The Birth Story of Jasper Finley Spruill

This is the birth story of Jasper Finley Spruill. While I was nursing my daughter London, my regular monthly cycle had not returned and as the months passed by, our dream of giving her a sibling around her 2nd birthday seemed unlikely. Around Christmas, we prayed for a baby but I resolved to stop stressing about becoming pregnant and to focus on my growing Beautycounter business for 2015. And just like that, on January 2nd, we found out we were expecting—it was a Happy New Year indeed! I had a really easy pregnancy once again just like I did with my daughter and it was not until the intense heat and humidity of late August in Texas that I started to feel uncomfortable. That is to be expected with 105+ feels like temperatures daily! Weekly chiropractic adjustments helped too.

It was definitely different this time around being pregnant while caring for a 2 year old, but it was also very sweet. London Sophia was absolutely elated about becoming a big sister soon and while I couldn’t determine if she understood that an actual baby would be coming to live with us soon, she loved hugging and kissing “Baby Jasper” ie my pregnant belly—she insisted on hugging and kissing and holding my bare belly so that was a perfect mixture of adorable and irritating as my belly got bigger and bigger. I carried Jasper very low but was also all belly once again and that generated a lot of comments from strangers. My due date was determined to be August 26th. With my first pregnancy, I went 6 days late so I was prepared that Jasper would arrive sometime in late August, but at the same time, once I hit 38 weeks, I knew that he could arrive any day. I would wake up and think, “Am I in labor? Will I be having a baby today?!” I was in no hurry this time around; with London, I was anxious and eager to have her, but with Jasper, I knew that there would be an adjustment and some exhaustion and while I was excited, I was also not wanting to rush it and I wanted to savor all of that special time with London Sophia as my only baby. I grew very emotional that last week of pregnancy and twice had near panic attacks thinking that I could potentially leave London motherless. I felt desperate to get as much done as possible with business and our home, but finally exhaustion set in and I allowed myself to rest and nap and just enjoy the last few days of pregnancy.

Sunday morning I was running a bit late but I decided that London and I would make it to church anyways. I knew it would be our last chance for a while since I was 39.5 weeks pregnant. On the way out the door, Pastor Jeff prayed over London and me, specifically for a complication-free birth and another healthy baby. I felt a great sense of peace and we enjoyed a nice dinner as a family. Devin grilled a feast and I prepared blondies and brownies for dessert. He built the storage shelves/cabinet for the office that I had been waiting on and I worked hard at unpacking and organizing that room until 3 am. That’s when I decided I had better get some rest since I could go into labor any day.

SO… about an hour later, around 4 am, I woke up needing to go to the bathroom. I noticed some mucous which is a sign that labor is starting and within 15 min or so I was woken up by contractions, which felt like intense menstrual cramps. Devin rubbed my back in his sleep but I’m not sure that he realized it was actually happening at first. At 5:09 am, I texted our midwife, Kellie and gave her the heads up—she has nearly a 2 hour drive and if rush hour started, on the very first day of school nonetheless, she probably wouldn’t have made it in time. Within 5 min, she determined she would head our way. I hated to think that she may be arriving way too early, but better safe than sorry. While she was on the way, I had no interest in timing any contractions, but they were every few minutes or so. She told me that sitting on the toilet could intensify contractions so I decided that laying on my left side in bed would be the way to go. That was the one position I swore I would NOT be employing, but Kellie told me that it could slow things down so I decided that was it. Since my sweet, dear, volunteer doula friend Debs was busy getting her 4 school kids back to school and she could not make it, and Devin was preparing the bed and the warm blankets and tending to the supplies, I had to be my own doula. In truth, I was a bit fearful to be having another home birth—my main fears were that I would hurt in ways that I just did not remember from the first birth, or that some complication would send me to the hospital, which would be a worst case scenario. So as the contractions started, I would tell myself, silently, “I was made to do this. I’m not afraid. God is with me. He did not give me a spirit of fear. I was made to do this. I’m not afraid. God is with me. He did not give me a spirit of fear.” I did not take a birthing class, and I did not intend to do affirmations, but in my head, I was chanting that to myself, and it got me through each contraction. Devin did apply pressure to my lower back and that helped, and I held his hand through several contractions. I really felt proud of myself even as it happened for just taking them as they came and getting inside of myself to get through each wave.

