Friday, September 5, 2014


Our daughter, Gianna, is quite the character.  She is my independent one.  Any of you that know her, she is quite content to be off doing her own thing.

She loves playing in her closet where she holds many imaginary tea parties. She will lay in her bed and read her "Bible" (which could be any ol' book) or happily play with her doll house or kitchen for hours at a time.  This child sounds like a dream come true, right? 

Well, many of you may have heard the saying, "Silence is golden... unless you have a toddler.  In that case, silence is very, very suspicious!"

Our sweet Gigi has earned the nickname 'Molly,' which is short for Molly-Makes-A-Mess.  I have to give her credit, many of her messes are.... how you say... creative?  I wish I had documented them from the beginning, but I did manage to snap a few pictures along the way.  And let me add the disclaimer that at the time these photos were taken, I had three kids under the age of four - although any parent knows that this can happen with an only child [sneaky little buggers!].

Perhaps a few of these will look familiar to you 
as you've raised a Molly of your own...

Oh-so-neatly laid out baby wipes - caught her before she could get through the whole box!

Sneaky... on the inside of a drawer.  Stamped AND scribbled. Very nice. 

Baking soda. Lovely.

Yep... that's petroleum jelly (aka Vaseline)

Permanent marker on the linoleum of your rental? Sure, why not!
(Magic Eraser took that right out, thank goodness!)

Nap time?! I thought it was "Grab Things Off the Changing Table 
And Take Every Wipe Out of its Container Time!"

Lining up the cans and placing flatware on top.  Impressive!

Here, Dad! Have some tutus. 

 What's that, Mom? 
You didn't want all your recipes taken out of your recipe box? Oops...

Here Mom! I helped empty the cooler..... onto the floor.

My attitude wasn't the only salty thing in the kitchen that day... 

A unique display of flatware. 
(in the baby-food ice cube tray)

Here you go, Papa and Mimi! Pink post-it decor for your table!

Breast milk storage containers or coin sorters?

And the ultimate mess....

Look closely... see that brown stuff? Yep, that's poop.  
Gigi was changing her own diaper.  Awesome.

Well friends, I hope you had a few good chuckles from this post.
Have yourself a marvelous, mess-free day! 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Life is Not Fair: Grief [Missing Mom]

As soon as I read the e-mail from our lead pastor telling us what our next series was going to be I felt a small panic.  It's called "Life is Not Fair." And the first week was going to be about grief. I took a deep breath.  Anyone who has suffered a great loss knows that it isn't something you forget.  Anyone who has suffered a great loss knows that there is something each day that reminds you of it.  Anyone who has suffered a great loss knows that it doesn't take much to trigger that feeling of your heart sinking into your stomach when you think about it.

So why was I apprehensive to head to church on Sunday?  Well, I thought it would be a given that I would cry at some point... just wasn't sure if it would be the tears-welling-up-but-won't-fall-that-makes-your-throat-hurt kind of cry, or the I-need-to-excuse-myself-because-the-baby-wipe-in-my-bag-isn't-enough-to-contain-my-tears-and-snot cry.   

Many of my friends - my husband included - know that I am what you call a "closet griever."  Rarely will I cry in front of anyone because of my own pain.  If you have seen me cry, it is most likely because my heart is breaking for someone else - but not myself - or it's the complete opposite end of the emotional spectrum and I'm laughing so hard I cry.  I don't know why this is.  I'm sure people that don't know me all too well think the loss of my mom was 'no big deal' since I can casually say that she died just after Gianna was born.  I don't mind people asking me about it - and I can usually talk about her and the event of her death without missing a beat.  I didn't even cry at her memorial.   

Rest assured, I have - and continue to - grieve over the loss of my mom.  It's when I'm by myself that the water works flow freely.  I'd say 60% is when lying in bed, 30% is when I'm in the car, and the remaining 10% is random times throughout the day when I want nothing more than to call and hear her voice on the other end of the phone.

