One Simple Change: Daily Pregnancy Stretching

Last Month’s Review: September

GoalWrite letters/Send mail to friends

Fail/Success? Epic Fail!! If you haven’t been able to tell from my blog/vlog upkeep, I’ve been busy. I honestly have had this post in my head for at least 3 weeks, but finding time to write has been tough. My ‘job’ workload has had me busy in the night hours and I am trying to get as much done prior to baby’s arrival next month as possible. During the day I have been going a lot with the kiddos. (And when I am home, there is the regular housework to be done!)

What I got out of it: I can at least say I have sent a lot of snail mail in the past month, just none that were simply for the sake of writing a letter. (I did start one letter!) However, I did send a multitude of thank you notes (for baby gifts and birthday presents), birthday cards and anniversary cards, as well as birthday party invitations for Lou. With many of these I included a personal note of at least a paragraph. Better than nothing right? 

Moving Forward: I have three friends I really wanted to send mail to that I have yet to get anything done with. I have not given up simply because September is over, though. October is full of festive reasons to send cards (birthdays, anniversaries, Halloween), so the mail doesn’t stop. I love that Dorothy helps me so much with cards. We’ve already sent five birthday cards and two anniversary cards in October. My mom was big on cards and I know she got it from her mom, my Grandma Rousculp. It’s a dying trend yet it is such a breath of fresh air to receive real mail. I’d love to pass that on to my kids. 

New Challenge (October)

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Celebrating our 5 year anniversary. Only 1 month until Baby Harris #3 is due! (November 10!)

Goal: Daily stretching and baby prep

Motivation behind the challenge: Everyone who has been through pregnancy knows the final months/weeks are tiresome for many reasons, but mostly because your body is so not itself, it is impossible to stay comfortable. I forget what I was experiencing recently that made Hubs ask if I’d been doing much stretching. I admit, even as a runner for so many years, stretching was never a practice I was great about. I did it before every practice or race, but mainly because I was told to and was doing so with other people. I always felt yoga during pregnancy was a great intention, but one I have never really followed through with pursuing. 

Being that my body is not nearly in the shape it was the first time I delivered a baby, I feel the least I can do is have my muscles more relaxed and prepared for what is to come next month. Stretching will obviously also help my daily comfort level. My goal is to stretch daily, which comes at night after the kids are in bed but before I start my work. Halfway into the month and I have forgotten four days.

Although not part of my ‘challenge’, I also would like to revisit the ‘hypnobirthing’ app I used with Jacob. I heard about this from my sister when it was becoming evident that Jacob was going to go past his due date and I really wanted labor to begin. Some mothers start this early in pregnancy and practice throughout the nine months, making delivery (especially natural) much more relaxed. Even the minor practicing of it I did for a couple of days did help me focus my thoughts and energy through delivery the last time. The pre-exercises gave me visions and ideas to focus on once labor began and I’d like to have that again.

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One Simple Change: Snail Mail and Personal Outreach

Last Month’s Review: August

Goal: Start Dorothy in a “pre-school” routine of sorts

Fail/Success? Success! Although it took halfway through the month for me really figure out what I was doing. Initially my thought was I just needed to start focusing on learning and teaching particular things and research some of the activities and ideas out there. Homeschooling is becoming so common and collaborative thanks much to do with the social networking we can do through the web. There are so many materials and such out there online. Honestly, Google and Pinterest searches were overwhelming! Eventually I realized I had to have a laid out plan. A schedule of some sort, but most examples I found were too structured for me. I get that it works and is best for many people, but on any given day our schedule is different—we have places to go or I have things to do for my work during the day. But by the last couple weeks of the month, I’d found a way that works perfectly for us: The School Fairy Box. 

Together, Dorothy and I decorated a special box. Each day, only after we have eaten breakfast, gotten dressed, and brushed our teeth, we open it up to see what the “school fairy” has left inside. Typically it is an activity involving nothing more than paper, crayons and maybe glue or sometimes stickers. Every so often it is a new book, flash cards or something more unique like Playdoh. I keep each week focused on one to two concepts and have outlined ideas for the next six weeks, not going further only because I wanted to see how this routine would work before planning too far out. 

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What I got out of it: By taking the time (which honestly was only about a day or two of hit and miss time) to determine how to approach incorporating focused learning into our day, I have created something that helps both myself and the kids accomplish what I wanted. Having the box makes Dorothy not only excited to do whatever is inside, but it also helps motivate her to go through the standard morning procedure. Additionally, the box forces me to not just plan in advance, but to have something fully ready the night before. I know I cannot afford to wait until morning to put my activity together and not have Dorothy watching or asking or wondering why I have the box out. The themes for each week are a huge help in driving a concept home. 

Moving Forward: I am excited to keep going forward with this and coming up with new things to excite my children’s learning. I am a lover of lists and planning so coming up with a weekly and monthly schedule is enjoyable to me. Doing this also makes finding ideas online less overwhelming because I can search for specific activities. September will be fun. In addition to more letters, we’ll also talk about the season of fall and have an apple week (because of the local Apple Festival, of course!)

