Healthy Living: The Food Frontier

A few years ago, when I first got pregnant, my husband and mother-in-law started encouraging me to choose natural and safer skincare and cleaning products. So, slowly I have been changing my soaps, and disinfectants, and window cleaners over to more natural brands. I also started taking USANA vitamins on a daily basis. Then about a year and a half ago, I heard about Beautycounter, and was impressed by their rigorous testing process and commitment to cleaner and safer makeup and beauty products. I started switching out foundation and moisturizers as I used them up. Then I fell in love with the products and the way they performed (after years of underwhelming products from the health food store) that I decided to become a consultant. So as far as “healthy” living goes I checked off three areas that desperately needed to be “cleaned” up: household products, supplements, and personal care products. But have you noticed what I haven’t mentioned yet….food.

I am such a convenience eater. Really. I want something that is made for me or read in like 2 minutes. I have never LOVED cooking. I just fail to see the point in spending hours slaving over a hot stove just to have the fruit of my labor literally consumed in 20 minutes (maybe? Some days it is more like 5). Add to this the fact that I have three small children clamoring at me while I try to cook or eat (which I sometimes sneak into the kitchen to eat all by myself.) And then the house that we are renting has a kitchen that is tiny. Like tiii-ny. Okay, so maybe it doesn’t compare to the small spaces of a NYC apartment, but it is tight. You can’t get through from one side to another if someone has the refrigerator door open. So yeah. Having a Lilliputian-sized kitchen doesn’t help my desire to cook.

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Maybe the kitchen is actually THAT small. But it is super tight, and one could argue poorly set up.

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Who puts a stove here? Hanging out in the open? Next to a door? WHYYYYYYY?

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This counter is so small and so it is almost useless for prepping.

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See what I mean? You can hardly get by. Now imagine actual hot pots and pans on that stove…

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These built-in provide some extra storage, but the latches are all really old (like maybe 1904 originals??) and some of them don’t close at all. Others won’t open if you close them. So basically they are always open.

But it doesn’t matter. Because I know I need to eat healthier. Having three babies in 4 years has done a number on my body. And now I’m “in my thirties” so my metabolism isn’t what it once was. I also went through a life-style change of running around and standing all day while teaching, to a much more sedentary pace  – especially right now when I’m nursing. I’ve always known what I SHOULD be eating, I have just been too lazy and unwilling to spend the time and money to do it. But Dean and I have been talking a lot about how we can make better choices in what we eat, meaning more veggies and protein, and less carbs and sugar. It’s not full-blown paleo or anything, but it is a commitment to switching out food items that are full of sugars or lots of carbs that turn into sugar and eating more REAL food. For instance, to me this means that if we have bread in the house, it is fresh baked bread – maybe one day I will even get around to making it myself, but as Bill Murray once said, “Baby steps. Baby steps.”

It also means that to really DO this, it also has to be convenient. Like I know I am not going to sautéing up a bunch of veggies every day for lunch. That is stressful to me, and not practical. You would realize that after ONE lunch with us since there are usually at LEAST two children crying – outright, ugly crying and leg holding -right before lunch because they are STAARRRRVING. Never mind that they had a snack like 2 hours earlier. Dean’s hours at work are also changing, which means I now HAVE to make dinner solo. Two meals, cooked, all. by. myself. erry. single. day.

Enter in…..meal prep. Yep. So we tried it this week. Cutting up a bunch of veggies, cooking several meats, having lunches and some things for dinner already started. It was a lot of hours in the kitchen. Dean and I had to switch off making things and taking care of kids or washing/putting away dishes because the kids want to try and help (which I love…wait do I love that? No. Some days it down-right drives me bonkers!) or they need attending to. Plus the idea of 2 adults, 2 toddlers, and a baby in the kitchen the size of a large walk-in closet is like a ripe plot for a sitcom (if we were funnier) or just a recipe for disaster. Did I mention that we also don’t have a dishwasher? Yeah…. the plot thickens.

It was good though. It may not seem like it, but I am excited about this process and how it will help teach our children about cooking, and the importance of good ingredients. I am excited for eating food that really nourishes my body instead of just filling it up with junk. And with all that said, I thought I’d share three of the recipes I made: one breakfast, one dinner, and one dessert (cuz mama’s need dessert. And wine. Hell, everyone needs those things).

I can’t do cereal anymore because I have given up dairy while nursing, and I’ve yet to find a milk substitute that tastes good with cereal. But cereal is sooooooo convenient. So to overcome this, I have to have something already made up. This hash is easy to make in advance and add the eggs to in the morning. I just added them ahead of time, and it still tasted good re-heated.

