Monday, December 14, 2015

finola and the terrible twos.

I never did a half-birthday post for Finola.

I think that I was too tired to even realize when her half-birthday was.  I think last month.  Maybe the one before?  Anyway, the point is, I've been tired...

...and struggling, ya'll.  With the whole "momming" thing.

Lately I morph into "tired, cranky, angry mommy" more often than I care to admit.  Anytime there is an issue where I don't get enough rest this happens.  So that is most days lately.

For me, "rest" is not just sleep, but quiet time away for introspection.  Away from the chaos that is my children.  Nap time, while I rarely nap, is my "rest time" because it is quiet, I can write, or just get re-centered.   Now a huge chunk of nap time is de-stressing from putting Finola back in bed about thirty times.

I don't mean to complain.  I really can't.  It is just a hard season for me, compared to what I've dealt with thus far.  Finola, from birth, has been a pretty easy kid.  Sure, it took her ten months to "officially" sleep through the night, those 1-2 awakenings for food were not so bad, considering she went right back to sleep after.

And napping.  What a dream!  She settled into a sleep schedule pretty much at birth, all I ever had to do was lay her down and she gave me a smile and went to sleep.

Transitioning to the toddler bed?  Again - easy.  I could put her in bed and say 'good night.'  At least at first.

We are now going on a month of Finola repeatedly getting out of bed at both naps and bedtime.  We know she has had some nightmares that are making her afraid of her darkened room.   But even when we leave a lamp on, door open, she still creeps downstairs, or into her brother's room.  We have begged, bribed, threatened, yelled, calmly stated the consequences, tried to love her through it, given her a million second chances, given her zero second chances, done the "silent retreat" method, and let her cry it out.  Nothing has been too successful.

Hubby can deal with this okay, but for me, it causes a lot of stress.  It is as though I never get a rest from mothering, but it continues until I am so exhausted I want to cry.  On normal days I am mentally pretty much done at 7pm, ready for Hubby to come home and help and so I can pour myself a glass of wine.  Now it seems I am not really done until 9pm, sometimes 10pm.

So you can see why having a third baby at this point is kinda frightening for me!!!  I can't imagine getting up with a baby multiple times per night on top of Fin's refusal to stay in bed.

Anyhow, besides the recent sleeping drama, Finola really, honestly, is a joy to have around.

She has a very big personality.  She doesn't take ANYTHING seriously (opposite of Cormac, my over-thinker/over-analyzer) but rather laughs at everything.  She is not afraid to make demands and push the envelope until she gets her way.   She loves to dance, loves to sing, plays pretty well independently, and is a complete button-pusher.  She knows exactly what to do to torment her big brother, teasing him mercilessly when she knows what makes him mad.  I think she does it out of sheer amusement, not to be mean, but we are working on being kinder.

She doesn't let anyone push her fact, she may be a tad too aggressive.  While other kids might cry if someone takes their toy (ahem, Cormac) Finola will give that other kid the stiff arm, possibly knock them down, stare them straight in the eye and state, "That's mine!" We are working on that, too.

She is a good listener for the most part, seeming to want to do the right thing, even thought every part of her two-year-old brain urges her to just do what she wants and see what she can get away with.   She hates when Dada reprimands her and he can send her into tears with even semi-disappointed look and stern voice.

Even still, she is very much a mama's girl.  Nine times out of ten only mama's snuggles will do.

The potty training is going AWESOME, much to my relief.  We did things a bit differently with her, but she has taken to it well and rarely has accidents, even in public.  Like I said, she wants to do everything herself, just like her big brother, so I think that has helped a lot...having him as a model. SO happy to be diaper free...just wearing pull-ups during sleeping time!

Lots and lots of energy.  I guess I just make really loud + energetic kids.
she is "roaring" here.  she is very much a lioness!
Favorite foods are fruit and ice cream with sprinkles.  Hates chocolate.

She is a pretty good conversationalist.  Speaks very clearly for her age, makes good eye contact, and doesn't beat around the bush.

Well, that is Fin, six months away from being three.  Supposedly that is worse than two, although I don't think I remember that being the case with Cormac.  It is possibly I am choosing subconsciously to forget.

I looked back on the post I did for Cormac at 2.5, and cannot believe I already had baby Finola at that point.  So fun to compare and see how very different they were at this age...and yet some things are the same.

I love having a girl, particularly you, my little Nola.   I hope we are best friends when you are older. I hope you love Jesus with a fierce passion.  I hope you never lose your tenacity and loud, joyous laugh!  I hope you always ask me to scratch your back and say things like, "Mama, I make you happy!" Because you do.  You really do.