I felt at peace during her memorial service - even the week leading up to it - but a few days later I started crying and I honestly felt like I was never going to stop.  Before long I felt like my whole world was caving in.  I must have been in what they call 'survival mode.'  Well, when that wore off it wasn't pretty.  In fact, I had experienced some of life's top stressors in a period of six months: I resigned from my job, we moved to another state, we had a baby, and - of course - the death of my mom.  Let's not fail to mention Thad traveled a LOT - which left me at home with two kids under the age of 2 in an unfamiliar place. Uh, hello!  Is this really someone's life?? Oh wait.... it was mine! 

It is so hard going from seeing your mom at least 2-3x a week and talking to her on the phone AT LEAST once a day (often more) to only being able to see and hear her in a memory.  It's so hard when your own kids have you feeling so defeated, and you can't reach that one person who can truly talk you off that cliff.   It's so hard looking at your babies knowing she never will.  It's so hard celebrating life when that one piece is missing... her.

So back to the sermon... I didn't cry. I didn't get the lump in my throat. I just caught myself shaking my head in agreement with many things my pastor said.  I even muttered a "mmmhmmm" every once and again.  There were a few things that he said that really stuck with me.

3.  You don't have to know the right things to say.  Sometimes your mere presence is all someone needs in a time of grief.

2. God designed us to grieve through our loss, not camp out in it! Fight the urge to shut out the world and seek help - whether that is by talking to a friend, counselor, family member... whatever helps!

1.  And the best take away from the sermon for me was: Do you want answers, or do you want peace?  

I don't think I ever questioned why God took my mom from us when He did.  Thankfully, I'm in a place in my faith where I understand there is an "upper story" and that we simply won't have ALL the answers.  I rest in knowing that He does.  But this doesn't change the fact that it hurts.

One piece of advice I would pass along to you if you know someone who has suffered a great loss:

Don't forget.

When it hasn't impacted your life as much, it's easy to forget it as the days, weeks, and months pass.   I would say - for me - the six month mark was almost harder than when it actually happened.  That's when the reality of it all started to sink in.  I'll always remember the card I received from my aunt last year around the second anniversary of my mom's death.  All it said was she was missed, and they were thinking of us.  Such a simple gesture that had a profound impact.

So even if you have to set a reminder on the calendar or in your cell phone to check in with the person months later, please do.  Send a text, card, stop by and see how they are doing. They will so appreciate it!

In the meantime, continue to count your blessings dear friends! :)
Hope you are having a great week!

If you'd like to watch or listen to the above referenced sermon, you can find it here: Life is Not Fair: Grief


Sunday, April 6, 2014

Perfectly Imperfect

[sigh]. There is so much pressure on moms these days. I don't know if it's always been like this, or if the standards grow exponentially with each generation.  We are expected to keep the house in order (ha!), keep our children under control (double haha!), and keep our husbands satisfied (by now I'm rolling on the floor laughing)! There just isn't enough time or energy to successfully do all of these things in one day.  If you are like me, one day your house might be spic and span, but your kids have been at each other's throats all day. Or you and your hubby might have had a great date night, but at the expense of the house looking a little too lived in.  I can't fail to mention the days where it ALL goes to heck!  [I can feel my blood pressure rising as I type that!] All of this and more is enough to drive a girl crazy!  And you working moms - why not add that extra level of 'things to get done in a day' and try to keep your head on straight? Phew. That is a lot.

I have a love-hate relationship with the word 'perfect.' I am, by nature, a perfectionist.  I crave order. I take refuge in all things organized.  Hmm... maybe I like control?  So... why can't I control myself at times?"

These 'times' include (but are certainly not limited to):

1.  snapping at Thad for forgetting something on the grocery list
2.  grabbing the arm of one of my kids a little too hard because I'm frustrated with them
3.  dragging a kid into time-out
4.  yelling useless threats from the driver's seat knowing full well I can't follow through with any of them while the car is moving
5.  getting fired up about someone and venting to anyone else but the source

Why do I let these things happen?! Oh, it's because I AM NOT PERFECT!  And that is more than okay.  In fact, I don't want to be perfect, because then I am setting that standard for my children.  Instead, I want to set the example of how to respond to those imperfections.  Let's face it, these moments are inevitable.  It is up to us to make them teachable moments - not just for our kids, but for ourselves as well.