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New Challenge: September

Goal: Write letters/Send mail to friends

Motivation behind the challenge: I did this for Lent a couple of years ago and loved doing it and recently I received a nice letter in the mail from a close friend whom I am not in touch with much anymore. Were it not for social media, I’m not sure we would know much of anything about each other’s lives! Even though social media gives us an easy sneak peek into certain people’s lives, personal contact is so meaningful. Of course, I also love writing and sending mail in general, so, in theory, this will be an easy challenge for me. I do know how the days get away from me, though, and even my evenings when the kiddos are sleeping are consumed by work. I’ve already sent an anniversary card this month, but I am not counting any cards I’d send typically (unless I include an extra note.) I’m hoping to send at least one a week. 

One Simple Change: Creating my own ‘Back To School’ routine

Last Month’s Review: July

GoalStart prepping Dorothy and Jacob for arrival of Baby #3

Fail/Success? Success! I am actually shocked at how well things went, honestly. I had three goals last month and I’d say we’ve accomplished two and maybe a half? Is that possible?

  • Doing away with pacifiers:
    My real goal was getting rid of Dorothy’s pacifier since she is going on age three. My first attempt came on July 2, after we had a group of people at the house for fireworks and such. Because she was going to bed so late, I figured it was as good a time as any. She was so tired that even if she cried for it, she would likely fall asleep quickly. She did ask for her “paci” before I turned out the light, but I simply told her we weren’t going to use it tonight. Much to my surprise, she did not fight me! Maybe it was the whole exhaustion thing, but she just accepted what I’d said and rolled over.
    That was pretty much the end of the pacifier for her. The next night was similar and after that she stopped asking. She does not even try to use them when she finds them in the house. I have given her one a handful of times for napping simply because she hates naps. It is the only thing that she will really get worked up about–and I only force them when I know they are a necessity (which oftentimes also means more resistance). The pacifier has hushed her and helped her relax long enough to fall asleep. I did not attempt to wean Jacob, but he primarily uses them for sleep at this point. 
  • Overnight pull-ups: We actually did not work on the overnight peeing any. Interestingly enough, though, there was improvement and in some ways I think it might be linked to the pacifier. The first few nights of no paci, she woke up completely dry! She did not maintain, but as opposed to maybe having a dry pull-up once every other week or so; Now she is dry several times a week. My theory is the pacifier is such a soother to her, that when she would start to wake-up with the urge to use the bathroom, she would keep herself in sleep mode with the pacifier. Now, on her dry mornings, she’s either gone on her room potty on her own first thing, or she wants to go right away. On the wet mornings, she still tends to take the pull-up off immediately. 
  • Two Kids/One Room:
    We’ve done it! The kiddos are officially roommates! And I love it (for the most part). It was halfway through the month when we moved Jacob into Dorothy’s room.Oddly enough, their first night sharing a room turned out to be the first time ever we’ve had a kid get sick. The two were completely unrelated. Dot had a little bug that lasted a few days, and actually meant diarrhea, so there was only one night of throw-up. Jake ended up with the same thing the next week and he had a rougher time at night. The awesome part of it was the fact the issues did not cause problems for the other sleeping child in the room. Apparently they are very heavy sleepers!
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    Most everything I feared about sharing a room has not been an issue. Dorothy ignores Jacob singing himself to sleep. Jake ignores it if Dorothy gets out of bed after we’ve left the room. Actually, she has taken it upon herself to let herself through the “secret door” into the other bedroom to sit on that bed and read books, as to not keep Jake away! (I have to bring her back to her room, though.) She’s done this in the mornings, too, when she wakes up before Jacob. She seems to have the understanding that he is sleeping and she needs to behave accordingly.
    I love hearing them together in their room. We’ve never had a video monitor, and I’ve never cared, but now I’d love one just to see some of their interactions. My favorite is to hear Dorothy in the morning when she realizes Jacob is also awake, say, “Hey there little buddy! How are you??” I also walked in one morning to find her at the foot of her bed (butted up again Jake’s crib) reading a book as he peeked over the edge to see the pictures. I love the best friends they are becoming and cannot put into words what it’s like to witness.

What I got out of it: I guess the ease of these changes goes to show that sometimes, as parents, we worry more about the complexity of things than we need to. Sometimes, we need to just “do it” and move forward and kids will actually roll with things, especially at such young ages.

Moving Forward: We vacationed with the kids sharing as room well. I’ll try to get Jacob’s pacifier weaned more before the baby arrives. (At least to sleeping only so I don’t have to deal with him stealing baby’s pacifier.) I probably won’t push Dorothy’s potty issue except to keep talking to her about the idea of keeping her pull-up dry. Instead, soon I’ll try moving on to potty training Jacob.

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New Challenge: August

Goal: Start Dorothy in a “pre-school” routine of sorts

Motivation behind the challenge: Many parents are in full scale back-to-school mode, including  many with kids Dot’s age who are sending them to a pre-school program. I won’t be doing this with Lou and do not intend to send her to school before kindergarten. It’s part of the reason I am giving up working outside the home. However, I don’t expect that having her kindergarten ready comes without effort. So far, she’s pretty “on track”, but I like the idea of structuring her learning and activities into our daily routine more. This will help keep me focused on teaching particular skills and it will help me then do it with the next two kids. I am predicting it could be very easy to let some learning slip with the younger kids as life gets crazier. 