These stuffed sweet potatoes are delish. Once again, I didn’t fully follow the recipe (I didn’t do the dates or the coconut aminos but it was still really good). I think a big key to making some of these recipes is to not drive yourself crazy looking for weirdo ingredients. Some times I cheat and sub in things I already have. Or sometimes, if it doesn’t seem essential, I just cut it out altogether. The really great thing about this dinner is when you scoop out the insides of these sweet potatoes you will have enough mash to make……

DESSERT! I also made this dessert (sort of… I used whole wheat flour instead of almond flour, and regular sugar instead of palm sugar because we are still using up these ingredients before replacing. Once again. Make it work for you. Baby steps. And I don’t like to be wasteful). It was excellent! The brownies are softer than most regular brownies, but you can’t even tell that you are eating sweet potatoes!

Also, I am apparently OBSESSED with sweet potatoes. Lol. But I guess there are worse things to eat a ton of. 🙂

What does meal prepping for you look like? Do you have favorite healthy recipes? Or healthy-eating gurus you follow? I would love to have more ideas!

 

P.S. I know my feature image may not really represent “healthy” eating, but it was DELISH! And I’m not ashamed of it. 🙂 Also, I just am not that person that takes pictures of my food. I usually just eat it. Quickly. Before 2 sets of small hands grab at it.

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“He was easier”

So today during resting time/nap time when I usually sit down and watch a show or read a book for an hour (without little people whining at me) I decided to catch up on the latest episode of This is Us.  If you watch this show and haven’t seen the latest episode, I might say more than you want to hear. So perhaps go run to your couch, turn on that streaming device and get watching…then come back here. If you don’t watch the show – you should.

I love the show because I feel like it touches on real aspects of life. It gets messy and emotional without being over the top. And in this most recent episode, Rebecca (the mom in the show) says something that really resinated with me. As Kevin is pressing her to admit that Randall is in fact her favorite and that she always loved Randall more than him, she emotionally responds, “he was easier.” She didn’t love Randall more than Kevin, he was simply easier to love because he didn’t re-coil at her touch or tell her he hated her. And I thought…yeah.

Some people, even people as close to you as family, are just plain hard(er) to love. And even though my kids are still little, I do find that I do love them differently. Not unequally, just differently. Sometimes, it makes me feel bad, guilty, like I’m doing something wrong. But other times, I just know that it’s because people are, in fact, different.

Charlotte, for me, is the one that is harder to love at moments (although she’s also the only one that can really talk so far). Don’t get me wrong, there are so many things about her that I do love – she’s adventurous, smart, helpful – but sometimes those things also become what makes her hard to love. Her adventurous side is full of energy – too much energy sometimes- she’s bouncing off the walls, and can’t stop moving while she wants to sit on your lap. Her energy boils over into this thing that needs to push, wrestle, and squeeze things just to get out. She’s smart, but sometimes she thinks she smarter than others – she bosses, tattles, talks back (or tries to…mama ain’t having none of that over here). She has to have things her way. She’s perfectionistic. She can be so helpful, but she’s also always been fiercely independent, a trait I keep telling myself will pay off one day when she’s some crazy amazing boss lady. But right now, at the age of 3, that stubborn, strong-willed independent spirit can be taxing. It sometimes seems as if she needs no one and never has. I mean, after all, the child could rollover at 6 weeks, crawl at 6 months, and walk by 9 months. She’s always been ready to do things by. her. self. Lord help me when she turns 13. Or 16. Try to remember me then and just preemptively send a therapist. For me. (I’m just kidding. I’m sure it won’t be that bad. Right?)

The irony of all of this (and part of the reason I find her so hard to love sometimes) is that all of this is me. I may not have been so boisterous as she was as a child, but Charlotte and I are cut of the same cloth. So similar, in fact, that we already have that mother-daughter relationship grind. Maybe it’s just the fact that we are both first-borns, or deeply independent, but it’s difficult to parent her because I constantly feel as if I am running into a brick wall that is myself. It’s hard to face these aspects of myself each and every day. It’s hard to hear my voice and turns of phrase come out from the mouth of my toddler and be re-directed in all their sassy, bossy, I-know-everything, self-righteous tone back at me. It’s humbling because, you know, maybe I am/was that hard to love too.IMG_6338

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Picking up and holding Evey is the latest thing that Charlotte thinks she can do herself. 