What does that look like?  It will be different for everyone, but here is how I plan to make beauty from my mess. For me, I think it starts with gratitude and ends in humility.  Here are some ways I will choose to respond to the examples numbered above:

1.  {the husband} Stop. Think. Be grateful. A husband who does the grocery shopping? Score! Kindly ask that he pay closer attention to what's on the list because missing a single ingredient can sabotage a meal.

2-3. {the kids} If I can keep this from happening, great! Take a deep breath. Again, be grateful.  I have adorable, healthy, spirited children.  What an incredible blessing! Let's say my emotions get the best of me. Apologize! "Ben, I am sorry I grabbed you so hard. That was not gentle, and that's not okay. I was frustrated and I'm sorry I acted that way, please forgive me."

4.  {in the car} Again, I will try to keep my cool in the car but boy, my blood can get boiling so fast I don't even need a seat heater! This is all mental - I just need to talk myself off that cliff! Maybe a 'breath prayer' would be appropriate... something like, "Father God, please help me be slow to anger and rich in kindness..."

5.  {relationships} I heard a sermon back in 2005 while church shopping for a place to get married in, and this single line has stuck with me:  Loose lips sink ships.  "Those who guard their mouths and their tongues keep themselves from calamity" Proverbs 21:23. 'Nough said.

In summary, mommas, I want to say THANK YOU.

THANK YOU for not being perfect with me. THANK YOU for losing your cool every once in a while. THANK YOU for being honest about it.

Because at the end of the day, you love your kids more than anything else in this world (maybe because at the end of the day, they are sleeping) hahahahaha

Seriously though - I always say this, but YOU are your kid's best mom.  Embrace your imperfections and outwardly work on them. Then, your kids will be equipped to work on theirs, too. :)

Blessings, friends! 

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Evolution of My BFing Experience

My personal view on breastfeeding my children has drastically changed in four years. In these four years, I have had three beautiful, healthy babies.  My experience with nursing each of them is very different.  I have gone from loathing it to [mostly] loving it. What caused this mind shift? I think I might have an idea...

Let's start in the beginning.  When Benjamin (now 4) was born, I was determined to try this whole breastfeeding business.  However, nobody set me up for what I was about to get into. I was the first of my friends to have a kid, I worked full-time as a teacher, and my mother formula fed the four us when we were babies. Do you see where this is heading?

I absolutely HATED nursing my baby.  I had some issues healing after the delivery (he was 8lb 12oz and they used the vacuum to get him out of my petite frame. Yeah - ouch!) so adding engorgement, nipple soreness, and just having little to no idea what the heck I was doing was down right frustrating! Once I got past the pain, I had different reasons for disliking it. I felt inconvenienced and annoyed that I was the only one who could feed him, and that I had to leave the room for 20-30 minutes every couple of hours to do it. Even if someone else gave him a bottle, I still had to take the time to pump and prepare it for them.  I had Ben at the end of October, so a lot of these 'inconveniences' fell around the holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, etc).  I couldn't even enjoy an adult beverage without worrying how it would affect my baby. Then.... I had to go back to work....

 I mentioned earlier that I was a teacher. I taught middle school and the only breaks from my students were during my plan period and lunch. Unfortunately, that year my plan and lunch were back to back - not so ideal for a nursing mama since it only gave me one opportunity to pump each day. Oh heavens, you should have seen me scrambling to get my single electric (another uneducated mistake) pump to try to kick out at least 8 ounces - since that's what this three month old ate every 2.5 hours! It was not a pretty sight.  I started in my classroom, with my back turned toward the locked door (that every teacher in the building had keys to) and I'm sitting there massaging the life out of my poor boob trying to squeeze every last drop I could - all the while so paranoid someone would come barrelling through the door to borrow a stapler or drop something off (that did happen once... my TA busted in with some papers she had copied for me. oops.) After that, I moved to a closet in the school's library. I was not bringing home what he was consuming while I was away at work, not to mention I was missing valuable prep time for my lessons. I just didn't see how I could ever keep up.  I also hated that when I was home, I could only leave the house in two hour increments (without the baby) because I HAD to be home in time to feed him.  I called it "nursing prison." So, you can imagine all of these were a catalyst for my decision to stop nursing when Ben was just shy of four months old.

