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The story of our precious little girl's 17 months of life with Trisomy 18 (July 4, 2010 - December 15, 2011) and of us, re-learning to live "after Lilly."
"I will praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made ...." Psalm 139:14

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Taste testing: broccoli

When I was growing up, we had at least one vegetable every night for supper.  Unfortunately I did not, and still do not, like many vegetables.  And I am embarrassed to say, that even at my age, I still involuntarily gag trying to eat some veggies.  I think it was in the 1980s that broccoli was put on the "anti-cancer diet."  My mom, a big broccoli fan, quickly fell in to the habit of feeding us broccoli several times a week.  Yuck.  If we kids dawdled too long over eating anything, we would be served a second helping.  We always had to clear our plates.  (And I bet my mom is reading this thinking "you don't have cancer do you!"  No mom I don't nor does any one else in our family.  Thanks to the broccoli??!!)

So last month, when I read Getting to YUM: The 7 Secretes of Raising Eager Eaters by Karen Le Billon, I was excited thinking "maybe I will finally learn to start liking more vegetables!"  Oh yeah, and I want my kids to eat them well.  (Tabby already does though.)  And ... for Frank to eat more too.  The author wrote, and used evidence, that repeated exposure to a food can help a person develop a taste for it.  Hmmm.  I was very skeptical when I read this because I've eat lots of "yucky foods" - besides broccoli - hundreds of times and still despise them.

However, she pointed out that when the French teach their children to like foods, they expose them to that particular food in many different forms.  Interesting.  Thinking back to my childhood I remember only eating broccoli cooked one way.  (Sometimes I was allowed to smother it with cheese, so maybe that counts as two ways.)

And, I reflected on an amazing broccoli experience I had earlier this year.  Tabby had asked me to make a recipe called "broccoli bites" from a cookbook I have called Effortless Read Food:  Taking the Kitchen Approach to Health by Wendi Michelle.  In this recipe, you mix sharp cheese with lightly steamed broccoli and them roll it into little balls and into a mixture of salt, Parmesan cheese, and breadcrumbs.  Fry in grape seed oil.  I forced myself to try one and was surprised.  IT WAS NOT BAD!

So I knew that I could tolerate a little bit of broccoli prepared at least one way. In Getting to YUM the author states broccoli is one of the "mildest green vegetables."  (Really?!)  I decided to start our experiment in taste testing with broccoli.  I would prepare it several different ways for several days.  I would use the recipes in Getting to Yum.  We would discuss what we liked and didn't like about it.  Life happened though, and we only had two recipes.  Two more to follow this week.

First I made "George's Broccoli Puree." I managed to eat several small bites without gagging.  Frank didn't say a word and had his serious face on as he ate.  Hunter tried it and said "I don't care for this."  Solomon ate half of his without protest.  Tabby smiled with the first bite and said "YUM!  I really like it!"  She was happy to get to finish up the boys bowls of puree.

George's Broccoli Puree
The next recipe we tried was called "Mollie's Enchanted Broccoli Rainforest."  (The author of the book said that it has been proven that people like things better when they like the name.)  It was a fun sounding name.  Reactions:  same as first night, though we thought it did taste a little better than the puree.  Tabby once again ate it smiling.

Mollie's Enchanted Broccoli Rainforest
Sigh.  I was hoping for fast results.  I know, I know, that was only two tries.  Two more coming this week.  Then after that, it is time for carrot taste testing.  I am determined to expand our eating horizons!  (I know any "foodies" reading this must be shaking their heads in bewilderment!)

I thought I would share one recipe - a non-broccoli one!- that I have been obsessed with this summer.  It is from the book Trim Healthy Mama by Serene Allison & Pearl Barrett.  It is called "Fat Stripping Frappa" and the author's describe it as a "creamy, icy, chocolately drink."  It reminds me of a fluffy Wendi's Frosty, but not as overly sweet.  It will fill you up for hours and is a great drink for losing weight.  I don't need to lose weight but am addicted to it anyway.  :)  The recipe is on pgs. 240-41 of the book, and I have re-written it below, using the amounts of everything I use:

1 - In blender, put in 1/2 c. of milk AND 1/2 c. of water (I use our goats' milk - the authors suggest almond milk).
2 - Add:  1 heaping Tbs. cocoa powder, 1/2 tsp. glucomamman powder, 2 pinches sea salt, 1 tsp. NuStevia Pure White Stevia Extract Powder [or Truvia], and a splash of vanilla.
3 - Blend well, then add about 20 ice cubes.  (It gets really thick - I use our Vitamix and use that push down thing that came with it to get things to mix when it's on).
4 - Add 1/2 to 1 scoop of plain whey protein powder and blend again.
5 - Pour into a quart sized jar and enjoy.  YUM ....

