How Have You Not Seen Black Panther Yet?

No, seriously, this review is super late to the party, like every other thing I do. Hubby and I watched this in theaters the Saturday after it released for a late Valentine’s Day date. We had to catch a “late” viewing (9:20 PM!!!) of it because most of the showings were SOLD OUT. But we were determined, though we hadn’t been out past 9 pm since I was pregnant and like, not super pregnant.
Here lie spoilers…
The movie opens with a neat CGI animated telling of the origin of Wakanda, for the Black Panther/Marvel newbs like me.
It wasn’t exactly the high point of the movie, the effects were okay, but nothing I haven’t seen before but the backstory was definitely necessary for me as I had never read a Black Panther comic. The rest of the movie, though, had me hook, line, and sunk!
I genuinely think every character in this movie, except Ulysses Klaue who is killed off before the movie’s climax and never reveals a backstory, is sympathetic and likable. There is a depth to them that I have not seen in a superhero movie ever. Even in Wonder Woman which I also loved. I think the idea of a utopic society like Wakanda where gender equality appears to have progressed further than the rest of the world allows for a really excellent relationship dynamic, where the characters can build off of each other rather than eclipse the others.
Brief movie synopsis: Of course, the story follows the Prince turned King of the utopian Wakanda, an African country rich in the fictional vibranium hidden away from the rest of the world and as a result incredibly progressive and technologically advanced, named T’Challa, the Black Panther. T’Challa returns home after his father is killed in an attack and assumes the throne after a challenge ritual to determine the next ruler of Wakanda. He learns that an artifact containing vibranium has been stolen and concerned about Wakanda being discovered leads him to investigate the whereabouts of the artifact. During this investigation, he comes face to face with his uncle’s American son, Erik Killmonger, a radicalized military veteran with a chip on his shoulder the size of Wakanda. He battles T’Challa for the throne after revealing his heritage and wins. T’Challa is believed to be dead but washes up on shore downstream from the capital. He regains his strength and powers from a magical flower saved from destruction by Nakia, his love interest, and heroine in her own right. He returns to his home for the final battle with Killmonger who also has Black Panther powers and the Wakandans battle each other simultaneously, divided by duty and loyalty. Killmonger is defeated in the end in an incredibly gut-wrenching and vindicating scene.
Remember, this is a superhero Disney/Marvel movie. It will not win an Oscar for Best Film for anything but it is truly an enjoyable movie especially for watching with kids. But this movie does not shirk from the race debate. Killmonger is driven to insanity by the oppression of black people, not only throughout time but in the present, and wants to create a world where the power balance is flipped.
There is also the rather obvious inclusion of only two white actors in a time where the debate on minority actors in significant movie/TV roles is really starting to have an impact. Black Panther does not belong to white people, his story is thoroughly rooted in being black. And that is okay. In the same way that other races can enjoy movies based on the history of white regions like medieval Ireland or Scandinavia, white people can enjoy Black Panther. And hopefully, walk away feeling a little more sympathetic to the argument of representation in the media. It is definitely strange to go into a movie and not really see yourself in it. Unnerving because it so very rarely, if ever, happens in mainstream entertainment.
And now a LotR joke:
 

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Meme surfaced on Facebook shortly after the premiere. If you know the source drop it in the comments and drive traffic their way!

Now that the armored rhino in the room is out of the way, I can talk about how badass Okoye is! Seriously, I want Wakanda Forever tattooed somewhere on my body. She is confident, she is strong, she is opinionated. She is everything I want my daughter to be. And she is every Alpha Male’s worst nightmare which is just awesome.
There was also this great complexity to her character, her tenderness to her lover and the rhinos he is raising (which in the end contributes a significant role to their triumphing against the King’s men), and her hatred of her duty when she refused to betray the throne that Killmonger had just overthrown. The character’s internal conflict was so expertly done by Danai Gurira I wanted to applaud.
The whole cast was perfect. Shuri, played by Letitia Wright and another favorite, made girls in STEM look super cool and I genuinely hope lots of little girls see themselves in her and embrace their inner nerds. Michael B. Jordan as Erik Killmonger was hands down the strongest actor in the movie and really should win an Oscar for his portrayal but again, superhero movie, probably not going to rake in many awards.
Overall, we laughed, we learned, and we had a really great night at the movies. Isn’t that kind of the whole point?
Let me know if you enjoyed Black Panther as much as I did in the comments below!
Wakanda Forever!
UPDATED:
Check out these Black Panther centered discussions much more substantial than mine.
Dreams of Wakanda
What the Dora Milaje Means to Black Women
Why ‘Black Panther’ is a Defining Moment for Black America