Right now Dorothy can:

  • Identify half of the letters of the alphabet
  • Distinguish letters from numbers
  • Identify the basic shapes
  • Identify all colors
  • Recognizes her written name

She has recently started to love puzzles and matching games. I’d like to continue working on those skills with her this month, but I’d like to move ahead on the rest of the alphabet as well. Another skill is pen control. I think it’s a little early, but I’ve found her trying to draw faces. She does a really good job doing a circle and then eyes and a mouth. (It’s not always the happiest face, mind you, but she gets the idea.) I recently purchased a mini dry-erase board that we have had a good time with. I’m not worried about numbers just yet (letters first), but I do want to have her understand the concept of counting better. She can recite the numbers but she currently does not connect it with the idea of counting items.

I previously shared these ABC activities and we are working our way through. If you are a parent who works at home with your children on specific pre-school learning activities, let me know some of your favorites. I know the struggle on this challenge is completely on me dedicating time. Dorothy will be more than happy to have Mama doing such activities with her!

One Simple Change: Preparing for Baby #3

Last Month’s Review: June

Goal: Get creative and cook fresh from the garden

Fail/Success? Success! We have been eating straight from the garden constantly and I love it. I’ve tried several new things with the fresh produce and nearly all of them were simple things I plan to (or already have) repeated. I actually did not experiment any with our beets, broccoli or green beans. The beets and broccoli are just SO good steamed with butter (and easy for the kids) that I had no desire to do other things. The beans, so far, we’ve focused on canning for storage.

Here are some new things I did try and loved:

  • Overnight Oats – This was easy and simple. I actually bought my fruit, but we’ll have our own berries soon that I can repeat with. I’ve done it twice and just need more yogurt to repeat! (Check #5 on this 10 Things Tuesday List for recipe I followed.)
  • Dipping Oil – I used our fresh basil along with a plethora of other herbs and spices to make a dipping oil that turned out fabulous! It’s a great thing to set out with bread if you have guests over. (I used #2 on this list. I left off the Parmesan for Mingus’s sake.)
  • Zucchini Chips – I followed this recipe a couple of times (minus the tomato) and made half with Parmesan and half without. More recently I kept it super simple and just cubed the zucchini, sprayed them with oil and sprinkle Italian seasoning, garlic salt, and pepper.
  • Zucchini Pizzas – Major win! I’ve done it twice and once even made some with no cheese for Jon.
  • BBQ Kabobs – I’ve never made any kind of skewers or kabobs and this was fun to put together–Dorothy enjoyed it too. I loosely followed this recipe, but primarily used lots of veggies (peppers, onion, zucchini, cherry tomatoes), pineapple and chicken and brushed with Maul’s barbecue sauce.
  • Chicken & Pineapple Marinade – I had leftovers of nearly all my skewer ingredients, so I decided to marinade them the next night and simply wrap them in foil to bake. I found this kabob recipe and used it’s marinade (pineapple juice, soy sauce, honey, Sriracha, garlic) for my leftovers and served it over brown rice.
  • Salmon Patties – I’ve never experimented making these with an egg substitute and haven’t thought to do it since discovering duck eggs. I looked up a recipe and we will definitely be making these a staple in our house now.
  • Strawberry-Rhubarb Cookies – We had just enough rhubarb to do something but not a pie, so I’ve had this recipe marked in one of my allergy-friendly cook books for awhile. While they were very tasty, I think I’d prefer to use my rhubarb for something else and stick to simple oatmeal cookies.

What I got out of it: Eating straight from the garden is one of my favorite things about summer. It makes dinner prep so easy every night, because there is always plenty of food in the house. Trying these new recipes has not only made my family happy, but it’s helped me realize how easy it is to find simple recipes, given me the confidence to adjust things to our liking or needs, and it makes me enjoy the cooking process more. 

Moving Forward: We have plenty of zucchini and squash to keep experimenting with as summer continues. I’m also looking forward to tomatoes and peppers coming on later. The cucumbers are just beginning to really produce as well. (I see pasta salads in our future!) Blackberries will be ready for picking soon, which will bring for some breakfast and dessert fun. (We had blueberries, but our bushes are young and the kids had them all eaten before we were even back to the house!)

New Challenge: July

Goal: Start prepping Dorothy and Jacob for arrival of Baby #3

Motivation behind the challenge: There are several things I know I need to do with my two kids that, if I’m being honest, I’ve just been too lazy to tackle. Considering the kids are not even 18 months and 2 1/2 going on 3, none of them would be that big of a deal, but since I have already experienced what it’s like to deal with a newborn and a toddler, I can anticipate what a newborn and two toddlers will be like. A good example of me learning this the hard way Dot’s potty training. To most, I started potty training Dorothy early at 20 months. She definitely would have been young to do it before Jacob was born (only 15 months). It turned out I started the process and not long after Jacob was teething–meaning he got fussier and needed more holding and nursing, which made for staying on Dot harder. I am not sure I would have done it differently, but that experience tells me I need to work through the changes I can with these two now, before baby arrives in November.