Now, get back in bed.  ;)

Thursday, December 10, 2015

the tree - and traditions.

As a kid I distinctly remember trudging through knee-deep snow in the woods, following my dad with his saw, searching for our Christmas tree. 

There was no official "tree farm" but we were allowed to go through and pick out anyone we could find on the land of one of the church elders, free of charge.  We always found one, a big one -- tall, yet buxom with boughs of Balsam needles, the easiest for little hands to put decorations on.

The tree was put in the basement family room of our split-level home, which also housed a huge stone fireplace whose wide hearth was the stage for many a performance by one of the four kids in our family.

Lights on our Christmas tree were always blue, decorations hand-made by us or folks from our church.  Nothing super fancy; yet Christmas always felt magical at our house.  My mom always made sure Christmas was really beautiful for us.  In actuality, we were spoiled.  We always got the "big gift" we dreamed of each year, whether or not we could afford it.  And the smorgasbord of food on Christmas Eve, from which we filled up plate after plate to nibble on while opening gifts, was nothing short of amazing.  Mom was intent on making Christmas a holiday we would dream about all year.  She always made it happen.  Her efforts made the entire month so special.

I think it rubbed off on my sister and I, as we both have confessed to trying to do the same for our young families - create that magic.  Mom set the bar pretty high.  For example, I can't imagine not having a real tree, despite the lovely artificial ones that are out there.  It is tradition.  Others? We always open our gifts on Christmas Eve, after coming home from church and putting on our Christmas pjs.  I have special foods I make for that night.  Christmas Day is about relaxing and eating and maybe not leaving the house at all. Any family is welcome to come and visit us, and eat and be merry with us...but we will be in our pjs, most likely.

And there are a few new traditions...a birthday cake and singing for Jesus, Polar Express movie night, and cookie exchange parties with friends.   New and old, together.  Our Christmas.

This year, as we have every year since we got married, we went to a tree farm out in the country to chop down our tree.   A new place this year, but every bit as fun.
snuggling on a hay bale in the barn.
baby trees!
the wagon trail.
um, the kids were a bit cold.  forgot the mittens.

following dada, wearing his official, bright red, tree-chopping sweater he wears every year.
"wait for me!" 
even the trees look cold.
frozen spider webs.
collecting rocks for her pockets, per usual.
they look peaceful, though probably arguing.
this was the one.  WAY too big but we decided we could cut it down to size if necessary.
Yep, Hubby lugged that behemoth of a tree with his bare hands a quarter mile back to the barn.  By the time he got there he was in his t-shirt and no hat, sweating profusely.  Ah, memories.  :)

Meanwhile, I was with the kiddos getting warm with hot chocolate, homemade cookies and hot dogs.

It was a really nice morning; although, being from Minnesota a bit of snow would have been nice! You know, just in December...January 1st it can all melt... :)

+ + + + + + + + 

This season of Advent, roughly the month of December, is about preparing for the coming of a Savior for mankind.  Christmas Eve we celebrate that miracle birth of long ago.  A baby, yet a King.   However you celebrate, whatever traditions you and your family have,  keep that truth in your hearts!

Friday, November 27, 2015

thanksgiving at home

This year was my second consecutive year hosting Thanksgiving for our Kentucky family.  It went very well, and I just adore the commotion and love that fills up our home to the very brim for those precious few hours.

Growing up I never expected to host Thanksgiving (or probably any holiday for that matter.)  I never helped my mom cook anything (I never volunteered, and she will admit she was happiest being in control of what happened in the kitchen.)  I never dreamt about making the turkey, baking pies, or thinking up table decor.  I pretty much assumed I would always be a spectator and participant in the feast.

I remember my Aunt Phyllis hosting this event many times.  There were a LOT of cousins in our family so we got our own HUGE table, with the older cousins (the range was from toddler to adult) making sure the younger ones stayed in line.  We did a sit-down, family-style dinner, with everything being passed around.  The dishes were fancy, everything lovely.  I remember hoping I would not drop anything or spill on the white tablecloth.  It was all so beautiful!
With only four grandchildren (so far, with one in a high chair) our kiddo table is tiny and not-so-fancy.  I fully expected Finola to take everything off of this before the meal, and she did.
I remember exactly where the appetizer table was, because I was constantly grabbing cheese and crackers from it.  This is still my comfort food at yes, my events will always have a cheese and cracker platter!

My mom would always bring her famous fruit salad...a recipe I keep meaning to have her talk me through it so I can write it down. (She cooks completely from memory, so getting her recipes takes some effort!) This year I tried to make her apple pie...and my husband's great grandmother's sweet potato casserole.  There is something really  idea of learning family recipes and passing them down through the generations!

