The Mighty Quest for Skinnyhood

Four kids… five and a half years…109 pounds.

These are my stats. The last SHOCKING number is not what I weigh… unfortunately. Its the total amount I’ve gained while pregnant with each of my beautiful blessings from above. That number wouldn’t at all be horrible if I lost all the weight with each one, but I didn’t. The first two pregnancies I was able to lose all of it but 5 pounds. The next two… well that’s a whole different story.

I always say that the third baby ruins your body. This is why. While pregnant with sweet baby Mason (who just turned 3 about a week ago) my stomach went from looking like a map of the farmlands of Indiana to looking like a map of Manhattan, I got spider veins, started finding an occasional gray, and the weight I gained simply refused to come off. It wasn’t until he was about 8 months old… probably more like a year… that I was able to start losing some of the weight. I got down to about 5 pounds heavier then I was when I got pregnant with him! Whoop! Still not all off but I was happy with that! Then by some curse from the underground I started gaining…. and gaining….. and GAINING. I gained about 20 lbs in just shy of a year. WTH?!?!?!?!?!! Whyyyyyyy. To add insult to injury, I got pregnant with baby #4 after packing on these pounds. And then welcomed 27 more pounds into my life. I’ve now lost all of her baby weight… but I am still over where I want to be.

Since I delivered baby Eden I have been on an (occasionally) intense mission to lose it all! I want to go back down to where I was before I started having babies. I want to be that swimsuit model that my husband can show off. (Not the two piece models… one pieces…. remember… my stomach still looks like a map of Manhattan and I wouldn’t wish seeing that on my worst enemy!)  I started to do Zumba, eating right, walking, (attempting) running, Jillian Michaels, even the latest Pinterest trend: The 3 day diet. And yet with all of that I’m still not much below where I have been (although with that 3 day diet I did drop about 4-5 lbs).

I have to admit… I’ve been feeling extremely defeated. Will I ever be able to make it where I want to? Am I ever gonna jump off this gigantic flippin’ plateau that I’m on? And then I got to thinking. What is my motivation? Am I only wanting to get fit so I can boast of my fantastic bod despite giving birth to four babies? Do I just want to lose this weight so that I can be the envy of new mothers every where?? The answer is: Sadly, yes. I was in it for selfish and vain reasons only. Where I should have been health and wellness motivated, I was motivated out of a desire to be noticed for my accomplishments. And whats worse is that I was failing miserably at it!

Given my recent realization, I am standing at a cross roads. Of course I will continue to workout, eat healthy, etc. But I can either do it because a) I know that it’ll get me skinny, might force me to buy a new wardrobe, and will prove to everyone that it doesn’t matter how many kids I’ve had… I’m still hot or b) I know that taking care of my body, eating healthy, and exercising is just one way of treating my body like it is the temple that God designed it to be and by doing so I will be a better mother to my children. It really seems like the answer is obvious, but I am flawed and therefore torn. Don’t forget… I want to be the trophy wife, and those feelings don’t just go away over night.

So I’m going to go ahead and do something that I very very rarely do. I’m going to ask for help. I need help in the way of prayer. Will you all join me in prayer that the heart behind my quest for health would be pure? That my motives would be for God’s glory? And that it positively impact my children’s lives?

I want to be the best mom I can, so I need to be as healthy as I can.

A Bully Begins at Home

This post is probably not going to make me any friends. I’d love to believe that it wouldn’t make me any enemies either… but who knows.

For the past week or so I’ve been dealing with a parents worst nightmare. My baby boy Cameron has been getting bullied at school. He is in first grade and is truly one of the sweetest boys you will ever meet. He is quiet and tries so hard to follow the rules in school. At home he can be rough and tumble but he is just a genuinely good boy. That being said… my son is not being verbally bullied… he is being PHYSICALLY bullied (punching, kicking, hair pulling, face slapping… the works). Now normally with mild verbal bullying I wouldn’t make a big stink about it. I’d talk to Cameron, tell him what to say to the boy, explain that this boy’s words can’t hurt him… blah blah blah. But nobody, I repeat NOBODY, lays a hand on my son. Oh boy, mama bear is about to break out of her cage. When I heard what had been occurring and (whats worse) how LONG it had been going on I immediately called the school and made it clear that I was someone to reckon with and meant serious business. I have been in steady contact with the school nearly every day since and the situation is slowly getting resolved, the little boy is getting the help he needs, and Cameron has been informed of the appropriate course of action should it happen again.