On my to-do list for this month are:

  • Doing away with pacifiers: I’ve relied on Dot’s forever because it’s just been easy. She doesn’t use it much anymore. But definitely expects it for sleeping. I need to have her off of it well before the baby arrives, because at that point, there is a good chance I’ll have them scattered throughout the house again and I don’t want her picking them up. Jacob uses them too, but I honestly think he’ll be easier to wean.
  • Overnight pull-ups: Dorothy is fully potty trained but still wears a pull-up at night. I originally thought she’d slowly start to not pee at night, but I think she sleeps so heavily she doesn’t even know she uses the bathroom while asleep. There are nights she is dry or sometimes she’ll wakes up in the morning and go on the potty in her room. Other mornings she wakes up to a full pull-up and takes it off herself–which tells me she knows it shouldn’t be full of pee and doesn’t like it. Many days she doesn’t nap anymore, another reason I believe she sleeps heavily at night. I have to figure out how to teach her to recognize and wake up when her bladder is full.
  • Two Kids/One Room: While we do have two bedrooms plus a nursery for the kids, I am going to have Jacob and Dorothy share a room. This will leave our guest room open longer and I think the hardest part will simply be on us during the early weeks of transitioning the two. I like the idea of them being used to sharing the space so that when we travel, it’s not a big deal if they sleep near each other. (We had our first experience of letting them share a room last week. While getting to sleep took awhile, they both slept through each other’s wake ups in the middle of the night. They were awake early, though.) Jacob still being in a crib should help since at least one kid will be confined.

There are some other things I plan to accomplish before baby’s arrival, but these three are on my radar for July. I’ll start with the pacifiers, as I suspect some fussing about it at bedtime, so I might as well face that while they are in separate rooms. I should probably work on night time bathroom breaks next, but I’d also like to get them used to sharing a room because that may be our setup during our August vacation.

Wish me luck or leave me your advice. I honestly think these tasks are harder on the parent than the kid. They are creatures of habit in all areas of life right now, so any change is hard, but usually a day or two of something new and they forget the old method. I just have to be disciplined!

One Simple Change: Fresh Ingredient Recipes

Last Month’s Review: May

Goal: READ A BOOK

Fail/Success? Fail… At least in terms of finishing a book. It seems pathetic that I couldn’t finish one measly book in a 31-day month. After not being able to find You Before Me at any libraries (The movie was released today, so I wasn’t too surprised all copies were checked out the month leading up to today.), I decided to take on one of the books I’ve had on my shelf for years: Apron Anxiety by Alyssa Shelasky. I didn’t realize it was a memoir when beginning and, for whatever reason, I was a little disappointed it wasn’t straight fiction and almost traded it out for something else after the first five pages. I am so glad I didn’t though…

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What I got out of it: I am actually SO glad I chose this book. It’s the personal journey of the author and how she came to love cooking and food as a part of her own journey in overcoming the struggles of her personal life. I could so easily relate to the author as someone who was appreciates good and healthy (and tasty not-so-healthy) food, but having some hesitations and lack of comfort in the kitchen. I don’t care to cook, but I’ve never allowed myself the time to explore and make mistakes and try new things much. (Given, Mingus’s food allergies limit me even more on experimentation.) Many of her aversions to the kitchen are my own and the things she disliked about cooking, are my own, but her journey–which includes fails–was so real, inspiring me to cook more.

Each chapter features a few recipes at the end. I was so motivated I made a meal out of a few of them halfway through the month and, I kid you not, I think it’s the best thing I have ever made in my life! I called and told Hubs before he got home, and then realized maybe it was my pregnancy brain talking… Turns out, no! He loved it too. I think the major difference was the use of fresh seasoning ingredients, as well as actually prepping foods properly and not rushing.

Moving Forward: will finish this book. I am 70% done and thoroughly like the book and it’s easy reading. And then I have several more books on my shelf that have been around awhile I would like to move on to. I still have lots of summer left where I hope pool and creek days will bring ideal reading time. )Not to mention a long road trip for August vacay!) 

New Challenge: June

Goal: Get creative and cook fresh from the garden

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Motivation behind the challenge: Last month’s book is a BIG reasons behind this challenge. I so thoroughly enjoyed trying something new and having it work out so splendidly! Additionally, as our family grows, so does our grocery bill! With the plentiful garden months upon us, it’s a great time to not only enjoy its fresh produce, but also cut back on my grocery spending and opt for making things with what our garden produces. I want to try using less meat in our meals as well. We obviously eat from our garden every year, but I want to attempt some new things with what it gives us. Squash will be ready soon and I know there are plenty of things that can be done. We’ve also been adding more herbs to our big garden as well as the front porch beds. The fresh herbs I used last month made all the difference.

If you have garden fresh recipes you love, please share! I’m anxious for this challenge to share some of my recipes with you.

Recipes from Apron Anxiety by Alyssa Shelasky

HERB-CRUSTED CHICKEN
(For Hungry and Important People) 
Serves 6

Ingredients:
6 Boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
6 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 Cup plain dry bread crumbs
6 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
3 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 1/2 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 1/2 Tsp salt
1/2 Tsp pepper
2 Lemons, cut into wedges for garnish

1. Using a meat mallet, pound the chicken breasts between sheets of plastic wrap to 1/2- to 3/4-inch thickness.
2. Arrange the chicken in a 15″ × 10″ × 2″ glass baking dish. Pour the lemon juice over the chicken, cover, and refrigerate for one hour.
3. Remove the chicken from the dish and pat it dry with paper towels. Preheat the oven to 450°F.
4. Melt the butter with the oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Set aside to let cool slightly. Then mix the bread crumbs, basil, parsley, rosemary, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl.
5. Brush the chicken breasts on both sides with the melted-butter-and-oil mixture. Then coat the breasts on both sides with the bread-crumb mixture. Place the chicken on a baking sheet and bake until the bread crumbs are golden and chicken is cooked through, about 20 minutes.
6. Transfer to plates or serve family-style on a single platter. Garnish with the lemon wedges and serve.