Britton, on the other hand, has always needed me more than Charlotte. That fact might make it seem like he would be harder, but it feels good to be needed and wanted. His personality is also more mellow than hers; for instance, he is actually willing to SIT for more than 0.2 seconds. He also has this tenderhearted sweetness that desires mores snuggles than Charlotte did. For me, a big indictor how different he is from Charlotte is their responses to being disciplined. Charlotte used to laugh in my face when I would give her my best stink eye/teacher glare. Britton, however, melted into a puddle of heart-breaking tears. He always has a smile on his face, and finds everything entertaining. Don’t get me wrong, the screaming he uses in lieu of words is horrendous. His energy level (and ability to turn any object into a sword) is on par with any other little boy, but he still comes running back to me – smile on his face, big blue eyes sparkling – for snuggles. I don’t know. Maybe it’s because he is so different than me that I find him easier to love. Or maybe it’s just because he’s a boy.  A mama’s boy.

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Look at those blue eyes! How could you say no to them? 

Evey – well Evey is not even 2 months old, so things are hard to say at this point, but so far she has shown herself to be pretty chill. She takes nice long naps during the day, and sleeps for 6 hours at night. She is willing to be carted from place to place, and taken out in the cold just to get out of the house. She tolerates two adoring children attempting to pick her up and poke at her all day. Maybe it’s just a third child thing. IMG_7199Evey_23

My biggest challenge right now is seeing these differences as positives and not to let them affect how I treat the three of them overall (obviously you adapt per each child’s needs). I am trying not to compare (despite what this post seems to display) between them or compare them with others because they should be free to be who they are and loved for that. I am trying to get over the feeling that sometimes loving people – including yourself, your children, or your spouse – can be hard. But it is isn’t it? Loving is hard, but so worth it.

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Snapchat filters with kids is hilarious. 

 

Third Trimester

A few weeks ago I hit 28 weeks pregnant – this ushers in the – dun dun duunnnn- third trimester. This is a time that is both exciting because it means you are so much closer to meeting that little peanut, but it also means you still AREN’T done. Third trimester is a time that is often fraught with uncomfortableness, extra emotionalness, tiredness, sleepless nights, and nothing to wear. Now add to that two toddlers (3 and 17 months) and you have a real recipe for grouchiness. Which is what I have been lately – a real grump. I try keeping myself active and eating healthy to ward off the hangry variety of orneriness, but lack of daytime naps, either from my 3 year old or from the 17 month old, also leave me with no extra sleep during the day. And when your nighttime sleep is riddled with back aches and crazy vivid stress dreams – uhm like giving birth to six BOYS all at the same time – you really are running on next to nothing. And coffee. But not too much because you know…you’re pregnant.

Add to this, the fact that I have been battling with allergies that leave me sneezing all day, an activity which is no good for pregnant ladies. Not to give TMI but  when you’re pregnant and you sneeze….a little pee comes out. And when that sneezing is successive violent ah-choos, it often means many changes of clothes. Or in reality loads of extra laundry because you actually only have four outfits that still fit you. As I was lamenting this to Dean, he, of course, offered the most sympathetic response of, “well good thing we bought the big thing of laundry detergent.”

Enter tears. Random “why am I even crying about this” tears. So yeah. Third trimester….yaaaay……

But other than laundry and sleepiness, here’s a bit of what my life looks like right now:

Reading: this fascinating book about birds and how birds are actually really intelligent, which somehow meshed really well with this book, which outlines some thoughts on where our society is headed and why. And then I have this fun juvenile fiction by Neil Gaiman that I’m working on.

Listening: to some of the podcasts from our church in Phoenix because I miss the preaching there. Otherwise, Alexa has a rotating classical music and Frozen soundtrack repertoire.

Wearing: ALLLLL the sweaters because it was chilly here for a few weeks, but it has warmed up again, so now my two pairs of maternity shorts are on constant rotation. I can’t wait to wear a few of the pieces I bought for those chillier post-partum days. I snagged these booties, which are SUPER comfortable. And Abercrombie did some re-branding and they have a number of cute pieces including this ruffle shirt, this cardigan (you have never felt something softer) and this adorable pull-over. Wait for a good sale and than snatch a few of these for yourself. On my face I stick with this blush duo and this lipstick.

Cooking: Staying home has allowed me to make healthier food for lunch and dinner. A few of my recent favorite foods have been these zucchini chips and the zucchini recipe below. I am always looking for easy crock-pot meals, so if you have favorites send them my way!Zucchini bread recipe

Making: New friends. Or trying to. I am having a ladies wine and spa night in attempt to make some friends here.