I was so ashamed that I stopped breastfeeding. There are thousands of working women that continue to nurse their babies. What was wrong with me? Why couldn't I make it work? I vividly remember visiting some distant relatives and I literally hid in another room to make his bottle of formula and brought it out as if I pumped it that morning.  I didn't want them to know I was no longer nursing.  Why the heck did I care so much what they thought?? You formula-feeding moms know exactly what I'm talking about. Although many breastfeeding advocates don't intend to, they come off as superior and make formula-feeding moms feel like they need a really good excuse as to why they chose not to nurse. [I can see you formula mommas nodding your head in agreement!].  I still see it all the time in Moms groups. When a mom asks a question regarding formula, 99% of the time it is prefaced with, "I had to stop nursing because...." or "I couldn't breastfeed because...". It makes me sad that these women feel like they need to justify themselves.  No justification needed, Mommas! You are your child's best mother, whether you breastfeed or not! [end rant].

When Ben was 22 months old, I had my baby girl - Gianna.  After my experience with Ben, it left a salty taste in my mouth when it came to breastfeeding, but I was still determined to give it another shot.  My goal this time was six months.

We had moved to Indiana just before she was born so I was jobless and, well, friendless. We went from two incomes down to one, yet added another precious family member so money was pretty tight. That left me at home with our two littles in an unfamiliar place.  This time around, nursing seemed less of an inconvenience.

Also, just after Gianna was born, my mom's cancer took a horrible turn for the worse.  We were driving back to Illinois every weekend to be with her.  Nursing my baby was the least of my worries at this point.  Maybe the fact that I was so distracted eased the resentment I had toward breastfeeding. When Gigi was just 10 weeks old, my mom passed.

When we were back in Indy, I didn't really have anywhere to be.  Although we lived there for almost six months, much of our time was spent back in IL so we didn't really have a chance to meet anyone.  By the time we really got settled, it was winter so we stayed inside mostly.

I also noticed that Gigi didn't eat as often as Ben did.  She took to 3-4 hour stretches pretty quickly, so I felt I had a little more freedom.

Another reason I think it was a bit 'easier' that time around was it was virtually FREE (minus the cost of nursing pads and milk storage bags) making it very easy on the budgeting side of things. Life in the nursing department was going fairly smoothly.  At around seven months, my husband invited me on a four-day work trip. I made a sad attempt at pumping enough before we left, but with her eating solids (heck, she was practically eating table food at this point) I was only kicking out an ounce or two at a time - at best.  So, the decision was made to transition her to formula.  I won't lie, I was a little excited to finally share the load when it came to feeding her.  It also meant I could be away from her for longer periods of time without worrying she'll starve.  After all, I exceeded my six month goal, right?

It was a rocky start. I tried three different brands of formula before finding one that didn't make her sick (ugh... I can still smell the banana-scented puke that covered her crib sheets). During that transition, I felt horrible! I felt selfish, frustrated, and second-guessed my decision to the moon and back.  By eight months she was completely weaned. We found a formula that worked, and I reminded myself that it would only be a few short months until her first birthday and all would be well with the world again.  I wasn't as hard on myself this time around, though I had always wondered what it would have been like to have nursed her the full twelve months.  I was surprised with myself that I was actually a little sad about it all.

Finally, my third (and last) baby was born just six months ago - Thad Matteo.  Oh Lordy, did we have a rough start.  This kid was like a piranha on the breast! A lamprey, I tell you.  He was a miniature sized bear trap clamping down at each feeding - you get the idea. I remember my toes curling in pain coupled with Lamaze breathing anytime he latched. Bloody and cracked nipples. Engorgement. I am wincing as I type this! On day 5, I was back in the hospital with tears streaming down my face begging to see the lactation consultant. Oy, it was a long two to three weeks before things started to feel slightly normal.  It was then that I, for the first time, experienced that 'bond' that so many women talk about.

What is so different this time around? I don't love my other kids any less, so what made this bond so special?

