Young homemaker enjoys being mother and leader

Wednesday, January 28, 2004
Leah Gathright and daughter, Madalyn.

Leah Dunigan Gathright of Monette said she is right where she wants to be. The new mother is enjoying her baby daughter, Madalyn Claire, born Aug. 30, 2003, and her job. She teaches applied math in the ninth grade at junior high and senior high at Buffalo Island Central. She travels between the two campuses in Monette and Leachville.

"I always wanted to be a mom and teaching is the perfect career for a mother. We can enjoy the same hours and holidays," Gathright said. "There was never any question what subject I wanted to teach, it was always math. I declared my major my first year of college and never once considered changing it. Someone once said if you can find a job that you would do for no pay you know you have found a job that you will enjoy."

This is Gathright's second year to teach. She taught her first year at Gosnell. When an opening became available at BIC, she said it was like coming home. She is a 1998 graduate of BIC and a 2001 graduate of Arkansas State University. She is working on her Master's Degree and hopes to take the test in May. Between the new baby and going back to work, it was put on hold for a few months.

Gathright is the daughter of Eddie and Deb Dunigan of Black Oak. Her dad teaches science at BIC and her mother is in the migrant classroom at BIC.

She and Justin Gathright, a Monette native, were married in March of 2001. Mr. Gathright is a farmer. The couple bought the former Dudley home that is located next to their farm shop which has been convenient. They both love their home and the big yard.

Mrs. Gathright said her knowledge of farming came from working summers scouting cotton for her dad and uncle for their cotton consultant business. She scouted cotton almost every summer since she was 14 years old.

Gathright returned to the classroom this semester after being on maternity leave. She said it was difficult to leave Madalyn but said her babysitter, Angie Sexton, made it much easier. Mrs. Sexton comes to the Gathright home and cares for Madalyn.

Mrs. Gathright has always been an energetic person and was a cheerleader throughout her high school years and on the UCA dance team her first year of college.

Cheerleading holds a lot of great memories for her. As an All American Cheerleader she was able to take part in the Macey Thanksgiving Parade her eighth grade year and the St. Patricks' Day Parade in Ireland her junior year of high school.

"Those were good experiences and I appreciate my parents for giving me the opportunity to go," she said.

Her dad accompanied her on both the trips.

She has two brothers and a sister. Her brother, Tommy, works for the boll eradication in Trumann and Johnny is a lawyer and works at Mississippi County child support department. Her sister, Rachel is a junior at BIC High School.

"I love being around my family," she said. "Both sides of my family go to Black Oak Church of Christ and I have seen my cousins at church almost every Sunday all of my life."

While she was expecting, she discovered a bulletin board on the internet that has proven to be very helpful.

"A website was set up and probably 80 women share information, recipes, exchanged our new baby pictures and more. If anyone has a question about things relating to being a new mother, someone comes back with suggestions. I especially enjoyed the interaction while I was off work," she said.

Gathright said that after high school everyone goes their way and it is easy to loose touch with good friends. She and several of the girls from her class decided last year not let that happen and once a month they get together, go out and eat, and catch up.

As far as cooking, Gathright said she is still in the "take out of the box and follow instructions." She said she is sure that as Madalyn gets older, she will start cooking more.

"It is not that I don't like to cook, it is just not easy to cook for two people," she said.

She is sharing some of her favorite recipes. Some came from her friends on the internet and the filled bell peppers is one of her favorites that her mother makes and she called the chocolate chip cheese ball delicious.

Chocolate Chip Cheese Ball

1 8 ounce package cream cheese, room temperature

1 stick real butter, room temperature

Beat cream cheese and butter together until light.

cup powdered sugar

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

1 cup chocolate chips

Chopped pecans

Gradually add sugars while beating, add vanilla. Stir in chocolate chips. Chill. Shape into ball, roll in chopped pecans. Serve with chocolate graham crackers.

Filled Bell Peppers

6 bell peppers

1-1/2 cup rice, uncooked

1 pound lean ground beef

2 (8 oz.) cans tomato sauce

6 sliced cheese

6 slices bacon

Salt and pepper to taste

Cut bell peppers into halves, clearing away seeds and stems. Wash. Place the 12 halves in a 9x12 inch olive oil-coated baking pan and put in oven at 200 degrees while you prepare other ingredients. Cook rice in separate pot. As the rice cooks, brown ground beef in large heavy pot or skillet. Drain grease from meat; add tomato sauce, cooked rice and salt and pepper. Let simmer while you prepare cheese and bacon by cutting into halves. Fill bell peppers with meat mixture, permitting excess to fall between peppers. Cover with aluminum foil and return to oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. In large frying pan or microwave oven, partially cook bacon; drain on paper towels. Remove peppers from oven, discarding aluminum foil. Top peppers with cheese slices, adding bacon strips on top of cheese. Place in oven at low broil, watching carefully to avoid burning. When bacon is cooked the way you like it, it is finished. (These can be frozen after cooking for later.)

Salsa Corn Dip

1 pkg. Cream cheese, cut into cubes

1 pkg. Old El Paso Taco Seasoning Mix

1 cup Old El Paso Thick 'n Chunky Salsa

1 can Green Giant Mexicorn whole kernel corn, red and green peppers

1. In microwave-save 1-1/2 quart casserole, combine all ingredients; mix well. Cover.

2. Microwave on high for two to three minutes. Stir well. Microwave on high for two to three minutes or until thoroughly heated and cheese is melted.

3. Stir before serving.

Serve with corn chips. Makes three cups and only takes about 10 minutes to prepare.

Easy Banana Cream Pie


1 Keebler pie crust

2 bananas

1-8 oz. tub of Cool Whip

1 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese

1 cup sugar

1 frozen bag of mixed berries

Slice the bananas and line the pie crust. Using a hand mixer, blend the cool whip, cream cheese, and sugar completely until extremely smooth. Spoon into the pie crust and put in the refrigerator for a few hours.

(I take the plastic from the pie crust and use it as a lid while in the fridge).

Slice and drizzle thawed mixed berries over each piece.

Makes eight servings and only takes about 15 minutes to prepare.

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