Wanting: This bag for Christmas. It looks so yummy and magical.

Watching: Gilmore Girls (which whether Dean would admit or not, he loves). And we are finishing up the Walking Dead before re-watching Stranger Things in preparation for the new season that starts in October.

Enjoying: Seeing my children become better and better friends. There is still lots of arguing, but there are also kisses and sharing and snuggles. It’s beautiful.

Wishing: Britton could talk and go potty on the toilet already. Actually I’d just take the first thing if I had to. I can’t take the endless pointing, grunting, and whining anymore!

Waiting: to finding out whether we are having a girl or a boy!

 

Needing: more naps. And time not with my children.

Hoping: I find some cute new glasses that aren’t a butt-load of money, and that don’t make me look like I belong shut up in a dusty library.

Loving: all the beautiful paint work and gardening my mom has helped me with.

Playing: outside mostly. Riding bikes and digging in the dirt. But also playing lots of dress-up, trains, and coloring or painting. Charlotte is really into making pictures for everyone in our family.

 

Thinking: How grateful I am to stay home, but how some days this life is rough.

Attempting: to transition Britton to one longer nap a day. Some days are successful and others are quite disastrous.

Feeling: happy that my sister has moved back to the states from Costa Rica. I am excited to be more in each other’s lives again.

Shopping: at Aldi. Like a boss. Carrying around my quarter and saving all the dolla’s.

 

Soap Stories

Look at that hair. It’s crazy right?

My beauty of a three year old has this delicious curly golden blonde hair that is IMPOSSIBLE to brush. Honestly, I have just stopped trying to brush through it most days. The only time it gets a comb through is when she takes a bath (note: we don’t give our kids a bath every day because…uhm…who has time for that??). This stuff makes it so much easier to comb through the rat’s nest that her luscious locks become after a day or two of play. Just look at it!IMG_6194

And that’s not even her WORST day.

Curly hair can be so much fun, but it can also be a lot to manage. Curly hair gets tangled and matted more easily, and it is often drier and coarser than straight hair. So how do we get back that tigger-like bounce that makes curly hair so delightful? What’s our secret? It’s the Beautycounter kids line!

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The Not a Knot conditioner makes that crazy mess into soft, shin hair.

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This is just after applying some and working it through her hair with my fingers only. Already there is such a difference! And you really don’t have use very much product. We have had our same bottle for 8 months or so and it is still like half full.

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This is after combing it through! This only took a few minutes. Even Charlotte remarks on how soft her hair feels, and she’s only three. 🙂

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I also love their Daily Shampoo and Conditioner for adults. I have struggled to find something that really hydrates my very dry and slightly coarse hair (my hair also used to be curly, although due to age and/or pregnancy it mostly refuses to curl anymore). I have also had trouble for much of my life with a scalp that is very dry and dandruff prone. This shampoo and conditioner leave my hair silky smooth and shiny, something my hair has NEVER been. And most of my scalp issues have gone away. Nothing but my prescription shampoo would do that before. Like the kidscounter products, a little goes a looong way. And my husband can use them too, so there are fewer products lining our bathtub these days.

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I am so glad to have found something that is safe and really works!

Ways to Play

When I was a teacher, parents would ask me all the time, “What more can we be doing for our child?” The truth is, I think, many parents start asking this question long before their child is even in school. In certain parts of the country parents apply to pre-schools the moment they find out they are pregnant because otherwise they won’t get in to those elite places of learning. Education is important to almost everyone. And getting your kid off to the right start can be overwhelming and exhausting.

Personally, the more I have taught – whether its teaching 30 kids in my classroom or my own children – the more I believe in the power of good parents and good parenting and less I believe in overly structured, hyper-academic pre-kindergarten programs. I believe more in meaningful play, being active in your child’s life and development, and teaching them basic logic skills than in fancy kindergarten prep programs.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I just thought I’d share some things that we do with our littles that I think will pay off in the end – I mean our oldest is only three, so…..clearly I’m expert here….. 🙂