Kellie arrived just after 7 am. She spent a few minutes bringing in and setting up her supplies. Once that was done, she got the Doppler and monitored Jasper’s heartbeat throughout back to back contractions. They were close together. I remember telling them that I drifted off into a dream between them—it couldn’t have been 30-60 seconds, but she said it was good, that my body was taking care of me and letting me rest between contractions. I had been waiting to go to the bathroom until she arrived, so now I finally could. In the meantime, Devin started running the bathwater, which still surprised me that I was so close, so fast. I was afraid to tear, but I knew the water would help that. After using the bathroom, I had what Kellie called “a spontaneous urge to push.” With home births, my midwife does not do a vaginal exam, so there is no “you’re __ centimeters” –did you know that this is subjective by the way and that there is no ruler involved? Instead, it’s more about listening to the body, the primal sounds, and the urge to push. At this point, it was likely about 7:45 am and I was helped into the bathtub. Contractions seemed to slow down, which is natural because the water is relaxing. As a contraction came on, I could not avoid pushing even though I was a bit afraid of the crowning, ie the ring of fire. I felt that familiar burn, and I knew I had to welcome the very brief intensity to achieve the blissful result, so I spoke to Jasper and I pushed. Devin got ready to catch his son, and I heard them mention his hair. Seconds later, his head was visible, and for a few brief moments, there was no contraction forcing me to push out his body. I had to actually tell myself, “Push!” and out he came, into his Daddy and Kellie’s hands. He did have his cord wrapped around his neck, so Kellie quickly fixed that and he was laid on my chest. It was 7:58 am, just less than 4 hours after I went into labor.

And then silence. For about a minute, that to be honest felt like a lifetime, Jasper did not cry. Kellie quickly suctioned him with a DeLee suction, which is just a teeny tube that removes fluid from his lungs. Finally, he cried, and we could all breathe, and then there were happy tears. There was a brief second where it was almost out of body, where time stood still, but I did trust that God was in control and that Kellie was competent and Jasper was safe. Moments after he cried, he was rooting for the breast and latching on, which also helps to regulate his temperature and respirations. Before too long I was helped to our bed, with Jasper still attached to the placenta. The cord was cut after he had gotten a good long nursing session in, and after that he was weighed and measured—7 lbs 7 oz and 20.25” long. Amazingly enough, even after our momentary scare, he had perfect Apgar scores even immediately after. We did have one more scary moment where I was producing a lot of clots for some reason, and my lips apparently got a bit white. Kellie used various techniques to resolve this, and we were able to manage without a shot of Pitocin that would have helped my uterus to contract more quickly. I pleaded for no shot and both Kellie and my body obliged. As a precaution, I drank a lot of replenishment fluids and my vitals were good again shortly thereafter. He was born at 7:58 am, just over 3 hours after labor started, and just minutes before his sister woke to find that she was a Big Sister! “Oh, he’s here!” she squealed!
Mommy & Jasper
First herbal bath
Proud Daddy
cutting cord

Devin and London and I are all just in love with sweet Jasper, as will his older brother Hunter be when he gets to meet him soon. He is a sweet, gentle baby thus far who is already a champion nurser and sweet sleeper. London is absolutely elated to be a big sister and she can barely keep her hands off of “Baby Jasper” as she calls him! We are blissfully enjoying life as a family of 5 and we both agree that we have never felt happier in our lives. I never dreamed of being a mom when I was young and single, but it is truly what I was designed to do and it’s the greatest joy I’ve ever known. There is a superhuman experience that goes along with natural birth, especially at home, that I wish every woman could experience. The only thing that comes close to the feeling for me is that when I jumped out of an airplane—when you face a fear that you don’t know if you can survive, the natural high is indescribable. That is what home birth is like for me—I’ve never felt so accomplished and whole and proud of myself, but also grateful for my God, my husband and our team of supporters.
Mommy London Jasper

“But is it Worth the Cost?” She Asks.

So often when we are faced with the option to invest in yet another skincare line, we wonder if it’s just another collection of empty promises that will end up in that drawer. Yeah, you know, that drawer with all of the things that seemed like a great beauty investment at the time. We’ve all been there, and we’ve all sworn it would never happen again. It’s hard to decide what is a worthwhile investment these days, but as Ginny Cain, from Pittsburgh, PA recently discovered, the proof is in the results! And with a money back guarantee, you can shop confidently at knowing that you have nothing to lose, except maybe some dull skin, fine lines or breakouts.

“Oh the joys of mid-30 skin. The occasional breakout, the very unwelcome presence of horizontal lines stretching across my forehead, and my new favorite…dullness. After the launch of Beautycounter, I waited months before giving it a try. Would it be worth the price? Being a stay-at-home mom and living on one income, there only so many extra dollars per month. Since I’ve already tried everything else, including dermatologist prescribed products with expensive co-pays, would it live up to the hype and could I risk paying that much for another line of products that I would toss in the trash?

So I waited for Santa. During a holiday sale my personal Santa bought me a Routine Clean cleanser, Gentle Exfoliator, Every Day hydrating cream, Every Night hydrating cream, Lip Sheer, and because Santa spent over $150, I received a free CounterTime Nourishing Cleansing Balm. This free gift…DIVINE INTERVENTION. It is, by far, my favorite product. It goes on like silk and makes my skin sing. It is perfect on those nights when sleep is winning the battle over my bedtime routine. Rub it on and wipe it off with a hot, wet cloth. Done.