First, he is my last baby.  As much as I hate being the only source of food for him, I also love it. He needs me. And he's thriving! He still gets up 1-3x a night but as tired as I am, I don't mind feeding him. I know it puts him back to sleep and I know he's growing.  And as crazy as it sounds, if it has been more than a few hours, I actually start to miss him!

Secondly, he is my third. After three babies, either your modesty has dwindled to dust in the wind or you just don't give a rip (or maybe a combination of both). Either way, I don't find nursing as inconvenient as I once did.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not whipping out my erasers for the world to gawk at, but I don't hide in the bathroom stall and sit on a public toilet to nurse either (uh hem, totally did that with my first).  I always try to be discreet and mindful of those around me, but I now know that many people don't mind if you nurse in public and the people that do mind don't matter. ;)

Thirdly, with a two and four year old running around, I sooooo enjoy the escape I have when I'm nursing him. I put the gate in my doorway and sit on my bed. I can still monitor my other two knuckleheads, but there is that safe - and sometimes necessary - amount of distance between us and the 'big kids' that creates this bubble for baby and me.

One last reason is that after having my first two kiddos, I truly understand how fast the time really does go! It really helps me to slow down and enjoy these months before I have another toddler on my hands.  I feel I can sacrifice 12 short months of my life (and my body) because once this time is gone, there is no getting it back. *tear*

Oh, and let's not forget that I have the added bonus of needing those extra calories each day. Yum! I'm still clinging to the notion that once I stop nursing I'll lose the rest of the baby weight... hardee har har!

So there you have it. Not necessarily an epiphany of a post, but it made me realize how different my experience has been with the three of them.  I'll have to let you know if I make it nursing the full twelve months this time around... to be continued!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Organizing... Your Playroom

I have had a lot of recent inquiries on the best way to organize toys, so I thought I would share what works for our family.  I have to begin by saying that my kiddos are 4, 2, and 5 months. I'm sure as my kids get older, the playroom will grow with them. For example, I would love to have an adorable table with chairs to do coloring, crafts, and painting but for now, we do these at our kitchen table. I don't think our landlord would appreciate my children's artistry on his nice white carpeting ;) 

I am going to walk you through each part of our playroom, and share how I furnished and organized this space for pennies! I have to preface this by saying 99% of the toys my children own are either hand-me-downs or gifts. Also, I work at Lakeshore Learning and receive a 40% discount. 

Our playroom is an L-shaped loft, just to give you an idea of its layout...

This master bedroom furniture belonged to one of my besties and I bought this piece, its matching nightstand, and mirror (which you'll see later) for just $25! Thanks, Amy! :)

On top of the dresser I have the majority of their books sorted into categories. They can still see them so they can choose their favorites, but they are not within reach because let's be honest... that is a lot of books to have to pick up off the floor!

Inside each of the drawers, you'll find all kinds of fun stuff! I had them labeled at one point, but my two year old kept taking them off (she has an obsession with stickers).  They are still, nonetheless, categorized! I have them sorted into the following: baby dolls, animals/dinosaurs, things that go, puzzles, sorting/stacking, play food/dishes, and imaginative toys (doctor kits, action figures, etc).  In the center cabinet I have two bins. One has the train set and the other has HotWheels cars & tracks.

The long skinny top drawer is perfect for storing puzzles!

I wanted to make sure there was plenty of space in front of the dresser to play. :) Floor space is important in my family... my kids have LOTS of energy and need that space to run around!

At the very top of the stairs to the right is our play kitchen. I used some command hooks (love those! especially if you are renting) to hang some aprons. As stated above, the accessories are stored in a drawer of the dresser.

In the corner of the "L" shape is the sitting area. This is where I chill with my mommy friends (or by myself haha) while the kiddos play. It gives me a complete view of the entire loft - and not to mention it's comfy! 
I also read books with my kids on the couch and in the glider. Just imagine a cup of coffee resting on that end table... yep, that's a common occurrence here!
Along the wall we have our daily schedule and calendar. I remove this and store it behind the dresser when we aren't actively using it because, once again, my two year old can sure make a mess of it!  I lucked out and found this bulletin board in my parent's basement. Score!