  1. Reading. Any good doctor or teacher will tell you that one of the most valuable things you can ever do for your child is to read to them and talk to them. And by talk to them, I mean like. a. person. Use complex vocabulary. Don’t dull down your speech, at least not too much. If they don’t understand your choice of words, explain and use synonyms and analogies. The research supports the fact that children who come from vocabulary-rich homes are more successful learners and readers. Take your child to the library. Read to them every day, even if  its only for a few minutes.  Your child and their future teachers will thank you. IMG_6052
  2. Do puzzles. Two of the things I found most difficult to teach my fourth graders were basic logic and problem-solving skills – to see how pieces are related or fit together and what to do when you are stuck. Puzzles (of all types!) help teach these things. They teach sequence, visual-spatial reasoning, along with logic and problem-solving skills. But don’t just toss them a puzzle, actually teach them strategies to solve it. We taught Charlotte to do puzzles by looking at the shape of the piece, the colors and details of the picture then to find one with matching colors, or to look at images on the border of the puzzle (if it is a wooden frame puzzle). We started this early, and she now can do a 50-piece puzzle by herself. IMG_4443
  3. Make up simple games. Two of our favorite games are “where’s our car?” and “where’s our house?” This is a simple game where you ask, “Is that our car?” or “Is that one our house?” or “Is our house blue?” while pointing to different vehicles and buildings. Truly the possibilities for the questions you could ask are endless. The point of the game is that they would learn to identify your particular vehicle and house. Not only does this cause them to have to evaluate each house and car you pass by it see if it is similar or different from yours, it also has the added benefit of helping them know what you drive and where you live – you know… in case stuff happens. I just came up with this one day while in the parking lot as a tactic to stop the whining and crying, but I think it was one of my more random genius moments….if I do say so myself.
  4. Incorporate basic math into what you do every day. This one I learned from my math friend Kristan. At the dinner table, she would have her girls count how many green beans they had left, and then challenge them to eat three more. She would then have them count how many green beans they had left.  It got them thinking about numbers and doing subtraction and addition with just simple everyday objects, and it is something we have tried to do as well. It is also the perfect distraction for those whiny “I’m alllllll duuuuun” moments. There are so many possibilities for this and it works great out in public places, counting stairs, people, tiles on the floor – you name it, and it can be counted!
  5. Help them understand something new by making analogies and making connections between different areas of life. For example, while sweeping the floors I might say, “It is just like when Mrs. Tittlemouse went around cleaning and sweeping her house” or “We are just like Cinderella when she had to do all her chores.” This takes some skill on your part at times, but I have found it to be super useful both when I was formally teaching and now when trying to help my own children grasp something new. I might reference a past common experience, a movie or show, or a book. Having done this so many times, Charlotte can now make her own connections between things, often surprising me with the details she remembers from books we read or outings we take.

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    This beautiful chalk drawing is “Scary witch queen” from Snow White. 

  6. Get them outside. Let me your kids just play outside as much as possible. And then take walks with them and learn the names of the trees and flowers around where you live. Take home leaves and draw them or make a nature sketch book and take it with you on your walks. This is something Charlotte Mason talks a lot about in educating children, and I think she’s right on about really slowing down to observe and understand the natural world around us.FullSizeRender 27FullSizeRender 26

There are so many more things you can do as well. What are some of your favorite “games” to play or ways to teach your child?

House Update: Living Room

We have now been living in Bloomington for a month. And in that month much has changed in our house. Of course, this is all thanks to the free labor of our parents, most specifically Dean’s dad and my mom. Each time they come over they work on some little project to help us get just a little more settled in.

So while there are many more parts of the house that still need those finishing touches, I thought I would share some before and after pictures of the one room that is mostly put together: the living room.

Here are some before pictures: The walls were a dark brown, even darker than it appears in these pictures, and the house was pretty dusty and dirty.

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And here is what we have done so far:

We lightened the wall color with white, specifically Benjamin Moore Chantilly Lace (sounds sophisticated right?). We bought this couch from IKEA, and went with mostly light colors because the wood of the floor and trim is so dark. We also tried to make the room look taller and brighter with these airy  curtains, also from IKEA. I even convinced Dean to let me paint the top of that round table this blush color.

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Most of the pillows and blankets my mom picked up from Goodwill (did you know that Target donates BRAND NEW things to some Goodwills?). And she gifted us the grey Eddie Bauer wingback rocking chair, which she found new in the box for $150 at Goodwill. It will be the perfect place to sit and nurse the baby. And its ability to swivel lets me turn around and see the kids even if they are in another room. It is also the perfect chair to do that creepy someone-walked-in-and-you-turn-around-slowly-in-your-big-chair villain move.

It took a lot of looking to find a rug I liked, but then I walked into HomeGoods and voila! The perfect rug for only $99. We also happened to find the perfect little side table at HomeGoods to go by the chaise part of the couch so that you can lounge and have a place to put your drink.

