Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Road To "Real Food"

For about a year now, one of my favorite blogs has been "100 Days of Real Food." Her mission is intense - no refined or processed foods of any kind (including flour and sugar and grains), but her approach is extremely laidback and accessible to the slow beginner.
She provides recipes, articles and facts for motivation, and such great tips for trying to eat healthier with kids in the house. I love her views on food, but I've never had the guts to try this with my own family, usually falling back on budget and time.
But then! For Christmas, I asked for a new cookbook, Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying and Start Making. This cookbook makes me giddy! It makes me dream of living on a farm and making my own butter and yogurt, canning fruits and veggies, and filling my home with smells of fresh bread, herbs, and homemade goodies.
About a week ago, my sister-in-law, Julie, blogged about trying an eating plan called Whole30. It's very similar to the Paleo diet, with lots of meats and veggies, and not much else. They really liked the positive effects it had on their bodies, and when Steve read the blog post, he started talking about how he would like to try something like that.
Now, I can tell from experience in our 8-year marriage that one of the things Steve and I jointly suck at is follow-through. (It's a bummer.) We get really excited about some new thing and then never stick it out. P.S. This would be why P90X and their hour-a-day workouts did not work for us. So when Steve started talking seriously about his interest in the Whole30 plan, I suggested we try to switch to "real food" instead. It's more of a lifestyle change instead of a diet, and with as many restrictions as there are, I think it's more realistic for us than trying to eat only meat and veggies. I just had a feeling we wouldn't stick with something that was so extremely different than our normal eating behaviors.
I'm a firm believer that for major changes to work, both spouses have to be on-board; otherwise, when one starts to cave, the whole idea gets scrapped. Okay, so first, our motivations: overall healthier eating was a big one. We also watched a movie called Food, Inc. that was very inspiring and informative as far as what goes in our food and who controls it. I don't know if it's been pregnancy or that movie, but I've been a little bit of a vegetarian ever since. :) It definitely inspired us to try and buy organic meat as much as possible!
And then there was the sticker shock! I am an Aldi girl through and through. I've been proud of the fact that I can feed my family of four (or five, if Mel's home for dinner) for the same amount that Steve and I spent on groceries when we were first married. It's taken a strict budget and really good planning. My mom and sister tend to be foodies - gourmet meats, brand-names, that sort of thing - but I've always bought the cheapest foods I could find. (Not saying this is a good thing!)
After reading the "100 Days" blog and seeing Food, Inc., we decided it was worth it to try and fit organic, grass-fed meat into our grocery budget. I know that seems extreme, but we feel we can make this change without becoming overwhelmed.
Our take away: In a perfect world, we'd walk out the door today, only shop at Trader Joe's and local farmer's markets from this point on, and feed our family fresh, local, and organic food from now on. The reality, though, is that our grocery budget would literally double. I know this because last weekend was our "beta test" - we went to 4 stores in 2 days (including Trader Joe's and our local farmer's market) and spent almost $250.
We decided that we weren't able to do everything organic or local at this point in our lives. I know that produce has pesticides on it, but we're still going to buy our fruit and veggies from Aldi. We are choosing to buy organic meat from this point forward. I'm hoping to be able to buy and freeze a stash when we have extra money here and there. Especially since Steve is traveling so much during the month of August, our dinners will be much more low-key with just me and the girls, and I'll have some extra grocery money to buy extra meat and freeze it.
The other change we're making is buying local milk. And again, the sticker shock almost killed us. I can buy two gallons of milk at Aldi for $5.00. At the farmer's market this weekend, they were selling one gallon for $7.00! Wow! BUT...I really feel that this will be a great benefit for our family! So much has been written and studied about the hormones that go into milk. If I have a stock of meat built up, I think I can set aside $15.00 for milk. We'll see...
I'm sure I wrote way more than anyone actually wanted to read, but it helps me to process as I write. This is a big change in our way of thinking and our approach to food. There are so many resources out there, but for now, I'm sticking to my blog and my cookbook to help me in the beginning stages. I'm learning that "only real food" doesn't have to mean organic, it just means completely unprocessed. And I think I can do that. I haven't been perfect - Mel and I ran to Dairy Queen for cheeseburgers and ice cream sandwiches at 9:00 last night - but I know these are changes that are good for us and especially the girls!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Bella's First Haircut!!!