I now like to sit and wonder about the time and effort my Aunt (and others!) went through to host these big family events.  She had four children, yet she always seemed so calm and collected. All the adults did.  But that was the way with my Dad's side.  They all worked together calmly, helping each other prepare the feast. That quintessential, dutiful Midwestern work ethic.  Things were quite formal...until after dinner and they started playing cards.  Then things got loud and fun! :D

I wonder what my kids will remember of our family events.  Thanksgiving at our home, then Christmas at each of the grandparents (all three sets this year!)   I love that we are in the midst of establishing traditions.  Different than what I grew up with...yet in many ways the same.  A delicate and joyful blending of both my Minnesota upbringing, and my husband's in Kentucky.

I wonder what dish Cormac and Finola will think of as "mine."  What will they someday ask me for the recipe of?  (I assure you, I will have it meticulously detailed on a recipe card.  We all have our ways.)

So, I never did imagine these things growing up - too busy exploring every corner of my relatives/ homes and stealing more cheese from the app table...but as I watch my tiny family grow, and our extended families get larger, I realize we are in the midst of it - creating memories and traditions for our children.

I am grateful to open our home and host.  It might not be perfect, heaven knows there is always some "Turkey Drama," but still, we are all be together, sharing in the imperfection.
layering the sweet potatoes for the casserole.  this is by far my favorite dish!  
ready to bake.
the "adult" table
Thank you, Lord, for family, friends, and all things beautiful in this life You give us.  And thank you for the not-so-beautiful, we can appreciate the rest all the more.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 23, 2015

stitch fix : thanksgiving fix!

My latest Stitch Fix arrived a couple weeks ago, and I've been slow in posting only because it seems like everyone in my house was sick for an entire week after I received it, and it was hard to find a time to take any photos.  Despite all that, I really enjoyed this Fix, and am super excited to wear all of my keeps!
Have you tried Stitch Fix yet?  If not, click HERE to get started.  Still on the fence?  Keep reading!  Don't want to take my word for it?  Check out the Stitch Fix Reviews page for other experiences.  I love reading the reviews, personally...and seeing what everyone else is getting in their Fix!
Without further ado, here is what I received this time around...

#1 Leandro Plaid Print Split Neck Top (by Honey Belle)
#2 Marson Wide Leg Denim Trouser (by Dear John)
So, if you can't tell from my photos, I am not a tall woman.  5'3 without heels.  Also, even at my most thin, my body shape is one that definitely veers towards curvy/muscular.  Which I am totally fine with. However, it makes certain trends harder to pull off.  Like high-waisted denim.  I think of super tall lanky supermodels in the 1970's rocking this trend...not me.  Out of the box I pretty much dismissed these flared trouser pants because I saw the high waist.  Then I put them on, and gave them a chance. I realized the high waist was sorta nice.  First, they are super comfy - and you never have to worry about your booty showing when you bend down (which mamas of toddlers do a lot of!) Second, a pair of high waisted flares can actually elongate your bottom half!  Plus, you also can wear a longer or untucked shirt and you don't even see the high waist!

I wore flares in high school (late 90's) - loved the trend then, and love it now.  So these were a KEEP! You can see I wear them in every photo of this post, because I wanted to pretty much live in them they were so comfy.

The bright teal plaid shirt was just what I was looking for.  It is actually a really soft and light weight material, so it feels dressy, not lumberjack.  The split-neck falls perfectly and is flattering.  My favorite part about it is the vibrant color, though.  In a sea of gray this really stands out in my wardrobe, and some days, especially blah winter days, you just want something bright!  Teal has always been one of my absolute favorite colors to wear, as it brings out the blue-ness of my eyes (which often look more gray and less blue.) I say if you find a color that looks flattering on you and makes you feel confident - roll with it!