I purchased the calendar set from Lakeshore Learning. It's called Dots on Chocolate Calendar.
I created our daily schedule cards in Microsoft Publisher.

Another fantastic furniture find! This entertainment center was a free pick-up from someone in my neighborhood. The 'toys' baskets (found at HomeGoods) hold building blocks (duplo on the left and foam on the right) and the books stored in the center are categorized by seasonal, biblical, TAG books, and life lessons. I purchased these book bins from Lakeshore Learning - they have a variety to choose from!
(find them here)
The sand timers are sooooo handy. We have used them as sharing timers, time-out timers, and stay-at-the-kitchen-table-while-we-have-a-meal-together timers. Another great Lakeshore Learning purchase. 
(find them here)
The lower cabinets contain bead mazes on the left, musical instruments in the center cabinet, and balls in the right cabinet.

The hanging baskets (seen below) were a diamond in the rough! I found this at GoodWill, and it was on 1/2 price Saturday so the whole piece - including the canvas baskets - was only $6.00!! It can also hang vertically. I just couldn't pass up that deal!

Adjacent to this piece is our "dress up" corner. I just placed the mirror that came with the dresser up against the wall and filled a basket (purchased at WalMart) with all kinds of fun dress-up material like old Halloween costumes, jewelry, goofy glasses, masks, etc.

Our four year old is getting into video games. We purchased this old-school tube TV at a garage sale for $10 and the nightstand was part of the $25 sweet deal from my friend! When my son wants to play, he can pull the little chair and ottoman (a hand-me-down from cousins) away from the wall for a cozy set up to enjoy his PlayStation!  

We also have a Wii, so when extra space is needed we can simply move the chair and ottoman to its place against the wall next to the window and voila! More space to play.


And there you have it! If you break the room up into sections and store toys according to how they are used, the task might seem less overwhelming. Your kiddos also won't be "attacked" by toys upon entering the room, either.  I have to say that this space can get destroyed very quickly. BUT, it also cleans up quickly because everything has a place. And just as any routine, kids catch on quickly and before long they can clean up after themselves!

Hopefully you have gained some ideas & inspiration... and maybe a bit of motivation! :) What better way to spend these cold, winter days than to create peace from chaos?!

Happy Organizing, Friends!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Organizing... Your Mail

Bills, forms, checks, coupons... plus all the junk you get in the mail these days. What's your system? Do you bring it in the house and toss it on the counter/table? Undoubtedly you say to yourself "I'll go through that later." Maybe you sort through it, toss the junk, then throw the unopened bills on your desk... and they remain unopened until past their due date because you forgot about them. Or maybe you (or your spouse...) open everything, then leave it - ripped envelopes and all - strewn across the kitchen counter for someone else to clean up later? Well, heck! Let's get this situation under control shall we? :)

First things first... don't get your mail unless you can spare a couple (and it's literally one or two) minutes to go through it RIGHT AFTER you bring it in the house. "Well, then I'll never get my mail," you say. "YES YOU CAN!" as my spunky workout instructor says after adding another 8 reps. ;) Trust me, those two minutes will change your mail-getting-and-sorting life!

How do you sort mail, you ask? Here's what I do: I place it all on the counter. I have a piles for:
1. my hubby
2. me
3. bills
4. that-might-be-important-but-doesn't-look-like-a-bill
5. coupon-clipping
6. junk

Next, open everything (yes, everything... unless it's for another family member!). Toss those open envelopes and unneeded inserts into the 'junk' pile as you go.

Finally, a home for everything and everything its home, right? I file things in my organizer and put my husband's mail on his office chair (not the desk because it would otherwise get lost).

Our organizer hangs inside our pantry door and is conveniently located next to the counter where I do my sorting and our recycling bin! So junk goes into recycling and the rest is filed accordingly:

The 'to be filed' folders of my organizer are for papers that need to be put into our file cabinet (insurance papers, paid bills, receipts, etc). Ideally, I would file those right away - but even a professional organizer deserves a break here and there, right? ;)

Even if you don't have a fancy organizer (this one is a Thirty-One product) you can still do the sorting end of it all. You gotta start somewhere, right? Baby steps. :)  There are tons out there - or even make your own! Find one that works best for you and your family.