I also tried “Jennifer’s Warm Potatoes with Mustard” and “Ma’s Salad Dressing“. Additionally, I just discovered the chicken salad recipe is sans-mayo! I had not paid attention, assuming it would not be Mingus-friendly (as most chicken salads are not), so I am eager to try “Unbridled Chicken Salad”.

UNBRIDLED CHICKEN SALAD
Serves 4 as main, 6 as side

1/4 cup thinly slicked red onion
Salt
4 cups cubed roasted chicekn (homemade or store-bought)
3 Tbsp roasted red peppers, thinly sliced
1 cup marinated artichoke hearts, drained thoroughly
1/4 cup roughly chipped smoked almonds
1 Tbsp whole-grain mustard, plus more to taste
1Tbsp sherry vinegar
2 Tsp chopped fresh thyme
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Juice of 1 lemon (2-3 Tbsp), or to taste

1. In a medium bowl, sprinkle the onion with salt and toss to coat. Let sit for 15 minutes, then gently pat it down with a paper towel to drain any liquid. In large bowl toss together the onion, chicken, peppers, artichoke hearts, and almonds.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the mustard and vinegar, and add the thyme. Gradually whisk in the oil. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Pour the dressing over the chicken mixture and fold to incorporate. Add lemon juice to taste, starting with half the juice and adding more if desired. Let sit for 15 minutes.
4. Taste and adjust the seasonings with salt, pepper, and more lemon juice if needed. Serve.

Be sure to check out HJ’s One Simple Change update on the vlog. Last month she made special efforts to do sweet things for her husband and this month she will do random acts of kindness for strangers. 

One Simple Change: Summer Reading

Last Month’s Review: April

Goal:Fix smoothies/shakes at least 4x a week

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Fail/Success? Success! I did not track my smoothies intake as well as I set out to do in order to make sure I was getting my count every week, but in the end, I know the regularity was there. I started out really well (because once the kids started having smoothies regularly, they expected it and requested them almost daily!) The only thing that threw me off, ironically, was Mingus starting to make smoothies. He would make his for breakfast in the morning and the way we tend to do it is by using the largest cup with the Nutri-Bullet. There is always plenty to share; however, I’d tell him to use his excess to fill the kiddo’s cups before mine, sometimes resulting in me not having much smoothie. So I will admit sometimes my smoothie was rather small.

What I got out of it: What is there NOT to get out of this? Good nutrition. Great way to add fruits and whole foods to the kids’ daily diets. Much better snack than most options. It’s also a great thing to feed myself and the kids on the mornings when we hadve to get moving quickly to get out the door. It was quick to make and clean up. It doesn’t cause messes all over them, but it is a solid meal and no matter what else is eaten for that particular meal of the day, I know something good was involved. 

Moving Forward: This is something I know I want to continue. If anything, I want to continue to improve. I’d even like to branch out on what types of recipes I concoct. I’m kind of in my groove of using frozen fruits, but I see recipes for fun things like mint chocolate, pumpkin spice, mocha java, peanut butter cup… on and on. It’s mainly a matter of having the right ingredients on hand, so I’ll aim to look up a few recipes and add things to my shopping list. Perhaps by changing it up and finding some new favorites I’ll stay motivated to make regular smoothies.

New Challenge: May

Goal: READ A BOOK!

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Motivation behind the challenge: To some people this may sound pretty lame–like all my book worm friends that I know I have! But those same friends also know that I’ve never been the avid reader I’d like to be. The last time I can remember reading a book was the one, still near my bed halfway finished, that I was working on through my pregnancy with Dorothy. She was born… and there the book sits. In my defense, it was a VERY long book. (Book 3 of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series.)  I know I could find time to read, but because it’s never been a part of my routine with kids, it still isn’t. When I am not running circles with toddlers, I have other projects and things my hands are busy with… I blog, I have my part-time job with MoneyPath and my Juice Plus work. There is garden work, daily meal prep, cleaning, and other projects I enjoy and take up–and of course enjoying Netflix if possible. 

With summer upon us, I’m hopeful to incorporate reading into some of the time I spend outside with the kids. I had a sneak peek of creek play a few weeks ago and realized that, it was the perfect place to get in real reading. A book at the creek is much safer than an electronic device–so bringing my computer for work doesn’t make sense. Plus, I’m hopeful for pool visits this summer and while I know it will be a little more hands on (except at places with ‘baby’ areas), I like the idea of reading pool side–not to mention we are going on a beach vacation in August with Jon’s family. I feel like if I get back into the habit of reading, I’ll get myself hooked. You know how it is when a book sucks you in… you can’t stop! Then it’s over and you feel a little empty inside, not knowing what to do with yourself, so the only solution seems to be to find another book! That’s what I want!

So, reading a single book may sound lame, but it would be a huge accomplishment for me.

What to read? I have a few ideas, but because the movie You Before Me, based on the book by Jojo Moyes, comes out in June, I’d like to read it. I tried to find it at our Casey County Library, but it’s checked out (not surprising with the movie release around the corner), so I need to check the other library I frequent. I know I could buy it, but I love that libraries are this free resource we have access to and love to take advantage of the gem that they are.

However, since I haven’t gotten my hands on the book yet, I have some other options. I recently stumbled upon a forgotten box from our move to the new house that was full of books and there was a whole stack of them that I have never read that belong to me. (Sort of… Friends may recognize a few titles in the stack pictured above as ones the lent and never saw again!) It made me realize that if friends gave me these books, they must be worth the read, so I should probably start with my own library!