On a non-food related note, I bought Solomon his first pair of rubber boots last week.  It was so funny seeing him learning to walk in them. (They are up to his knees so I'm sure it felt weird!) He had lots of short practice sessions one morning and then by the afternoon was walking pretty well.  Now he gets so excited to put on his rubber boots when we go outside and put ours own.  When you live on a little farm like we do, you WANT to wear boots outside.  ;)

Friday, September 12, 2014

The book list - August

I spent much of my reading time in August researching various sources to prepare for our current homeschool year.  So for regular book reading, I only finished 3 books.  Still, considering statistics show that less than half the adult population read literature of any kind anymore, then 3 books in one month is not bad.

Goofing around - using shorts for a hat
Song from the Ashes by Megan Whitson Lee - Last month I dedicated a whole blog post to the wonderful book written by a dear friend.  You can read it here.   If you just want a short summary, here is my review:
"This well written, engrossing novel pulled me in, right from the beginning. It is a modern retelling of Edith Wharton's novel "The Age of Innocence." I read Wharton's book shortly before reading "Song from the Ashes" and it is was fun to see the parallels. My heart ached for Landon, and the struggles he had in whether to stay with his wife April, or leave her for April's fascinating cousin Ella. Landon knows what the right thing is to do before God, but just like with real Christians, temptations are there. April and Landon have a baby, born with Trisomy 18, a genetic condition. I cried through that whole section, because I had a little girl that lived 17 months with Trisomy 18. (Most people do not know about Trisomy 18 and this book helps spread awareness and basic knowledge.) The author does a wonderful job in showing how through all the struggles of the different characters in the book, God's plans are perfect and He is constantly weaving them into our lives. I highly recommend this book!"

school fun - Tabby's house built with toothpicks and mini marshmallows

Getting to Yum: The 7 Secrets of Raising Eager Eaters by Karen LeBillon - In April, I read French Kids Eat Everything, by this same author.  (See my blogpost here.)  It was such an interesting book, I bought this book shortly after that.  It is full of proven strategies to get kids - and adults - to eat a wide variety of foods.  As I read it I was once again amazed in thinking about the huge variety of foods that kids in France eat, and actually like.  Unlike in America where we have so many foods specifically for kids - kid yogurts, kid cereals, kid lunchables, kid crackers, etc etc.  And of course many American kids are stuck on only wanting to eat a few basic foods like pasta, white rice, and crackers.  Why?  Because in general, we don't expect anything different from them!  Rice cereal is the standard 1st for for babies in the U.S., in spite of all sorts of research showing it should not be.  But Americans introduce bland foods and keep them bland.  Babies don't learn to like lots of flavors and textures.  This book has ideas and games to help correct that, no matter what your age.  We have started working through the suggestions, and I will blog about our first week, hopefully this Sunday.

Chow time!  Notice the chickens coming up to the porch.  Their pushiness in trying to get the dogs food resulted in the death of a chicken this past Monday.  The dogs are now fed before the chickens are released from their coop in the morning, and again after the chickens go to bed and the coop is closed for the night.
Once Upon an Island: The History of Chincoteague by Kirk Mariner - I picked up a copy of this book when we visited Chincoteague island in Virginia in June 2012.  (You can read about LillyBear's adventures in Chincoteague in this post.)  I started reading the book shortly after that but then Solomon was born and then when he was 3 weeks old we moved, and I never picked the book back up.  But last month I decided to finish it and I am glad I did because it really is a book full of interesting facts about Chincoteague and it's neighboring Assateague islands. Most people only know about Chincoteague from the Misty of Chincoteague series.  But there is so, so much more rich history to this little island.  Interesting people, terrible natural disasters, destructive fires, etc.

Post contains affiliate links.  If I make any money through this program, 100% of it will be contributed to Trisomy 18 causes.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Homeschooling with Charlotte Mason and Marie Montessori

During the last week of August, I was finalizing my lesson plans for our first two weeks back in homeschool.  Part of my planning included making a list of Montessori activities for Solomon to try.  These activities were to help him stay busy while I was working with Hunter in the mornings, before Solomon's nap time.