Ahhhh, to be organized. Feels awesome, doesn't it!? 

Monday, January 13, 2014

The 7 Experiment: Food *7 Clean Dinners*

The 7 Experiement by Jen Hatmaker challenges us to take seven areas in our life where excess is especially prevalent - clothes, spending, waste, food, possessions, media, and stress - and to do something about it! Even if you don't rid your life of the excess, at least you become aware of it when reading this book. The first chapter is about food.  Each chapter has a challenge that encourages you to 'do without' for a period of time. She did hers on a monthly basis. Our group chose to do it on a weekly basis.

For our food challenge, we decided we would eat 'cleaner' dinners for 7 days.  So for 7 meals, we ate all natural, whole foods and meats that were organic, grass-fed and free range livestock. I have to say, it started off a little rough! It didn't help that my husband wasn't really on board with the whole clean-eating lifestyle (too inconvenient and expensive, he would say) so of course I wanted to try and impress him with the yummiest recipes I could find.  It was a battle I was determined to win! I would say the food got better as the week went on... here is our seven days at a glance:

Day 1
Pecan-Crusted Chicken 
w/ green beans, sweet potato, and fresh fruit

Sadly, I wasn't winning Thad over on the first night... the best thing on this plate was the sweet potato! *whomp whomp* Not a family favorite. In hindsight, I would have crushed the pecans to be a little finer and I think I would have cooked the chicken in a pan with coconut oil instead of baking it (not as healthy, but might have helped to give it more flavor). Thad - 1, Sarah - 0.

Day 2:
Spicy-Rub Slow-Cooked Chicken 
w/ onion, sliced apple, and salad topped with hard boiled egg.

This dish was much better than the first, but still needed a little work... the rub was pretty spicy (as stated in its name) but my slow cooker just cooks things too fast - no matter what setting it's on!  The chicken ended up being a bit dry. *sigh* Thad - 2, Sarah - 0. The onions were super yummy though ;)

Day 3:
Giant Stuff Portobellos  
w/ green beans and fresh fruit

Now we were making headway! This dish had the perfect amount of spice and was satisfying! Thad even enjoyed it. I will definitely be adding this recipe to our repertoire and see us making this in the near future. It was quite a bit of prep work, though, so it would have to be a day when the kiddos are preoccupied... maybe on the weekend when daddy can distract them while I cook ;) Thad - 2, Sarah - 1.

Day 4:

Spicy Shrimp Jambalaya w/ Brown Rice

Another winner! This dish was deeeeelish! I think tonight may have tied the game... Thad - 2, Sarah - 2

Day 5:

Spice-Rub Turkey Burger
w/ sweet potato, green beans, & *spinach salad

Perhaps my favorite meal of the week... I think I liked this meal the most because the meat portion was there, but not too big and we overloaded on the veggies (yum!). We both felt completely satisfied after this meal and both agreed we would gladly eat it again! Thad - 2, Sarah - 3 (I took the lead!)
*Salad was topped with hard boiled egg whites, avocado, balsamic vinegar, and fresh-squeezed lime juice

Day 6:
Zucchini Lasagna
w/ mixed greens salad & fresh fruit

Although mine turned into more a zucchini chili, I thought it was pretty tasty! The recipe called for sausage, which I have never cooked with before (I usually use ground turkey) but it gave a little zest and we both enjoyed this dish! The macintosh apples were a sweet contrast to the spice of the lasagna, and of course another serving of veggies never hurt with the addition of the side salad. I think I may have gained another point for the 'eating healthy' team! Thad - 2, Sarah = 4

Day 7:

Baked Lemon-Pepper Chicken
w/ sauteed onion & zucchini

I am pretty sure I can eat zucchini any meal, every day of the week! I used coconut oil to sautee the veggies and they were mmm mmm good! The chicken was a bit peppery, but not too bad. I think this meal might have been a little heavy on the meat side of things, but it was the end of the week and if you've read my blog post on meal planning, you know that options for side dishes were slim picking by this point in the week ;) Thad and I could take or leave this meal. I'll award each of us half a point. ;)  Thad - 3.5, Sarah 4.5

