Embracing Everything Emma

Enjoying Life One Baby Step at a Time…

Thanks Mom and Dad May 30, 2013

My Parents & Emma

My Parents & Emma

To my parents (and truly, any other parent whose child grew up to be a parent, too):

Thank you for loving me. Period. There are so many times that the love you showed me only went one way. There was no return and no immediate result from the love you showed me, but you did anyways. Your love for me has shown me how to love my daughter.

Thank you for choosing to discipline me. At the time, I didn’t understand it. At the time, I probably didn’t agree with it. Now I’m glad you did and grateful you did, too. After countless attempts and many tears (from Emma AND me), I now understand just a glimpse of how hard it was. Finding a way to teach your child to obey and not crush their spirit at the same time is a hard thing to accomplish and I pray everyday that we can do it. Disciplining your child is a time consuming, thankless, heartbreaking job. I cling tight to God’s word here and I’m sure you did, too.  (“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” Galatians 6:9)

Thank you for choosing to have me. In a world full of so many choices, you choose to give life to an unexpected pregnancy, rather than take it, and raise a child. I’m grateful everyday for the life you’ve given me. I’m even more grateful for the life you’ve given me with you all as my parents! (please note here: abortion or adoption were never on the table with my parents- I’m just being thankful that it never was).

Thank you for giving me a brother. I am so glad that not only was I raised in a wonderful home, but four years later, I had a brother join me. I grew up with a constant companion and to this day, still have a best friend because of it. I’m grateful for my parents deciding to have another child, which in turn blessed me with a sibling.

Thank you for believing in me. Despite how crazy my dreams seemed (and still do sometimes), you believe in me. You encourage me. You have never taught me to do anything less than strive for my dreams and pursue them. You’ve also taught me it’s ok sometimes to not get where you planned on being and it’s always ok to change your mind. You taught me to be a dreamer and a realist all at the same time and that is something that is hard to teach.

Thank you for introducing me to Jesus. You brought me to church, you talked about Him in our home, and you made Him a part of our lives. You never forced Him, but rather, you let me find Him. I am so grateful for this. My salvation is through Jesus Christ alone but I thank you for helping me find Him. This will forever be the thing I am most grateful for and the thing I pray that above all else we share with Emma.

So thanks mom and dad. I pray my life is a reflection of what wonderful parents you all were and still are. As one of my friends, Carrie, so eloquently put, “(raising children) is the hardest job you’ll ever love. Even my worst days are often better than my best days before…”

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On the Trail May 28, 2013

Emma, prior to leaving

Emma, prior to leaving

This past Saturday we were invited to go ride the Virginia Creeper Trail with some great friends. We had been planning on doing this for quite awhile and this gave us the perfect excuse. I couldn’t wait and I began packing up our stuff first thing Friday morning. Today I want to share with you some tips for going bike riding as well as our adventure.

Family Time (after lunch)

Family Time (after lunch)

For starters, I knew there were things that we needed. This is what we packed and definitely stuff I will pack again:

  • A blanket for Emma in case in got cold or she needed padding for the ride
  • A pair of shorts for Emma in case it got hot
  • A jacket for Emma in case in got cold
  • Sunglasses for all (we ALL used our shades)
  • Water and extra for any injuries (we came back with 2 bottles so we did good!)
  • Snacks. These were mainly for Emma but JR and I took advantage of a few things along the way.
  • Extra pacis, binky, snacks, and all diaper supplies for Emma (we did disposable FYI)
  • Chapstick, sunscreen, and hand sanitizer to use as needed
  • CASH. You never know when you’ll need money for a quick snack or anything else. We went ahead and each brought our wallets. Just in case.
  • Camera, in the form of our phones. Not much, if any, cell service but GREAT pictures were taken!
  • A bag. We brought a bag for all of this stuff. Seriously. Who could carry all this WITHOUT a bag?
Emma, and JR trying to console her

Emma, and JR trying to console her

Jordan & Aaron fixing my tire (2nd time)

Jordan & Aaron fixing my tire (2nd time)

