You may say to yourself, "My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me." But remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms His covenant, which He swore to your forefathers, as it is today. If you ever forget the Lord your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed.
Deuteronomy 8:17-19

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

A Dry and Dusty Land

A Dry and Dusty Land 
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Have you ever been in a place and not known how you got there? I just realized that I was in a dry and dusty land, and I didn’t like it. I used to share everything with my Father- my hopes and praises, my worries and petitions. Bit by bit I had forgotten to come to Him. How I got there is rather odd to me as I was not angry with the Lord nor stepped away consciously. It started when I would have a problem or idea I would call a friend and see what they thought of it rather than come to Him(they would have Godly advice I could count on). Oh, I still prayed- just more “here’s what I want, thanks, I’m busy.. so bye.” While I was at church listening to a sermon, I didn’t want to cry in front of people- so I would distract myself from what was being said either by playing with the baby, reading somewhere else in my Bible, or by thinking of what I needed to do that day. I was still reading my Bible- but I think just as something to check off my list, and His Word was speaking to me less and less because I didn’t have the time to let it soak in. I am a busy women with many who depend on me so I write lists. I was adhering to my list and not asking God what my priorities needed to be. I was checking off down through my prerecorded activities with such satisfaction until I realized- I am stressed, I am empty, I need refilled. 
I went to a women’s conference put on by a speaker from “Revive our Hearts” ministry. I just knew that I would be refilled there. I couldn’t wait to feel that closeness with Him where I would cry and I would be cleansed and full again. Only that didn’t happen.. When the conference was almost over I still hadn’t cried or been refilled. The conference was good- it was about us feeling defeated and how we needed His Word to saturate our being and not listen to the enemy’s lies because Jesus was already victorious. I told the Lord that I was disappointed. The whole reason that I was there was to be refilled- for Him to meet me there and refill me so that I could continue to lead my busy life. At the moment that I told Him I was disappointed I knew that it was MY FAULT that I wasn’t close to Him. I realized just how far I had gotten from Him- when I thought that my focus was on Him all along. Wasn’t my life centered on doing things for Him, wasn’t I reading my Bible and praying for others? Where was the relationship though? Where was the love, the zeal.. Was I seeking the Lover of my Soul?
I knew then that rather than just refilling me at a conference He was going to teach me how to stay filled- pouring myself out daily and refilling through Him. We have all heard the saying “Give a man a fish; feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish; feed him for a lifetime”. I knew that the Lord would teach me to fish to stay full for a lifetime.
Repent- The first thing I cried out in repentance. I did not hold Him dear- I had taken my eyes off of Him. Matthew 22:37 “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,’” 
Reorganize- I got rid of my lists- I stopped doing the Bible reading that I was doing and am now reading where He leads me. What I was reading before was like a flat page before me and now the words come alive and speak to me. I want my heart to steep in His Word. My lists consisted of things that I thought needed to be done in order to be a successful wife, mother, and friend. Certain schedules need not be followed exactly to be successful- I want to be successful in His eyes, not that of man. I want what He has for me. Luke 10:41-42“’Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’” 
Revive- Ask the Lord for revival in your heart- As an independent person, it is hard to ask for anything; but I want to feel alive and full of energy for Him- living out my days holding His Hand and in the direction that He wants me to go- so I will ask Him! Matthew 7:7-8 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” As a busy person- either as a mama, working person, or someone that takes care of a parent or loved one- it is really hard to find a quiet time to spend with Him. Ask the Lord for that time. Petition Him for a time each day that you can spend with just Him.. The best thing that you can do for yourself and for your family is to spend time with the Lord.
I tell you this to reevaluate where you are. Are you still focused on Him or have you focused on what you think you need to do for Him? Are you really praying or is it just lip service? Are you a list maker and He is just a line on your list, something to finish quickly so that you can cross that off and finish out your day- or are you spending quality time with Him? I am excited about what He is going to do in our lives, aren’t you?
Isaiah 55:1-3 “ Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David.”
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The Still Small Voice