WARNING: Little four-year old butts ahead...
For the record, I had such wonderful images in my head of taking Bella to a cute little kids' salon where she would sit in a chair shaped like a ladybug and watch Tangled while I snapped pictures of her first epic haircut. The stylist would comment on how beautiful her hair was, while I just smiled, because, let's face it - all parents are freakishly certain when it comes to the cuteness level of their own children.
In reality, Steve totally suckered me and took advantage of my lack of patience and said, "Why don't you just cut it now?"
Which I did...feeling half-maniacal, half-terrified, while images of my own mother cutting my bangs in uneven lines flashed through my head. ("It was Homecoming, Mom!")
It's gotten crazy-long! If you brushed it out with no curl, it was mid-thigh!
Take a deep breath...
A really, really, REALLY deep breath!
Okay, at this point, I was thinking, "Huh! This is actually working!" 

Realizing that I had unintentionally cut the left side on an angle, I had to make an attempt to cut the right side at an angle, too. I am definitely not qualified for that. 

 Luckily, she's only four, so she won't be too scarred at mama's attempt to chop her hair on my own.
If our little family is anything like my family growing up, Bella will end up going to her Daddy anytime she needs a trim. (True story.)

Monday, July 22, 2013

Everything About Last Week...

I'm just accepting that this is a new stage in life. I was happy about keeping up with the blog, even when there were two little humans in the house, but being pregnant with #3, I just don't have the same motivation or energy to grab the computer, send pictures from my phone to my email, and write it all down.
So we're doing a weekly "catch all" instead of a daily update...we normally don't have as social of a week as we did last week, but it was fun just the same. By Friday, though, we were done!
The weekend...
We decided to surprise my parents at the last minute and drive down to Florida on Friday afternoon. It was a quick trip, but my parents have been in the process of moving my Grandpa out of his house and into a small house across the street from them. It hasn't been an easy time for them, and they needed some Mimi and Papa playtime.
The girls had a blast, and were definitely worn out by the time we climbed back into the car on Sunday morning to drive home.
This deserves its own post, and Evelyn, you have my permission to complain about forgetting your "special" posts because you are the middle child. Yes, we did document every single breath that Bella took when she was a baby; you'll just have to trust me that we love you more. (Kidding!)
When we got home on Sunday afternoon, Steve was playing with Evelyn and started to help her stand up by herself. And she did!!! It was so awesome! She's done this in very short increments (like 3 seconds), so when she stood up in the middle of the room for about 10 seconds, we were thrilled! She's getting braver, but still doesn't seem to care too much about standing; she'd much rather be carried everywhere. (Me too, for the record.)

Little Human #3 update: I'm not sure what God or this baby is trying to teach us, but this has been a very different pregnancy than the girls were. At our first visit, we were told that the baby had an enlarged heart chamber- not an emergency, but something to keep an eye on. Because of this, we had to have another ultrasound during the following appointment. The nice part was that Steve got a chance to see the ultrasound and baby in-person.
The report was good; the heart ventricles have evened out (?) and the baby is measuring on target. The midwife, though, told us that the placenta has moved down lower than it should be. I haven't had any bleeding, so I don't need to do bed rest; at this point, I just have to be careful with heavy lifting or exercise. It was very frustrating in that moment to feel like it was one more thing to be worried about.
I'm still getting used to this midwife because I'm at a new practice, so I'm getting used to personalities, etc. This practice has both doctors and nurses, and Steve and I aren't sure if this is the midwife we'd go through the entire pregnancy with. We're also thinking a lot about our birthing options. We've been talking about not doing a homebirth this time since there seems to be additional complications here and there. Honestly, I haven't completely decided on that yet, but it's how we're leaning. That would leave us with a hospital or birthing center. I think I'd prefer a birthing center, but the ones around us are downtown, so we're thinking about logistics, etc.
Lots to pray about with this little human! It's definitely a new experience for us, since Bella and Evelyn were so low-key. (The pregnancy is a new experience, not prayer!) :)

I just found out through Facebook that one of my friends from high school has moved about 30 minutes away! Her name is Kim and we played soccer together, sleep overs, camps, all that fun stuff! I was so excited to touch base with her and plan to meet in a park with our assorted babies!
I don't think I've seen her in 12 years! I pray and hope that I am such a different person than I was in high school, but she is the exact same! In all the best ways! She and her husband have such an incredible heart for God and for other people! I loved meeting her kids (5!) and having them play with Bella and Evelyn. It was a great visit and we made immediate plans to get our families and menfolk together for dinner!