What has surprised me the most about the Beautycounter line is how quickly you notice the results. The dullness and overall health of my skin improved in one week of use. But is it worth the price? For me…it is. Because I believe that the most expensive products, are the ones we throw away. It may not be the only health-conscience skin care line out there, but from now on, it’s the only one for me.”
~Ginny Cain,
Pittsburgh, PA

Beautycounter’s Christy Coleman Honored in W Magazine

W Magazine describes itself as the home for The Who, What, Where, When, and Why in the world of fashion and style…and this month W Magazine is honoring Beautycounter’s Head of Creative Design [and curator of all things beautiful], Christy Coleman while offering a sneak peak of the new color cosmetics line that Christy designed for Beautycounter, set to be released October 15, 2014.

The W Magazine article features Coleman as one of Beauty’s next big stars, but based on her resume and portfolio, she has been a star long before this flattering feature. As beautiful inside as she is outside, Christy exudes the cool confidence that any celebrity model, actress or designer is seeking in a professional makeup artist, but it’s her intellect and attention to detail that make her the perfect person to design the incredibly high-performing yet ultra-safe and clean products that are the heart of Beautycounter.

After reading the book Not Just a Pretty Face several years ago, and after losing her father to ALS, this native Texan turned Venice Beach native became committed to cleaning up her makeup kit, vowing to use the safest products and ingredients that she could find. Since she never was able to find the perfect collection of truly safe and effective products, she and Gregg Renfrew, along with environmental health & safety specialist Mia Davis, set out to create them from scratch. The skincare, bodycare, antiaging and kids products that they have debuted thus far since Beautycounter launched in March 2013 have been wildly successful, but Beautycounter devotees have been patiently awaiting a full color Cosmetics range…and soon, that wait will pay off as Beautycounter launches an almost complete Cosmetics line this very month.

An interesting fact is that Beautycounter was set to release this Color Cosmetics line in Fall 2013, but despite impressive performance, the products didn’t quite pass the company’s strict safety standards, what they actually believe are the strictest safety standards in the industry. Coleman and Davis went back to the drawing board and literally searched the world for the perfect manufacturer that could deliver exactly what they required and they would accept nothing less. I was fortunate enough to receive a selection of these gorgeous products when visiting with Christy and the entire Beautycounter corporate team last month, and I am completely impressed and head over heels in love with it all! I have never been so excited to have a full trashbin of old toxic cosmetics–including ones that I thought for years were safe from “mineral” powders to fragrance-laden junk. And like Christy herself, the packaging is just as fantastic as the content itself–chic, sexy and sophisticated.

Sometimes, there is just no better feeling than starting over fresh. Out with the old (toxic junk) and in with the new (cosmetics pot of gold).

Browse the entire Beautycounter line at

W mag

10 Things You Don’t Know About Skincare But Should!

Skincare: 10 Things You Don’t Know About Skincare But Should!
By Emilie Spruill, Licensed Esthetician

Skincare can be overwhelming because there is so much conflicting information—what’s a girl to believe? Keep in mind that while there have been major improvements in ingredients and research in recent years, the $50 billion skincare industry is just about completely self-regulated. If you’re concerned about what’s in YOUR products, rate them at and find safer alternatives with incredible results at

#1 ~ With rare exception, cosmetics companies can include almost any ingredient regardless of any link to skin irritation and human health concerns, and they can make just about any claim about their products that may or may not be true. Most people believe that a product must be safe if it’s on the market, but that is simply not true. Rate your products at or their SkinDeep app.

#2 ~ Mineral Oil has no nutritional value for the skin but instead it simply coats and clogs the pores. Perhaps “mineral” brings to mind positive thoughts of skin-friendly vitamins and minerals, but mineral oil is simply a product of used petroleum. It is a cheap filler that does nothing to nourish the skin.

#3 ~ Most products that are designed for oily or problem skin, unfortunately, will often make the problems worse. Products that contain SD alcohol or benzoyl peroxide will strip, dehydrate and age the skin, causing the skin to become irritated, inflamed and often more oily than ever. They are not strong enough to kill pimple-causing bacteria but they may keep it dormant beneath the surface. Sad but true!

#4 ~ Reading the ingredient list unfortunately provides no information as to how well a product will actually work. If two people have the same recipe for meatloaf, they still may use different cookware, different ovens, varying quality of ingredients and even cook at different altitudes—and their recipes will likely taste and look completely different. Unfortunately, the ingredient list is just the start.

#5 ~ Most major cosmetic companies are owned by one of a couple of powerhouse parent companies. Did you know that Lancome is owned by Loreal, and they also produce Skinceuticals? Did you know that the Estee Lauder company also owns Aveda, MAC, Clinique, Bobbi Brown, Prescriptives and Origins? Aveeno is owned by Johnson & Johnson.

#6 ~ Formaldehyde, a commonly used preservative that has been linked to irritation, cancer and toxicity, is sometimes listed on labels DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, quaternium-15, sodium hydroxylmethylglycinate and 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol (Bronopol). It is found in countless products from nail polish to baby wipes to shampoo to skincare to body wash.