Of course making that list took some time, as I went through several books for ideas.  While I worked, Solomon worked hard cutting velcro play food.  (My kids have ALL enjoyed this activity.)

When he finally finished that activity, I handed him a big baggie full of sea shells.  He didn't really know what to do with them.  So I got out several little plastic bowls and plates and put a few seashells in each one.  When I was done, I poured them all back into the bag.  I told him to try.  I was amazed, he stuck with this activity for a good 30 minutes, only stopping when I needed to go inside to make supper.  Every time he finished he'd say "Again!" and put away the shells and start it all over.  It gave me pause to reflect that we tend to think that little kids automatically "know how to play."  But children are older than their toddler years before they really start to do imaginary play.  So I am trying to remember to show Solomon how to play with certain things.

My homeschool curriculum choices have always been a rather eclectic mix of styles.  This year though, I am trying for a Charlotte Mason style across the board.  Karen Andreola recently wrote a blogpost with an excellent, short summary, of what a Charlotte Mason education is.  Click here to read it: 

We are following most of the suggested readings from Ambleside Online.  Hunter is in "Year One" on Ambleside's website - click here to view his curriculum.  (You then click on "detailed schedule" to see actual assignments.)  I like that we have structure, yet for other subjects, I make up my own curriculum.  (I LOVE the freedom of homeschooling, and tailoring it to each child.)  Tabby's schedule is a bit more complicated than Hunter's.  But still, our first week went - mostly - smoothly and I feel like they will get a very good education following this plan.

Back to Solomon, my little guy likes to be busy with his hands.  And as I've written recently, I have become fascinated with many of Marie Montessori's methods for teaching children.  I like that the activities are structured and that they build skills.  They teach children to do things independently and how to help out.  Solomon knows how to clean up his own messes, including wiping his high chair down after eating and cleaning up food under his chair.  He is my constant helper in the kitchen.  It is so neat seeing what he can do and how much he enjoys helping.  (And yes - it does take me longer and is messier.  But it is worth it.)

So along with our homeschool, Solomon's "Montessori preschool" started this week.  Each morning, I would show him how to do a new activity, and then leave him to it so I could begin working with Hunter.  (Still in the same room.)  Here are the activities from last week:

Tuesday - stringing wooden spools onto pipe cleaners:

Solomon dutifully worked at this for about 5 minutes.  Then he put it away and did not touch it again.  So that activity, for him, was a dud.

Wednesday - tractor card matching game.  I made this myself - picked 6 different tractors from Google Images and then printed two of each picture onto cardstock, then laminated them and cut them out.  I showed Solomon how to lay one set of tractors down, then to match the other set.  It took him a few tries to get it.

Verdict:  AWESOME!  Solomon - who loves tractor of all kinds - played with this over and over and over.  Many times a day, every day for the rest of the week.

Thursday - hammer time!  I gave him a play hammer, 5 wooden golf tees, and a chunk of "plant foam."

Solomon really liked this activity and has done it many times now.  Only downfall - the hammering makes a rather obnoxious noise when I am trying to read to Hunter!

Friday - a transferring activity, to practice fine motor skills.  I gave Solomon my strawberry huller and some balls and showed him how to grasp the balls with the huller and move them to the other side of the tray.

This activity didn't have "tractor card status" but Solomon still seemed to enjoy it and worked at it for quite awhile.

You may have noticed in the photos, that I Solomon works at a mat.  (This is just a small, cheap rug I bought at Walmart.)  Mats are used in the Montessori method to "define work space."  It teaches children not to spread their projects all over a room.

I also give him his projects in wooden trays.  (These are all cheap trays I picked up at A.C. Moore, and the nicer ones - still very cheap - off Ebay.)  Again, this is a way to keep things organized and define a space.

Solomon carefully puts his trays up on his shelf when he's done.  I have the activities laid out on the two-tiered shelf where he can easily see and reach them. I plan to switch them out every other week or so.  I'm keeping a watch as to what he reaches for over and over and what he ignores to give me ideas for what to put together for him next.

Our Montessori shelf is actually an old cart.  (Thanks M.J.!)  It has turned out very nice because I can push it to wherever we need it.

If you have any activities that work well for keeping your little ones busy - I'd enjoy hearing about them!