Bella was completely worn out after so much fun in the park with new friends! She doesn't take a nap anymore, but every afternoon, we have "Quiet Room Time" while Evelyn takes her afternoon nap. On Tuesday, I walked past her door and realized it was very quiet inside. I peeked in and this is what I found - she had just passed out on the floor, shoes and all!
Tuesday night was my meeting with Missions Committee, and I always come home from those meetings to encouraged and excited about what God is doing through our church and our people! Can I just brag on my church for a second, and say that we are currently sponsoring 7 different church plants across the world! And 2 of those came from people in our church and are reaching others in our own area! It's incredible!

 On Wednesday, Bella had her dentist appointment. This was only her second one, but she already had improved leaps and bounds! I'm not sure when other kids start going to the dentist, but I was really happy that we didn't do it until Bells was just shy of 4. She was old enough to understand and listen to what the dentist and I were telling her.
During the first visit, she sat in my lap and did well, but wouldn't let them get near her with any sharp tools. This time, I prepared her that the sharp tools would be in her mouth, but they would only touch her teeth; they wouldn't poke her and they weren't shots. She sat all by herself and babbled away with the hygienist. She did great through each step and was thrilled to pick a pink stegosaurus out of the treasure chest! Oh, and she was perfectly happy in this picture of the waiting room; she just likes to be overdramatic on film. (Don't we all?)
Wednesday night, we hosted our Bible study, I Am Second, at our house since Trey and Whitney are in Idaho all summer. I love having people over and we had a great discussion about being purposeful in how we live out our Christian faith!
Unfortunately, that's where my pictures end...I wish I had taken more! Thursday mornings, Caroline and I are meeting for our Bible study. The original hope/plan/desire was to host a Bible study in my home this summer for preschool moms. We contacted ladies on two different occasions, and had great responses, but when the day came to meet, no one showed up. It was extremely discouraging, but I just had to accept that God clearly had a different plan for me than hosting a Bible study this summer. Caroline was going to be my "buddy" in hosting, so she and I decided to go ahead and do the Bible study anyway.
The girls and I met my friend Trina for lunch at Chick-fil-A. Trina's husband, Todd, was our Family Pastor for awhile at church and I consider the two of them my "parent mentors". I used to plop myself down in the chair in Todd's office, and say, "Okay, what about __________?" I think he got tired of me stopping by at random times, because he finally gave me Trina's number and said she was the real parenting expert. Trina is a very calm parent. I love the way the two of them approach parenting - very purposeful and loving. They know what their end goal is and they're good at keeping that in sight in spite of the rough ins and outs of daily parenting. It's always so encouraging to talk to Trina and I walk away refreshed as a parent!
 Thursday night was dinner plans with our friends, Ashleigh and Ryan. (I told you it was a social week!) They have two children that are the same age as our kids, so we've been trying to coordinate a dinner date for ages! It was a blast! Ashleigh made a divine dinner and dessert, Molly and Bella got to play for hours, and the adults got to sit around and talk about everything from poop to miscarriages to good music. I'm pretty sure we solved the worlds problems by the time we left. :)
We thought Friday was going to be our crash day, but on Wednesday, I got a call from one of my cousins who was driving through with her 3 boys and wondered if they could crash at our house on Friday night. Their boys are very rambunctious boys, but a lot of fun, too! We haven't seen most of my Maryland family since just after Bella was born, and I miss them so much! It was great to see just this small piece of my very large extended family!
So, that was our week! What a special time to see so many wonderful faces and be so refreshed by those we share our life with!
Oh! I do have a couple of more pictures to share! Chick-fil-A has an annual "Cow Appreciation Day" where they give free food to anyone who dresses like a cow. If you dress "head to hoof" in cow gear, you get an entire value meal for free, so that was my mission! We planned to meet my friend, Emily, with her two children, and it was a blast!

Getting ready - all of us had cow spots on, cow ears, and some sort of "hooves"; I wore pink ballet flats, Evelyn wore her black dress shoes, and Bella rocked her sparkly TOMS.

