’ll save this step for carrots.

Step 4- There are two different options for this step. The first- freeze your bounty. I bought these cute little ice cube trays at Target and they’re perfect for freezing. Since they’re silicon, you can just push the bottom and they pop right out. I try to leave mine for about two hours and then transfer into freezer safe bags. And label them. Avocados and zucchini look a lot alike, however, Emma doesn’t think they taste a lot alike. We have to hide her zucchini in her carrots. When you’re ready for your baby to eat them, just let them thaw in the fridge or put them in the microwave for a few seconds. Timing will depend on how many servings you make and the type of food. Avocados thaw quick, carrots take longer.

The second option- serve it fresh. Nothing like fresh num nums! Emma gets so excited when I make her food now, it’s like she knows something good is coming. How can I deny that precious little face? It’s good to save some back for her, even if it’s not meal time. It’s a nice little reward for all my our hard work.

Step 5- Sometimes I get tired. Sometimes I get sick. Sometimes we’re on the road and I don’t want to thaw out food. So in that scenario, I have to adapt and realize you can be a good mom AND feed your baby store bought food. What a revelation! I have a couple of brands that I really love, but this one is my favorite. It has such a wide variety of unique baby foods and is on sale often. We bring these on long car rides and use it days when I just haven’t had time to do anything and don’t feel like it. It’s a way I still feed her healthy and not feel bad about doing it quick.

These are my tips, what are your suggestions on how you feed your baby and what you do to keep it healthy?

 

Dare To Be Different June 25, 2012

Filed under: Embracing Everything Family — erinnlinkous @ 6:00 am

When I bought this shirt for Emma, I knew it would turn into a post. I want her to be DIFFERENT. I want her to STAND OUT. I don’t want her to swim downstream because everyone else is doing it. She needs to be the woman she was created to be and I won’t accept anything less than that. I firmly believe that God will show her what it is she was created to do and has put us here to help guide her as she figures this out. This doesn’t mean that we will lie to her. Do not expect to see Emma on American Idol singing a painful version of Mariah Carey’s, “Hero”, and saying that her mommy and daddy told her it was beautiful her whole life. I will help my daughter be who God created her to be and if she can’t hold a tune, it is my job as her parent to cause her no future harm by being honest with her but in a loving way, of course!

So how do we teach her by our example to be the difference? One way that we’re doing this is in our spending. About seven years ago, we were introduced to Dave Ramsey. If hindsight were 20/20, we would already be debt free and living the good life. Unfortunately, we missed the mark a little here but I honestly believe we have realized the error of our way early on and in enough time to be debt free within the next 10 years (house and everything!), if not sooner. Now I tell you this because I truly believe EVERYONE needs to be debt free. I know not everyone agrees, and that’s ok. But let me give you a few good reasons for why J.R. and I are pursuing a debt free lifestyle:

#1- It’s Biblical. God clearly states in Proverbs 22:7 that, “the rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender”. I don’t know about you but I don’t want to be poor. Even more so, I don’t want to be a slave to anyone or anything. I accepted Christ and he bought my freedom at a high price—why shouldn’t I apply this to all areas of my life? Even freedom of debt can be found in Him.

#2- It gives Emma a future. Just like writing a will, having money in the bank takes care of her future. What happens if one of us dies unexpectedly? Hopefully we would have enough money in our regular accounts plus good enough savings that she would be taken care of without having to mourn about anything else. There’s also other funds you want to have put back for your child- college, wedding, and more. Barry & Stacy Myers worked together to write this post on how to prepare funds for your child.

#3- It teaches Emma how to continue to give herself a future. I read an article recently that talked about how Emma’s generation will be the first generation that has to move back home with their parents. I’m not sure about you all, but this caused me some serious issues with my blood pressure. I went through the roof. Seriously? My daughter isn’t even a year old and we’re already giving her an excuse to be a lazy bum? I don’t think so. Emma will be self sufficient and we will teach her how. This is not to say there may not be unique situations, but in MOST cases, once the baby bird leaves the nest, it doesn’t come back.

#4- It gives US a future. At the end of the day, when Emma is grown and married with her own children, we want to enjoy our lives, too. We don’t want all our money being thrown at her and then it’s all gone. We want to travel. We want to spoil our grandkids. We want to bless others like people have blessed us. And my crazy husband eventually wants a boat.

Now I know what some of you are thinking. You want to be debt free but don’t know where to begin. It can be a very overwhelming process and the good news is, Dave has a way to help you out! The debt snowball procedure was a lifesaver for us and really put it all in perspective. Here’s how it works:

Let’s say you start out with 6 forms of debt (can be anything from mortgage to student loans to credit cards and more). In most cases, you would think to pay the item with the highest interest, which is normally one of the items that has the most money to pay off. Now this is a good idea to eliminate as much interest as possible, however, when you’ve been paying the SAME bill for 2+ years it gets old. And discouraging. Yes, you may have paid down $2000 but all you see is the bill is STILL coming. Dave recommends you look at the bills with the lowest amount owed and start there. And it works! J.R. and I weren’t sure we bought into it until we tried it. We were sold. We have paid off numerous things this route and it keeps us focused and encouraged to keep going. Now keep in mind that interest will come into play when you have a bill that is $2200 and another that is $2400. In this case, since the bills are so close, Dave would suggest picking the bill that does have the highest rate.