The Still Small Voice
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1 Kings 19:11-13 So He said, “Go forth and stand on the mountain before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD was passing by! And a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. And behold, a voice came to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
Life- sometimes it can be chaos; so many things going on with everything screaming for your attention all at once. We try to prioritize and get everything done that needs done for today- but the world dictates that certain other things need done today as well to be a good parent, wife, friend, daughter, employee, church attendant; for your house to be spotless, your garden to be weed-free, your children to be happy and disciplined well, be able to cook a 4 star meal and be on a diet at the same time, be the best hostess, have the newest hair style and fashion sense, master several hobbies, and the list could go on and on. These items in our life could be shouting at us constantly. I know that especially as a young mother the list was exhausting- just trying to do all that you can in everything that you are involved in and then God is somewhere lost in the shuffle.
How is it that we can hear His still small voice when we have everything around us screaming at us for our attention?
It takes an effort. I think that one of the reasons that it is a small voice is so that we do put an effort into listening to Him- He isn’t going to force Himself on you- we have a free will. We need to turn down that background noise- after all everything is just background noise compared to the voice of our Father- and spend some time with Him. We need to be still and know that He is God.(Psalm 46:10) Find some quiet time- whether it be in the morning, afternoon, night- during a child’s naptime, wake up earlier than usual and just make a habit of being with only Him. Pencil in your appointment with Him- journal it for accountability or have a buddy or prayer partner ask you each week how your time with Him has been.
But how can we find a quiet time when we have so many other things that are vying for our attention- things that are “good and for Him” such as ministries and taking care of others. Yesterday I spent most of the day hacking out some of the wild rose bushes here. Now- wild rose bushes are certainly good and beneficial- they are very beautiful as well as provide nesting space for small birds, hiding places for rabbits and small animals, produce rose hips for medicinal use, and smell wonderful- but just like a ministry or “good thing” when it is given the space to grow wildly and where it wants, it can choke out other things, as this one was. I had planted a rhododendron bush on this little rise behind my house and couldn’t even see it anymore because I had been so busy and hadn’t had time to trim back the roses. Pare back and trim the obligations that get in the way- there is NOTHING more important than spending time with your Father. Alot of times there are things that we are involved in that ARE good, but they can take over the bulk of our time, mind, and heart. We need to be conscious about our commitments and be realistic about what we can handle and what we can’t. This picture is my swath that I cleared to my rhododendron.
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Read His Word and what I have to do so that my mind doesn’t wander before listening to Him or reading from His Word is to pray that He opens my ears and my heart so that I may learn from Him. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. Revelation 3:22
We hear Him in our Bible, we hear Him in our thoughts, and we hear His counsel through good Christian friends but go to Him yourself rather than only listening to advice from friends. Friends are great- getting counsel from Christian friends is so encouraging and comforting, but make sure you get His Word on any situation as well(we don’t want to be put in Job’s situation where well meaning friends don’t speak for Him). Search the Scriptures and make sure that advice is from Him. Our pastor says that he thinks that the reason that there isn’t a book in the Bible admonishing the Bereans is because they were a group that searched and studied the Bible daily. Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. Acts 17:11
I want to encourage you ladies to spend time with our First Love- the one who gives us life and to listen as He speaks to us. I dare say that the more time that we spend with Him, the more we will love Him.
Lord, I thank You for all that You have done in our lives. I pray that You will give us an overwhelming desire to spend time with You and in Your Word and that You will open our eyes, ears, and our hearts to what You want us to learn and to hear. Provide us with a time each day that we can just sit and give our full attention to You. We love and praise You.
I’m leaving you with a few pictures of wild roses- the flower and a nest that I found in mine. I believe it is a gold finch.
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Advocacy- Our Syphilis Story