However, this whole situation got me thinking (I know… dangerous). This is happening in first grade… FIRST GRADE! What is going to happen when my children get older? High school was a vicious place for me. I wasn’t necessarily the best kid, got in some significant trouble (gigantic fricken cry for help). I tried, but I don’t think I ever felt like I truly fit in with the “cool crowd.” I didn’t live in the right place, I didn’t go to the right church, I hadn’t known these people since I was 5, the list goes on. There were a couple “kids” in middle school and high school (same school… it was a k-12… brilliant, right?) that, looking back, made me hurt more than I could possibly describe. These people would call me friends and then laugh at me behind my back (but not quite out of earshot). And sometimes I even wonder if the “bullying,” along with a couple other major life events, led me to make some of the choices that I did further down the line.

This was roughly 10 years ago, and kids are so much more vindictive than they used to be. What kind of world will my own kids walk into when they enter through those high school doors for the very first time? I guarantee it’ll be a much different, more painful world then I lived in.

So this leads me to the title of this blog, “A Bully Begins at Home.” Now of course I am no child psychologist (although I play one on TV ::wink wink::), however, I truly believe that so many of the actions from bullies stem from their home life. There is a saying that says, “hurt people hurt people” and bullying is not the exception to this but is the rule. Being a bully is a learned behavior. A baby doesn’t emerge from the womb looking for their first victim. A 2 year old doesn’t naturally go up to another child, push them over and take all their stuff. It isn’t typical for a 6 year old to go up to his class mate and slap him in the face “just because.” Instead, these things are shown to them, one way or another. Perhaps some can be given the benefit of the doubt. They learned it on TV, or witnessed something similar from a different child on the play ground. Or maybe they could be a victim themselves.

Parents have a very important job. We hold the health, both emotional and physical, of our children in the palm of our hands. What we do, how we treat them, even what we allow them to watch on TV and listen to on the radio, shapes them into the people that they will become whether we like it or not. Bullying is defined as aggressive behavior against someone else that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. A scary question is, do we bully our own children? Are they learning this behavior from the very people who are supposed to guard them against it?

Whether we choose to believe it or not, bullying is a real danger now a-days. Tormented youth are killing themselves because their peers just won’t let up. Girls are bulimic and anorexic because the other girls have been calling them fat. Hurting teens are bringing guns and knives to school because they’ve reached their breaking point.

Just like bullying starts at home, so does prevention. Engage, encourage and love your children. But most importantly be a living example for them. I am going to work harder at this in my own home, because I know without a doubt that actions speak louder than words.

My Little Pirate is 3!

On Wednesday my little man… my handsome third born turned three! I don’t know why but he just seems so much like a baby to me! Maybe it’s because of the slightly delayed speech or the fact that he is still in 24 month clothing. Either way, he still seems little and I don’t think I was quite emotionally ready for him to move from toddler-hood to technically being a preschooler.