The Ultimate Baby Cheat Sheet

My daughter is about 16 months old. As our first child, we had a lot of buying to do to get ready for her arrival. We had a baby shower of course but ended up buying most of the more significant items ourselves, except the crib which my coworkers at my old job bought for us as a gift WITH a crib mattress (they were seriously the most amazing people in the world, and I miss them every day).
The cost of preparing for a baby can be enormous, especially when confronted with all these lists of what baby should have. I scoured these lists on Pinterest for months. I made my own lists, I made Amazon wishlists AND baby registries. I wanted to be prepared for anything and everything this unknown nugget would throw at me, especially as my husband was preparing for an overseas deployment a month after my due date. Anything that would make my life easier as I solo parented a newborn was a must have.
As a result, we ended up buying many things it turned out we didn’t need/would never use. I realize every baby is different and for some the items we ended up wasting money on could have been useful. However, I think our experience was pretty standard. Some of the things we didn’t use because she had zero interest in the item, like a cosleeper bassinet. Some products I honestly forgot I had bought and got by fine without.
The items I did use were used heavily and were actual life-savers. This post is dedicated to those beautiful objects that sometimes made parenting a breeze. Or at least made me not want to rip my hair out as badly.
I will link all the items to Amazon for easy reference to what they are and an estimate of cost. Of course, you can buy these from your retailer of choice if you decide you need them.
Boppy

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Usually passed out like this post feeding.

Easily my favorite baby product and the thing I used the most. A boppy is a nursing pillow that fits around your waist. It is technically a nursing pillow but is useful for bottle feeding as it allows you free use of one hand at least. I breastfed, so the boppy allowed me to have both hands free (once Little Bit had learned to latch and stay latched correctly). Once she got older, we would prop her in this to help her strengthen her neck, and she learned to actually sit up using this pillow. My mom would even lay her in it for naps, and it was convenient for stuffy noses. The only caveat is that you need to invest in multiple covers. I had one, and the regular milk dribblings meant a lot of washing and not having a cover for the pillow itself which I needed during washings as well. I’d say a minimum of two but three might be better if you can swing it.
 
Bottle Sanitizer (if you don’t have a dishwasher with the sanitize option)
My apartment did not come equipped with a dishwasher, so a bottle sanitizer was a must for us initially as I did not want to boil water constantly. There are several variations of bottle sanitizers including some you can put in the microwave but we went with a plug-in appliance that sanitized in less than 5 minutes. It worked great and was definitely much easier to use than more traditional methods. However, once we moved into our house with a dishwasher with sanitize functions, we no longer needed this appliance.
Diaper Genie
I have heard people bashing the Diaper Genie, that is was an overpriced garbage can, for years before I got pregnant and so was a little hesitant about this purchase, but it honestly makes a huge difference in odor. Where there are babies there is excessive amounts of poop. And that poop just progressively gets stinkier and stinkier as baby progresses from milk to solids (I have also heard formula fed babies have smellier poops than breastfed babies). The Diaper Genie shuts these odors in and includes a charcoal filter for additional smell protection. Your nose and the noses of your house guests will thank you. We bought two, by the way. You will need to purchase refills for the bags and the charcoal filters, but you can buy these in multi-packs.
Cloth Diapers for Burp Cloths
We did not choose to use cloth diapers over disposable diapers for our daughter. I really wanted to but in the end was too intimidated to
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She loved playing with the clothes too.

try. However, I got these flat fold cloth diapers to use for affordable burp cloths, and they were invaluable. They are simple cloth squares you can prop under baby’s cheek while feeding to catch dribbles, the keep nearby for spit up, for the use of general spills while unable to move to grab an actual towel, etc. They are super cheap to buy in bulk, and you can bleach the crap out of them, literally. Burp cloths with cute designs are way marked up for their purpose and not nearly big enough anyway. I had some burp clothes I had received as a gift at my baby shower, and they were suitable for one use before they were ready for the laundry. Not nearly as absorbent as the cloth diaper either.
 