#7 ~ According to, existing law – the Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act of 1938 – cedes decisions about ingredient safety to the cosmetics industry. Under the current law, the FDA can’t require cosmetics companies to conduct safety assessments, and can’t even require product recalls. This is true even when a product is known to contain harmful or irritating ingredients.

#8 ~ Toner is an essential skincare step to return the skin to an ideal pH—a slightly acidic one—after using a cleanser or even just water, both of which will neutralize or alkalinize the skin. A slightly acidic pH is our skin’s best defense against bacteria. If your toner contains SD alcohol, toss it! No good.

#9 ~ What you put on your skin will absorb into your bloodstream. Just think of the smoker’s patch or pain-relief patches used for hospice patients. The medication is absorbed through their skin and enters their bloodstream. Knowing this, it makes sense to use only skincare products that are as safe and nutritious as possible.

#10 ~ Those strips that are often so popular for removing blackheads… they actually are too good to be true. They simply are ineffective at doing anything more than ripping off the surface skin cells. They are not capable at drawing a blackhead from the pore—this hardened plug of dead skin cells, makeup debris, oil and pollution can be dissolved with AHAs or manually extracted by a professional esthetician, but the strips sadly are not the quick fix they claim to be.

Beyond Healthy Blondies ie Vegan Protein-Packed Cookie Bars!

I owe this recipe and blogpost to my girlfriend Korrin who shared the recipe with me a few months back. I’ve tweaked it just slightly but we literally make it once or twice a week! My husband and stepson request this more than anything else! And I must admit–they are absolutely mind-blowing! Nobody would ever guess that the secret ingredient in these Cookie Bars is Chick Peas…that’s right, legumes!

This recipe is dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan and refined sugar-free. It is sweetened with liquid stevia and maple syrup. I do use natural peanut butter or almond butter, but in the case of allergies, I suspect you could replace with sunbutter. I have not tried that yet.

This would be a fantastic way to sneak protein into your picky kiddo’s diet–they will be pleading for more!

~1 can of organic garbanzo beans aka chick peas, strained and rinsed
~1/2 cup of natural peanut butter or almond butter (we like the grind-your-own one ingredient style from HEB or Whole Foods)
~1/8 cup of 100% Maple Syrup
~15 drops of Liquid Stevia–I prefer the Sweet Leaf Stevia Clear brand.
~2 tsp Vanilla
~1/2 teaspoon Sea Salt
~1/4 teaspoon Baking Soda
~1/4 teaspoon Baking Powder
~1/4 cup of Enjoy Life Allergy-free, Dairy-free Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips– they are $4.91 a bag at HEB but I keep them in the freezer and they last us a good while! Perfect for these bars or chocolate chip pancakes or over some Nada Moo Dairy Free Ice Cream!


~Preheat Oven to 350 degrees F.
~Combine all ingredients except chocolate chips in a food processor–I prefer my Kitchen Ninja!
~Blend well.
~Add half of the chocolate chips and pulse to combine.
~Spread the “batter” into a brownie pan spritzed with olive oil or coconut oil–I like to use my pre-divided brownie pan. This recipe makes 9 bars, or half of the pan, while doubling this recipe would fill up the pan with 18 brownie-sized bars!
~Bake for 30 minutes. Let cool for at least 15 minutes and serve with a cold glass of Almond Milk! Don’t forget to let them cool for 15 minutes or more so they retain their bar form as they get dunked into that almond milk!

Thank you so much Korrin for turning me on to this amazing treat! Enjoy!

Baby Bellalfredo …Dairy-free, Gluten-free & Guilt-free!

There are several dishes that have become staples on our dinner menu, but only a few that become weekly requests by my husband and stepson, and this pasta is absolutely one of them! As I was enjoying this dish last night, I couldn’t help but think that this really is the dairy-free equivalent of Mac n Cheese and based on requests for this recipe, others will feel the same way! This recipe is especially skin-friendly because ditching the dairy is one of the best things you can do for your skin! So if you crave alfredo but not the oily skin or breakouts that go along with it, this dish is for you!

bella cashew cream pasta

Besides the amazing taste of this dish, my favorite part is the overall easiness! While my pasta water is boiling, I start the sauce by combining the ingredients in the Kitchen Ninja–my favorite food processor! As the quinoa pasta is cooking, I prepare our salads and saute the baby bella mushrooms. Strain the pasta, add the sauce and mushrooms and top off with sauce, and the dish is complete! I wish they all were this simple!

As is, this recipe will serve 2. When my stepson is with us, I double the recipe and end up with a little bit leftover.

1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 Veggie Boullion Cube
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tbsp tapioca starch
1 tsp EVOO
1 tsp Melt Vegan Buttery Spread
3/4 cup finely ground cashews (I pre-grind these and then add the ground cashews to this recipe)
Hint of nutmeg
1 1/2 cups boiling water
Baby Portabella mushrooms aka Crimimi mushrooms
tsp Coconut Oil (or olive oil) for preparing the mushrooms
1 Box Ancient Grains Quinoa Penne — it’s my favorite gluten-free pasta so far!

ancient harvest GF pasta

Wash and cut the mushrooms into slices. Heat the Coconut Oil and saute the mushrooms as the pasta is being prepared.