At Chick-fil-A; Emily's brother, Zach, was dressed as the cow mascot, but the girls weren't thrilled to be that close to a giant cow, so we just took a picture by ourselves. Friends, laughing, and free food! Win-win-win!
Oh! And since this was the Friday that we also decided to drive down to Florida at the last-minute, I kept the girls in their cow costumes, and we got free food again when we stopped at a Chick-fil-A on the road for dinner. Look at me being a thrifty mama!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Our Life Through The Eyes Of Facebook

I know Facebook gets a bad wrap - it leads to discontentment, unfair comparisons, everyone portrays their children as perfect, false Christianity, politics, etc. - but for me, Facebook has given me a brief moment to stop and chuckle instead of stressing out or banging my head against a wall.
It gives me a chance to not take myself too serious, be a little irreverent, and know that there are others out there who feel my pain in motherhood. In all seriousness, I love being a stay-at-home mom; it's amazing to be home with my girls every, single day, and I (very literally) begged God (and Steve) to allow me to do this.
But that doesn't mean that I have to pretend that everyday is rainbows and giggles; Facebook allows me to share some of those not-so-perfect (and sarcastic) moments with an extremely supportive audience. There are young mommas who are going through exactly what I am, grandmas with a been-there-done-that smile and word of encouragement, and single men who thank God they don't live in my house. (See how I'm building up the youth of tomorrow?)
So, here's our life during the last few weeks through the eyes of my Facebook posts. Some of them actually made it to Facebook; some of them just passed through my mind in Facebook-post-style (please tell me I'm not the only one whose thought process does that!).
  • Finally rented Sound of Music to share with Bella. Watching Liesl and Rolfe dancing in the gazebo, Bella looked at me and sighed, "Mom, she's an awesome jumper..."
  • Watching Evelyn eat old grapes from under the couch while scrubbing her poop off the highchair. Pace yourself, kid, I can only do one disaster at a time.
  • Riding in the car today, Bella announced, "I have a baby alligator in my belly just like you have a baby in your belly, Mama. Whoa! Look! The baby alligator's getting bigger!" No clue what was happening in the backseat.
  • When pregnant with Bella, I craved Chinese food and sushi; with Evelyn, it was Chick-fil-A; this baby wants a whole lot of tomato, basil, and fresh mozzarella! I swear, I'm going to birth an Italian.
  • For our upcoming plane trip to visit Grandma and our cousins, I wanted to get Bella a little backpack, so she could carry her own toys and stuff on the plane. For months, I've seen a cute, little owl backpack in Target in some sassy colors. Nope. Bells wanted Minnie Mouse. I wanted so badly to make up some dumb excuse for why we couldn't take Minnie home (yes, I know that's pathetic), but I took a deep breath, got over myself, and said yes. She was so thrilled! Of course, she also wanted to take home the massive, wheeled version of the Minnie Mouse suitcase, but luckily, got over that quickly.
  • Nothing makes Steve Wires cry like watching videos of military coming home and surprising their loved ones. Bonus points if it's a dad surprising his daughter. Every. Single. Time. It's awesome.
  • Evelyn keeps getting stuck in the dollhouse that's in her room. She sticks one foot in, pushes her diaper into the living room, then looks at me and fusses until I rescue her. As soon as I pull her out, she's sticking her foot right back in.
  • Talking on our imaginary phones together...
Me: "Hey Bells, how're you doing?"
Bella: "Pretty good. I'm in jail."
Me: "You're in jail?"
Bella: "Yep. But don't worry, I'm not stuck. I'm just hanging out."
Me: "Oh! Well, that's good. Is anyone with you?"
Bella: "Yeah. Just Prince Philip."
  • Evelyn just pooped out one of Bella's dollhouse toys. Sweet.
  • Hey guys! My Facebook account was temporarily hacked tonight. Please don't click on any news links. As awesome as it would be, I have NOT lost 12 lbs. using raspberry drops!
  • Bella just asked if Pocahontas and John Smith were married. I'm torn between historical accuracy and wanting to convince her that you don't kiss a boy until she's married.
And, that, ladies and gentlemen, has been our month through the eyes of Facebook. You're welcome.

Anniversary Dinner

I am going to dream about  the dinner we ate for our date night last weekend! We've been holding onto a gift card for months now, knowing we wanted to use it for a special night - our anniversary was the perfect time!
We went to a place called Chops in downtown Atlanta; I knew by its reputation that it was a really nice restaurant, but I was hoping it wasn't a pretentious place. They were amazing! As soon as we walked in and gave them our name, the maƮtre de congratulated us on our anniversary and showed us to our table.
The entire wait staff was phenomenal! They were friendly, welcoming, and attentive.