Glider Rocker
This was a more significant purchase as a piece of furniture but also definitely worth the cost. There is only so much manual rocking a human being can do, even my National Guard hubby who lifts. A rocker is a huge help, and a glider rocker has the smoothness necessary for undisturbed soothing and near effortless transition from sitting to standing. They usually pair with a footstool which you will use, and you will be glad you bought both. We did not buy the glider linked above but bought ours from Walmart, and it has held up excellently and still gets some use today. Also, our kitty (RIP) peed on the cushion, and it came clean easily.
Pack ‘N Play w/Diaper Changing Station and Bassinet
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Bonus: You get pictures like this which are priceless.

I can’t recall the exact brand we have, but it looks very similar to the one linked above. We got massively lucky on this one, and our uncle found a gently used Pack ‘N Play with the diaper changing station and the bassinet insert (but not the little newborn bassinet on top) and gave it to us as a gift. Yard sales, by the way, are fantastic places to find baby stuff as babies grow so fast they don’t use anything long enough to really destroy it. But we used this thing regularly, the diaper changing station especially for quick changes in the living room where we kept this thing erected permanently for quick baby drops when I needed to have my hands free. I also would take it outside and let baby play in it safely while still getting fresh air during the summer.
 
Baby Gym
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The monkey was definitely her favorite.

This item gets a little less use just because the amount of time it is safe for baby to play with is so short. It is best for newborn to right before they start to crawl. After that, they start tugging it down on them or just crawling away to inspect more exciting things.  But my baby rolled over for the first time on this, and she absolutely adored the little toys that attached to it (and which un-attach for extended play options once the gym itself is no longer usable). I included it because you can purchase these at a reasonably low cost, no doubt you can find multitudes of them used in yard sales or at Goodwill.
 
Shag Rug or Rug Pad
So, as my baby was learning to sit up, crawl, and walk she was constantly falling like every other baby. The tumbles I could not prevent, but we had hardwood floors in the house. We needed to provide padding to diminish injuries, especially for her soft noggin. I ended up buying a shag rug for the thick pile AND a rug pad which resulted in the cushiest flooring I have ever felt. It is impossible for Little Bit to hurt herself when she falls on this rug and is super comfy just for floor play, especially for people like me who had hip problems during pregnancy. There is an upfront cost investment for this but entirely worth it. The rug pad also helps protect my hardwood floors and keeps the rug on top from moving which are additional perks. You could probably buy a rug with a smaller pile, and still be just as insulated, no doubt our setup is slight overkill.
Baby Sleepers
So. Many. Sleepers. I preferred these Carter’s terry cloth sleepers, but you can buy plain cotton ones as well. Honestly, this and onesies are all my baby wore as she spent most of the beginning of her life sleeping. Even when I took her out, she was usually dressed in a sleeper, though she was born in November, so the cold weather was a factor. Honestly, cute (often overpriced) newborn outfits that look like adult clothing is a money racket in my opinion. I bought my daughter some cute outfits, but they never seemed as comfy and would disrupt her sleep sometimes. A coming home outfit and special occasion clothes are really all you need besides sleepers and onesies in the beginning.
Onesies
Besides sleepers, I kept my baby dressed in onesies. On a couple of super cold nights in our old drafty apartment, she would wear both. But onesies are great basics and accessible to both put on and remove (you can roll them down over the shoulders and pull off from the bottom). They come in a million and one patterns and colors and are usually made of cotton.
Baby BathtubIMG_2945
Another baby object I have heard people say is overrated is the infant tub which sits in your regular tub. I found mine incredibly useful and much more comfortable than the sink. For one, the bathtub is ergonomically shaped for the baby to lean back on and support their heads. In the sink, without any additional support, you are using your own hand/arm (you will still need to keep one hand on the baby in an infant tub, at least until they can support their own head). But the tub also comes with a little hammock for newborns which was super useful and could be thrown in the washer afterward. The bathtub I use has three different options for baby to use, the hammock, a side sans hammock for newborns, and an infant side, all with varying angles as the baby develops. It saved water and offered additional support for baby. I bought mine for $5 at a Peddler’s Mall.
Baby Carrier
Finally, a product I found absolutely invaluable was a baby carrier. This particular one is a front carrier and is not meant for newborns. I think they recommend only using this product on infants 8 weeks and up as newborns cannot support their heads well. I attempted to use a Moby wrap, but my daughter hated the constriction of the wrap. The carrier allowed her hands and feet freedom, and she was able to use my boobs as a pillow. While solo-parenting this was the only way I was able to grocery shop as I couldn’t fit my food and her car seat in the shopping cart. This carrier felt comfortable on my back even after an hour of use, and the straps are adjustable. The carrier can be used up to 32 pounds, about the weight of my daughter now at 16 months.
Jumperoo
 
