Our Little Graduate

May 25th, 2015

Happy Memorial Day!!

I’m beyond grateful for the service of each and every man and woman who gave their life for our freedom.  May we not forget what that really means and may we live in a way that is worthy of their sacrifice!

It’s pretty quiet around here today.  Our very own military man is traveling to take an exam, so the kids and I are laying low and trying to get back on schedule after a fun weekend.

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I’ve finally had a chance to upload a couple videos from Grace’s preschool graduation program and I’m so glad that I was able to capture a little sampling of the wonderful ceremony.  Preschool was a very positive experience for us and I’m so proud of the way Grace has grown academically and emotionally.  No matter what we do from here on out with homeschooling next year and potential public or private school later on, I think I’d like Avery and Drew to each have a preschool experience after what I saw this year with Grace.

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How on earth did the last year go by so fast??

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I remember when our little boo bear was a tiny baby and now she’s this big girl so full of spunk and sass.

She was very proud of each song she sang in the program.  Here are a few short clips…

 

 

She was such a little ham!  I had several other parents come up to me and comment how comfortable Grace was in front of everyone and how “into” it she was.  We may have a little performer on our hands!

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When she walked up to receive her certificate of completion, I had a total flash-forward to her high school graduation and I just know the time between now and then is going to fly.  Dear Lord please help me to appreciate and wisely steward all of the moments I have with her between now and then.

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The preschool chapter has closed and we have a carefree summer ahead of us before homeschooling kicks off in the fall.  I’m both excited and terrified of what we’re in for with Kindergarten and I can only imagine the blog posts that will be born out of that experience!

Congratulations Gracie Bear.  Daddy and I are so proud of you :)

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Friday Funday: The DIA

May 16th, 2015

Andy is currently doing his ER rotation and that means the kids and I are on our own quite a bit lately.  He’s going between working afternoon shift and working midnights, so he’s usually gone or asleep which has been sad for all of us.

When he decided to be a doctor, I was so happy for him and for the future of our family, but I don’t think I really realized what it would mean for our schedule.

His OB rotation is next and that comes with crazy hours too, so I’m working on keeping a positive attitude and making fun memories in the mean time.

Yesterday I wanted to get us all out of the house for some fun so Andy could sleep in peace.  After thinking through a few options and taking the gloomy weather into consideration, we decided to spend the afternoon at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

I wasn’t sure how it would go with 3 small children, but the day was a great success!

statue

The girls were so well behaved and didn’t touch anything they weren’t supposed to.  They really loved the “Eye Spy” activities sprinkled throughout the various exhibits.  Grace was able to find all but one of the picture snippets!

Avery was happy to see the sights and she too did an awesome job keeping her hands to herself.  For being only 2 years old, I was so impressed with her!

closeup statue

Drew is really easygoing in general and yesterday was no exception.  He had fun seeing new things and being doted on by so many other museum goers :)

me and drew in atrium

One of our favorite features was a projection table that walked us through a 3 course french meal.  We liked seeing all of the pretty dishes and the yummy looking foods!  Grace’s favorite part of the meal was the 3rd course…dessert!

table setting

She is sitting with me while I put together this post and I want to capture some of her thoughts on our fun outing, so here’s what she has to say…

I really liked the cakes… that was the dessert.  My favorite of all was the plates because they were pink and white and those are 2 of my favorite colors.  I really loved the meal!  That was amazing. I really liked it so much.  I couldn’t even scream because it was so much fun!!!!

And we had so much fun together. I really loved the museum.  So that is one of my favorite places to go because it’s so fun and I could even see a horse painting.

Mom let us get a treat.  I chose a frosted cookie and milk.  It was super yummy and it smelled like vanilla!  It tasted like vanilla too and it made my fingers blue.  That’s all I want to say.

grace with cookie

avery with cookie

Avery would hardly sit still for a picture, so it’s blurry but I just love her cheesy smile!  Whenever I ask her to smile I get this face.  LOL

Drew could hardly stay awake from all the activity.  Well that, and it was his nap time.

me and drew

How cute is he with that thumb?!

After our little snack break, we ventured up to the 3rd floor where we took a quick walk around before getting really tired and deciding it was time to head home.

girls in atrium

Admission is free for residents of Wayne, Macomb, and Oakland counties and kids are always free!  What an awesome way to spend the afternoon.  I only wish I’d have had this idea during the LONGGGG winter.