Wish me luck and if all goes well, next month at this time I’ll be asking you to provide me with a summer reading list!

See how Holly Jo’s letter writing went in April and her plans for May on the vlog!

One Simple Change: Shake It Off

Last Month’s Review: March

Goal:Pack a lunch for the hubs at 3 out of his 5 work days

Fail/Success? Call it even? Mingus did take lunch at least 3 days a week throughout the month; however, I didn’t do it to the extreme I’d hoped. In my defense, Mingus doesn’t like ‘fancy’ or different lunches. If I’d mixed it up too much he probably would not have been excited. I know… That’s weird. He prefers the staples. So we did a lot of peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, canned soup and leftovers. I usually added in crackers, chips or pretzels as a snack, and an apple or carrots. He began to really prefer having an apple in there. He also started taking bars for breakfast—mainly the Juice Plus Complete Chocolate bars.

What I got out of it: It was a great reminder in how easy it can be to throw a lunch together. It’s really just a matter of not being lazy and getting out of bed to do it. It also helped us use up leftovers that sometimes end up going bad in the fridge. Additionally, of course, we saved a good amount of money on Mingus not hitting up places like Wendy’s, Arby’s, and Subway on a weekly basis. They really add up! And the other great thing about that is that he was eating much healthier than what he gets at almost any fast food place. (This coupled with the fact he gave up sugar for lent, so he hasn’t been drinking or buying soda is wonderful!)

Moving Forward: I know I prefer, as does Husband, to keep sending him lunches frequently. It’s also good for his sensitive body and all of the weird reactions he has. Even when eating “safe” foods, oftentimes fast-food ends badly. There is butter in something or it’s cooked on the same place where beef was cooked—thing like that affect him highly. The “packed lunch” train is something we’ve wanted to be on for awhile, so I’m planning to stick with it.

New Challenge: April

Goal: Fix smoothies/shakes at least 4x a week

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Motivation behind the challenge: This is for me and the kiddos. They love smoothies. Seriously… One day I made smoothies for them, which they finished in no time. They mooched mine immediately following. Later that day we visited my aunt who’d made one for herself… They mooched it. That night, they saw their Nana (who had a smoothie) and they mooched hers. They honestly can’t get enough. But I cannot complain.

What I love about a smoothie is that even if I don’t get tons of fruits/veggies into the kids in a meal, I know the smoothie does that for them… Not just the fruit I put in, but the Juice Plus Complete full of its whole food nutrition. 

But what about me? Why do I need this in my life? Two big reasons:

  1. Rounding Out My “Meals”
    While I do love smoothies, I’ve never gotten into a habit of making them for myself regularly. As a stay-at-home-mom, sometimes you don’t get complete meals. You graze the kids leftovers (sometimes very gross) and nibble as you put their lunches together. Getting smoothies into my daily routine will help guarantee good nutrition AND fill my tummy.
  2. Late Night Cravings
    I found that during my sugar-free lent streak, a chocolate shake or smoothie REALLY hit the spot. Obviously lent is over, and sugar is open for business, but that doesn’t mean I need to jump back on that bandwagon. A chocolate shake at night will also be my easy avenue for getting my count in at the end of the day when smoothie-making just didn’t happen!

I’ll be using my Nutri-bullet and following the basic guidelines I laid out previously in this post.

When’s your favorite time of day to make a shake or smoothie? Share your favorite recipes in the comments!

See some new recipes Holly Jo tried last month and check out this month’s challenge on the vlog!

One Simple Change: Packing Healthy

Each month, Jo and I each commit to a One Simple Change (OSC) challenge for the betterment of our physical, spiritual, emotional, mental and family wellness and share the experience with you. Read more here.

Last Month’s Review: February

Goal – Wake up before the kids/with my husband on week days

Fail/Success?  Eh… I did not fail, but I don’t want to call this a complete success because I didn’t get out of it all that I wanted. I did wake up before the kids and have time to myself each morning during the week, but I did not proactively get up EARLY and spend time with the hubs or accomplish things.

What I got out of it: While I may not have done all that I wanted with this challenge, it was not a waste. Even getting up ten minutes before I needed to get the kids out of bed was beneficial. I could go downstairs—not carrying a child—and stretch out my bones and body. I could pour a cup of coffee, brush my teeth… Do whatever I wanted to collect myself and feel a little alive. While my kids do sleep in, usually, once they are awake, they are ready to go, so to have a minute or so of silence was always nice.  And while I did not wake up so early that Mingus and I got to spend time together each morning, the kids still gave me a lot of mornings where I had a solid 30 minutes to myself before hearing them stir. (On occasion, they slept really late and I usually got worried about them at that point!) 

Moving Forward: This is something I know I should continue to do, and fortunately, the kiddos are still not early risers, so I can get away with not getting up at an insane hour. Plus… it kind of ties into my March challenge…

New Challenge: March

Goal: Pack a lunch for the hubs at 3 out of his 5 work days

Motivation behind the challenge: So many motives… To start, tying back to last month, one problem I had with trying to get up early is how draggy I feel when rolling out of bed. There were mornings I’d get up just as hubs walked out the door, and when he was gone, I stood there with a cup of coffee zoned out in a daze. Why was I not asleep still?

Having a purpose for being awake when I feel like the walking dead would help roll me out of bed—and help me get up in time to actually see my husband. Other reasons to pack lunches?