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Buttons and babies go together like PB&J.

Another of my favorite products, my daughter absolutely adored her jumperoo. Doctors advise against baby walkers so we bought this as an alternative for individual play and building leg strength. it has three height settings so it lasts quite a while (unless you have an early walker) and has a variety of entertaining toys. My daughter could spend hours in her Jumperoo bouncing and playing with the toys and listening to the music. Worth the investment and the space it takes up for sure. If you can find it gently used all the better! We had to buy ours new though.
 
 
 
Baby Swing
Baby swing barely made this list. Honestly, they are not worth buying brand new. Look for a nice, gently used one (always check for recalls when buying products used and always register new products for recall alerts). My sister-in-law found ours at a yard sale in excellent condition for about $20. They cannot be used for a long time, babies shouldn’t sleep in them. If they fall asleep you will need to move the baby to a safer sleep environment. And the weight and height limit is low, my daughter grew out of hers by about 4 months. But it did help with soothing some of my daughter’s colic symptoms which were bad from the time she turned 6 weeks to 3 months. Baby swings also take a lot of batteries and drain them quickly which can get expensive.
 


 
Besides diapers, diaper cream, formula, bottles, baby soap, etc. these were the most useful items in the beginning. Though I received a crib as a gift it got very little use and still is not used as baby cosleeps and has since birth. This is more common for breastfeeding mothers to do as they need to be fed more often and you get more sleep. Your comfort level for cosleeping is your own business, FYI. I never had a problem with my daughter and was always highly alert to her position on the bed. Also, solo parenting is terrifying and having her next to me in case of an emergency was very comforting.
I could easily raise another baby on just the items above, which don’t get me wrong, is still a house full. So save money and time and stick with the things that work.

I Bought It In A Drugstore: Beauty Product Review

Living in a rural town, easy access to high-end makeup is just not a thing. The nearest Sephora is over 100 miles away. Online shopping has saved my life more than once when I have run out of Kat Von D’s Tattoo Foundation (in 45, if interested) which is my all-time favorite foundation.
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But what about when I need something immediately because I ran out and didn’t plan ahead? What if, as a working mama, or let’s face it, a mama period, we just don’t have time to go to a beauty store where the prices necessitate making an informed purchase? What if you just want a product you can practice with or want to try a product you have never used before?
For me, all of the above applies. I have never used highlighter though. I have a contour kit, but really that is the most complex I get with my makeup. I have seen highlighter all over Instagram lately though, and the shimmery glow has me hooked. At the same time, I don’t know when I will be able to get to a beauty supply store, and I have never used it so don’t know how to use it or what colors flatter me. So I thought I would pick up a palette from my local drugstore. I browsed the various sections for colors that I’d like and finally settled on this palette from Revlon called Galaxy Dream, a holographic highlighting palette numbered 003 if that means anything to anyone.

These colors make me think of a futuristic, sci-fi fantasy, perfect for my nerdy soul. (Hubby dropped it in the checkout aisle, so the powder got a little loosened before opening…men.)

Tried to demo on the arm like others on Instagram but phone camera is meh.

I applied my makeup regularly and saved highlighter for the last step which is what I think you are supposed to do. I obviously didn’t look up any tutorials before applying.
Face without highlighter.
Face without highlighter.