Have you been to the DIA lately?  I want to head back for one of their craft and activity events for the kids.  I know they’d love that since they were so interested in being there just looking around.  What a special memory that I’ll treasure :)

Grace wanted to “edit” some of our museum pics too, so here are her works of art :)

grace

closeup statue edited

princesses at table

 

She could have spent hours working at the computer fancying up her pictures!  I think she’s got a future in graphic design!

Photo May 16, 2 23 49 PM


Uncle

May 12th, 2015

I’m calling uncle.

Surrendering under the weight of everything.

Try as I might to engage “beast mode” and conquer all I face with strength and determination, I’m just not cutting it.

I’m not standing victorious on a heap of rubble at the end of the day, cheeks flushed with pride and accomplishment.  I’m dragging my limp legs to the couch where I want to curl up to hibernate.

I like to think I can do it all and then some, but the truth is that I can’t.

I just can’t.

And I hate the sound of that.  I hate seeing those words staring back at me in black and white.  I hate acknowledging that I have any weakness whatsoever.

Weakness disgusts me.

When I try to get to the bottom of why that’s the case, I guess it’s ultimately fear.

Weakness says, “I can’t do it.  I need help.  I’m not enough.” Those sentiments scare me because they imply dependence.

I don’t want to be dependent.  I don’t want to need anyone’s help.

Not even God’s help.

I’m a prideful wretch.  Seeking to be my own savior.  Seeking to protect myself from being hurt. You can’t hurt me if I don’t need you.

I can’t be hurt if I don’t depend on anyone for anything.

I can’t be loved either.

I can’t live in community or relationship if I’m not vulnerable.

If I don’t admit my failings and my humanity.

No hurt, but no joy either.

No risk, but no intimacy either.

We recently completed a church-wide Bible study about vulnerability and taking down the curtains we have between ourselves & God and ourselves & other people.  As we wrapped up that study, I felt God calling me to humility.

I told Him I wanted whatever He had for me.  Anything.

He called me to humble myself.  To allow Him to strip me of my pride and usher me into a sacred space called humility.

I begged Him to humble me without destroying me.  To humble me without taking all that I hold dear (namely my husband and children).  To be gentle with me.  To have mercy on my stubborn and prideful soul.

He has been so gentle with me.  Brutally gentle, but gentle nonetheless.

He hasn’t deemed it necessary to yank the rug out from under me, but he’s been excruciatingly clipping off fruitless branches.

Holding a mirror to my face so that I can peer inside and see my own weakness and His glorious strength.

Like strands of sticky red licorice held tightly in my clenched fist, He has been pulling out the things I go to for my sense of value and worth and control.

I cry and squeeze the strands tighter, but He keeps pulling harder.  He doesn’t yank.  He doesn’t shame or condemn me.  He just smiles at my red, tear-stained face as He keeps pulling.

My self-reliant approach to parenting.

He pulls…

My confidence in my own competence.

He pulls…

My frantic attempts at self-justification.

He pulls…

My tendency to martyr myself and pretend it’s loving service to others.

He pulls…

My inauthentic dance with my husband.

He pulls…

My attempts to rescue myself and alleviate my fears with logic.

He pulls…

Each one of them leaves a gooey mess behind as God graciously pries them out of my hand.  He wants to wash the sticky shame of it all away.  He wants to replace my twisted substitutes for worth with His truth of who I am.

Loved by Him.

AND THAT’S ENOUGH.

He’s a good father and I’m loved by Him.

End of story.

No amount of success or failure changes the way He loves me.

He loves me fully and completely and that’s who.I.am.

Take a couple of minutes to listen to this and let it soak into your heart.  It’s been on repeat over here for months and I cannot hear it enough.

 


Rainforest Cafe Field Trip

May 7th, 2015

I’m sitting at my dining room table listening to Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors and drinking a cup of lemon jasmine green tea that I had to talk myself into taking with honey.

During Whole30 I grew to enjoy unsweetened tea very much.  It was a little afternoon or late night treat that was fully compliant with the program and felt like an indulgence.

I don’t need to sweeten it with honey, but that sounded especially lovely tonight so I decided to go for it.  After walking through in my mind that life is short and we are meant to enjoy things.  Things like raw honey.  I mean it’s practically a health food!