  • Fast food gets old
  • Fast food and healthy don’t really go together
  • With his food allergies and sensitive digestive track, even foods that are ‘safe’ can end up making him sick for one reason or another.
  • It adds up—more than it should. 

I am only aiming for three days a week because I know that it’s fairly common that he eats lunch with a supplier, his team goes out to lunch together (which I don’t want him to miss) or there is a lunch meeting of some sort.

I’ve done some ‘research’ even though it should be fairly simple since my mom packed me a lunch from kindergarten until senior year of high school. However, my obstacle comes with that whole food allergy thing. Mingus cannot eat dairy, eggs, pork or beef. That cuts out a lot when you think about cheese or mayo! Basically, I have to think vegan–but I can throw in some poultry.

The only benefit to his food allergies is now he is open to just about anything his body tolerates. He tells me that he could eat PB&J everyday, but I’m not that cruel. (By the way, he is onboard with bringing his lunch—he is SO over fast food!)

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Here is my running list:

Vegan:

  • Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich
  • Soup
  • Bean & Rice Burrito
  • Peanutbutter crackers
  • Chips & Salsa/Guacamole
  • Hummus (with veggies, crackers or pita chips)
  • Hummus or Veggie Wraps
  • Juice Plus Complete Bars
  • Pasta Salad
  • Fruit (whole or canned)
  • Applesauce
  • Celery w/ peanut butter
  • Raw vegetables
  • Nuts/Dried Fruit
  • Pretzels
  • Popcorn

Non-Vegan (Poultry)

  • Turkey Sandwich/Wrap
  • Chicken Salad made with avocado
  • BLT with Turkey Bacon

For more great lunch ideas check out Notes From a Newlywed and Humble In A Heartbeat.

BUT if lunch isn’t where you’re struggling to feed your family… No worries! Jo’s March challenge is to try some new recipes also! Also, Jo used the month of February to try some new, creative activities with her toddler and you can see/hear how they turned out and which ones were winners.

One Simple Change: Early Riser! {+GIVEAWAY!}

Each month, Jo and I each commit to a One Simple Change (OSC) challenge for the betterment of our physical, spiritual, emotional, mental and family wellness and share the experience with you. Read more here.

Last Month’s Review: January

Goal – Use my ab roller every day to get myself back on track to toning my body post-pregnancy (make that TWO pregnancies!)

Fail/Success? Success. There were only about four days I missed completely, but I liked to tell myself I made up for most of those by doubling down the next day. I’m not sure what happened the last weekend of the month… Somehow I forgot both days and I sure hope it’s not a sign as to where this will go post-January!

What I got out of it: On the up side, it was a good reminder of how little time it takes to do an in-home workout like that and that it does not have to be a huge deal. However, on the flip side….it assured me that my regular work out and in-shape days are long, long ago! The reality that three years of nothing cannot be made-up for in one month was quite clear! I may have worked through my initial week’s soreness and noticed a gain in strength, I have a looooong way to anything resembling a six-pack!

Moving Forward: This was a simple enough daily task there is no reason not to continue. If anything, I should step it up, but for now I just want to push myself to continue working out to some degree each day. I’m “blessed” with petite genes, but that does not make me healthy.

New Challenge: February

Goal: Wake up before the kids/with my husband on week days

Motivation behind the challenge: I’m not a morning person. Never have been. I always kind of assumed that once I had kids, I’d start getting up early, but no such luck. I stay in bed as long as the kids let me…Every. Day. When I do roll out I’m all groggy and immediately bombarded with the mayhem of the day. It’s really not even fair to my poor children to deal with a mombie. Plus, I know having a solid morning routine is the best way for anyone to start the day.

What I hope to get out of it: Where to begin… I feel I have so much to gain by this! You’re likely to learn that I love lists… so let’s make a list, shall we?

  1. Some non-kid time: I get some time to myself before the Lallybroch Kids rise and run for the day. Dot doesn’t stop talking from the moment she wakes. I can’t turn my back on Jake for a second or he’s somewhere he shouldn’t be. If I can get over the initial tiredness and pull myself out of bed, that time to pull myself together without will do so much for both me and them.
  2. Enjoy a cup of HOT coffee: Seriously… I am constantly retracing my steps to see where I set my coffee down… And I usually find it luke warm or cold and only half gone. It’s dangerous to leave it most places with two little ones on the loose. (Honestly, I’m surprised I haven’t had more coffee dump disasters in the past two years.) To enjoy a cup of HOT coffee in peace, daily… That’s a whole extra level of starting the day out on the right note.
  3. Some Husband time! To have a chance to start the day with My Mingus (more than just giving him a half-asleep smooch before he walks out the door) is really the only motivation I need for this goal. Seriously, I feel bad every morning he gets up to head to work and I am laying in bed. Plus, I do love my children beyond words, but sometimes I miss my husband. So much of our time is chasing little ones where our conversations are interrupted and distracted. And while we do have a couple of hours at night together, we are both beat at that point (not to mention I’m usually working). A chance to have a conversation in the morning? I want that.
  4. Morning Reflection & Me-Time: I know writing this will only jinx it, but I’ll tell you anyway… Lately the kids have blessed me with sleeping in. So after having some Mingus time, if they continue on this path, I’d have some solo time! I don’t take a lot of “me” time most days. If you’re a mom, you know this is necessary. If you’re not a mom, that may sound silly, but it’s true. If you don’t take time to forget the endless chores and let go of the kiddo upkeep and touch base with the things that made you YOU before parenthood, you might get lost. I’d love to use time to read or get back to my journaling.