Friday, September 5, 2014

"Lilly - cracker"

When Solomon was a baby, I decided to teach him a little bit of sign language to make communication easier.  I had several friends who had done so with their children and had success.  It worked for us too - Solomon learned essential signs and it alleviated a lot of frustration for both of us.

We don't watch TV, but we do have selected dvds.  The one thing Solomon loves to watch are the "Signing Time" dvds we have.  (You can see the dvds on the Signing Time website here.)    He watches them and repeats (verbally) the words and try to sign with his fingers.  We recently found Signing Time dvds at our library and have been checking them out.  Our routine at the library is I will hand him a few dvds off the shelf and he shouts "Time! Time!" and I tell him "shhhhhh!"

For a couple weeks now, Solomon has been pointing to the Lilly collage that is on the wall across from where he sits at the dining room table.

Whenever he does, he says "crack-er" and does the sign language sign for "cracker."  (The sign is to tap your elbow with your fist.)

Then he points at the Lilly collage again and says "crack-er."  We could not figure out why he was doing this. There were no pictures with crackers in the collage!  Finally I got up on a chair, and held him up to the collage and said "Where is cracker?"  He promptly pointed to the picture of Lilly in the white dress:

Ohhhhhhh!  I finally got it!  Notice Lilly's arm that is bent and touching her chin.  He thought she was signing "cracker."

(Solomon just now looked at the computer screen and pointed at the above picture and said "crack-er."  Ha!)

For the past month or so, sections of our yard - and the chicken coop - have looked like a giant feather pillow fight has taken place.  Our hens that we bought last year, are now about 18 months old and are having their first molt.  I didn't know it at first, but when they molt, they don't lay eggs.  So all of the sudden, our egg supply had greatly dropped.  I was convinced the hens were being rebellious and hiding their eggs and I spent a lot of time looking for the eggs.  Then one day Tabby said in passing "chickens don't lay when they are molting."

Oh.  I am sorry for the accusations, hens!

Thankfully the group of chickens we bought this past spring are about old enough to start laying.  One is doing so consistently.  Then I found this tiny egg in the coop earlier this week.  Doesn't it look so tiny next to the (normal size) Americana egg?

This past week was our first week back to homeschool.  I hope to blog a little about that this Sunday and share the Montessori activities that I introduced Solomon to this week.

Have a blessed weekend!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Jamie Soles music, a Coyote, and using silver to treat your animals

We were shopping at Walmart recently when Solomon suddenly started shrieking "a-MEN!" over and over from his seat in the shopping cart and then giggling like crazy when Tabby embarrassingly told him to "shhhhhh ..."  A few minutes later Hunter started singing, though not shrieking:

"So may all your enemies perish 
But let the righteous shine like the sun
We are the friend of God and He will save us
Because we worship His Son!"
(from "Bad Guys, Part 2" by Jamie Soles)

I was amused at Hunter's singing and Tabby wondered if anyone around us was listening, what would they think.

It's not always easy in our family to find Christian music, of any depth, that we all like.  But we seem to have found a Christian artist that we all enjoy.  He is a Canadian and his name is Jamie Soles.

We got to attend a small concert of his earlier this summer and really enjoyed it.  The music was simple - Jamie sang while he played his guitar.  His wife sang with him on a few songs too.  (On his recorded music, his children sing on some of the songs and they have some other instruments too.)  There were no sappy songs.  They were fun, yet "meaty."  And quirky! Many songs about the lesser mentioned Bible stories such as Shamgar; Korah, Dathan, and Abiram; how the tribe of Benjamin caught wives,  Ahab and Jezebel, etc.  Even a song that lists all the kings of Israel, which makes them easy to learn.

What is really neat now, is that when we are doing a Bible reading, the kids really perk up and get excited when we read about something in one of the Jamie Soles songs they know.  Music really does stick in our minds so much easier than just reading something.  Now when I read about Jacob and Esau, Hunter adds "Supplanter was Jacob's name!"  Even Solomon sings along with parts and likes to shout out "pool!" when a song about the man healed at the Pool of Bethesda comes on.

"Pool! Pool! Pool!"
I had a major heavy metal music obsession in my past and some of that music was definitely "violent."  Well guess what - there is a lot of violence in the Bible and now instead of filling my mind with songs from groups like Slayer, I can hum along to a lively Jaime Soles song called "Jael":

"She struck Sisera, she crushed his head
She shattered and pierced his temple
Between her feet, he sank, he fell, he lay still
Between her feet, he sank, he fell
Where he sank, there he fell down dead!