#3 Tacoma Double Tassel Necklace (by Nakomol) 
I requested to my stylist a minimalist layered necklace, and while this is not my vision of minimalist (tassels!  sparkly things!) I was willing to give it a chance.  I certainly do not have any other necklace like it.  I had fun trying it on and twirling the tassels.  Finola loved playing with it and hiding it in our new built-in cabinet because it is "special."  Not exactly my style, but fun all the same.
I got this burgundy sweater in this Fix one year ago...and I still love it!
#4 McQue Solid Lace Sleeve Blouse (by 41Hawthorn)
I had requested a top with lace detail, and this pretty gray number is what I was sent.  I like it because it can be dressed up or down.   I have nothing else in my closet with lace, and the delicate sleeve detail is just enough without feeling too"lacey."  I really needed something like this for the holiday season - parties, going out, church events.  It is modest enough for Sunday mornings and the fun enough for Saturday nights.  The slate gray hue is one of my favorite neutral colors to wear, as it is flattering with my skin tone. (Is 'pasty pale' a skin tone?)  All in all I was happy with the top!  Might be a good choice for hosting Thanksgiving?
There are those high-waisted flares again - post-wash so they shrunk up a bit (in a good way!)
#5 Abbot Cowl Neck Elbow Patch Sweater (by Evolution by Cyrus)
I love, love, love this sweater.  My last fix I was sent a similar cream cowl neck that just didn't fall right on my frame, so I didn't keep it.  This one, a cozy, heavier knit, is exactly what I was looking for.  (It helps to give your stylist really specific feedback!)  The black faux leather elbow patch sends it over the edge. It pairs well with my go-to leather pants and pointy toe pumps for a dressy look, or pretty much ANY jeans for more casual.  I especially like with my skinny jeans and ankle boots.
So what did I keep? The jeans and sweater I LOVED so those were keepers for sure.  Since they happened to be the two most expensive items, and I really liked both the teal plaid shirt and gray lace sleeve top, it made the most sense to keep all the items.  Basically, with the 25% buy all five discount I ended up the two least expensive items for FREE.  The necklace I wouldn't have kept in a normal fix, but hey, for free I will make it work. first ever "keep all" fix! 

If are a busy mama who'd rather not hassle with the malls, love getting "surprise" clothes in the mail, or simply want to try a new trend but don't know where to start, you might want to try Stitch Fix!  Simply fill out an online style profile, schedule your Fix whenever you want it, write a note to your stylist as to what items you might want to see in your Fix, and see what she comes up with!  The cost is $20 for the styling fee, which will be applied to the cost of any item you choose to purchase. Anything you don't want just put back in the provided shipping envelope and put back in your mailbox for free/easy return!  You don't even have to leave your house.  Kinda awesome.  Unless you love crazy malls, cramped fitting rooms with weird lighting, and having to drive back to said store to return the item once you realize the item just isn't what you wanted after all.  With Stitch Fix you have three days to decide.  (Mine came early this time so I had an entire week!) Try on all the items with everything else you own.  Go nuts.

I do it for all the above reasons, and because it is just plain fun.   I get nothing from Stitch Fix for blogging about this fabulous service, but if you have been inspired to try it at all from this post, click on this link or any of the above links to use my referral code.  Anytime you refer someone you get a $25 Stitch Fix credit!  Yay!  So if you have a good experience and liked it, tell your friends.  I recently had a sweet friend who tried it with me as her referral, she loved and kept EVERY item in her first fix (what????!!!!) and then her neighbor signed up and she got a referral credit herself.  Love it.

Another tip : Schedule your Fix for a Monday!  Because what better way to brighten a Monday?

And with that...
 Happy Monday!

Friday, November 20, 2015

food love : pumpkin banana muffins

Sorry if you hate this word moist, but recently I made the most moist and delicious pumpkin banana muffins that I simply had to share the recipe!

These are made with apple sauce, no butter, and wheat they are reasonably long as you don't slather butter all over them.  Oh, and they were enthusiastically approved by my two and four-year-olds!  (Believe me, when my picky son loves something, the recipe is worth sharing.)

Oh, and as with any banana bread recipe, they are better the next day!

What you'll need: 
1 1/2 ripe bananas
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup applesauce (I used natural, no sugar added)
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 TB baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla or maple extract (maple gives it an interesting twist)
1 egg

To make : 
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Mash banana in large bowl.  Add pumpkin puree and sugar and mix together thoroughly.  Add the rest of the the ingredients and stir until just combined. Pour or spoon batter into a 12 muffin pan, either greased or lined with cupcake liners. Bake for twenty minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.    
(Recipe adapted from here.)

Makes 12 muffins.  Calories : 94  Fat : .5g Carbs: 21.1 Protein: 1.8g Sugars: 11.1g

Can you believe it is almost Thanksgiving?   I feel like I should already be in Christmas mode.  We are hosting the turkey feast again this year, and I am so excited (and slightly stressed, of course!) 
Best food day of the year!

What is your go-to dish to bring?  
Favorite to eat?
I'll confess, I'll always be a mashed potatoes and gravy kinda girl on Thanksgiving.
Hubby likes cheap-o store-bought pumpkin pie.
So as long as I go out and buy one of those, we are golden.

Have a fabulous weekend!

Monday, November 16, 2015

30 days of...trying to make it to group fitness.

Week two of my November challenge - 30 Days of Group Fitness - hit a major snafu.

You see, I had awesome intentions, I was feeling pumped to dive into another week, and then... happened.