Someone tuckered out

Someone tuckered out

These were the main things we brought and definitely what we would bring again. As far as our trip goes, it started out with a busted tire at the bottom  for me while we were blowing it up with air. After a mile down the trail, Emma decided she hated to carrier and my front tire decided to blow, too. We were luckily with an amazing group of people who had a back up tire tube and air pump so we were covered. The rest of the ride, until lunch, involved a lot of scenic sights, fun riding, and a crying baby. Yes, Emma continued to hate the ride. When we stopped for lunch at the Creeper Trail Café, Emma was in heaven. We ran and played and enjoyed the lawn, ate some grilled cheese for lunch (I had a burger and JR had a loaded hotdog), changed our diaper, and played some more. This was for sure her favorite time of the entire day. She even adopted a pet rock that we put in her room for memories. When we made our way back to the bikes you could tell she was over it. Unfortunately, we had about 5 miles to go so the ride wasn’t yet over. Once back in the carrier, she spent another few miles crying and then finally passed out from all the excitement tears. JR and I were able to enjoy the rest of the ride talking and just enjoying nature together. It was a lot of fun! By the time we got back, Emma was ready to get up and she played some with Farris. They had a lot of fun together shooting people with the water hose! The only real negative part to the trip , other than Emma crying, was that my 31 bag ripped open. Yes it did. RIP sweet 31 bag. I am going to bring it to a friend to attempt fixing it. Let’s pray she comes through this!

Our Riding Group

Our Riding Group

So, have you rode the Creeper Trail? Did your kids love or hate it?

**Please note we rode with JC’s Outdoors in Damascus. This post was not sponsored by them, however, I highly recommend using them! Check out their website HERE!**

 

Fresh Lime & Black Bean Soup- Manic Monday Series May 27, 2013

The Soup (And some jewelry, too!)

The Soup (And some jewelry, too!)

Some people don’t believe in eating soup during the summer. I am one who disagrees with that. Do you stop eating stuff cold in the winter? I don’t. So, I don’t stop eating warm stuff in the summer. I do think, however, there are some soups that taste better when it’s hot outside and one of my absolutely favorites is Black Bean & Lime Soup. My momma found this recipe and shared it with me awhile back in a crockpot cookbook she had that she in turn bought me. This book is HUGE. I haven’t cooked a ton from it but I want to. Every recipe I’ve tried so far has been a win at our house and this one is no exception. Join me today as I share a great summer soup that the whole family will enjoy!

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

You start out with your crockpot, of course. Get it out and thank it for all the good food is has cooked and will cook for you. Next, you’ll get all your ingredients. Start by adding your black beans, chicken (or vegetable) broth, onion, garlic powder, chili powder, cumin, and red pepper flakes to your crockpot. You can cook this on low for 7 hours or on high for 3 ½ hours. When the soup has cooked, put 1 cup at a time in your blender and mix until smooth. Return to crock to cook for an additional 15-20 minutes. Once finished, add sour cream, evoo, cilantro, and lime to the individual bowls. For us, I don’t add the sour cream and I also don’t add the other ingredients to individual bowls. I just throw it all in together. I just find it 10 times easier to do it this way.

I hope you enjoy this meal. It’s definitely on my top list of go to meals and it’s a hit for the entire family.

What’s YOUR favorite summer style soup?

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Fresh Lime and Black Bean Soup, Revised from Crockpot Ultimate Recipe Collection

2 cans (or 30 ounces total) black beans, undrained

1 can (14 ounces) chicken broth (we use vegetable broth instead)

1 ½ cups chopped onion (or use onion powder if no onions around)

1 ½ teaspoon chili powder

¾ teaspoon ground cumin

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

½ cup sour cream, optionally (I usually don’t add this)

2 tablespoons evoo

2 tablespoons fresh cilantro

1 medium lime (or lime juice if not available)

Mix black beans, broth, onion, chili powder, ground cumin, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes in the crockpot. Cook for 7 hours on low or 3 ½ hours on high. Once finished, put in the blender one cup at a time until mixed well. Return to crockpot for 15-20 minutes. When done, put in bowls and add in sour cream, evoo, cilantro, and lime juice. Enjoy!

 

Movie Madness May 22, 2013

Photo from Eventbrite

Photo from Eventbrite

We love a good movie here at the Linkous house. I’m not too fond of going out and spending $20+ at the theater but I am all for spending $1 at Redbox for one every once in awhile. Here lately, we’ve been on a movie kick. It’s one of the main styles of date night that we do and fits into our budget. Today I wanted to share with you some recent released movies that I would recommend for you and your family.