I applied the bottom right color to the top of my cheekbone. I then applied the top left shade slightly above that and below my brow bones. I did not use all the colors on the first application.
I really like the subtle sheen of the palette, and the colors are neutral enough for a makeup newbie like me to not feel overdone or flamboyant when out in public. The powder felt smooth to the touch and glided on. I also appreciated the mirror built into the palette since my daughter recently shattered my makeup mirror. It is large for a hand mirror and square.
Face with highlighter.
Face with highlighter.

Overall I am pleased with the purchase and will probably use it nearly every day. It doesn’t feel heavy and the colors are light and the shimmer is just flashy enough to give me a nice soft glow.

Easy Pancake Recipe

Like most red-blooded Americans, pancakes, in some form or another, is my go-to weekend breakfast. It is comforting, filling, and just a little decadent. Kids love them, adults love them. I have many fond memories of Saturday morning breakfasts with my family over a towering plate of pancakes (and bacon). And they are so versatile, you can dress them a thousand and one different ways. Strawberries and cream, apple pie, blueberries, chocolate chips, healthier things if you are so inclined.
I have one recipe I use as the base for my pancakes, however I fancy them up afterwards. Pancakes are fairly straightforward but I still see many differing opinions on what constitutes a pancake recipe.
I learned how to make pancakes from my Appalachian Granny, the best cook in our family. Mind you, she didn’t have exact measurements, never used them when cooking, so I had to observe and guesstimate measurements based on those observations. This process took some trial and error on its own but I finally found a balance in ingredients that tastes very similar to what she makes. I made some adjustments to bring down the fat content of her recipe for more everyday use including switching buttermilk for 1% (though I still use buttermilk on very special occasions).
The pancakes have a decently fluffy quality and texture overall.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup self-rising flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbl sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • Enough milk to reach a batter consistency

I still haven’t figured an exact measurement on this as I always seem to need to add more or less on any given day.

Directions

Mix flour and sugar. Add egg and milk and whisk. Add more milk if batter is thick and more flour if batter is too thin. The batter itself should pour steadily from a spoon but not so quickly is splatters.
At this point you can add any additional ingredients if you want to dress up the pancakes like adding apples or cinnamon, etc.
In my pictures, I added cinnamon and chopped pecans.

Once your batter is ready heat a skillet to medium, too hot pancakes will cook too fast on the outside and still be gooey on the inside. Too low and you will be standing over your skillet forever.
Add a pat of butter to your hot skillet and let melt.

Pour batter into the middle of pan, allowing it to spread out in a circle to desired size. It is best to stop pouring slightly smaller than you like as the pancake will continue to spread just slightly as the batter evens out. I use a measuring cup to pour batter but I have seen some cool life hacks where people use recycled ketchup containers.
The pancake will cook on one side until bubbles cover the top of the pancake. Flip once. You can press on the center of the pancake to judge if it is done, it should feel firm.

And that is it! The recipe is foolproof, I have never had a bad batch from it. This makes about 4 large pancakes, usually enough for 2 people. Especially if you also make large quantities of bacon.

Hopefully this article helps somebody who has struggled with making pancakes in the past. And please take this recipe and make it your own, you could probably sub whole wheat flour or stevia sugar if you want to make it more wholesome.
Happy eating!

I Tried A DNA Testing Kit: Here’s What I Learned

I was one of many who took advantage of DNA ancestry kits going on sale over the holidays. I purchased Ancestry DNA through Amazon for about $60 in December. Per Amazon Prime shipping, I received the kit two days later.

Collecting Your Sample

Included inside was instructions for collecting the sample and sending it in with a box with prepaid postage to send the sample in. The sample is deposited in a tube filled with a stabilizing fluid. You fill the top of the container with your spit (you have to wait thirty minutes after eating or drinking anything which was surprisingly challenging) and then seal it and break the barrier to allow the stabilizing fluid to mix with your spit.
The kit had to be activated before sending on the Ancestry website as well.

Waiting

Once the kit was mailed, you could track the progress of your sample through the Ancestry.com website. From arrival to processing to complete, your spit’s journey is projected in a little progress bar.
I mailed in my sample around December 22nd and received an email that my sample had arrived at their labs on January 4th. The website stated that the waiting period from arrival to the beginning of processing could take anywhere from 6-8 weeks due to high demand, but I ended up receiving my results on January 30th. About three and a half weeks from arrival which was a much faster turn around time than I had anticipated.