My son got sick Sunday night.  The icky, sad, pathetic kind of sick that makes your heart ache as a mama.  Thankfully it only lasted the night, and Monday morning he was feeling much better, but obviously we were in for the day.  No school, and definitely no trips to the gym.  I managed to do an online video workout during nap time - which was actually an awesome alternative!  (I did this sixty minute Ladder 10 workout on!)

Tuesday I made it to an early morning Body Works + Abs conditioning class, Wednesday I did a mid-morning spin, and Thursday was another awesome Barre class.  (I am addicted to Barre, ya'll!)  I wrote about these classes in last week's post if you want my take on any of them.

Friday, though, whew.  I woke up completely sick.  Nauseous, body aching, exhausted.  Then my two-year-old, usually a boisterous whirlwind of blonde curls, yelled sadly from her bed, "I'm sick!"

So went our day.  Lots of "getting sick," to put it politely.   I don't think I moved from the couch except to do the absolutely necessary "mom duties" and to run to the bathroom.   Hubby was out of town on business and I have no family in town to help last-minute, so it was a rough one.  My son was super patient and seemed to have no problem spending the day watching movies and playing independently while the two sick ladies of the house struggled through.

Saturday we both felt much better, but I wasn't gonna push my luck and go to my scheduled Body Works class.  Sunday Finola was sick (again - this time with congestion and stuffy nose) and since I had planned this as my rest day anyway, I took it.

I think we all have those kind of weeks.  We have the best of intentions.  We tell ourselves we are going to work out every day, or maybe three times that week, and then - boom.  Life.  As a somewhat intense, type-A person this kind of thing bothers me more than it should.   That loss of control.   The changes in plans that happen unexpectedly.  I'm working on it -- being kinder to myself.
I am thinking of buying this etsy print and carrying it with me wherever I go.
Plus, I think God was telling me my body needed a break...because He knows I wouldn't have taken it unless forced!

This week I plan to take it a little easier.  Ideally I plan to try to do: boot camp, body works, spinning, barre, yoga, rowing, and a beginner Crossfit...but I'll be happy to make it to 4-5 of those, prioritizing the new ones.

Thank you to everyone for some awesome suggestions of new classes!!!!!  Keep them coming! Despite the difficulty this week, and re-charged and really enjoying seeing what my body can do, and what my mind actually enjoys doing!

Prayers for everyone's good health this week!

Monday, November 9, 2015

30 Days of Group Fitness : Week One Recap (aka I Can't Zumba)

Ow.  I am feeling sore.

And strong.

Last week I did seven classes in seven days, and feel AMAZING.

Sunday : Hot Yoga
What I expected : Yoga in a hot room.
What I got : Yoga in a hot room, but much, much sweatier than I expected.  I highly recommend bringing a large towel to put over your mat, along with another smaller towel for mopping off the sweat that will pour off your body. (Or maybe I am just especially sweaty?)  I loved the heat - the tropical humidity of it all.  The class was packed which was pretty cool.  Had a very spiritual vibe. And let me give a shout out to my friend Rebecca.  She came with me to four of my seven classes this week!!!!!!!  Group exercise is way more fun if you have a friend there.  Just sayin'.

Plus, then there is someone to take selfies with in the bathroom...
post- hot yoga.  sweaty hot mess.  but feeling SO good.
What you should bring: lots of water, a large towel to put down on your mat, a sweat towel, your own mat
Monday : Boot Camp
What I expected : A slow moving rotation with a partner through different strength exercises (basically like a different boot camp I had gone to at my gym.)
What I got : More like a real boot camp!  Another packed class.  The first thing we had to do was grab a weight and run around the track with it lifted over our head.  That was awkward!  I love to run, so I was one of the faster people, but I kept worrying I was going to drop the weight on my head (or trip.)  After about five laps we headed back to the room and the coach led us through non-stop moves with the free weights and without, including burpees and lots of hopping about.  It was hard, ya'll...but I really liked it and fully expect to attend this class regularly from now on!
What you should bring : water, good shoes for high impact

Tuesday : Zumba
What I expected : Good music and dance moves, which I would do awkwardly.
What I got : Well, truthfully I only stayed five minutes before I realized I would not be able to follow the instructor of this class.  She launched into a series of salsa moves that, well, left me standing there dumbfounded.  I laughed and tried to keep up but I am exceedingly uncoordinated and putting together all those moves made my brain hurt.   I have no natural rhythm.   Everyone else in the class seemed to be able to follow, even my friend Rebecca who had only done Zumba once before.  So I bailed after the first song, afraid of distracting the poor girls behind me with my giggling and lack of ability to keep up with the teacher.  Also, I knew I was not going to get the good cardio workout I needed (because I couldn't follow well enough) and I absolutely needed to break a sweat that day.  (Hard day with the kids!!!!) So I retreated to the treadmill upstairs and ran a hard-core Fartlek.  So the day was not a total loss, and I learned a very important thing about myself : Zumba is not for me.
What you should bring: all the coordination you can muster, no worries about looking dorky.