The Impossible- This movie was amazing. I watched the interview with the mother being portrayed in this story and knew I wanted to see it as soon as it was available to rent. It definitely is emotional and has a few scary scenes it in (they’re in the middle of a tsunami) so I wouldn’t show it to children under 10. I also love that it’s based on a true story. Those kind of movies are almost always my favorite.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey- This movie is the prequel to the Lord of the Rings series. I have only seen 1 ½ of the movies following this one so I thought I would be pretty lost but I wasn’t. It really told a good story and as always, has a lot of good meaning throughout it as far as being a team, supporting others despite the cost, and more. I would recommend this one for no younger than 13. It’s a deep film that would difficult for a younger child to understand and there are scary parts in it as well.

Wreck it Ralph- This movie was adorable. I loved how it shows the redemptive quality in people and that we can change and become better. It’s light hearted and funny but also has some great meaning in it that your family can take away, even the parents. I would recommend this for ages 5 and above due to a few scenes that may scare preschoolers.

Les Miserables- You had to know this one would make the cut. It is beyond my favorite movie, possibly of all time. I’m a huge fan of the story in this movie and as you can tell by my other movie choices, I love the redemption stories that take place in them- especially this one. There is a lot of music in this one but I didn’t find it distracting. The actors definitely pull you into the story and it doesn’t seem like an almost 3 hour movie at all. I would recommend this for teenagers and above. The storyline would probably be too much for a younger child and without the typical fun and action in most kid movies, I have a feeling they would get bored.

Rise of the Guardians- I loved this movie. We took Emma to see this one at the theater and although she preferred climbing stairs, we really liked it. It told a great story about the typical make-belief characters we grow up believing in as children (Santa, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, and more). I would say it’s probably not appropriate for under 5 due to a few scary scenes.

Here Comes the Boom- I really enjoyed this movie. I thought it offered entertainment for almost any age and would probably be appropriate for all ages, too. It tells the story of a team of teachers and students who rally together to save their music arts program. It also comes with several well-known actors.

So there’s my list. What movies do you recommend?

 

Overnight Oats- Manic Monday Series May 20, 2013

I have struggled with eating breakfast for as long as I can remember. The main reason is I hate to wake up. Seriously, I could sleep for days on end if no one woke me. I’m not sure what that says about me but it’s true. Since I don’t like to wake up, I also don’t like to get up any earlier to fix anything. The only time we have a big breakfast is on mornings when we either have company or we sleep in and do brunch. After seeing several recipes for overnight oats on pinterest, I decided to give them a try. And now I eat breakfast! Let me tell you how it works!

The ingredients (my maple syrup is draining on it's side in a cup)

The ingredients (my maple syrup is draining on it’s side in a cup)

There are at least a billion overnight oat recipes on pinterest. I found one that fit my tastes to try- chocolate cake batter. My mouth was drooling when I first read it so that night, I mixed together the ingredients and at first sight, I was concerned. It looked pretty gross and didn’t mix like I was expecting but I figured why not, it was worth a try. The next morning I got up, stirred it a little, tasted, and fell in love. Best thing ever! And it’s easy to do. There aren’t a hundred steps. All you do in mix together your rolled oats, almond milk, vanilla extract, unsweetened cocoa powder (or carob), chia seeds, cinnamon, and sweetner of choice. It also called for a banana but I felt what was in it was already sweet enough. It doesn’t blend perfectly but I just let it go and mixed it again the next morning and it was perfect. Love at first bite!

Nighttime Mix

Nighttime Mix

I will now be doing overnights oats and fruit regularly for breakfast. If I can make it the night before and grab it to go the next morning, it’s a win. If it’s tastes amazing (and this does!) then it’s a double win. I highly suggest this for anyone, even those people who like mornings. Yuck.

photo-130

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Chocolate Cake Batter Ovenight Oats revised from Rabbit Food for My Bunny Teeth

¼ cup whole rolled oats

¼ cup almond milk (or milk of choice)

½ ripe banana (I nixed this one)

½ tbsp chia seeds (these are crucial as they help your oats to get fluffy)

½ tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder (or carob, too!)

½ tbsp maple syrup (you can also use honey or stevia)

¼ tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp organic vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients and refrigerate overnight. Voila! I prefer using a mason jar or one of small glasslock carriers- they rock!