LOL - are you shaking your head?  ;)  These stories are in the Bible.  They are there for a reason.  We don't have to just pretend they don't exist.

Jamie Soles has a lot of albums out.  We have two:  "The Way My Story Goes" and "Giants and Wanderers" and like them both.  Hopefully we can get more at some point.  By the way, if you are interested in getting any of Jamie's music, I think it may be cheapest to buy it directly from his Canadian website:

All the old bottles on our mantel came from the trash dump on our property!
(The people that built this house in 1907 just threw all their garbage out in an area of the yard.
The rain often brings up wonderful treasures for us.)
A few days ago, about 7:00 in the morning when it was still rather foggy out, Hunter and I heard a tremendous noise from the guinea fowl out in the yard.  It was their "we're freaking out!" noise.  We ran out to see what was going on and saw that the guineas were flying away from an animal.  For a second, Hunter and I both thought it was our dog Lucia.  But as I stared at it in the early light, I noticed it's bushy tail and pointed ears.  Then Lucia came trotting around the corner and stared at the animal.  She began barking and chasing it.  Dixie came running from another direction barking too.  They chased the animal into the woods.  The puppies actually stayed by the house watching instead of running after the other dogs.  Dixie and Lucia didn't go far into the woods, but did a lot of barking for awhile.

Hunter and I came back inside and I was puzzled.  The animal looked a lot like a wolf to me, but it was the wrong color.  Then it hit me - a coyote!  Frank has said in the past that he has heard them howling sometimes when he leaves early in the morning for work.  Hunter and I typed "coyote" into Google images and there it was:

For photo source and coyote info., click here
We then began reading about coyotes and it was all so interesting.  (Nothing like impromptu school lessons on the spot!)  I know that coyotes are NOT good to have around on our property.  They eat chickens, guineas, goats, and dogs!  (Thankfully rarely people!)  But oh I am so thrilled Hunter and I got to see that coyote standing there in our yard.  It looked so strong and majestic!  God really has created so  many amazing animals.

I first learned about collodial silver a few years ago.  It is a natural antibiotic. People used to use it all the time, before man-made antibiotics.  Those old teething rings were silver for an important reason!  For Lilly's 1st Christmas, I bought her a (new) silver duck teether to suck on.  I figured every way to get anything remotely immune boosting into her was good.

I also bought a bottle of silver (the Sovereign Silver brand) and have never been without a bottle of it since.  We take it when we're sick for it's immune boosting properties.  Earlier this year, when Solomon had an eye infection, I put drops of silver in his eye and it cleared up his infection quickly.

Recently, Tabby's hyper puppy Sherlotta had a really bad looking area on her stomach, where it looked like she had not healed well from her spaying surgery.  (She had lumps and open sores.)  We put silver on that area several times a day and after about it week, the area looked great.

Then our goat Christa got an eye infection.  (Pretty common in goats, especially in the summer.)  Though it was not easy, I managed to squirt silver in her eye a couple times a day for a few days.  Eye infection gone!

What timing, Tabby just called me to bring the silver because Sherlotta had a little wound on her leg.  (That dog is nuts!  Hunter nicknamed her "Bomblotta" which is more appropriate.)  So I'm off to get the silver ....

Friday, August 22, 2014

A flash of anger (on the grief roller coaster)

Earlier this month, as I changed the decorations on Lilly's tree from July to August, I suddenly felt angry.

I felt angry that Lilly was not alive and with us anymore. I felt angry that there was a gap between Solomon and Hunter where their sister should have been.  I felt angry that she only lived 17 months and that I obviously had made bad decisions because she died. (This thought was quickly followed by guilt because even though there are children with Trisomy 18 that are alive and even in their teens, or older!, I know Lilly lived longer than most. My heart hurts for the families who lost their T-18 children in the womb, or so quickly after their births.)  Then I felt angry about how I found Lilly dead, after her nap.  That I couldn't prevent it.  That her body was so cold.  I felt mad about how it gets confusing at times when people ask me how many children I have, or I am setting the table and trying to figure out how many places to set.  I felt mad that my children have to take treks to their sister's grave instead of getting to play with her.  Etc etc.