Wednesday : Spinning
What I expected : Well, this is the class I attend regularly, so I got an awesome ride with a fun instructor.  The class is always full, the teacher is talkative and engaging but not in a distracting way, and she plays awesome music.  Just what I need at 5:45am!  :)  However, every spin class and instructor is different.  You get a different "ride" and different music, so it is worth it (and fun!) to go to multiple per week.  Oh, and if you are a newbie your booty and other areas of your nether region may be really sore for about a week when you first take a class...but if you go on a regular basis this goes away.  Fun times!
What I got : (see above)
What you should bring : a full bottle of water, a sweat towel, and I usually wear a hat or headband.  There is a lot of sweating.

Thursday : Body Works Plus Abs
What I expected : An intense workout using free weights and the riser.  I had done this class once before with a different instructor, so I knew it would be challenging.
What I got : All of the above, but even harder.  I don't know if it was hard because I was already pretty sore from Monday's boot camp, or because the teacher talked non-stop about that evening's football game, which, combined with the music made my head ache....but the class was not super enjoyable.  I don't mind a teacher that talks, and she seemed really sweet, but I totally don't relate to "sports obsession" and she repeated the same comments about that night's professional football game over, and over, and over.  I found it kind of distracting and odd.  Also, there were many of the moves that we did for so long that I had to keep stopping.  Maybe a long week?  Maybe I am weak?  It was rough, ya'll.  If you do this class, expect lots of repetition of moves, working every body part.

Friday : Yoga
What I expected : A calming, non-intense yoga class full of lovely older women.  You see, I go to this class every week, and I am usually the youngest one there.  The women that attend have been doing so for years, and are all very sweet and love their yoga.  They are totally what I want to be in my retirement : fit, and filling their time with healthy things.  Anyway, I like this yoga class because I don't really break a sweat, so I can wear cute "yoga garb" that also is worn to Target afterward.  Plus, it is really nice to be able to find balance right before the weekend.
What I got : All of the above.  And more 'fire breathing.'
What to bring : If you really want to do yoga on the regular, I would get your own mat.  There are also lots of fun "extras" to get, if you have the money to invest.  Also, please don't think you have to be really "zen, hippie, crunchy" to love yoga.  I am none of those things.  I am the opposite of those things.  Therefore, I think I might benefit from regular yoga practice more than most!
Saturday : Barre workout
What I expected : A super hard pilates/yoga mix done at the barre (as in, the ballet barre.)
What I got : Pretty much that, but not quite as intense as I expected.  Any beginner could do this class, as there are lots of variations of each move that the instructor talks you through. It was fun, packed, and a great workout!
What to bring : This place provided all the goodies!  So just bring water.  I didn't get super sweaty, but expect to be sore afterward!
It was a pretty intense week!   But this challenge really has me working different muscle groups and pushing myself...and I am seeing great results!

This week's lineup...who's joining me? (I am doubling up a couple days since Sundays I have too much going on to go to any classes. Declaring that my day of rest!)

Monday : Spinning
Tuesday : Body Works Plus Abs
Wednesday : Spinning + Kickbox Cardio
Thursday : Barre
Friday : Yoga
Saturday : Body Works Plus Abs + Rowing

I am also thinking of a beginner Crossfit class!?  Open to suggestions about others!  
What classes do you love?

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

halloween with the blondies.

This Halloween I learned some very important things about my children...

1) Cormac is obsessed with this holiday and loves all things "creepy."  Meanwhile, Finola is petrified of any spooky things in real life, especially people dressed as monsters and giant spiders.

2) Finola hates chocolate.  She took bites out of every piece of her Halloween candy that was chocolate and promptly spit each bite out, shouting "Don't like it!"

3) Cormac's favorite candy is Reese's cups.  Which is good because it (sort of) prevents me from eating them.