In true cheap-o mama fashion (some people call it frugal, I call it cheap), I started looking for sales to give me some direction for his birthday MONTHS ago. I was extremely thankful that my husband’s aunt sent me a link back in June for pirate costumes that were on sale at Little Tykes for $0.94 a piece! I was immediately sold. I bought 6 and Mason was going to have a pirate party!! 
If you have a lot of kids or if your birthday budgets just aren’t as huge as you’d like them, I completely understand. We just don’t have the money for a fancy place like Chuck E Cheese or Pump It Up or any of those other money sucking party venues. We have at home birthday parties and I try my best to make them as fantabulous as I can. So, on the never ending quest for creative ways to save I started hitting up my fave site…. PINTEREST (seriously… you should follow me… I pin the best, most amazing stuff and your life will become a little bit brighter just by doing so)… for some pirate themed party ideas and I actually was able to find some super cute stuff! 
This leads me to the week before his birthday party. Not only do I like to save but I have been blessed with the gift of procrastination as well! (I know… I’m pretty lucky) So… cue mad scramble and intense mood swings. I was fortunate enough to be able to borrow my friends Cricut machine and I think I might have found the love of my life…. next to my husband of course. The Cricut works great with card stock but I just couldn’t justify spending $15 on a pack of multicolored card stock (most of which I wasn’t going to use anyway) for one simple project. This led me to the dollar store. (If you know me, you know that I’m extremely attracted to things that are a dollar. I don’t know why, it just is what it is. Embrace it.) I was able to find poster board… POSTER BOARD… for only 0.66 a sheet. I got 3 sheets of black and 3 sheets of red for my pirate-y project. That’s a whopping $3.96 for the Cricut paper as opposed to the $15 I would have spent on colors I didn’t even want!
Here is what my friend’s Cricut and my dollar store poster board was able to do! (minus some very cute food signs that I forgot to take individual pictures of)
The paper decor was complete but I just wasn’t happy, there needed to be more. I remembered back to another project I saw on Pinterest. Making your own serving dishes! This would allow me to custom make reusable party stuff in exactly the colors I wanted! The project was simple for my purposes… a regular sized black plate, a candle stick holder, and a glass bowl . All of these items are found at the dollar store. That is correct, three things, $3. The result? 
Perfection……
I just gotta say… sometimes I really do rock my own socks off…. (also… I made two) 
After I got the typical paper plates, napkins and plastic table cloths I decided to round it all out by getting a reusable square plastic plate and reusable square plastic bowl. I glued them together and used it as a cupcake serving plate. Simple… cheap… cute. 
So a quick run down of my costs thus far:
Paper Decorations- $3.96
Two serving plate/bowl combos- $6
One cupcake server- $2
Plates/napkins/table cloths- $8
I’ve found that the food component of the party tends to be among the most expensive and I just couldn’t swing it this year so I went simple. For the “main course” I made taco chili in the crock pot ($10) and it was a huge hit! For snacks I had fruits (strawberries, grapes, and pineapple) and blue corn chips and salsa ($20) as well as small water bottles for the kids ($4). And then as opposed to a big cake that can cost about $20-40 I made cupcakes from scratch. Super delicious and 1/4 of the cost, and best of all everyone was happy and full! Awesome. 
In the end I ended up spending about $63 (including the costumes I purchased back in June) but my son and all of his friends had as much fun as they would have if we’d spent triple that amount. 
Just some fun pictures from the party: 
The birthday boy!
All of his little pirate friends… plus older brother and sister
Full Pirate Garb!
The table before the food was added to it…
My son had an amazing time. His friends had an amazing time. And I was truly proud of how it all turned out. So as a summary, there is no shame in borrowing, the dollar store is your friend, and don’t be afraid of DIY! You’ll be thoroughly surprised with what you can come up with when you open your mind and allow yourself to be creative!

In His Timing…

Its no secret that my husband is extremely close to finishing college (we’re talking 2-3 weeks close!) and I’m extremely proud of him and the work/time he has put into attaining his degree. But with this great achievement comes the amazing waiting game. I’ve been doing my “wifely duties” (not those… get your mind out of the gutter) in that I’ve been applying for several jobs every day for him so that he can focus on the last couple weeks of school while continuing to work his current full time job.

So I apply, day in and day out. And as I apply I start to plan. OH the plans I make! I have this uncanny ability to put the cart SO far before the horse that if I were to turn that pesky cart around I wouldn’t even be able to see the darned horse anymore! I would find a job that would be the perfect fit for us, find a house that was within our budget and in the right school district. Heck! I would even have my flippin’ curtains picked out sometimes! And then I’d wait… and wait…. oh, and then I’d wait some more. The benefit of applying for a lot of things online is that you can check the status of most of the applications you submit. So I would check…. “Position Filled”…. SON OF A!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It was like a bad break up every time I’d see those stupid words. Without fail my dreams would be crushed like a 7 year old whose parents forgot his birthday.