Now I wasn't furious and in a rage or anything.  I just felt rather mad.  I wasn't mad at God or anyone in particular.  It was just an "I'm angry in general" sort of feeling.  And then it was gone.  I know that anger is a "normal" part of grief.  So why am I feeling it about 2.5 years after Lilly's death?  Is that part normal?  Obviously it is for me.  I've always been one to suppress my feelings/emotions so sure, this is normal for me.  That something traumatic sort of leaks out later on.  We all mourn differently.

Earlier this week, I took down all of Lilly's dresses that I have hanging up, and washed them.  I put them back on their hangers then arranged them back on the rack on the wall.  I didn't feel any anger.  I felt some sadness, but didn't cry or anything.  I dusted off Lilly's things on my dresser and found a few things that I decided to put away, out of sight.  I have been finding, the past few months, as I have been cleaning, organizing, and painting rooms in the house, that I do not feel the need to have as much of Lilly's stuff out on display anymore.

This sort of worried me at first because I sure didn't want anyone (or me) to think she wasn't important to me anymore, or I was forgetting about her.  I can't get through a day without thinking of her many times.  But, maybe that just means I am healing.  I know she's in my heart and mind forever and if I decide, for example, I don't need ALL the church dresses she ever wore constantly on display, then that's OK.

I have a friend that lost her daughter, at 6 months, to Down Syndrome.   (She had many heart problems.)  My friend mentioned having "a box" for her daughter's things.  I was stunned.  Only ONE box?  My friend noted her daughter had died 12 years ago.  I thought about it.  I have boxes and boxes and boxes of Lilly's things!  I have a bunch of those rubbermaid type totes in the attic full of all the clothes she ever wore. A tote with her blankets.  A tote with her toys. Special things of her's scattered around the house.  Most of her medical stuff in the bathroom closet.  Etc.  I wondered if I would ever be able to narrow things down - or if I would even want to.

But this summer, like I said, I have actually felt fine about putting SOME things away.  Not giving anything away.  Not yet.  But just not needing so much right in front of me.

What will this journey bring next, I have no idea.  It's been a roller coaster.  But I don't regret a day of it.  I am thankful for all 529 of Lilly's days.  No matter how long I hurt missing her, it was so worth every second of having her.

Lilly at 6 months
"And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." - Romans 8:28

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Megan Whitson Lee: "Song from the Ashes"

Siblings:  Exhaust Pipe & Sherlotta

We had a wonderful surprise today, when we got home from church!  Frank said "Isn't that Exhaust Pipe?!" And it was!  After being missing for 5 days, he was home!

We have no idea where he was.  His collar with tag was still on.  He showed no sign of injury.

But he was ravenous!  He downed 3 bowls of food in a flash.

The chickens have started running over to the porch when they hear the sound of dog food being poured in the metal bowls.  Sherlotta did a good job chasing chickens off the porch while Exhaust Pipe ate and ate and ate.

Sherlotta standing guard while Exhaust Pipe and his Mama, Dixie, eat (note the hens on the rails)
Happy dog news is the perfect segue into the subject of my post.  Books written by my dear, longtime friend, Megan Whitson Lee.  Megan loves dogs and she and her husband own two greyhounds.  :)

I met Megan in the early 1990s.  We were both working at the Virginia Employment Commission and attending George Mason University.  (She was a music major and my major was administration of justice.)  We found we had some unique things in common: a love of heavy metal music and Dracula.  We also liked Renaissance festivals and historical events.  Besides those things, Megan had a love for God which I did not have at the time.  I fondly credit her with being one of two people in my life, who's influence lead me to finally accept Christ.  (The other person was one of the survivors of the government's massacre of the Branch Davidians in Waco in 1993.  But that is another story.)

Megan and I liked to dress up and have historical themed dinners, followed by movies.  That was a lot of fun.  Here is Megan at our medieval themed dinner.  I remember we watched "Braveheart" after eating.  :)

Another dinner was a civil war meal, in which we watched "Gone with the Wind" afterwards:

Me (on the left) and Megan
After collage graduation, Megan left for London, England on a year long work permit.  Before she returned to the United States, I went and visited her and saw many wonderful placed in London, York, Bath, and in Edinburgh, Scotland.  Some photos of that trip are interspersed below.