Our story begins with a beautiful little 3 day old baby.  Like normal babies she cried when hungry and drank her bottles right down.  Fussier than most, we figured it was gas; so we added some gas medicine to her bottles after discussing it with her doctor.  She seemed to do a bit better, and after all- babies cry!  She soon cried for all strangers, and everyone for that matter except for my husband and I (daddy and mommy), and while other babies were smiling- the only time you could coax a smile out of her was when you told her that you loved her. 
At two months, she become even more fussy- would scream when you put a bib on her neck and took it off, and would scream when you picked her legs up to change her diaper.  Several times while picking her up if your hands were in between her shoulder blades and neck, she would scream out in pain.  At this same time, she got a small water blister near the crease of her hip in her diaper area and her skin on the bottoms of her feet and the palms of her hands become mottled and looked odd.  I brought her to the Dr, and was told she probably had hand, foot, mouth disease.  She would probably get over it in about two weeks, give her Tylenol, cold popsicles and formula.  I was told I must have missed a really high fever (this concerned me- I'm not a perfect mom by any means, but I don't think that I could have missed a high fever) and even though her feet and hands did not have sores, it didn't always turn out the same as everyone else's hand, foot, mouth disease.  Two weeks came and went, she was still in pain, still had mottling on her feet and hands.  More water blisters appeared in diaper area and the first one had popped and healed. The dr office was called about water blisters, and told not to worry- they appear many times for no reason.
Three and four months, the mottling goes away but still cranky, still only calms down for Mommy and Daddy, still in pain (think do I bring her to chiropractor- maybe her bones are out of alignment). She has an echo, and it is found she has a sticky heart valve.  Nothing to worry about, she'll grow out of it.  The water blisters have now got some consistency to them- and are starting to look like grey warts.  I show them and discuss this with nurse and decide to have them taken care of at her 4 month well baby checkup. 
I get a call that says that birth mother was positive for syphilis when she went in for a new pregnancy.  They suggest I get our baby tested.  I look up all of the symptoms of congenital syphilis on the computer- and it hits me like a ton of bricks.. she has syphilis.  I know it.  I don't need a test to tell me- everything makes sense, the mottling, that she didn't have a fever, the water blisters, the warts.. the runny nose that I just thought must be allergies like my son's.. the immense pain that she endured when being picked up, and changed..  And so I call and ask for a blood test, am told that there is no way that it is but they would humor me and give the baby the test.  We get the test the next day, and have her 4 month check up scheduled for the day after that.
At four month well baby check up, dr is concerned because baby is not smiling and generally all babies smile at four month check up. As I describe to him all of the symptoms of syphilis and he explains why it just CAN'T be, he then looks at the warts(which aren't actual warts).. and knows.. it is syphilis.  He has never seen syphilis, studied just an overview many many years ago in med school about syphilis- but knows.  He sets up treatment without even having a positive blood test back.  We go to the hospital and she has an injection of Bicillian, and must have two more, one a week for a total of three injections.
She has the injections (painful too) one a week for three weeks- everyday we see progress.  The first twenty fours after her first injection all she does is sleep.  Her poopy diapers smelled and were just nasty to look at- we figure that they were killed off bacteria and toxins.  Her lymph glands in the back of her head and her chest especially were like big marbles and I started to do a lymphatic massage several times a day.  Within three days the "warts" on her bottom turned bright purple and shrunk to half size.  OCY took pictures of the "warts" so that drs and OCY can use this as a teaching tool.  Syphilis isn't something that most doctors will ever see, so trainees were brought into the room whenever we had a dr visit or treatment.  Our daughter stops crying so much and at about 48 hours lifts her legs up in the air and starts singing to her toes.  We knew then that the treatment was having an effect.  She continued to get better- and started sitting on her own very shortly after the treatment.  She began to creep and then to crawl at record speed.
A month to two months later- I was still concerned- we had almost lost our baby to a misdiagnosis and I wanted to be sure that all would be all right.  I pushed for tests.  Everyone said that she looks great, the treatment worked and I should be happy with that.  I pushed more- and well, the squeaky wheel always gets the grease- the Lord granted my request for more testing and they did an ex-ray on my baby.  The test results came back that either she was being abused or had something strange with her bones like syphilis. They referred us to get a whole body scan where many of her bones were affected.  Rather than the typical bone reaction to syphilis- the Lord spared her from the thickening at the joints and the centers of the bones were thickened (think of the typical narrowing of the bone in the center like a chicken bone), our baby was literally "big boned" her bones were thick through the middle.  They sent us to Pittsburgh Children's Hospital where they ran tests and found out that she still had the syphilis.  We had to be admitted and she had a pic-line of antibiotic every 6 hours for ten days until the bacteria was eradicated. They did several tests to make sure that she didn't have any syphilis in the brain and to test the heart which could have been a result of the syphilis.
We found out that if she hadn't been treated the second time, the syphilis may have come back without any symptoms that time and within a few years our baby would have had an aortic hemorrhage and died without our knowing why.
Our baby is happy and healthy, she does still have a bit of a curvature to her arm bones (which don't affect her dexterity or movement at all) and a deeper voice (which I feel that God blessed her with a unique sound to use for His Glory).  We were able to adopt her this past spring and she is doing well.  She made up for lost time in all of her normal stepping stones- mastered walking sooner than most babies, jumps and runs with the best, and is just a whole and healthy little one that is nearing the terrible twos!
This is our story- Be an advocate- it pays to pray, push the drs, drive all those miles, pray, call about results, and study up on everything you can get your hands on.  Our family dr told us that we probably knew more about syphilis than everyone in the county- we were even reading up on all the studies and bone ex-rays from the 50s and 60s. You are with your child 24/7- you know when things just aren't right. It is ok to demand answers and to get second opinions- your child's life may be at stake.