God called the promised land the land flowing with milk and honey, so how could those things be all that bad.  Am I right?!  That’s an argument used by my friend Jen and I’ve never forgotten it.  Especially when I dip into a lovely jar of strawberry creamed honey sent from my sweet aunt in Jacksonville, FL.  Or I dig into a big bowl of ice cream.  That’s basically milk, right?

I digress…

I’m sitting here with my sweetened tea and my soulful tunes and I’m happily dropping my thoughts onto the keyboard like raindrops on a tin roof.  My heart is full this evening and I want to capture it.

I’ve been sick for the past 4 days and whenever I’m sick I get the irrational fear that I’ll never feel better again.  Things like, “How will I ever enjoy the summer? Will I ever want to cook again? How am I going to take care of my children without it feeling like climbing Mount Everest?”

Perfectly logical thinking…

Um, no.

Thanks to the good Lord in heaven above I woke up this morning after an awful night’s sleep feeling better than I have in days!  We had a busy day, so it was a welcome relief to be feeling so much better.  The girls are both teetering on the edge of sickness and health, but I loaded them up with healthy breakfasts, essential oils, and most importantly prayer.  They seemed well enough after all that, so we got into gear for Grace’s field trip to the Rainforest Cafe at Great Lakes Crossing Mall.  All 4 of us had to be there, ready to go, at 10:00 sharp.

By the grace of God I was able to shower, feed all the kids, pack everything we needed and get us on the road in time for our 50 minute trip!

We strolled in at 10:00 on.the.nose.

The field trip was as hectic as you’d imagine with an entire dining room of preschoolers, parents, and siblings.  The kids seemed to enjoy touring the animal displays and learning about the animals and their habitat, so that’s what mattered.

I had the opportunity to chat with some of the other moms and Drew was a champ throughout the whole ordeal.

rainforest cafe collage

After the tour and eating lunch a few families headed over to the kids play area for the little ones to burn the energy they were all still brimming with.  Grace and Avery had a blast running around, climbing on giant fruits and vegetables, and literally piling on top of their friends.  At one point Grace was laying at the bottom of a pile of 5 classmates and was laughing through the whole thing.  It was hilarious, and I wish I’d had my camera handy but I was busy bouncing Drew and continuously scanning the madness to make sure Avery was present and accounted for.

The kids had their hearts set on riding the shiny carousel nearby so we all shelled out way too much money to make their dream come true.  It was a gentle ride and the kids all loved it.

I however am getting old.  It made me dizzy and light-headed and I couldn’t wait to get off!  I think Drew got a little dizzy too.  Poor guy.

Before leaving the house this morning, I grabbed a Carter’s coupon I’d been holding onto and in a twist of luck, the mall had a Carter’s store!

I’m a sucker for Carter’s.  Their clothes have fit all 3 of my kids so well (lots of other brands are short and wide rather than long and lean and they just don’t work well for us) and I love how matchy matchy they are.

So many of the people I follow online dress their girls in these totally hip and stylish outfits involving infinity scarves and skinny jeans and cowboy boots.  They look adorable and awesomely trendy.

I sometimes feel cheesy for liking the 3 piece sets from Carter’s, but at the end of the day they are comfortable, well-made, and reasonably priced.  My kiddos like comfort above all, so I know there’s no way in hell Grace would tolerate skinny jeans or an infinity scarf.  Ha!

They’re only little once, so I’m ok with the colorful cotton coordinates at this point :)

We loaded up with a bunch of great stuff and even greater deals and then headed for the car.

There mayyyy have been some cajoling at the store about trying on a few things for size and I mayyy have promised a candy treat on the way out if everyone cooperated.

By the time we finally made it out of the store we were all exhausted.  Avery was two hours past nap time, Drew was getting hungry and even Grace was looking weary.

Drew wanted to be held and Avery could hardly walk another step, so I carried Drew and put Avery into his carseat in the snap-n-go stroller! It was hilarious, but it worked!

Of course I didn’t have any quarters on me so we tried to get change for a $5 from a couple of guys walking by and one of them did the nicest thing.  He outright GAVE me $3!  I tried to insist he take my $5, but he wouldn’t have anything to do with it and seemed happy to hand the money over “for the kids”.

You guys.

I about cried.  He was a young guy, probably in his 20’s and it was just the sweetest gesture.

I saw the goodness of God in that guy and it warmed my heart.