Megan - Parliament and Big Ben in the background
In 2009, Megan published her first novel, All That is Right and Holy.  This book follows the lives of several people involved in sex trafficking - at different levels.  From pornography addicts up to sex slaves.  Though none of the people in the stories are real, they are based on real people and circumstances.  It's been about 5 years since I read this book and it continues to haunt me.  I especially can not think of the country of India without thinking of the way girls are sold - by their own parents or relatives - to be sex slaves.  My review on sums up how I feel about it:

"I read this book several years ago and I still think about it at times and often find myself praying for those involved. The story was riveting, haunting, and educational. I learned a lot about the sex trade industry and how it is truly all around us. I learned about the types of people that get involved and why. Many heartbreaking stories out there. I was thankful this book was not overly graphic. I came away from it feeling I know how to better guard my own children from being accidentally exposed to and sucked into that nightmare world. I urge everyone to read this book and learn these things for themselves. For those already involved in some way - this book offers hope and shows the way out. This book is a story that needed to be written, and it needs to be read by many."

Megan won second place in the 2009 Christian Choice Books Awards for the novel.

me in Bath, England ( I LOVE all the old architecture in Europe)
Earlier this month, eLectio Publishing published Megan's second novel, Song from the Ashes.  Here is a summary from the back cover of the book:

"A retelling of Edith Wharton's classic novel The Age of Innocence, Song from the Ashes explores the struggle with contentment in marriage and the dilemma between striving for personal happiness versus acceptance of God's perfect plan."

I do not usually read Christian fiction, so honestly, I only know the stereotypes of it.  I like that Megan writes about "messy" Christians.  Meaning she writes about struggles that real Christians have.  Though not all Christians are being tormented in a love triangle, as this book's main character  Landon is, we all have our own struggles and temptations with sin.

William Wallace (Edinburgh) - "FREEDOM!!"
Landon, a Christian man that is steady, responsible, and does the right things, is newly engaged to April when he meets her fascinating cousin Ella, a failed country musician.  He struggles with his feelings for Ella, but chooses to honor his commitment to April, and marry her.

However, since Ella has a part of his heart, his marriage to April is not easy.  His struggles with his feelings for Ella and it makes him miserable.

Me in the classic red phone booth! I wonder if they even still exist (because of cell phone use)
Towards the end of the book, April gives birth to a baby girl named Carys.  ("Carys" is Welsh for "loved one.")  Carys has Trisomy 18.  This is the part of the book I started to cry and continued to cry until the end. I'm sure I would have cried reading about any baby with Trisomy 18, but Carys is special to me because she is based on our Lilly.  How I miss our sweet Lilly ...  And just like Lilly brought amazing blessings with her during her short life to us and others, Carys blesses those around her in the book and brings healing.

On a fun note, there is a girl named "Tabitha" in the book mentioned briefly (if you don't know, Tabby's real name is "Tabitha") and there is a pastor named "Frank."  There is also a little girl named "Lilly" who is mentioned twice.  She is like a little angelic being.  :)

I will always be grateful to Megan for including the Carys character in the book.  Not just because of her similarity to Lilly, but that she helps spread awareness of what Trisomy 18 is.  On the "Author's Note" pages in the back of the book, Megan briefly describes Trisomy 18 and cites my blog for Lilly.  :)

Megan by a sign for "The Ultimate Ghost and Torture Tour" in Edinburgh.  This tour was a nighttime walk through the catacombs under the city. We had a bizarre paranormal experience at one point.
As I mentioned in my last blog post, I read The Age of Innocence right before reading Song from the Ashes and it was really neat seeing the parallels.  Though I did like The Age of Innocence, I liked Megan's story better.  I really appreciated how Megan brought God into her story.  Wharton's book was not from a Christian perspective.  (If you are not a Christian and are reading this, please know that you do not need to be one in order to appreciate this book!)

Megan set her story in Kingsport, Tennessee, the town she grew up in.  In the week before her book's release, she did a series of blog posts about Kingsport.  They were so interesting, especially as I remembered them while reading this story.  Frank, Tabby, and I attended Megan's wedding, years ago, in Kingsport.  So it was neat when she wrote about places I was familiar with there.  Megan's blog, called "Life Before the Hereafter" is at: .

Hampstead Heath - beautiful open countryside, right in London
So ... I guess you can tell ... I highly recommend Megan Whitson Lee's book, Song from the Ashes!  The book is available in both paperback and Kindle.

"I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies; for the hardest victory is over self." - Aristotle

"The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.  Who can understand it?" - Jeremiah 17:9

Me at Trafalgar Square in London (goodness - the main thing that shows up are my white hightops! How 1990s ...)