Boil water for the pasta.

In a powerful food processor or blender–I use my trusty Kitchen Ninja Pro–combine all of the ingredients to the nutmeg. Add the very hot water (it doesn’t have to be boiling necessarily, but I do use the tea kettle to heat the water). Blend until completely combined. The sauce may separate and that is ok.

Add the pasta and as the box states, do not overcook. I cook my noodles for 6-7 minutes and then strain. Add the pasta back into the pasta pan and add the cashew cream sauce. Combine well. Top with the mushrooms and serve!

You can be creative and add in any veggies you choose from spinach to zucchini to sweet onion!

Best Bang For Your Buck Burrito Bowls!

Pics do no justice!

Pics do no justice!

So it seems inevitable that when we are just due slightly overdue to head to the grocery store, my husband will ask, “What are you planning for dinner, babe?” At this point, I must admit that I will always suggest Rice & Beans although I’m secretly hoping my husband will politely decline! Despite the fact that brown rice and beans are extremely nutritious, healthy, inexpensive and are always in my pantry, to be honest, I do not enjoy them much at all–until today!

And full disclosure, as soon as I was able to start writing this entry, my 5 month old woke up to nurse, so I am truly multi-tasking as I type! This one will be short and sweet!

2 cups dry pinto beans, which makes 4 cups cooked
1 cup dry brown rice, which makes about 2 cups cooked
1 can rotel diced tomatoes with cilantro and lime (or one large diced tomato + cilantro and lime juice!)
1 diced onion
3 cloves minced garlic (I used the jarred stuff!)
2 tbsp grapeseed oil
1/2 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp cinnamon
3 tsp sea salt
1 veggie boullion cube + 2 cups bowling water (or 2 cups veggie stock)
Tofutti Sour Cream (optional but delicious)
Shredded iceberg lettuce
Sliced Avocado

First, cover the dry pinto beans with 2 inches of water and simmer for about 75 minutes. Next, prepare the brown rice as instructed.

In a large and deep skillet, heat the grapeseed oil and the spices for about a minute. Add the diced onion and saute until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to saute. After 5 minutes, add the pinto beans and rice, plus the 2 cups of veggie stock and the mostly strained can of tomatoes. Simmer on low-medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent sticking. I like to keep the consistency just slightly soupy, like a thick stew, as opposed to more dry.

Looks almost like vegetarian jambalaya!

Looks almost like vegetarian jambalaya!

This recipe should make 4 generous sized burrito bowls. Top with shredded lettuce, sour cream or Tofutti sour cream and sliced avocado.

My carnivore 11 year old stepson told me that this has instantly surpassed my baked “fried” chicken tenders–the only meat that I ever prepare–as his favorite and he requested it for his birthday! That is about the best compliment his sweet little heart can give!

This dish probably cost me no more than $5 for the entire meal and was packed full of protein and fiber! This meal is vegan and gluten-free, of course and has all of the flavor of your favorite Mexican food restaurant without the grease, fat or absolutely addictive and bottomless basket of tortilla chips!

The Best Vegan Burger I’ve Ever Had

We eat these every week and they make excellent leftovers!

We eat these every week and they make excellent leftovers!

So I distinctly remember the first time I had a veggie burger, at Eat-N-Park restaurant in Pittsburgh, at age 16. It was the Original Gardenburger and at the time, I thought it was just fabulous. Then at Carlow College, I recall ordering their version of frozen veggie patty–it was fried and crispy and frankly, disgusting, in retrospect! Since then, I’ve tried various brands and versions, but they just about all contained gluten and soy, two ingredients that we tend to avoid. I’ve made this particular burger several times now and each time I’ve tweaked the ingredients and ratios just a bit–each time, my husband and 10 year old stepson absolutely love them as much as I do! I may edit this post in the future if I find that something works even better, but I can assure you that this recipe tastes delicious and makes plenty–and you’ll want leftovers! We all seem to think that the seconds are even better in this case!

Carnivore & vegan approved!

Carnivore & vegan approved!

1 cup dry brown rice (this equals 3 cups cooked brown rice)
1 cup dry black beans, soaked overnight or for a few hours (this will equal 3 cups cooked black beans)
2 cloves garlic minced (or 1 tsp of minced garlic in the jar)
1 yellow onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
3 TBSP BBQ Sauce OR 1 Egg, beaten OR 1 TBSP Flax OR Chia in 3 TBSP warm water (your choice of binding agent)
1 tbsp coconut oil (or whatever oil you like to saute veggies in)
1/4 cup pecans, chopped (you could also substitute walnuts or almonds)
1 cup Gluten-Free bread crumbs (or you could optionally use a cup of diced almonds)
1 head of Organic Lettuce, halved and rinsed.
Roma Tomato
Condiments such as Relish, Mustard, Pico de Gallo or whatever your heart desires!