Once we had the dollar bills, we still needed to get quarters so I buttered up the cashier at Dress Barn and she changed a buck for me.

We grabbed some Sprees (for Avery and me) and a cherry gum ball for Grace and we finally made our way to the car.

Avery was asleep before we got there and Grace was happy to chew her gum in the air conditioned van while I nursed Drew again in preparation for the long ride home.

Everyone napped through the entire ride and I enjoyed uninterrupted grown up music all the way home :)

After dinner and a little rest time we took a walk to soak up the lovely spring weather.

It was one of those walks that’s just perfect.  Everyone’s happy.  The weather is on point.  The conversation bounces back and forth between question/answer time and squeals of delight about how much fun we’re having.

spring walk

It was one of those rare moments when everything feels right and heaven and earth seem to collide.  If only for a few sweet moments.

I wanted to burn it into my memory so I can call the sweetness back when we’re having a tough time.

spring walk all 3

I wanted to remember everything about each one of them.

Grace’s long brown hair, quirky little gait, fluffy new neon pink skirt and wide-eyed smile.

Avery’s plump little knees peeking out of her new neon pink shorts and her sweet toes gripping for dear life to her flip-flops, re-learning how to walk in them after a long winter in sneakers and boots.

Drew’s shock of dark hair and smooth pale skin.  The way his blue eyes darted back and forth taking in every detail of the canopy of trees above him.  The little red bump on his chin from who knows where, and his sweet gummy smile each time I made eye contact.

I’m blessed beyond measure and I’m overflowing with gratitude tonight.


Back to Basics

May 5th, 2015

It’s been so long since I last posted without thinking about how my words would be received.

I continue to write in my head all day long, but seldom do I pluck the words out onto the keyboard to share here on the blog.

Why?

Because I worry that people won’t understand what I mean, or I’ll come across as obsessive or neurotic (both of which I actually am!), or I’ll seem like I’m over-spiritualizing things, or I’ll be another mom whining about her life online, or no one will care.

I’m getting tired of those excuses.

I started this blog as a creative outlet for myself over 10 years ago.  I had a slow job that left me with time to write or post nonsense and that’s what the early days of this blog were.  So incredibly random, but I just didn’t care.

Eventually I let my mom know about my blog, and she passed it along to my Aunt Becky.  I think I told my sister about it early on and Andy too, of course.

For a long time I kept it very low key.  I felt vulnerable letting many people have access to the trivial things I posted here.

Part of me really misses the days I posted here only for myself.

I do look back and laugh at the posts that contain only a closeup photo of my eye or a picture of the toilet at our first apartment (what on EARTH was I thinking with those??) LOL

But it was refreshing to just pop into the blog to post whatever the heck struck me at the moment.

I want to get back to that.

I want to stop worrying that what I write won’t be interesting or relevant or pinnable.

I want to pour my thoughts out, if only to record things for myself.

I want to share photos and memories of these years with my family.  Crazy times we’re in with 3 children under 5 and a husband in medical school.

I don’t want to forget these days.  The incredibly difficult ones and the overwhelmingly joyful ones.

I want to remember looking at sweet two and a half year old Avery in her castle nightgown and matching Ariel purse and “glass slippers”.

I want to remember the wide-mouthed smiles that Drew doles out so freely.

I want to remember the eccentric outfits that Grace picks out and hearing her reasoning for each and every item she’s wearing.

I want to remember how the doctor gushed for a full 5 minutes about how special and amazing Andy is as a medical student.  How they reference him whenever talking about exemplary med students.  About how they would MAKE a spot for him to do his residency if he decides to go into family medicine and doesn’t end up with a military placement.  I was at the doctor’s office to be treated for whatever awful cold/bronchitis I have, but I got so much more than medical attention.  I was nearly moved to tears hearing a well-respected physician praise my husband so wholeheartedly.

I want to remember this house.  The way it’s almost always messy.  Crumbs on the dining room floor and smudges on the table.  Toys strewn all over the living room no matter how hard I try to corral them to the girls’ rooms or the basement.  I want to remember the basement and how it looks like a flea market because of all the crap I hoard and cannot seem to scale down no matter how many bags I donate to the Salvation Army.