All through this process I have been saying, “what ever God has for us we will take!” But really I am saying, “whatever God has for us IMMEDIATELY we will take!” I don’t want to wait 6 more months, or even a year, for our lives to start. I want it to start right now. I want to be able to buy our first home. I want to decorate my kids room. I want to pick out paint colors and appliances. But what I am constantly being reminded of is that good things don’t happen in my own timing, they happen in God’s timing. The reason is that my own timing is flawed, but HIS is NOT!

It an extremely scary thought for me to turn my “timeline” over to God. I have this need to be in control. I’m working on it. I’ve given over control of a lot of areas. But, unfortunately, I am not perfect and so I am still having to work on that whole “giving over of control” thing on a daily basis. It’s humorous when I think about struggling with letting God be in control though. He had the power to create me, our world, put the stars in the sky, set the earth in motion (ect, ect) so WHY do I have such difficulties trusting him with the ability to know when our lives should get under way?

It is my desire to live completely within God’s will for me and stand with my hands palm up ready to accept His abundant blessings that come with living within that will. So, in light of all of this new thinking and what not I’ve changed my way of praying. Instead of saying, “God please bring us the right job,” I say “God please bring us the right job, at the right time.” I believe that the change of prayer will in turn create a change of heart in myself.

I would love to know if you any one else struggles with the “my own timing” mentality and different ways that you use combat those thoughts….

The Dirty on Diapers

I’m assuming that it is no secret to most of you that I cloth diaper my baby girl. I love to wash them, dry them, fold them, and occasionally throw them on my bed and roll around in their fluffiness. OK… maybe you didn’t know the last thing. (Hey! No judgey!! We all have our quirks!) But I don’t know if many of you know my cloth diaper story.

When baby #3 was around a year old I stumbled upon a LIVESTRONG article about the chemicals in disposable diapers. And then I somehow found the cloth diapering board on Babycenter. I’m not exactly sure how I found it (it must have been divine intervention) but I was able to start looking around and started to think that I might actually be able to do it. I discovered stuff about disposable diapers that I had never known nor wanted to believe. The site even led me to a cost saving calculator that would show me exactly how much I could save and in how much time! I had a small starter stash and found out I could make them too! Man oh man was I crafty and super cool. I was like some new aged hipster or something.

When I found out I was pregnant with #4 I knew I was going to cloth diaper from the beginning. It was a no brainer. I was going to be able to save money AND save my future child’s reproductive system as well as reduce my carbon footprint. I was like flippin’ Mother Earth over here! (false, but we are all allowed our own individual delusions)

Eventually I threw the cost saving component out the window. I was no longer in it for the savings because, I’ll be completely honest, I went a little crazy with the work-at-home-mom sites and the super cute prints and styles. Here’s a shocker though, I STILL SAVED MONEY! My entire newborn stash, enough for 3-4 days, cost me around $300. I sold things on eBay to fund everything I wanted though so it didn’t effect our bank account at all. And… hold on to your seats…. I was able to sell almost everything (minus what I want for any future children ::cough::cough::) and made about $200 back.

My NB stash:

 
Now that Eden is out of newborn cloth diapers I have been able to switch to her one-size stash… which is quite extensive. (And somehow I still find more cloth every day that I forget I have… I have to destash big time… any interest??) The greatest thing is that these diapers will be able to last her until she pottytrains! I never have to worry about buying her diapers or running out in the middle of the night because we don’t have any more. I have types that I can wash by hand just in case the power goes out in some freak incident or the Zombie Apocalypse were to happen. And I’m pretty sure that my baby has one of the most stylish butts EVER at any given point in time.
 
Some of my OS stash:
 
 


I suppose that one of the best things about cloth is that they are able to be reused with each subsequent child or they can be resold. I’ve tried selling my pre-used disposable diapers before but it didn’t work out too well…..

In the end its has been the best decision for my family and I’m extremely happy that I made the switch. I have about two sets of “loaner stashes” if anyone is interested in trying their hand at it. It’s not for everyone but hey… there is no harm in trying right?