~Prepare the black beans and brown rice as directed. I like to use dry beans to avoid any BPA-lined cans. You can do this a day or two ahead of time and can even do so in a crockpot if that’s easier!
~Saute the onion and red bell pepper in your Coconut Oil or oil of choice until softened and transparent.
~In a food processor, combine the salt, cumin and pecans. When cooled, add the bell pepper and onion mixture and the black beans and brown rice. *I have a fairly large food processor/blender (the Kitchen Ninja Pro) and still I do this in two batches. The point is simply to combine these ingredients. Using a spatula, scrape the sides and continue blending.
~In a large bowl, place the mixture but fold in your binding agent (either the BBQ sauce, beaten egg or chia/flax seeds). Use a wooden spoon to combine and add in the gluten free bread crumbs or ground almonds.
~I like to use gloves for easy clean up here– form burger-sized patties and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. I typically get about 14 burgers from this amount of mixture. *These make excellent leftovers and if I’m going to go through this many steps, I like to get a few meals worth of food! Plus we absolutely love these burgers!

Parchment paper makes clean up a breeze!

Parchment paper makes clean up a breeze!

~Bake at 375 for about 25 minutes–you can’t really under-cook these as the ingredients are already cooked. You will know that they are done when they are firm to the touch. *You can absolutely saute these but we’ve found that baking is easier, takes less time and makes less of a mess, plus it requires no oil or flipping! They taste great either way.
~Serve on lettuce wraps with your choice of condiments! Tastes great with roasted veggies, baked potato wedges, chips and salsa or your choice of side dish! I love spreading avocado on mine instead of mayo or cheese!

Vegan Split Pea Soup ~ Hearty,Thrifty, Delish!

So I’m the type of person who can eat soup year round. It may be hotter than the surface of the sun in Houston during the summer, but thanks to the magic of air conditioning, we can always enjoy a nice bowl of soup! Best thing about this particular recipe is that it’s new mommy friendly–hearty, delicious, inexpensive and EASY to prepare in a crockpot! This soup is Dairy-Free/Vegan which is key for me as I am nursing my sweet bundle of joy and dairy is terribly upsetting for her little belly. It is also Gluten-Free, if you choose to eliminate the Barley.

As for instructions, the beautiful part is, all you must do is throw each of these things into the crockpot, with the Split Peas on the bottom! Cook for 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low and resist the urge to open the crockpot at all before the time is up! Doing so releases some of the heat and slows the cooking process.

This hearty soup is great year-round!

This hearty soup is great year-round!

~2 Cups of Organic Split Peas (I get these in the bulk section at HEB/Central Market)
~1/2 Cup of Dry Barley (eliminate for Gluten-Free Soup)
~1 Bag Organic Baby Carrots, diced (I love to pulse in my trusty Kitchen Ninja)
~1 Yellow Onion, diced (again just pulse in Kitchen Ninja or food processor or slice)
~2-3 Stalks Organic Celery, diced (you guessed it, in the Ninja!)
~5 Small or 3 Medium Potatoes, cut into cubes (I love Russet, but Sweet Potatoes would lower the Glycemic Index)
~Handful of Mini Portabella Mushrooms, sliced
~2 tsp of Minced Garlic (or 4 cloves, minced)
~2 TBSP of Better than Boullion Vegetarian Paste + 8 Cups of Water
(Alternatively, you can use 4 Cups Low Sodium Veggie Broth + 4 Cups of Water)
~2 tsp Salt
~1 tsp Cracked Black Pepper
~2 tsp Dried Basil
~2 Bay Leaves (place on top and remove before serving)
~1/4 Tsp Ground Cumin
~1/4 Tsp Ground Thyme
~Splash of Bragg’s Amino Acids

This soup makes excellent leftovers so it’s great for a busy week!

The Birth Story of London Sophia Spruill

The Birth Story of London Sophia Spruill
June 14, 2013 at 3:09 PM
8 pounds, 2 ounces ~ 20.25 inches
Those present: Mommy, Daddy, Certified Nurse Midwife, Kellie Moeller, Debs Walker, and Randi Laws

London's little feet!

London’s little feet!

Based on the date of my last menstrual period, I was due with my first baby on Saturday, June 8th, 2013. When my husband Devin and I originally discussed having a baby, I had assumed that I would simply be added to his company health insurance plan and have a traditional hospital birth. However, when we learned how very expensive it was to add a spouse to his high-deductible plan, we started to explore our options such as skipping the expensive medical insurance and opting for cash payment. I started calling hospitals and OB/GYN’s, trying often unsuccessfully to get a cost estimate, and because it was so tough to get answers over the phone, I finally started visiting hospitals and requesting the info in person. The problem is that there are so many variables and the bill would likely be much higher than anyone could estimate in advance. It was around this time that a friend suggested I look into seeing a midwife, and somehow Devin and I discovered a documentary called The Business of Being Born. Once we saw this film, we were convinced—the traditional hospital birth was not for us. I was in a Bible Study with several beautiful young mothers, a few who had shared their own personal birth stories, and I knew that if a physician advised me to have an “emergency C-section” to ensure the health of my baby, I could not go against this advice despite any plan for a natural birth. Based on what I had learned from that film, I knew that I wanted a birth that was in the best interest of me and our baby, and not what was most convenient for the doctor.