It might be messy and chaotic and too small for our growing family, but it’s home.  It’s our first home and it’s not perfect, but the memories it holds are priceless.  Bringing home each of our sweet babies and welcoming them all into the same pale blue nursery.  Our bold red kitchen, gold dining room, and blue living room walls have witnessed so much joy, heartache, fun, hospitality, sacred times, and silly times with our family and our friends.

This blog is also a home of sorts for me.  It’s my own little corner of the internet and I want to get back to writing for me.

Just me.

I feel relieved.  Making this decision and moving forward unencumbered by worry of what anyone thinks of my posts will hopefully free me up to capture my life.  Raw and real.

It may bore you to tears, and that’s finally ok with me.

I hope this is the nudge I’ve been needing to post more often.  Let’s see how it goes!


Drowning Out a Rough Day with Netflix

April 30th, 2015

Parenting is hard.

Wayyyyy harder than I imagined it would be.

Sometimes the physical demand of parenting has left me worn out.  There are just so many mouths and hands and behinds to wipe.  So many shoes and socks to put on.  So many baths to give and nails to clip.  So many carseat buckles to fasten.  So many meals to make and clean up after.  So many little bodies to lift up and down.  SO MUCH LAUNDRY.

It has left me plum tuckered out on many an occasion.

But lately?

Lately it’s been emotionally demanding.

Staying engaged.  Speaking kindly even when the same question is asked for the sixth time (literally!). Deciding what healthy balanced meals to give them day after day.  Wondering which battles are worth fighting and which are driven by my fear or pride.  Not losing my temper when they just.cannot.get.along.  Figuring out how much to play with them and how much to empower them to play.  Wondering whether he’s really hungry again or just needs to take a nap.  Balancing discipline with prayer as I try to raise 3 humans to understand God’s love and pass it on to the world.

It has been KICKING MY BUTT.

Things ebb and flow and I know this is just an ebb, but I’m feeling overwhelmed lately and I’m ready for another flow!

At the end of the day I’m running on fumes and don’t have the energy or creativity to blog or work on projects or even hold a decent conversation.

That only leaves me with a few options…

1. Go to bed.

As much as I crave good sleep and should go to bed earlier, I just cannot spend my only child-free hours asleep or I’ll burst.  I need child-free awake time to refuel!

2. Zone out on my phone.

This sometimes wins out but generally ends in me getting frustrated with all the crap posted on Facebook or depressed that I wasted my alone time scrolling through a bunch of useless information online.

3. Get sucked into a tv show!

Although this is probably just as much of a time waster as the internet, it somehow feels better.  The power of story is a driving force for so much learning.  As cheesy as it sounds, I usually learn a lot about myself and the world when I watch a show in its entirety.

Thanks to the awesomeness that is Netflix, I can choose option #3 and watch shows on my phone, my ipad, my computer or the tv!  I’ve watched many of my favorite shows on all 4 devices depending on the circumstances.

Netflix is so great that it saves my place in a show if I start watching it on my phone and end up switching to my ipad so I can prop it up to watch while I do dishes or make dinner.

#truestory

Lately Andy and I have been watching and LOVING Freaks and Geeks.

freaks and geeks

It’s set in 1980 and shares the day-to-day drama and humor of a group of high school students…some freaks (rebels) and some geeks (straight-laced nerds).  Andy and I both crack up at least once every episode!  The characters are hilarious and lovable and we’ve liked it so much more than we thought we would!

It was canceled after one season (BOO!) so it won’t take long for us to watch them all, but I can totally see us watching the series again sometime…I bet it gets funnier each time like Friends did when we watched it about a million times.

I always like to have a show to watch on my own since Andy is so busy and we don’t get much time to watch tv together.  I gave Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt a try and while I did like it and thought it was funny (especially the first few episodes) I just haven’t gotten totally hooked yet.  It’s a light and silly comedy and I can seriously appreciate that at the end of a long day, so I know I’ll give it another shot :)

Quite a few people have recommended Friday Night Lights, so I finally gave it a try.  It’s really football-heavy and I’m not a football girl, so that’s not my thing, but it’s based in a small town and there is a large cast of characters so I think the interpersonal dynamics will be enough to rope me in.  I’ve only watched a few episodes so far, but I’m already getting attached to the cast!

friday night lights
 

On the kid front, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood is still a big hit and I’m totally ok with that!  It’s such a positive show that teaches great lessons about sharing and generosity and dealing with emotions.  I’ve used Daniel Tiger advice jingles on more than one occasion to get my girls to share or speak kindly or work through their anger.  Thank you Jesus and Daniel Tiger for getting me through sibling rivalry! LOL

daniel tiger
 

That’s what our Netflix has been tuned into over the past month.  Are you currently watching anything on Netflix?  If so, let me know in the comments…I’m always up for a new show, movie, or documentary!