Crockpot Cookin’

I love the feeling of having a fresh, home cooked meal for my family. There is just something about it that makes me feel like I have succeeded at life, and perhaps evaded mommy failure for at LEAST an hour. However since the birth of our latest little one in February and our older children being increasingly more active, I am often left with little time to shower, never mind cook. Shamefully, I had succumbed to the life of frozen pizzas and boxed mac and cheese (with the occasional pasta with meat sauce for good measure).

For at least a year a very good friend of mine had been telling me that she (and a good friend of hers) take one day a month to do a cooking day and cook for the entire month! The idea of it seemed daunting. That’s an awful lot of organizing, preparation, par-cooking which in the end will probably not even be worth it! (Sorry Liz… its just how I felt! haha)

It wasn’t until talking with another good friend of mine and realizing that we were BOTH failing in the department of feeding our children/husbands (especially on a budget) that I actually considered this “cooking day” idea as being a viable option. We decided we would try it: but in a smaller scale. We decided we’d do two weeks at a time instead of 4 weeks. It took about 2 months and many planned and then canceled days to actually get it done, but eventually we did it!

Since posting on Facebook about our second bi-monthly cooking day was met with many requests for recipes and shopping lists, I decided I would just post it on the blog (and will continue to do so every time we have a cooking day).  I am almost positive that I lost the receipt for the shopping, however I will do my best to remember everything that we bought.

We make 7 recipes for 2 weeks. We ALWAYS have enough leftovers from a meal with enough to feed the entire family again. This week we got all of our recipes off of Stephanie O’Dea’s A Year of Slow Cooking blog and they are all Gluten Free. (I don’t need to cook gluten free but my friends family does and since I’m too busy/lazy (mostly lazy) to pick out the recipe’s we cook what she wants!)

Our 7 meals we cooked are:
Crockpot Bacon and Cheese Chicken
Obama’s Chili (I have a more endearing name for it that I probably shouldn’t share at this point)
Brown Sugar Chicken
Whole Chicken in the Crockpot
Salsa Chicken and Black Bean Soup
Hirino Psito
Sausage and Peppers (scroll down, the only recipe not from crockpot365)

Items I had at home already:
Ketchup
Terriyaki Sauce
Most of the typical seasonings
Jenny-O Italian turkey sausage
Brown Sugar
Balsamic dressing (if this isn’t your favorite dressing then put your favorite on your list of things to get)
Worcestershire Sauce
Dijon Mustard

My shopping list:
Meat:
        5 lbs of whole chicken breasts
        1 lb ground turkey
        About 12 chicken thighs
        1 whole chicken
        4 lb boneless pork tenderloin/butt/whatever
        1 package of Italian sausages (I like Jenny-O and already had some… but my friend didn’t)
        1 package of bacon (Hormel sells hormone and nitrate/nitrite free)
Produce:
        2 packages of the 3 pack multi-colored peppers
        1 large onion
        5 tomatoes
        Sliced mushrooms (optional… and I most DEFINITELY did NOT use them…. blech)
        1 cup frozen corn (not fresh but whatever)
Misc:
        Ranch Dressing
        bag of shredded cheddar cheese
        1 can kidney beans
        2 cans black beans
        1 jar of minced garlic (the wet kind… I”m sick of chopping garlic)
        Red wine vinegar
        Can of Sprite
        Tamari Sauce
        Box of chicken broth
        Salsa
        Sour Cream
        Honey
        Gluten free beer (Redbridge)
        Can of diced tomatoes

The produce, meat and some of the miscellaneous items we doubled and our grand total was about $150 for both of us. So that is 7 recipes and, if all goes according to plan, 14 meals for roughly $75! We did all of our shopping at Walmart and did cost comparison.

Then we got home and started the prep work. We had 4 children running around the house (2 of them were VERY unhappy) and it still only took about 2 hours for prep and organization. First we sit down and organize our freezer bags: 7 bags with the name of the item as well as the amount of time required in the crcokpot (ex: 8hrs on low or 4 hrs on high). And then one recipe at a time we put them together. A lot of people chop everything up first but that’s is just way to confusing for us! The only things I par-cooked this time around was the ground turkey (even though the recipe says you don’t have to) and the bacon… but make sure that you keep an eye on the bacon, or set a timer, or else you are going to be forced to fan the smoke alarm for 20 minutes because your entire house is filled with smoke (I PERSONALLY have never experienced that… just heard that advice some where… at some point…yeah).