The Results

The result was delivered in a linked email which leads to the Ancestry website and is found under the DNA tab.

Home

 

AncestryHome
DNA Matches and DNA Circle redacted to protect identities.

From the homepage, you will find access to you ethnicity breakdown with the majority ethnicities showing from the home widget. You will also find added features unique to Ancestry.com which matches you with suggested relatives who have completed their own DNA samples and DNA circles that have already been mapped to shared ancestors.
The DNA Matches for me have been accurate thus far as I was matched with at least two known relatives, for example, Ancestry was able to accurately discern a first cousin as a first cousin. Which is cool. I had minimal contact with my biological father and his family, so I am very interested in connecting with more people from his side.
Consequently, not knowing my father’s family (he was adopted) led me to take the test in the first place. My mother’s side has a pretty detailed genealogy completed by my grandfather and uncle, so I was confident in the information I had on their pedigree.

Ethnicity Region Breakdown

 

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Ancestry provides three cards for easy sharing on social media.

You can share your results on your social media or by email with these predesigned cards which gives you three different options for displaying your ethnic breakdown. I chose to share the middle card.
I am a very white, freckled, coppery haired girl, so the high confidence ethnicity regions did not surprise me. My brother had done some digging on my father’s relatives in the past and had traced our birth surname to a Scandinavian name so seeing that reflected in a high percentage was very interesting and reaffirmed the information he had uncovered. Sidenote: since discovering our Viking heritage my brother has grown a pretty impressive red beard.
The low confidence regions however really interested me. I think it reveals a pretty complicated history of my ancestors’ immigration. I know some history which can explain the more southern regions. There was a time in history when Germanic tribes (Visigoths and Goths) settled all over Europe including southern areas which may explain the percentage of my DNA from those areas (the Iberian Peninsula and Italy/Greece).
I was also surprised by the 1% European Jewish. This may come in through several branches of the family tree. Jewish people have experienced many periods of migration, facing frequent discrimination and expulsion from various regions. Ancestry provides a brief history of each ethnicity region and explains that the Jews who settling in Germany were called the Ashkenazi Jews and spoke Yiddish. This is likely where my percentage descended.
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Ancestry provides an interactive map where you can break down each ethnicity region, including the countries that comprise the region and an overview and link to more history of the region and the people who lived there.

Migrations

Besides showing the ethnicity regions that reflect in your DNA, Ancestry provides insight into significant migrations relative to your DNA results. I had a couple of substantial migratory periods in my ancestry, including the movement of the Scots-Irish to the Appalachia region and then the Appalachians into the Ohio/Indiana/Michigan region post-WWII.
 

AncestryMigrations
Many Scots-Irish settled in Appalachia during this period and, due to the isolated nature of the region, the community still retains many of the linguistic, religious, and familial tendencies of their ancestors. This is where I still live today.

Pros and Cons of Ancestry DNA

Pros

Ancestry.com is a trusted genealogy website. They are good at what they do and provide the appropriate tools to really get the most out of your results.
Many public libraries have subscriptions to Ancestry.com meaning you can access the advanced features for free! The community college library I work at has a subscription as well, and many other colleges in our area are trialing the site as well.
You can connect with living family members.
Cost is low compared to other DNA Testing Kits.

Cons

Ancestry.com costs money to access advanced features (searching vital records, connecting with completed family trees that you are matched with, etc.) if you don’t have access to a subscription already.
Other DNA testing kits such as 23andMe provide the option to test for genetic health risks and whether you are a carrier, though this is an upcharge. 23andMe also can check to see what percentage of Neanderthal DNA you have retained. Which is…something?

Is Ancestry DNA Worth the Cost?