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Disclosure: I am a member of the Netflix Stream Team and will be sharing monthly tips and stories about how my family uses Netflix on a regular basis. As a member of the Stream Team I was provided with welcome kit including a voucher to apply towards my Netflix account. I was not otherwise compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.


Whole30 Compliant Ratatouille Niçoise

April 13th, 2015

This is one of my new favorite dinners…Whole30 or not!

It’s rich, hearty, savory, and healthy to boot!

After Drew was born, a bunch of our friends very generously brought meals to get us through the early days with a newborn.  It was so nice not to have to worry about cooking while we were getting adjusted to our baby boy!

When my friend Beth offered to bring a dinner, we were right in the middle of our Whole30 experience and I did not want to subject her to the rules of the program, but she asked for the guidelines and insisted on bringing a compliant meal.

WHAT A WONDERFUL TREAT it was not to have to cook for a night when I was already cooking day in and day out to make sure we stuck to the plan.

I had NO IDEA the dinner would be so delicious!  I devoured two giant bowls of this incredible Ratatouille on that first night and made a double batch not even a week later because I just couldn’t get enough!

ratatouille bowl

Look at all those gorgeous veggies and that rich broth…

We’re talking onions, garlic, bell peppers, eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes and fresh sausage with fennel.

*In order to make this dish Whole30 compliant, make sure you use sausage free of sugar and other processed ingredients.  This can be tricky, so read your labels!  Your best bet may be to check out a local “mom & pop” meat market to see if they make their own sausage.  We have a local shop that uses only pork, salt, and fennel and it’s perfect for this meal!

ratatouille closeup

The recipe isn’t complicated, but it does take some time, so do yourself a favor and make a double batch.  I’ve heard it freezes well, but we haven’t had it last long enough to freeze because I could pretty much eat it for lunch all week long and dinner at least a few times in a row.

Not that I’m an extremist or anything. Lol

Without further ado, here’s the recipe!  It’s handed down from my dear friend Beth’s great Aunt Odile :)

ratatouille nicoise

 

Whole30 Compliant Ratatouille Niçoise
Author: 
Recipe type: Main Dish/Paleo
Cuisine: French
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4-6 servings
 
Ingredients
  • 1 large eggplant
  • 1 lb. zucchini
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 bell peppers (I use 1 green and 1 red or yellow)
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 28 oz can Italian tomatoes, crushed, or diced (When I double the recipe I use one can of Italian seasoned tomatoes and one can of Muir Glen Fire Roasted Tomatoes)
  • 6 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon basil
  • ½ teaspoon oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 lb. ground beef (much prefer italian sausage, removed from skin and browned like ground beef - be sure to use sugar-free Whole30-compliant sausage if you're doing Whole30)
Instructions
  1. PEEL and dice eggplant, then soak 20 minutes in hot, salted water (2 teaspoons salt per large bowl of hot water). Drain well.
  2. Scrub zucchini and dice medium to small.
  3. Chop and sauté onion and bell peppers in ¼ cup olive oil until softened.
  4. Add zucchini, tomatoes and eggplant. Add 6 cloves of finely chopped garlic (I mince mine in a garlic press, don't use the stuff in the jar...it's not the same as fresh!).
  5. Add basil, oregano, pepper, and 1 teaspoon or more salt.
  6. Simmer over medium-low to medium heat, uncovered.
  7. In a separate pan, brown ground beef or italian sausage and drain any excess fat. Add to above ingredients, cover and cook slowly for about 2 hours, or until very thick.
  8. Can be served over rice or noodles, but is delicious (and Whole30 compliant) on it's own!

 


Rebecca’s Random Rambling

April 10th, 2015

Maybe I should start a new series…

Rebecca’s Random Rambling!

Gotta love some alliteration :)

But seriously, I do miss writing about what’s happening in our life.

It’s been fun going on and on and on and on and on and on and on about Whole30 and I could probably write even more!