Changed our perspective completely

Changed our perspective completely

There were two specific concepts that stuck out to me from The Business of Being Born documentary: first, women giving birth in primal or rural settings do not give birth lying down in a bed, but rather they often do so squatting or on all fours and second, the cycle of medical interventions including induction and pain medications often lead to unplanned C-sections. Devin and I toured a birthing center and originally agreed to welcome our baby there, but after talking to a friend who had a successful home birth, we were introduced to Kellie Moeller, with Home Birth Experience and we decided to give birth in the privacy and comfort of our own home! We officially started seeing Kellie for our prenatal care, and we were blessed with a healthy and rather pleasant pregnancy. I give God all of the glory for this—we prayed for our baby and for a healthy, smooth and successful home birth in God’s perfect timing and that is exactly what we experienced! In fact, I felt our baby move for the first time at church on Christmas Eve—it felt like popcorn popping in my belly!

London's little feet!

London’s little feet!

London's sweet pretty profile!

In February, we finally got to have our second and final sonogram where we would hopefully learn the gender of our baby—I would have been excited either way, but since Devin already has a wonderful 10 year old son, I knew that he had his heart set on a baby girl. The sonographer took her time but we finally learned after about an hour that we were in fact expecting a girl! Devin’s reaction was to cancel our gym plans and immediately head to the store to pick out her first couple of outfits—we were so excited and we knew that she was London Sophia Spruill and we would be meeting her soon! I had a couple of dreams of a baby girl prior to learning the sex, so it turns out a mother’s instinct is as strong as they say!

It's a GIRL!!!!

Speaking of the gym, I continued to work out throughout the entire pregnancy. I wanted to be physically prepared for a natural homebirth. Working out minimized my aches and pains. I believe that God designed women to give birth and we do tend to live a rather natural lifestyle, but I would be lying if I said that I didn’t have some fears about giving birth—would I tear?; would my labor progress?; would I be ugly to my husband as a result of the pain? I was more afraid of having something go wrong that would lead me to the hospital than I was of the actual labor pains, but they were on my mind as well. I focused on staying healthy—from healthy meals to working out and also on my own businesses—GRACE and Beautycounter and freelance writing, which helped to remain as patient as possible as we waited for London Sophia to arrive.

Working out til the end!

Celebrating our "Due Date" and 2 year anniversary together!

After a couple of weeks of Braxton Hicks contractions, on Thursday, June 13th, 2013, and 5 days after my official due date, I had an especially productive day. I cleaned out the refrigerator, prepared a bunch of meals, hung a dozen or so pictures in the office, ran a few errands and worked on the nursery—in retrospect, I was nesting. Prior to this week, I had tried all of the natural induction methods, from making love to spicy foods to tropical fruits to daily treadmill walks, evening primrose oil and red raspberry tea. My midwife kept telling us that if London wasn’t ready, this would prepare my cervix for labor but it wouldn’t make it start. I trusted that London would arrive when she was ready developmentally, but I secretly feared giving birth to a large baby! I just so happened to have our favorite dish that evening—Eggplant Parmesan and we went to bed soon thereafter. Around 3:45 am, I woke up to use the bathroom and I discovered that I was spotting—I knew at this point that we’d be meeting London soon! Within 15 minutes, I started feeling period-like cramps that made me squirm in bed, but I was able to sleep around them.

Thursday, June 12th

Thursday, June 12th

Around 7 am on Friday June 14th, I woke up to make Devin his Green Smoothie and see him off to work. A few times that morning I had to drop to the floor until a contraction passed. I added a contraction timing app on my phone and discovered that they were lasting 30-60 seconds and were about 5 minutes apart. By the time Devin made it from The Woodlands to Houston, I decided to ask him to turn around and head back as the contractions were seeming to be closer together and more intense. I couldn’t focus on TV or on talking to my mom on the phone or on anything else. Around 10:30 am, both Devin and our Doula friend from church, Debs, arrived just as my contractions were getting quite close and uncomfortable. Devin’s cologne was distracting me so he was kind enough to take off his work clothes and Debs kept me focused on breathing deeply in through my nose and out through my mouth from my diaphragm until Kellie the midwife arrived. When Kellie did arrive, it was probably around noon and she monitored the baby’s heart rate through several contractions. After deciding that London was doing well, Kellie left to visit a newborn baby nearby. I was so thankful that Debs was there because the labor was progressing quickly to me. Devin prepared our bed with plastic and an old sheet set—it looked perfect. Debs helped me to explore several positions, from laboring on my sides (which I did not like at all), to on a ball leaned up against her to laboring on the toilet to all fours on the bed using the ball to move London into the birthing canal.