Jo did an awesome job getting a lot of her house organized last month and this month she has picked out the CUTEST toddler activities to do with her little SJ. Jump over to the vlog to hear about them and she’s got links to them all as well. Next month she’ll let you know which ones are winners.

Speaking of winners………..

[CLOSED!] Valentine’s Day Giveaway Time!!

ValentinesDayGiveaway

[GIVEAWAY CLOSED: Congratulations to KaraBeth on winning! We hope you thoroughly enjoy this fabulous set of prizes. Thanks to everyone who supported and entered! Don’t worry… This won’t be our last giveaway!] I know we mentioned it forever ago and you probably thought we were big fat liars, but instead we are just busy moms who took awhile to get it together.

Anyway, we have a fabulous little package of goodies for a lucky winner. It’s really just our way of saying THANK YOU to our earliest followers in this adventure and show you a little love… And of course we’re hoping you give us a little love in addition.

Jump over to the giveaway page to get the details on how you can be entered to win! (Or check the Vlog for details.)

(And guys are welcome to enter too… You have to know a lady who would love these prizes and you can always keep the Starbucks for yourself and she’ll still be thrilled with everything else!) [GIVEAWAY CLOSED]

One Simple Change: ‘Dem Abs

New Year! New You!

That’s what they say right?

Something like that…

So over the last two weeks, I’ve seen everyone’s thoughts on New Year’s goals, resolutions, commitments, etc. If three decades on this earth has taught me anything it’s this: the excitement and focus we have NOW on those things… is not going to be there come June. (Eh…it’ll probably be gone by mid-February when Valentine’s Day sweets show up, amiright?)

I’ve had New Year’s goals ranging from working out to leisure reading. And if you have a goal–by all means–go for it! I’ll be your biggest cheerleader. But I need something more reasonable.

That’s when it hit me: One Simple Change.

This is actually a campaign used with my Juice Plus+ business to encourage bettering wellness and healthy lifestyles. It’s amazing what committing to one SMALL thing can do for us.

Seriously, what’s more realistic:

“I’m cutting out all sugars in 2016!”

…or…

“I’ll eat one fresh fruit or vegetable every day for 30 days.”

30 days? We can do anything for a measly 30 days, right?

You can read more here, but the moral of the story is… Together, Holly Jo and I are going to commit to “One Simple Change” each month, rather than coming up with humdinger resolutions for 2016. We’ll let you know at the beginning of each month what our plan is in our blog/vlog and we will also report on how the previous month’s commitment went.

Jo’s January commitment is organization. She’s not waiting for Spring… She’s cleaning now. And shouldn’t we all, after the holidays? I mean, all the new STUFF… Time to get organized! So she’s committing to one organizational project each week for the month of January, and believe me… When you have little ones, organization is CRUCIAL. (You just can’t let yourself go crazy when you have reorganize the toys 20x a day!) You can hear more about Holly Jo’s One Simple Change for January in her Vlog here.

Me? Call me stereotypical but my focus this month is fitness related. A stranger would never guess I was once an avid runner who competed at the collegiate level and even spearheaded the start of her high school’s cross country team. (Unless they spotted me sporting my Bellarmine track sweats–which, yes, I still wear.)

My last race was two years ago this March, the Run The Bluegrass 7-miler. Although, I admittedly did not train for it. Before that I can’t really tell you and my regular routine running stopped when I moved out of Louisville in 2011. Eeek!

But I know to be realistic with my goal… [KEYWORD: SIMPLE… One SIMPLE Change]

Running in the middle of nowhere is challenging, especially in the winter. (Winter = Cold!!) The options are limited to gravel roads or fields…or driving somewhere. Take that obstacle and add in the fact you have two kids that can’t be left alone. Running would involve commitment from someone besides myself. (READ: My husband. I’d have to work with his schedule. That makes things a little less ‘simple’.)

Instead I’m focusing on ‘DEM ABS!

Long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away… I was referred to as “The Ab Nazi”…

Yep… One of the Bellarmine coaches dubbed me that my freshman season. During our post-practice workouts in the gym, I insisted on doing abs before heading for dinner and certain exercises I did required a partner so I was always twisting someone’s arm to join me.

Ah, the good ol’ days! Alas… That was many miles and two babies ago… Those abs have been stretched six ways to Sunday since.

And now that it’s been nearly a year since Jacob’s birth, I can’t let it go any longer. I need this tummy of mine to get itself in check.

So…. In comes: The Ab Roller!

Sad to admit, we got this simple device about nine months ago, I think… I’ve used it hit and miss but with no real routine or plan, but this month that changed!

My simple goal is do an workout with the ab roller once a day. If I do more–fantastic! If not, I’ll have done my duty simply by using the roller.

I’m hoping doing this for 30 days will make it enough of a habit that I continue past January, but let’s keep our eyes on the current prize: 30 Days.

Are you a mom trying to get in shape from home? I’d LOVE to know how you do it. Leave your tips and tricks in the comments.

Also, what are you New Year’s goals or resolutions? We would love to hear them to inspire some of our future One Simple Change goals.

Cheers and Happy New Year, friends!

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Check out Holly Jo & the Vlog now!