Yes… your kitchen will look like a bomb went off at the end of it (unless you are a neater person than I am… which I doubt, because I’m extremely neat and clean and also… the sun shines out of my butt) and it could look something like this

But as a result you will have this (super cute kid not included)

Now remember when I said earlier that I used to do pasta with meat sauce for good measure every once in a while. Well please don’t think that I have given that up! This week I also made a home made sauce that was given to me by yet another amazing friend. It is super super easy (because we all know I love easy) and its incredibly tasty as well!

Here’s the recipe for that pasta sauce (left out the mushrooms and substituted ground turkey for ground beef):
2- 28oz cans of tomato puree
1- 12 oz can of tomato paste
1 large onion, diced
1 large tomato diced
5-6 garlic cloves, pressed
1 lb of ground beef
1/2 of a container of mushrooms, diced
1/2 tbsp basil
1/2 tbsp oregano
1/2 tsp pepper
2 tbsp brown sugar

Hopefully that helps all of you realize that you CAN pre-cook your meals and it doesn’t have to break the bank! Trust me, if I can do it ANYONE can do it!

The Mommy Wars

I’ve been hearing this term more and more… “Mommy Wars”… and its implication is intriguing. After much (about .25 seconds) investigation, exploration, and deliberation I’ve formulated a pretty elaborate definition of the term “Mommy Wars.”

Drum roll please……

Mommy Wars [mom-ee wawrz]: noun  A battle between mothers of different parenting styles and philosophies in order to maliciously yet ineffectually prove that the other mother is, in nearly every way, inferior to themselves.

I have to admit that through a process of looking inward and reflecting on some (not so) distant conversations I came to realize that I am a frequent combatant in this battle of words. In fact I would be willing to bet that if many of you mamas out there are as well. It starts with, “well, what works for ME is….” followed by rambling about our tried and true method that is the answer to every problem ever, and then is completed with a, “But that’s just ME.” However, if we were to look deeper into our carefully articulated advice, past the misleading pleasantry, right there where the true motivation behind our “guidance” is left exposed, you will find that it was nothing more than a switchblade shot in our own personal “mommy war.”

Now I know why I feel like I have the right to wage mommy battle against others who clearly have no idea what they are doing. I mean, I’m in the process of raising four children. They are practically perfect in every way (near-perfection is not just reserved for Mary Poppins). I am always well put together. My house is always clean. I sleep a solid 9 hours every night. And to top it all off I have dinner on the table at 5 o’clock sharp every day. I really just have it all figured out and want every one else to be as amazing as I am. (Hopefully all of you who know me also know that I’m joking. OR maybe you know that I’m being serious… dun dun dunnnnn)

But I don’t understand why, ya know, OTHER mothers feel its necessary to war against everyone else. I think its pretty safe to assume that not every family is the same, right? So then why do we also assume that one particular method will work for the rest of humanity the way it worked for us?

Parenting is one great big adventure of trial and error. And its through that trial and error that we become the parents that are perfect for our own family. Frankly that’s why I keep having kids, I screw up less and less, and figure things out a little bit more with each child (mostly joking… ok… kinda joking…but seriously). I really want to encourage the new moms, or even the seasoned moms. It’s not bad to ask for advice. Its not even bad to heed this advice. However, be confident in your abilities as well because the advice you receive just might not work for you. You have (more likely than not) been given an instinct that is far better than any other mothers anecdotal remedy to your personal situation.

I sit here writing this and, really, I’m writing to myself more than anyone else. I have personal struggles with wanting to be right and being critical (that is an entirely different post for an entirely different day) and I often find myself forcing my philosophies on others under the guise of trying to help. There is research to support all different sides of the parenting table, and no method/style is more right then the other. So mama’s reading this, will you put down the proverbial battle ax with me and accept the fact that what works for one isn’t going to work for the other? And that we are no better than the next mom who is just trying to figure it all out?

Let’s offer advice in love, not war. (hehe)