I actually found the most relief laboring on the toilet and at some point, in the early afternoon, I felt and heard my water break. I still had no idea how much I was dilated, and just after this my friend Randi, who is in nursing school, arrived. She helped by offering me water as it’s important to stay hydrated. Sweet Devin made me some toast but I couldn’t get myself to eat it—I was hungry but just could not focus on food. I tried a Lara Bar but it smelled horrible to me while in labor. I sipped on Red Raspberry Tea as well which is supposed to speed up labor. At some point, probably around 2:00, Debs suggested that I move to our bathtub, where I planned to give birth. I had been in the tub earlier but it seemed to slow down my contractions so I had returned to the toilet. Someone had called Kellie, the midwife, who decided to return after hearing my primal laboring sounds. While in the tub for the second time, I did feel a great deal of pressure and felt the urge to push, but I was afraid of tearing if I pushed too early. I remember at one point getting irritated that our midwife hadn’t made it back yet, because I suspected that she may miss the birth. I think I held back until she made it.

We were about to receive the best gift imaginable!

We were about to receive the best gift imaginable!

When Kellie arrived, she put on gloves to examine how far along I was and to see if the baby was crowning—she was within minutes and I discovered why they call this the “ring of fire”—the sensation did burn and I remember saying, “Come on London—help your Mommy!” Overall, the burning part was brief. I remember asking the midwife, “How long can this pushing part last?” and she responded with an amused look as if she didn’t have a crystal ball, but she said “Up to an hour”… I was crushed! It felt like she was so close—sure enough, soon thereafter, someone held a mirror revealing our daughter’s hair, and that is when I felt very confident in pushing. I looked at Devin and told him I love him—I was so afraid that I would be mean in labor but I was overcome with love for him at that point. Kellie invited Devin into the bathroom to “catch” London, and she guided him on how to do so. Once her head was in his hands, I remember telling London to “swim out!” It seemed like seconds later at 3:09 pm, Devin was lifting our baby out of the water and placing her on my chest. We both had tears in our eyes and were overcome with love—we did it!
The pain was instantly gone. I was in a state of shock—I was now a mommy and I was holding our baby. She was perfect…blue at first, then instantly crying and I just remember thanking God that she was seemingly healthy and perfect. God had answered all of our prayers for a home water birth of a healthy baby girl. How could we be so blessed? Devin and I both teared up and Debs kept telling me how I had done so well. I felt like Superwoman, full of adrenaline, but honestly, at no point did I feel like I couldn’t handle the pain or that I would prefer to be in the hospital with medication. Instinctively, just as the books suggest, London was searching for my breast, and was breastfeeding while we were still in the tub. Shortly thereafter, we were helped to our bed, wrapped in warm towels and blankets and still with the umbilical cord intact. London stayed on my chest, skin to skin, for at least a couple of hours, as she and I both ate. I felt like I had never eaten or drank in my life—I inhaled whatever they put in front of me! Finally, after a few hours, Devin and Kellie took London to the scale to discover that she was 8 pounds and 2 ounces—she looked SO tiny! I could not believe that I had delivered an 8 pound baby in our bathtub—and it really was tolerable! London and I took an herbal bath to promote healing, and it was amazing to see her become still and alert in the water—like she was back at home after 10 months of floating in my belly. Soon we were back in bed and she was eating once again.

Welcome, sweet baby girl!

Mommy Daughter Herbal Healing Bath

Devin and I could not be any more grateful and elated about our decision to have a home birth. One of my first thoughts after London was born was that I could do this again! I’ve heard that God allows us to forget the pain of childbirth, but it really was such a brief moment that the pain was most intense—it just would not have been worth it for me to have had an epidural for that brief moment, especially when an epidural could have led to further interventions or adverse effects. I am extremely thankful for my husband and I think that we have a renewed sense of intimacy and respect for each other after this amazing experience. It made me happy to hear him call me his hero—I really have never felt so accomplished or worthy of respect. We plan on making the most of every single day with our growing family.

8 pounds 2 ounces--she looked so tiny to us!

We did it!

First Family Photo!

First Family Photo!

***I must add this, if you have been thinking about a home birth, or not, Devin and I really encourage you to explore the option! It was amazing–every single part of the process: from never waiting in a doctor’s office for a prenatal visit, to welcoming our baby in the comfort and privacy of our own home, to the freedom to eat and drink as I wished throughout labor, to the 24/7 support that I always had from our midwife, to the clinical ability of our midwife in the event that anything had not gone as planned, to the never having to drive to a hospital or sit in a waiting room or have a medical intervention pushed that I had been wanting to avoid. London and I, at the urging of our midwife, spent the first week or more in bed, only getting up to use the restroom, and thanks to my husband, this was made possible. That allowed me to heal beautifully and bond with our daughter as we both learned breastfeeding–we are still learning! I encourage you to trust your body, trust the One who created you as He designed you to bring babies into this world long before the invention of the epidural or Pitocin. Prior to our insurance issues, we hadn’t been educated on home birth but throughout the world, this is the standard method of birthing babies. It is gentle and dignified and I’ve never felt stronger and more capable in my life.