Routinous Interruptus

Routinous Interruptus
Routinous Interruptus(Routine Interupted) is a boat that my husband and my brother in law bought from my dad last year. We haven’t taken it out yet- just mowed around it. I was raised fishing several times a month in all seasons, so the water is something that I love. The interruption that this boat would cause in my routine would be greatly appreciated :)
But what about those interruptions that aren’t so greatly appreciated? Such as sitting down to your quiet time and being attacked by hungry toddlers- or clingy spouse that wants to spend every moment of his time off from work with you- or an elderly parent that needs attention.
Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” 
32So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. 33But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things. 
35By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. 36Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” 
37But he answered, “You give them something to eat.” 
They said to him, “That would take more than half a year’s wagese ! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?” 
38“How many loaves do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.” 
When they found out, they said, “Five—and two fish.” 
39Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. 40So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. 41Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. 42They all ate and were satisfied, 43and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. 44The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.
These people that interrupted the disciples solitude ruined their routine of resting and refilling before serving others again. To the selfish part of me, this would make me very upset- however it was turned into a great blessing and miracle and five thousand people were fed. They were able after the five thousand were fed to withdraw and to get their rest- God did provide that to them and He will provide you with rest too; but what sort of blessing are we missing out on because we are angry because our routine is interrupted by others?
We could use that time with hungry toddlers showing them about how Esau traded his birthright for a bowl of stew or some other food related conversation about our Lord; we could be having a couple’s Bible study with that clingy spouse, having a sword drill competition with our teens, and having our elderly reminisce about the miracles that they have seen in their lives. Ask the Lord to bless the time that you are interrupted and to feed you and the others that are involved. Notice the joy and delight on your loved ones’ faces as you spend time with them and teach them or learn with them about our Lord and you will be fed as well. You will get your quiet time back again someday- enjoy the interruption.
John 21:17
The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” 
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” 
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Things We've Learned Our First Year of Fostering

So we began this journey almost a year ago..  We have had tears and stress, laughing and happiness, sleepless nights and sunny accomplishments.  Some days are SO hard- the hardest we've gone through and then you have a break through and it is one of the most fulfilling feelings that you can experience.
In just short of a year- we have had almost twenty beautiful children come through our house.  Most for respite (usually a weekend break for current foster parents, but sometimes a week or two as well).  We LOVE respite.  This is usually a great time to get to know new kids and do something really nice for them- like a big party weekend!  We usually take respite kids to a zoo, neighborhood farm, have a family game night or do something else fun with them. 
We have also had long term placements, some of those that we still have, and some that we just weren't the best home for.  The ones that we didn't have the best home for or were unsafe for our own children- those were stressful times, and we wish that we could have provided what those children needed- but God has provided homes that are better equipped for their specific needs.

Some of the things that we have learned our first year of fostering:

Here are some glorious moments:
1.  When a child does accomplish a certain goal and without being told to. This includes eating with utensils, potty training, speaking, sleeping through the night, taking their dish to the sink, praying at mealtime, washing their hands after using the restroom, saying sorry.. the list can go on and on.
2. When you can have a great relationship with bio parents.  This is definitely not the norm- but is so wonderful when it happens.  I am close with a certain mom right now and we have open communication about the kids- this is going to be SO important as we are transitioning kids back home.  This also helps because you know what kind of a home the kids are going back to, and can trust that the parent/s are doing the best they can for their child/ren.  I have had more instances where the parents don't like me at all, and pick out every flaw in my care for their child/ren; so it is really special when you do get a good working relationship.
3. When you work with people that you can trust and are easy to work with. This includes trusting caseworkers, your drivers, teachers, therapists, doctors, and Bair specialists.  You all make a team that are out to do the best for the child/ren in your care- and when you can trust most/everybody on that team- it is reassuring.
4. When a child opens up to you- and trusts you.  This is what takes work and diligence.  These children have been ripped from all that they know and are put in a home that is totally foreign to them.  A common thing for them is to close you off and to act out- to reject you once you start to get close to them.  They may seem well behaved or drawn to you in the beginning, but many have what is called a "honeymoon period" where after they get to know you and they feel safe in your environment- they show you a side of them you have never seen before by acting out and pushing you away, as they expect you to reject them just as they feel their parents did. Some children open up and trust sooner than others.  Be there and make sure to listen, it is amazing the things that these children will tell you.