And the winner is..... 
Woo hoo! 
I'm not competitive or anything... ;)

So what did we take away from this... other than I was the winner, of course. ;) haha No but seriously, we both were surprised by how many things were processed, and how limited we felt in our choices because of that. It truly is NOT convenient to eat healthy. How sad.  Once I started looking closely at ingredients of things, I was taken aback - even disgusted.  Great Value brand pasta, for example, actually says Pasta Product on the box... it's artificial pasta people! Eeek. Never noticed that before.

Thad and I watched a documentary called "Fresh" that talked about industrial farming and it was really eye-opening for him. He started googling Farmers Markets in the area before the movie was even finished. ;)

What did we take away from this spiritually?  Our bodies are temples designed by God. Food should not be our friend, it should be our fuel. I liked when Jen (the author) says to Jesus, "Present my body a living sacrifice to You, holy and pleasing. Well, You can have my mind, my heart, and even my hands, but I'd like to keep the actual body to myself, thank You. I'm sure you won't mind..." 


It takes on a whole new meaning when put into a Godly perspective, don't you agree?

Be well, my friends! 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Organizing... Your Refrigerator/Freezer

Why would I choose the fridge of all things to feature this week?? My motives go deeper than you might think...

You see, I used to waste food. A lot of food. I would have great intentions of eating my fruits and veggies, but they'd just end up rotting away in the drawers.  Or I would attempt to cook new and 'exciting' recipes, only to get lazy and go out to eat instead - so those ingredients fell by the wayside. Or how about those leftovers that get shoved in the back of the refrigerator and actually grow an assortment of colorful, fuzzy friends we call MOLD. So then I was wasting food... and good tupperware! ;) What is the solution to all of these issues and more? Two words my dear friends: meal planning.

I plan our meals one week in advance. I like to use fresh, whole foods as a large part of my cooking so I don't want to buy too far in advance or it would spoil before I could use it. I also have a recipe compilation on my computer so as I plan the meals, I just copy and paste the ingredients of the recipe into a separate word document that doubles as my grocery list.  Once the menu is done and the list is completed, I comb through my list and delete items I know we already have, or add items I know we need (mainly toiletries and things of that nature).  To create the recipe compilation is time consuming at first, but it's a one time deal and it's easy to add to! It is well worth the initial investment of your time- and as stated earlier, it's actually a financial investment because you know you will use every item you shopped for and nothing goes to waste. Then I hang this menu on the fridge so everyone in the family can be on the same page.

Of course, things come up.  Friends stop by (need more food) or friends invite you over to their place (need less food). An impromptu date night is sometimes "required" to save your sanity... and maybe your marriage. haha But seriously, in the grand scheme of things it's nice to have everything laid out in advance, with the expectation it won't be perfect every time.

So here is our refrigerator, the day after our weekly trip to the grocery store:

A tiered plate holder (or cupcake server) makes a great place to store more yummy food!


Typically on the "ready-to-go meals" shelf are frozen meals that I had made in advance.  My small group also will do meal swaps every now and again, so that is a place to store those meals as well. Currently, there are thermals stocked with frozen breast milk! Tis' the season of life I'm in right now, folks...  Our freezer overall does not stock that much food - mainly because I like to have fresh ingredients.

At the end of the week our fridge will usually look like this:

Now for some of you, that picture made you shudder! For me, it's a thing of beauty. It means I didn't waste any food so in turn, I didn't waste any money. I'm not one for "options" or a whole lot of "just in case" foods. I hate clutter. It makes me feel chaotic. This route also encourages me to buy fresh, whole ingredients in place of foods with a longer shelf life.  As a side note, make sure to check for expired ingredients every few months. A great time to clean out your refrigerator/freezer/pantry is the night before trash day. ;)

There you have it! I'd like to challenge you to try this method for just one week and see how it goes. :) 
You might be pleasantly surprised! 
If you already meal plan, would you mind sharing your tips & tricks, or even a favorite recipe?

Happy organizing, friends!