There are still a few things to be done in this room, including hanging a lamp in the corner above the chaise lounge, and recovering the small brown cube that’s currently in the corner for a little added seating and foot resting. We also have to install hooks by the door to hang the jackets and coats that are now a necessary part of our lives. #welcometocoldweather

Next up in our projects in the dining room, but here is a preview of one of my favorite corners in that room. IMG_6204This chair and the others will be re-covered, the walls painted, the dining room table painted, and a gallery wall put up!

Beautiful New Endeavors

This last week has been so pleasant weather wise. I have been taking advantage of the cool weather by taking the kids on walks each morning. We bundle up in blankets and get out the double stroller and just walk around the neighborhoods and go to a park. It gets us out of the house, into fresh air, and gets me exercising a little (something I have been horrible at the last two pregnancies). It’s also given me a little quiet time to pray and think.

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Britton is determined to climb UP the slide. 

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Charlotte worked meticulously on this sandcastle, scouring for more and more acorns to add for detail. 

One thing I have been thinking about is doing something for myself – to have a little business or project that I work on that is not just taking care of those two beautiful children I have + the one I’m growing. Enter in: Beautycounter.

Before I tell you more about how I learned about this company and why I have decided to get involved, let me tell you that I have NEVER been that girl who loved lotions or makeup or anything. Beauty products have also been overwhelming to me – there are so many and so many colors and they are so expensive. Just walking into an Ulta or Sephora makes me feel dizzy. Not to mention even when I do decide to purchase something, I literally have no idea what to do with it. Most of my makeup skills I learned from my younger sister (major #bigsisterfail on my part) who has always been more competent when it came to putting on eyeshadow than I have.

With that said, joining a beauty company was hardly the thing I thought I would ever do, and yet… here I am. So why? Well, a year ago my college friend Christine posted about a company called Beautycounter and shared why she loved their products. Beautycounter is a skincare and makeup company whose mission it is to create safer skincare products. They have a list 1500 items long of things they will NEVER put into their products. We think so much about what we put into our minds and our bodies, but what about what we put on our skin? I hadn’t really thought about that until I got pregnant for the first time. As new parents, we wanted to do everything right. So we researched what I couldn’t eat and drink and wear. And let me just say that being pregnant for most of the last 4 years has really heightened my awareness about how many things are not safe. I changed to more natural deodorants and shampoos and body washes because our skin is our largest organ and it absorbs everything we put on it. Then when we did finally welcome our first-born into this world, we continued to try to be aware and intentional about the products we brought into her life, and we have continued this every since. That’s where Beautycounter fits in. Beautycounter offered something different. Beautiful products that are clean. Safe. Things I didn’t have to worry about putting on my children or using while pregnant or the inevitable situation of my children somehow getting into lotions and make-up regardless, it seems, of where I put them.

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These are some of my favorite products: Nourishing Cream Exfoliator (leaves my skin so soft), Countermatch facial lotion, face oil (it’s not as scary as it sounds), rejuvenating eye cream, lip sheers, and Nourishing Rosewater Mist. 

Another thing I love about their products is how naturally glowing my skin looks, even with make up on. My dress-twirling, pink and sparkles obsessed three-year-old girl watches EVERYTHING I do. She wants to put make up on and look beautiful like mama. So I started to think, what does she see when she watches me? Someone who looks totally different than when I first wake up? I know that are so many uses of make up, but that isn’t the message I wanted to send her. I want her to see me. I want her to think of her mama as someone with natural beauty, even if there is a little make-up added in there. I want her to see that make up should only enhance what is already there, and I feel that the products I use from Beautycounter really do that.

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I finally bought a REAL make up brush and I love it. These are also two of my favorite lip sheers – I am eager to try more colors. I love the lip sheers because they are so soft and hydrating and they have a slight vanilla flavor. I also love the bronzer/blush duo. It is just the right amount of color on my skin. 

So I have joined this company. Not to push make up on people, but to share why it is important to think about what goes on your skin everyday. It has certainly changed my life as I think about all the chemicals in each lotion, shampoo, and body wash that touches me and my beautiful babes.

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Maybe my favorite products ever (well besides their every day shampoo and conditioner for adults). These gets the tangles of our Charlotte’s hair like nobody’s business. Seriously she goes from a tornado of knots to silky, soft curls. 

It is all part of a greater mission to be healthy and to help teach my children what being healthy and beautiful means.