4) Both children are completely enamored with Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas.  I believe they have watched (at least the beginning of) it at least every day for the past month.  When I asked them today what their favorite Christmas song is they both said, "The ones on Nightmare Before Christmas."  Uhhhh....
It was a memorable Halloween season.  Most fun yet!  We did as many Halloween-y things as we could fit in.  And then, I let a few things go, so as not to feel overwhelmed.  Since I'm not a naturally laid-back, go-with-the-flow mama, but more of a high-energy nutcase who tries to "do it all," I have to keep myself in check a lot, especially during the holiday season.
Any other mamas find that it is a delicate balance between doing as much as you can for your kids, and yet not doing too much so that you go insane?  
Things I let go of this year...
Going to additional trick-or-treating/trunk or treat events.  Roasting the pumpkin seeds from our pumpkins.  (I almost convinced myself to try make a pumpkin pie from their innards!  Then I checked myself, and said, "Nope!")    Doing Cormac's makeup.  (Hubby did it while I wrung my hands in the background.)  Trying to find creative costumes at thrift stores or make them myself. (Kroger for the win!)

How do you plan to keep yourself balanced and mentally happy during the upcoming holiday season?

Monday, November 2, 2015

why I tried advocare : 24 day challenge recap

*The following post is in not sponsored by Advocare.  While I would love free Spark, I do not get compensated for posting about the program.  This is completely my own opinion and experience.

Clean eating is a term you pretty much can't go a day without hearing these days.  You are either one of those people who rolls their eyes at "clean eaters" and says, "I WILL enjoy this Oreo, dang you!"  or you think, "Hmmmm...that sounds really awesome...and impossible."

I have done a little of both.  Don't be fooled : people tend to "poo poo" things that they don't believe they can do...and secretly they wish they could.  (Nay-sayers should be your biggest motivators!!!!)

I wanted to be a clean eater, but I had spent my entire life eating a different way : basically whatever I wanted, in moderation, with occasional sugar or carb or cheese or alcohol binges, that made me feel like CRAP both mentally and physically.  I justified it by telling myself that I exercise enough to do that every once in a while.  No big deal.  Same with grabbing 3 (or 10) Oreos when I buy them on occasion.  Or feeling PMS-y and making a giant vat of spaghetti, burying myself into the couch and watching rom-coms.

But all these little innocent food habits that were "no big deal" had gotten me into a little rut.

Sure, I am a very active person who works out nearly every day.  BUT - things are different now than in my twenties.  I have had two babies, and am 34-years-old with a gradually slowing metabolism.  I can tell, especially after having Finola right before I turned 32 that things are not what they used to be.  The number on the scale, sure.  But the rest, too  It will never be the same.  But - it can still be good.  My body can be better, and stronger, in different ways.

Last year I started doing food challenges on a regular basis.  One month dairy-free, another gluten free, another sugar free, etc.  I chronicled some on this very blog.

I ran a marathon.

I tried green smoothie cleanses.  (Which usually left me hungry by 2pm and guiltily binging on something that definitely was not a smoothie.)

I began to feel like nothing was producing any real change.

So while not overweight, I wasn't feeling healthy.  In fact, I felt a little bummed and out of control.  Why did I still have a bit of a baby belly?  Why was I working out so hard and my body seemed stuck, despite all my eating + physical challenges?

I had hit the dreaded plateau, as they say.

Then I started logging my eating and counting calories.  Wow!  Very enlightening.  I immediately saw that while I could eat reasonably healthy all day (thus making me think I was a healthy eater) at night when my husband came home and the kiddos were in bed I (we) would eat a bunch of crap. Microwave popcorn.  Alcohol.  Chips.  Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.  Ice cream.  Ice cream.  Ice cream.

It wasn't good.  For either of us.  Especially my Hubby, who works long hours at a desk job, and does not normally get many chances to work out.

But it was a habit we had always had, even before kids.   It was comfortable.  We both looked forward to it.

How could we enjoy watching our shows without also eating a bunch of junk food????

It sounds silly, but I'm serious as a heart attack.  (Kinda like the one that Hubby, due to genetics and our crappy eating habits, is at risk for.  Yikes.)

Our inner eating mantras were completely out-of-whack.

I think this is something that happens in many areas of life -- not just our eating habits.  We get used to something and settle for something not healthy.  We think we need it.  We think life won't be as good without it.  Somehow we will be missing something if we get rid of it.  Friendships.  Dating relationships.  Possessions.

But, chances are, if you have a sneaking suspicion that it is making you unhappy, you WILL be happier without it.

So, I knew in my head the late-night binge sessions were counterproductive to my health goals.  I knew I needed to change.  Develop new habits.  Go to bed earlier.  Stop eating after 7pm, even if it meant eating a bigger dinner.

Stop settling for less than I deserved - meaning, a healthy, happy life!

So I was hoping for something to inspire such a change.  Obviously my nagging and complaining to Hubby about it wasn't working.  We kept on with the nightly routine.