My dinner...the seafood platter. Oh my goodness! Lobster tail, salmon, crab, and scallops. It was seriously incredible. My appetizer was a tomato and mozzarella salad, and Steve had lobster bisque with brandy. 

We were surprised at dessert with a rum raisin bread pudding and they drew on the dish with chocolate!
You can tell most of our dinners out involve children at IHOP, because we were a little giddy at being able to eat slowly, and enjoy multiple courses without interruption.
It was a great way to celebrate our anniversary and be able to enjoy a night on the town!

July 4th Celebration

We had every intention of going low-key for the 4th (Our children do not mix with huge crowds and fireworks...oh, and rain!), but we ended up having an impromptu party!
Trey was out of town for the week of the 4th, so we decided to do a small barbecue with Whitney and the kids. Because of all the rain we've been having, some of our friends had to cancel their various  plans, so we invited them to join in on the fun!
Whipping up a last-minute batch of cupcakes. Bella dipped the cupcakes in sprinkles all by herself!
Bella did great as a helper!
Matt and his brother, Mark, were designated playmates for the kids! Bless them for trying to play Battleship with so many kids running around!

Steve manned the grill while Sean and David helped out.

Waiting for Matt to set up fireworks in the cul-de-sac. The neighbors were very understanding!

Charli was not vey thrilled with all of the noises...

Caroline and Jude...he's getting so big! 

Steve and Evelyn; thanks to Whitney's hand-me-downs, we actually had a patriotic outfit for her to wear! (It's the important things!)

Matt was so sweet to leave some of his fireworks with us, so Steve could light some with Bella the next day.

 She wasn't so sure of the sparklers at first, but once we showed her how to "write" her name, she loved it!
We had a great cookout with friends and a wonderful time all together! Oh, and we played Independence Day on a continuous loop, so that pretty much made my day! 

Monday, July 1, 2013

God's Timing With Baby...And Us.

On Wednesday, we will officially be 12 weeks pregnant. I feel like I should be typing that with an exclamation point, but it's really hard not to hesitant this time.
We've been to the doctor and heard a heartbeat, which was amazing, but it's still difficult to shake the scared feeling that something will go wrong. (Is this too depressing for a "baby" post?)
Okay, so the negative stuff first...I'm nervous all the time. I know I shouldn't be. I know that, as a Christian, I'm not supposed to live in a spirit of fear, but I do. I question everything...am I gaining enough weight? Is the baby developing normally? Why aren't I throwing up more? (Weird, right?)
I've got another sonogram in a few weeks to check on the baby's heart chambers, and I think my biggest fear is that the baby isn't developing properly. I have nothing to base that on other than the fact that I feel like I should have a bigger belly. (Yep, I know, I'm going crazy.)
Deep breath...now to the non-crazy...
We are excited. (I promise!) We've started telling people, which has helped make it more real, but it definitely hasn't completely set in yet. The first baby was a surprise and this second one was exactly the same way. I'm not sure how we suddenly became so fertile, but we got pregnant only about one month after our miscarriage, so we're still in a little bit of sticker shock!
Baby #3 is due on January 15, 2014! We know the next six months are going to be a whirlwind with Steve traveling in the summer and then the holidays! And then...baby! Whew!
Steve has been wonderful as a listener and helping me remember the important things, but I know he's feeling hesitant, too, almost like we're not sure if it's okay to be let ourselves go and be excited.
I'm looking forward to having one more healthy sonogram under our belts to feel like everything is progressing normally. Pray for the baby's heart chambers to be developing properly and for his/her growth to be on track. And please pray for our peace of mind. We want to be excited for this baby and we don't want to walk through these next few months in fear.
Little Human #3's first public photo!

S + K = 8 Years!

Steve and I celebrated our anniversary last week. It came on a Tuesday, so we're going on our "fancy date" this weekend, but Steve still surprised me with eight, large, unsweet teas from McDonald's! I think they lasted me 4 days, which I was pretty proud of!
I'm going to copy the message I wrote on Facebook, because it's exactly how I feel about my handsome, strong, wise, and good-lookin' baby Daddy!
Happy anniversary to a stone-cold fox! Eight years later, and you have given me a life I never would have imagined. We were a lot thinner then, but we are so much cooler now! I love you!
Can't wait for our date at CHOPS on Saturday!