Will you be joining us on this debt free adventure? We hope to have you partner with us as we work towards living like no one else, so later on, we can live like no one else!

 

My Baby Speaks French! June 22, 2012

Filed under: Embracing Everything Emma,Embracing Everything Family — erinnlinkous @ 6:00 am

When Emma came out of the womb, I was ready to immerse her in the French language and culture. I feel in love with everything French at the age of eight, so I figured why not start with Emma young? Statistics show that we learn the most prior to age five and that we retain things better then as well.  I’m pretty certain this is why other countries are excelling so far past us when it comes to learning languages. I considered writing my congressman about it and then decided I can only control ME and MY family. So with that in mind, JR and I decided that France would be a part of Emma’s life. When we went to France last year we went crazy on baby books. We stopped at a gas station of all places and found HUNDREDS on baby books in French. This was perfect for her! I think we bought all of these for under $20.

Our next dilemma was finding books in English and French so as she got older she could compare the two. I have several kid books in English so I just bought the French translations, and then I found this beauty.

“Le Chat Au Chapeau” (a.k.a. “The Cat in the Hat) in French AND English…together! This one is definitely a favorite and cost me about $10 but was completely worth it in my eyes. So every once in awhile I mix it up and read a French book to Emma instead of English. It’s fun to watch her listen to me speak and sometimes I’m pretty sure she thinks I’m crazy, but it will all pay off to hear her say “Maman, Je t’aime!”. The goal is when Emma reaches a certain age (not sure of the exact age, but whenever she gets English down pretty well) we will practice complete immersion with her. This is where out in public we will speak English to her but at home it will be only French. It’s one of the quickest and most effective ways to learn another language. I studied abroad for 6 weeks and picked up on so much more during that time then I did my 4 years in high school or 4 years in college. Nuts! I think this method will be what really helps her aspire to levels we could never do otherwise.

The thing is—it doesn’t just stop here. It’s not just enough to understand the language, it’s also a lifestyle. We travel to France every 18 months to the Jacques LeFevre Institute in Merville-Franceville (Normandy) to do mission work with a group of 4 AMAZING people there. We want Emma to grow in their culture and understand WHY mommy and daddy go there. It’s not vacation, it’s not out of “obligation”, it’s out of love for the gospel reaching the people of France and helping our brothers & sisters in Christ there who do it year round. Our goal is to begin bringing her to France and let her be a part of this. She will get her hands dirty, she will learn the ways of life there, and slowly become a child who is diverse and understands other cultures. Does it mean France is where her heart will be lead? Maybe, maybe not. But our goal is that our child will be open to wherever Christ leads her because of this and not be fearful and doubtful of “if” she can do it because she has seen it done her whole life. So whether it’s Bristol or Seoul, we want to empower her to be the child we know God has created her to be.

What are you doing to teach your child about other cultures?

 

Tis the Season June 21, 2012

Filed under: Embracing Everything Emma — erinnlinkous @ 6:00 am

Holidays are wonderful. There’s always food, family and fellowship. And sometimes there’s gifts involved, too. Everything about the holiday season is wonderful, including finding clothes that go with the festivities. For Emma, I try to make sure she ALWAYS has something to go with a holiday but I also don’t go spend all kinds of money to make it happen. Here are a few helpful suggestions on how to make the holidays work without breaking the bank:

Shop sales/out of season- I can’t say enough the deals you’ll get for watching sales. I usually try to go a week or less after the specific holiday just to get a price estimate. I never take less than 50% off, but I usually prefer even less. So this means I usually go back to the store several times before I get the deal I’m looking for on clothes. It gets frustrating and discouraging sometimes. I found several outfits for Emma that I fell in love with for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I just couldn’t let myself spend full price. Or even 25% off. It’s just not how I work. I end up having horrible buyer’s remorse. We went back a full month after Christmas, and not only found that attire, but also marked down Thanksgiving and Halloween. I was able to rack up on 10 different sets for Emma for less than $5. What a deal! This is what I call shopping

Shop consignments- When I go to consignment sales I have a list. Sometimes I venture off that list when it becomes worth it. This year at wee cycle it, this item was completely worth it. This dress caught the corner of my eye and I thought it would be great for Christmas this upcoming year. It looks brand new and I pictured a pretty tag of $10-$15 on it but looked anyways. Much to my surprise, the dress was $3. Are you kidding me? Pick me! Pick me! I scooped that baby up and never thought twice.

Shop colors, not designs- You can save a lot of money by focusing on the color rather than a specific design. For example, you can get a good long sleeve red shirt for .50 at a yard sale, or pay $10 for a red shirt with a Christmas tree on it. Both shout “Christmas” when worn in December, one just costs a lot more than others. This also helps the clothes from being worn only during the holiday season which adds an extra bonus.

Make you own- You can make your own! Learn how to print wording/design and put it on your own shirt. This would be such a fun project to do with your child if he/she is old enough. If not, make it yourself and pretend like they helped.

Do you have any suggestions on how you shop and dress your kids for the holidays?