But I’ll spare you ;)

I did add a new menu item at the top of the blog in case anyone wants to view all of the Whole30 posts later on.

whole 30 menu

I guess I haven’t written a random update in a while because life feels pretty ordinary these days…

We have adjusted well to life with a baby.  In fact, it’s been a much smoother transition than I anticipated!  Drew is such a happy and easy going baby.  It surprises me almost every day.

Part of me is waiting for the other shoe to drop, but for now he’s an awesome eater and sleeper and he’s all smiles when he’s awake.

I think I also might be a little more laid back this third time around which probably helps things too.

With Grace I was so anxious about every little thing.  Her umbilical cord coming off, cutting her tiny little finger nails, whether she’d ever sit up or use a sippy cup (LOL), whether she was color blind (at TWO when she kept mixing up blue and green) and a host of other equally embarrassing things.

Praise Jesus I wasn’t like that with Avery!

But I was still very intense and had unrealistic expectations about what the baby phase was supposed to look like.  I pushed hard to get her to sleep through the night, tried hard to space her feedings farther apart and felt like I was supposed to say yes to everything and not let my baby slow me down.

That was all a mistake.

I missed out on the precious and fleeting moments that should be carved out for a new baby.  Saying no to meetings and retreats and events and get togethers for a short time during the baby phase is actually a good thing.

After Avery’s infancy I committed to myself not to make the same mistakes, should I have the opportunity to have another baby.

I’m happy to say that, for the most part, I’ve held to that commitment.  I hunkered down in the beginning and said no to just about everything.  I’ve skipped parties and retreats and saved myself so much stress.

Photo Apr 02, 7 39 18 PM  
I definitely wanted Drew to sleep through the night, but I wasn’t quite as desperate about it.  I planned in my mind to feed him every two hours for the better part of six months if that’s what he wanted.

And you know what?

He slept through the night and went to a 4 hour feeding cycle all on his own.  Without me pushing at all!  It’s nuts I tell you.  NUTS.

I’m not complaining though!  This easy baby thing totally ROCKS.

People keep asking whether we’re “done” and I find it weird that so many people asked that as soon as Drew was born.  And they keep asking!

Photo Apr 06, 9 38 16 AM  

At this point, our heart is really for adoption.

God put that desire in my heart in the most unlikely way and it’s only grown stronger.  I know there are no guarantees and that some of the most loving families have wanted to adopt and it hasn’t worked out, so I’m really trying to leave it all in God’s hands.  I trust that if he has a child(ren) in mind for us and we trust Him to get us from A to B, He will.

If he doesn’t, we’ll continue to support adoption by contributing to others who are on the path to bringing home the children God has for them.

Photo Apr 05, 10 43 22 AM

So we aren’t “done” yet.  Not because we have “our boy” or have our hands full.  I really believe there are other children out there or coming some day that are meant to be a part of our family.  I get antsy and anxious thinking about it, but I truly do believe that if we’re open and willing to obey, God will handle the rest.

I started this post last week and got interrupted before posting it, so I’m back today to finish it off…

It’s interesting to me how everything I said above is still true, and nothing dramatic has happened, but I find myself in such a different place this week.

Anxious.

About every.little.thing.

I was so looking forward to preparing for Easter by quieting my heart and life during Holy Week (the week leading up to Easter Sunday).

But instead of it being a Holy Week, it was a HOLY CRAP I’M SO BUSY week.

Anxiety set up camp in my heart and tormented me all week.  I’m only now getting some relief from it after much prayer from my beloved husband and much reaching out to God despite not really wanting to reach out.

What’s up with THAT?

I know He’s the only one who can give me peace and joy, yet sometimes I’d rather wallow in my own pity party.  Sometimes I want to stew about the things that are upsetting me rather than turning them over to Him and choosing to abide in Christ.

And I just don’t understand why.

Thankfully I’m well aware of what a lost sheep I am.  Remembering my weakness prompted me to ask God to help me ask Him for help.

That’s how dependent I need to become.

And boy do I fight it!

Like a stubborn toddler I’m always shouting, “I do it!”

On my own.

Without you, God.

It’s no wonder I get myself into such muddy puddles.

I’m so grateful for his never-ending love and mercy.

Lord knows I need it every day!  The ones where things are working out as well as the ones where they aren’t.


March with Netflix!

April 1st, 2015

Well, somehow April totally snuck up on me! What the heck time…you’ve got to SLOW DOWN.