 

Online Etiquette May 16, 2013

Photo by Net Etiquette

Photo by Net Etiquette

As people become more and more accustomed to being online, there are so many things that we can do. We can connect with old friends, shop from the convenience of home, and do just about everything and more. Along with these good things, there are obviously bad things, too. One of my biggest concerns and deepest fears is the behavior I see happening online. A behavior of passive aggressiveness. A behavior of insult without concern of the consequence or even the hurt caused to others. Today I want to share with you some tips on how to behave when online and how to think before you act.

*Think before you speak. Period. It’s always good to give yourself at least a few seconds to consider what you say or do prior to saying or doing it. A few seconds can save you a lifetime of regrets in many situations.

*Consider the other person(s). Remember that the person (or persons) you’re talking to online are REAL people. They may stand behind a blog or Facebook page, but they’re real people. They are someone’s mother. Someone’s son. Someone’s parent. A PERSON. Despite what they’ve done or are doing, they still deserve to be treated like a real, living person. Because they are.

*Consider your own feelings. It’s easy to focus on how you feel and any hurt that you may be feeling. There is also the flip side to this- how would YOU feel if someone responded to YOU in the way you plan on responding. Would it offend you? Would it hurt you? In the same regard, keep in mind that we can base and excuse everything on feelings alone. If this was the case, many of us wouldn’t stay married past this first year because we don’t always “FEEL” in love.

*Ask if you’re helping or hurting. Is what you’re saying offering any advice or helping in any way at all? If what you’re saying is being sad to simply hurt someone, it’s not worth it. We should never say something just to hurt someone else, no matter how bad they make us feel. When we hurt someone else due to hurt they’ve caused us, it doesn’t make us any better. It just puts us on a level playing field, making what we’ve done no better than what they’ve done.

*Ask how you would treat this person in a face-to-face conversation. So much passive aggressiveness is based on the fact that you will never, ever see this person. Further more, they don’t seem “real” because you don’t know them. Well, my advice is this. Pretend like you’re going to see the person the next day at work or this Sunday at church. If you couldn’t bear the idea of running into them knowing you said or did something to them, then don’t do it. If you wouldn’t treat a “real” person like that, don’t treat an online person like that.

*Think about the model you’re setting. We ALL have someone that looks up to us, whether we know it or not. Would we want someone else to act the way we’re planning to be? I would imagine not in most cases and would advise you to change your mind on a decision you’re making before you set an example for others to follow.

Photo by The Office Professional

Photo by The Office Professional

These are my bits of advice for online behavior. Any suggestions?

 

Clean Living Bathroom May 15, 2013

Photo by Home Bunch

Photo by Home Bunch

Ok, I know it’s odd to talk about your bathroom anywhere. I understand this. Let me start off by saying that today I am not talking about mama cloth or any other cloth. I’m not opposed to it, but this is not the topic. Today I am sharing some of the products we regularly use in the bathroom/shower and how we’re changing our lifestyle! Come join me.

Dental care- we have made the switch to natural toothpastes. Emma uses Tom’s of Maine for kids and absolutely loves it. The best deal we get regularly is at Vitacost but I found them 2 for $5 at Target on Earth Day and had a $1 off coupon. That was a STEAL. JR and I are currently using Earthpaste. I don’t hate it but JR doesn’t love it. If anyone has recommendations of brands to try next, we’re open to it. As far as mouthwash, I can’t get JR off Listerine. Any suggestions would be gladly accepted here, too!

Face care- I have personally switched over to healthier brands of face products and have fallen in love with Say Yes to Carrotsf maine. I have also switched to natural products for astringent (like rubbing alcohol or witch hazel). I can tell a difference in my face and haven’t had a break out in months now. How crazy is that? It’s good for me AND keeps break outs away!

Bath items- JR and I have switched to all natural shampoos and are finishing up the last of our body wash before we move on to bar soap. We’ve used a few bar soaps to see what we think and so far, Dr. Bronner’s and Kiss My Face are my favorites. For Emma, she uses the Say Yes to Carrots shampoo and body wash combo. She also has California Baby bubble bath that we all love. We use it sparingly since it’s so pricey but it’s definitely worth our peace of mind.

Body care- As far as other forms of body care, we’re getting there. We have switched to Tom’s of Maine for our deodorant and I’m using Say Yes to Carrots for my body lotion. Our hair care line hasn’t changed much but in all honestly, I haven’t really found a good hair care line of natural products. Have you? I will gladly take your advice.

So these are some of the areas that we’re changing. The best place we’ve found to buy these items- BY FAR- is vitacost. Sign up here to get $10 off your first order of $30 or more! How about you?