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Parenting Out the Don’ts

We parents (and teachers) often spend much of our day using the words “don’t,” “no,” or “stop.” Some days – those really special ones – we use all of those words all in one sentence. But these words often leave me feeling like I all I did all day was nag at my children  (or *cough* husband).  They leave me feeling like a failure and like my children are bad. Don’t get me wrong I know my children are sinful like myself, and I know that sometimes these words are necessary – like when your three-year old is dragging your 15 month old across the floor by the collar of his shirt (not that this has ever happened at our house…) – but many days I feel like I use them too often.

You see, our brains are geared towards finding the negative. Pointing out what is wrong is the easy thing to do. Much research shows this to be true. It is why we are fixated on negative news. It also why we feel that the world is such a dangerous place, even though statistics shows otherwise.    We have more safety precautions, technology, and medicine then ever before, and yet we focus on all the bad things. Yep no more dying of bubonic plague or savage barbarian tribes or dysentery (unless you still play Oregon Trail). But I digress….

Always pointing out the negative in myself or in my children doesn’t always help them to understand what I DO want. Instead of saying, “don’t take things from others,” I have been trying to say, “please leave the toys in his hands.” Sometimes this turn of phrase can be tricky and not helpful either, but I feel like the overall message makes me feel less naggy.

Oftentimes though, it isn’t as much about turning these negative phrases into positive ones as it is about simply pointing out when they ARE doing what I want. Do you ever feel like you only speak to your children when they are being bad? I do. What about the moments that they act kind or share or listen right away? I am trying to be better at narrating those moments for my kids. I want them to know – “hey, you did good there!” I want to show them that being sweet and kind and obedient has just as many pay-outs (in terms of attention gotten) as being mean and disobedient. I found this method to be true when I was a teacher as well. The more I pointed out to my students what I wanted by saying things like, ” thank you so-and-so for being ready right away” or “I see so-and-so is sitting attentively” etc. the more they seemed to do that behavior. This seemed to help most of those students who were just slightly off-task get back on track, while also praising the behavior of those students who really deserved it. In the long run it also helped build up in them the behavior that I was looking for.

Now, before you get all “behavior modification” blah blah blah on me, I want to say that I think the biggest change this method elicited was that it changed my own heart and attitude. I started focusing less on the negative and more on the positive. I started to see that things were not always going wrong. That most of my students were doing what I wanted and acting virtuously most of the time. It completely changed my outlook on the day. I stopped feeling so much like a failure as a person and as a teacher, and started feeling more like “I got this!” That confidence only boosted my future interactions with them as I saw them more as people and less as small creatures to boss around (don’t tell me you don’t think this sometimes in your mind). I was more open, and more comfortable with them and myself. I let my hair down a little, so to speak, and that had boundless positive effects. I attribute this conscious effort on my part, and many many prayers throughout the day, surrendering to God my complete inability to do it on my own, as the reasons for my feeling of success last year.

Now, I just need to apply some of those tactics at home, a place where there isn’t constant feedback or evaluations or accountability. Home is a place where it is just me, my kids, and God. It is so much more humbling in a way because it really makes me stretch into the farthest realms of what integrity means. To be at all successful, I need to be more intentional about having some quiet time with the Lord to get my own heart right. Then I need to fight my very natural instincts to correct, correct, correct, and boss, boss, boss. I want to need to be the first example of what forgiveness, kindness, and humbleness means to my children, and the only way to do that is to go to the source Himself. And then point it out in them.

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One Week In

 

We have now lived in Bloomington for a little over a week – and what a week it has been! On top of the emotional up and down that is moving across the country and leaving your job, we also had multiple days of a stomach bug. Britton dealt with his right before and right after traveling (thank God nothing happened ON the plane). Charlotte waited to christen our new house. It was quite a couple of days.

As a person of routine and schedule, one of the more frustrating parts of travel and moving is the schedules that get disrupted. Naps were lost and bed times were pushed back. It took the kids about a week, but I think they have finally adjusted to the time difference, so we are now able to actually start some routines here. Even something like grocery shopping is challenging when the stores you have to shop at are not the same ones you had before. Having to learn the set up and options available while dealing with two often hungry and whining children is not one’s ideal shopping time. So far we have checked out HyVee (it’s a little pricey, but has TONS and TONS of options – and Ah-MAAAAA-Zing donuts), and Aldi. I grew up with Aldi, but it is so different now.

But before we get too heavy into starting new routines here, we have tried to spend some time exploring our new town. Moving from a city with millions to a town of 130,000 or so (that’s Bloomington and Normal together) makes this place feel so small. Dare I say po-dunk even, at times. But also small-town in the best of ways. Like people are so friendly here, and our neighbors have already come over and talked to us several times. The boys across the street just wander over to our porch in between their nerf gun fights and bike riding escapades. There are also so many other differences between here and Arizona. First, there are – trees! and bugs…. and lots of old houses! No more adobe and terra cotta roofs for us.