THEN - something came up that I had rolled my eyes at in the past.   A couple joined our church community group who had both lost considerable weight/inches through using Advocare.  They had done the 24-Day Challenge.  Then our group leaders did the Challenge and also had amazing results.

For those unfamiliar with the Advocare challenge, you basically purchase their supplements and follow a clean eating diet while using the plan provided.  The first ten days are the "cleanse phase" in which you take probiotic, fiber and herbal cleanse supplements along with omega-3's.  Days eleven through twenty four is the "max phase" in which you take a whole different set of supplements, and continue your clean eating.   The products do help you curb your appetite and give you energy - both kind of awesome and really helpful in getting you to make better eating choices and stay active/focused.

So Hubby and I went to the informational meeting and decided to try it.  I kept saying, "Yeah, we are going to do this together, but I'm just trying to be supportive for Paul, since he wants to lose weight."  Which was true, BUT also I was hopeful for a way to kick my bad eating habits.  And yes, lose those last few pounds of stubborn baby weight.  I felt I had to say those things.  I down-played my own desire to be healthy because I was afraid of being judged, considering I was not overweight.

(Just because someone is a healthy weight does not mean they are being as healthy as they can be!)

Five days into the 24 Day Challenge I could not even believe how much better I felt.   I no longer felt the bloated feeling I always had before.  I quickly dropped the few pounds I wanted to lose.  Best of all, I felt empowered by the healthy choices I was making.

And I still got to eat!  I love food, so that was kinda key.  I had to get creative finding ways to enjoy veggies (not my favorite food group) and completely cutting out cheese and most breads was definitely a challenge.  I allowed myself 2 servings of whole wheat grains per day, and even had a burger night (lean organic beef topped with guacamole and wrapped in a romaine leaf...but still - a burger!)

It was not just a challenge - it was training for the kind of life I wanted to lead.

I no longer took "innocent" bites of my kiddos mac n cheese, or grabbed a cookie here and there.  I felt strong reaching for the raw veggies and hummus, as opposed to my normal snack of wheat thins and cheese slices.

I carried my water around like a trophy - finally able to drink the recommended amount.

And now, post-Challenge, I am happy to report both Hubby and I are still eating clean.  And excited to continue to do so!

Our results?

I lost five pounds during the first ten days (the cleanse phase) and have consistently kept it off.  I have no before/after pics of myself, but more than the number on the scale, I feel just better/lighter/healthier overall, and more in control of my eating habits.  Without feeling hangry...which is pretty big for me.

Hubby lost fifteen pounds!  Woo hoo!  I was amazed by how strong his will-power was during his challenge, and by the good choices he continues to make.  He lost the pounds and inches (we didn't actually measure ourselves, but his photos below show his progress!) without increasing his physical activity at all.  Just cutting out processed foods, kicking his Coke Zero habit (4-6 a day!) and making healthy swaps he made huge progress in only 24 days.

Here are Hubby's before/after shots (which he was totally cool with me posting, btw!) :

SO proud of him!  Hubby is continuing to use Advocare products to strive for his ultimate weight loss goal.  And I am sure I will do another challenge after the 90-day waiting period.

My only advice is this : If you aren't happy with your body/health - do something different!  And if that doesn't work, try something else - whether it is a cleanse, training for a race, or simply committing to going to the gym a couple times a week. And, even if you hate exercise - eat clean.  No matter what your weight...try to cut the processed food out of your diet. At least make baby steps.  Cut out soda.  Swap white rice for brown.  Learn to drink your coffee black.  I speak from experience, you can train your taste buds to enjoy it this way. And once you stop eating the crap, the funny thing is that it doesn't even taste great when you do eat it.  All of a sudden you crave the good stuff instead.  Also, for me personally, my skin is better (no breakouts, even when PMSing!)

I wish I would have changed my eating habits YEARS ago.

Know yourself - and be realistic.  If you cannot have sweets in your house without over-eating them, don't have them in your house.  For me, I just can't buy cheese anymore, unless it is a bit of feta or goat cheese to put on salads.  Cheese is just something I had to pretty much eliminate or else, truly, it is a slippery slope for me.

Besides continuing to develop clean eating habits, in the month of November I am challenging myself in another way: 30 Days of Group Exercise! I have decided to branch out and try as many different classes this month as I can.  Typically I only do a weekly spin and yoga class, but there are some classes I have either avoided due to to thinking I will hate them, or desired to do for years but just never pulled the trigger.
I can and I will.
This week's schedule : Hot Yoga, Zumba, Spinning, Barre3, Yoga, Boot Camp Conditioning, and Body Works Plus Abs

Pretty excited!

Does anyone have any classes they LOVE and think I should try?  Let me know!

Happy Monday, everyone!