Here are some of my pet peeves:
1. People thinking that foster care parents don't work..  There is an extreme amount of work that is involved with taking care of foster children.  Sleepless nights, appointments, having all of the agencies through your house on a constant basis, as well as learning about how to care for the child's special needs and then doing the actual care for them!
2. People thinking that you are fostering for the money..  My husband and I have a saying- "if you are a good foster parent, you are at 0 at the end of the month- so we must be great foster parents!"
We are given a stipend each month for each child.  This is to help with food, clothing (new clothing each month), diapers, supplies like bottles, toothbrushes, gas to take children back and forth to their many appointments, bedding, more hot water for baths and endless laundry..  We try to make this a great experience for the kids- we let them pick out new clothes, take them to zoos, take them out to eat once a week, and make sure that their needs are met and treated just like our own.
3. Caseworkers that don't always disclose things that are important or are hard to work with.. This is the biggest reason that I enjoy working with the Bair Foundation- a group that acts as the middle man for us in many situations.  (  Our Bair specialist is to us like family- and not only does she support us when we need a shoulder to cry on or help with a certain situation, but talks to the caseworkers and gets the answers that we need when we need her to.  We have had times when we were lied to or that we suspected certain things about a child that were not disclosed and our specialist was always quick to act for us for the best interest of the child.
We all look forward to her visits and when she is here every one is treated special.  She holds and feeds the babies, brushes my child's hair and paints her toes, and listens to all the funny and sad things from the week.
4. People saying that they couldn't foster because they would get too attached to the child in their care and wouldn't want them to leave..  And this is what would make you a GREAT foster parent- that you care and love the child as you are supposed to.  Being attached to a child is a very GOOD thing- and what the kids need- loving attention and care.  Investing in a child all that you can- and knowing that you did your best with the child while they were in your care is what fostering is about. 
Every child is special and worthy of love- no matter the circumstances.  They almost all are victims of abuse or neglect and as any "normal" child deserve a loving family and to be taught about God's love.  He loves these children as much as He loves you and I. 
SO-why not you?

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:40 NIV

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Stuffed Mushrooms- THM S Meal

These are so good that the family fights over them.  One day, I was craving something a little special, and so started mixing some things together and these are the product.  The only tweak that I have made to the first time I made them is a sprinkle of smoked paprika on the top.

1 package of large stuffing mushrooms, washed
5 Tablespoons of finely chopped ham
2 Tablespoons Parmesan Cheese
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil Mayo (it is best to make your own, but I do use store bought in a pinch)
Smoked paprika
3 Tablespoons butter
Rinse off your mushrooms and pull stem out of cap.  Chop the stems and add to a bowl with cheese, ham, and mayo.  Mix well and divide the stuffing into the caps.  Place in a small frying pan and add the butter (can still be solid) to the pan.  Sprinkle the tops of the mushrooms with smoked paprika.
 Cover the frying pan with lid, and set on medium low. I usually cook them for about 20 minutes.  This is enough time for me to get things on and off the grill, and get the table set- and we like to eat the mushrooms hot and the butter at the bottom spooned over the top of each one.  I hope that you enjoy this recipe as much as we do!

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Morning Coffee THM style (S or FP)

My morning coffee- something that you don't feel complete until you have a cup or two!! 

16 oz of any kind of coffee (flavored or not)
1/4-1/2 cup almond milk (I use Silk unsweetened vanilla flavor)
sweetener of choice (I use a liquid stevia from Swanson's that was only $5 a bottle)
1/2 scoop Swanson's Ultra Whey Protein powder any flavor
1 teaspoon coconut oil (S)
Brew your coffee any flavor as you normally would.  I use different flavors at different times- right now I am using hazelnut, but I enjoy the chocolate mint, English toffee, and even plain.  I pour my coffee in my ninja cup and then add my almond milk first (so that it doesn't over cook the protein powder), sweetener- I use 8 drops of stevia liquid, and 1/2 scoop of protein powder (on days I know I can't grab anything else to eat I will use a whole scoop).  I use chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry protein powder according to my tastes that morning.  Sometimes I add some raspberry flavor or butterscotch- it is all up to what you want to try.  Add some coconut oil for extra fat burning- but be aware that this makes this an S, so pair it with an S breakfast.  Pulse in the blender- and you are done.  Whipped cream is super yummy on this also!