In fact just down the street from us is an original brick cobblestone street that is chalk-full of all the Victorian wood-sided scalloped trimmed houses you could ever want and in a schema of colors that would put Baskin Robbins to shame: historic pink, purple, blue, yellow, mint green. It’s a veritable rainbow of house colors around here. And the front porches? Nearly every house has one, accompanied, of course, with the necessary front porch swing.

 

 

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And if ice-cream shop hues of houses aren’t your thing, there’s always brick. And more brick. Additionally each house comes with it’s own tree lined side-walk, of which Charlotte commented the other day that we were “in a deep forest.” Only a kid who has grown up in a desert landscape with very few trees thinks that a sidewalk with a few overhanging trees is a “deep forest.”

Also on the list of things we have tried so far:

-The beautiful bike path – The Constitution Trail – that is literally at the end of our street. It has no shortage of shade, flowers (an herb garden even) and historic markers – most historic markers around here have something, if not EVERYTHING, to do with good ‘ole Abe Lincoln.

– We found this wonderful park today on historic Franklin Square. It is small, which works for me because I can see them from anywhere in the park. We will be visiting often since it is only a few blocks away.

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This park even comes with its own castle! Not really. 

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We even met a furry friend at the park – can you spot the caterpillar?

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– An ice-cream shop in Normal called Emacks and Bolios. It was delish! No really. You can get a sundae with two scoops, unlimited toppings, fudge, whipped cream and a cherry for like 5 bucks. And the ice cream is guuuuud. I tried the Chocolate Addiction and Espresso flavors. And their fudge was on fleek for sure.

Our town even has those cute free library boxes around. This one is right on our street.

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Next on the list:

  • The zoo
  • The County Fair – which is this week
  • The Discovery Museum
  • The State Farm park (yeah, they have their own park, which you can only go to if you work at or have a spouse that works at State Farm). It has pools, spas, splash pads and more!
  • The David Davis Mansion – I’m not sure who this person is, but their are road markers directing you how to get there.
  • More parks!

In between those activities, we will continue to settle in and spend lots of time looking out all our beautiful windows contemplating all sorts of high-minded things I’m sure. Or…. just neighbor watching. Britton’s already got this activity down-pat.

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This Old House

We found a place to live! We are more than excited to finally have a place that we like down in Bloomington/Normal, IL. For those of you who have NO idea where that is, you are not alone. You can find it here.

After looking at townhouse and regular houses, some that had too few bathrooms, some that had no yard (a major thing I missed about living in the Mid-West), some that were at the top of our price point, we finally found something we think will work for us for time. Our goal is to rent for just a few more years and be saving up to buy a house in that time frame. This will give us time to figure our where we want to live and the schools we want our children to attend.

So here some pictures of the place:

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Now moving on in….

I love the hardwood floors, which are original (the house was built in 1904). There are also nice architectural features like the built in cabinets and the beams in the dining room. The rooms are a little dark for my taste, so we are going to brighten them up with some fresh white paint and some flowy white curtains.

Living Room:

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Dining Room:

How can you not love the French doors, and set in ceiling and that window seat? It just needs a soft cushion and some pillows, and you will be able to find me there any day of the week.

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The owners are replacing the countertops in the kitchen. There is also no dishwasher, which is a bummer since I got used to less hand washing while living out here, but the built-ins are nice.

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This downstairs room will be used a a playroom for the kids because it is the only room on the first floor. It will also be given some lovely white paint. There is a bathroom downstairs as well.

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Moving upstairs now…..

There are three bedrooms upstairs as well as a half-bath.

 

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I will have to learn how to live with stairs again. 

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This is the room we will use as the Master

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A look from within the room

 

The kiddos will get their own rooms for a little while at least. The baby will sleep in a bassinet in our room while it is little. During that time Britton and Charlotte will get to have separate rooms, then I think we will try to combine them into one room and keep the smaller room as a nursery.

This is the larger room that will be Charlotte’s:

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This is the smaller room that will be Britton’s: 9b8a5ed9b912cd6e29ca38b1051b7d3cl-m18r

 

Overall, there are lots of things we love about the house and many that are not our ideal, but we are going to make the house work for us for a couple of years until we are ready to buy something else.

Now for the fun part….. DECORATING!