This is very subjective. I feel like these DNA testing kits appeal to a particular population, those who have been adopted or whose immediate relatives were adopted or who have lost track of their genealogy. And care about their lineage. Coming from Appalachia, many people here are very preoccupied with their family trees. During elections, it is not uncommon for candidates to list their parents and even grandparents in their ads.
I am both interested in my family tree because of the regional preoccupation and because my father was adopted. For me, the test was more than worth the cost just for the ability to connect with living relatives and more efficiently build my family tree on my dad’s side. I also have access to the Ancestry subscription through my institution and can dig deeper than the DNA service allows for nonsubscribers.
If you don’t have any weird deviations in your family trees like adoption and your family has had access to well-kept birth, marriage, and death records this service is probably not for you. It won’t reveal anything you don’t already know. However, the kits which test genetic disorders might be a more cost-effective method for those wishing to conceive who also want to test to see if they are a carrier for any kind of genetic disease.
I am pleased with my results, and with the service, I have received thus far from Ancestry DNA and Ancestry.com.
#notsponsored
 
 
 

Valley & Sky

My name is Sky. Judith, my stepmother, said that is because my mother gave birth to me in the yard under the summer midafternoon sky, the kind where rifted white clouds skimmed the highest reach of the Heavens. Lacking imagination for a decent Christian name she had muttered, “Sky,” when asked for a name for the skinny, white-haired baby the midwife handed her before she promptly fainted.
My mother was not a strong woman. She was always thin, bone edges protruding from the angles of her body, her collarbone a shelf for her neck and head. Childbirth seemed to steal what little life force she had. I was the oldest. My little brother came next, named Dusk, signifying the time of day he entered the world. And my youngest sibling, a sister called Valley, was the youngest and the one who stole my mother’s last breath, releasing it in a sigh as Valley took her very first gulp of mountain air, then promptly screamed, startling the birds from their trees where they had settled during the unusually quiet labor.
Maybe because of my name, or by some intuition of my mother’s, I have always been entranced by the sky. I have watched it lighten in the early dawn, pale in the waning evening. I have tracked the scuttle of clouds from storms ripped to shreds and blown by the wind. I can trace the years passed by my impressions of the sky.

***

My feet had gone numb minutes ago, curled over the bar of the chair legs I sat hunched in. They were bare, they usually were. Shoes were a commodity this far in the country, and her Daddy would only buy us one pair a year, usually more often trading for them, whatever cheap, canvas lined things he could find that would barely survive the winter slogs through shin-high snow and boggy mud to get to the schoolhouse 5 miles away. I was used to numb feet.
What I wasn’t accustomed to was watching my sister staring lifelessly outside, brown eyes that once glistened with spirit now half shuttered by pale, blonde lashes and roguishly red cheeks. Too red for her lack of vitality and splotched from her cheekbones to her collarbone where the quilt sagged to reveal a brittle frame.
Valley’s tiny body lay still under the ratty quilts. Her face was angled towards the window, her jaw a sharp, white line against the dirt-stained fabric.
In the hills, everything was dirty, but nobody seemed to mind. The dirt was our link to nature, and nature our inheritance from God. When you didn’t have a lot, you made what you did have a blessing.
There was a chill in the air, even inside the cabin, fall had come to call and wasn’t waiting for us to open the door. Our coal stove sat in a corner unused, dusty, black with the soot of fires past. Valley didn’t have the strength to light it. I didn’t have the heart.

Dirty Clothes: The Benefits of Letting Kids Play Outside

I can remember going outside to play immediately after breakfast as a child and not coming back indoors until right before bedtime. Yes, we often ate lunch and dinner outdoors during the warm months. We didn’t have air conditioning in the tiny farmhouse my grandparents lived in, and I was partially raised in. The inside was not nearly as cool as outside under the shade of our apple tree or giant flowering bushes. Nor could a fan replace the feeling of the breeze pulling my hair back from my face as I sped down a hill on my bike, standing, butt hiked in the air, racing my siblings and cousins.

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My daughter took a tumble on a warm January day

Granted I was raised in the country, down a holler, where all my neighbors were related to me. I was able to spend all day home with my grandparents who didn’t work while my single mom worked a full-time job. And we had a solid half acre of play space not counting the hillside was sported a mile long (est.) dirt road up to the family cemetery which we frequently hiked.
We played video games and watched TV, and I loved to read, so we spent our fair share of time indoors even in the 90s-00s. But we got dirty every single day. I still have scars on my knees from all the spills I took on my bike or falling while running foot races. I always had dirt under my nails. We climbed trees. We rolled in the grass. We jumped through sprinklers. We engaged with nature, and I believe we are all better adults for it.

A Love of Nature

First and foremost, I think having a childhood where playtime and outside were so intertwined has lent me a healthy respect for nature I carry to this day. Having splashed in and swum in our little creek that ran behind our house, I know the importance of having clean natural water sources. My grandmother, aunt, and uncle were ardent flower lovers, and we had multiple flower beds to weed as part of our chores. Our grandfather farmed and we were able to supplement our food sources with the vegetables we grew. As a result of that we learned to appreciate the process of planting and watching things grow, and caring for them and reaping the benefits of that attention and work. We determined the role of bugs in growing plants as well and learned to not fear them for their more creepy crawly properties.

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Getting back up to try this again!

Exercise

Secondly, we got so much exercise. Childhood obesity is a real problem. The CDC reports that 1 in 5 school age children and teens is obese. That number has more than tripled since the 1970’s. Obesity is not only the result of a lack of exercise. Nutrition and genetics can play significant factors in a child’s propensity to obesity as well. But the fact remains that leading an active lifestyle can reduce and prevent obesity in most individuals. There are barriers for children leading an active lifestyle. Unlike my siblings and me, many children lack a safe space to play outdoors. Children living in urban or highly populated areas may require more supervision. All the stories of abducted children and the pictures of them are enough to make most parents lock their kids in a closet just to keep them safe from strangers. Public parks and state parks with hiking trails can be beneficial to people who lack the outdoor space. Another solution is for schools to reintroduce recess, specifically outdoor unstructured play as a required part of the school day. According to an article by Ginsburg, Committee on Communicationsand the Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health, a survey conducted in 1989 found that 96% of kindergarten classes had a recess period. Ten years later that number dropped to 70%.
I was lucky as a child that in addition to having a home life that supported such outdoor playtime, my elementary school also had a decent outside playground adjacent to a wooded area and away from private homes or commercial businesses that might attract strangers. The woods behind the school had also been set up as a sort of conservation education center where trees and plants were labeled with their Latin names and a path clearly marked.

Developmental Advantages

Third, there are many documented developmental advantages to outdoor play including improved motor and sensory development, confidence building, and cognitive development and may even have behavioral benefits for children with ADD.

Improved Immune System

Finally, for my list, playing in the dirt may enhance the immune system not to mention the added benefits of getting things like Vitamin D from sunshine. Factors like improved hygiene and more time spent indoors seem to have caused allergy rates to rise dramatically and allowing children to be exposed to natural elements like soil, plants, and pollen can help diminish the risk of developing allergies. There is a distinction in playing the dirt and playing in dirt that may be tainted with industrial waste, human waste, or other harmful bacteria harboring sites. This Forbes article suggests visiting National Parks which are protected from industrial and commercial dumping, clear-cutting, and/or mining.

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Her smile says it all. She loves playing outside!

Kids can be cleaned, their clothes can be washed, or replaced depending on the severity of staining. But childhoods cannot be changed or replaced. And the health benefits are there and shouldn’t be ignored.

Rebranding

So, since my husband returned safely from his deployment, I have been thinking about what to do with this blog. I had been posting love poems and letters for my hubby to enjoy and to hopefully connect with others who were going through the same thing. Now that he is home, the nature of the blog and my day to day life has changed. I changed the name of the blog to more generally reflect my interests.
Blogging in and of itself is such a niche interest, and usually, the things people write about are only of interest to a few people at a time. I don’t particularly want to reach for topics I am not personally interested in just to attract an audience. I do have, what I feel is, a wide variety of interests from:

  • parenting
  • writing
  • reading
  • DIY
  • military
  • politics
  • libraries
  • information literacy
  • Appalachia
  • history
  • cooking
  • nature
  • etc.

I hope to post some variable and honest content. As you can see, it will be eclectic. But I am hoping my audience is similar to me (random and nerdy).
Living in a rural area, I feel like I have a limited number of people who may share my interests and blogging is a way to find my community. Look for some different content in the future including book reviews, recipes, experiences in the real world, and hopefully so much more.