I mean my baby boy went from this:

andrew james announcement photo
 

to this:

Photo Mar 29, 5 20 26 PM
 

practically overnight!!!

I love watching my children grow up and become little people, but this time around it’s making me sad!  I just want to freeze time with my sweet little roly poly baby boy!

But I digress…

Let’s talk about Netflix :)

Like I’ve mentioned a million times before…we are BIG fans.  I absolutely adore being able to chose what we want to watch any time commercial free.  It totally rocks.

I love that Netflix has a “Kids Only” profile option.  I know that Grace won’t stumble on anything inappropriate while she’s browsing for a show to watch because she’s on her personal profile which is set up to only display kids shows.

The girls continue to have their favorite shows….Jake and the Neverland Pirates, Super Why, Caillou, and Bo On The Go.

kids netflix
 

But more recently Grace has gotten really into this funny Penguin claymation series called Pingu.  There is no dialogue, the penguins talk in their own gibberish, but she just loves it!  I always like when she’s interested in old school stuff.  Makes my nostalgic heart happy :)

Pingu

I recently binge watched Sons of Anarchy (first 6 seasons are available on Netflix) and I think I’m still emotionally involved with the characters!  I won’t lie…SOA is a very gritty show.  It’s about a motorcycle club/gang in California.  There’s lots of shoot ’em up action and drama!  I’m surprised I got sucked in to it, but I guess The Walking Dead (also available on Netflix!) changed my taste in shows!

soa

Now if something is not life and death intense, I’m yawning! LOL

Another new show I’ve been seeing buzz about is a Netflix Original Series called Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

kimmy
 

I haven’t watched an episode yet, but it looks like a fun girly show to watch on nights Andy is busy studying.  I think I’ll give it a whirl this month and let you know what I think!  Have you watched it yet?  Let me know in the comments…

That’s all for March’s post! I juts love being a Netflix Stream Team member…they are so good to us and it’s so easy for me to share how we’re using Netflix in our home because we love it so much :)

StreamTeamBadge
 

Disclosure: I am a member of the Netflix Stream Team and will be sharing monthly tips and stories about how my family uses Netflix on a regular basis. As a member of the Stream Team I was provided with welcome kit including a voucher to apply towards my Netflix account. I was not otherwise compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.

 

 


Whole30 Dinner Ideas

March 25th, 2015

The final post in my Whole30 meal ideas series is here!

Whole30 DINNER ideas!!

whole30 dinner ideas

I’m not joking when I say there are so many more dinners besides this sampling…the possibilities are endless, but this is a good start if you want some inspiration for your Whole30.

These dinners were delicious and filling…I never left the dinner table feeling hungry! And as of today, I’m down 15 pounds from the day I started Whole30.

I have NOT been working out or going hungry.

I can’t even explain how awesome I feel.  Going back to a grain and sugar laden diet has no appeal to me anymore.  I’m just too happy with how I feel these days!

My goal for April is to start regularly exercising.  Even though I’ve dropped some weight, I’m still pretty jiggly!  I’d like to be fit and active before summer comes so that I feel great in all of my summer swimsuits and clothing.

Let’s get to the real reason you’re here…the food!

whole30 dinner collage numbered

1. My friend Beth brought us this incredibly delicious ratatouille! (recipe post coming soon!) It was her great aunt’s recipe and it was SO GOOD that I ended up making a batch of it another time that very same week!  Paired with a garden salad it was a fantastic dinner.  Didn’t even miss the bread!

2. Pork Carnitas….my most favorite Whole30 meal of all!  This recipe is from Popular Paleo and it rocked my socks off.  I could eat this at least once a week for life! I paired it with her Cilantro Lime Cauliflower Rice and it was heaven in a bowl.  Make it.  You’ll be so glad you did!

3. Trader Joe’s Chili Lime Chicken Burgers (found in the frozen section) Lettuce Wraps with a side of crinkle cut fries…make sure the fry ingredients are compliant or cut up your own taters, toss them in coconut oil, and roast them at 400* for about 20 minutes.  These lettuce wraps were just romaine lettuce, chili lime chicken burger halves, orange bell pepper, green onions and jalepeno slices.  Delish!

4. Ratatouille again!  I promise to get the recipe up this weekend :)

5. Italian “breaded” chicken tenders with roasted tiny potatoes (from Trader Joe’s) and roasted brussels sprouts (just toss taters and brussels with avocado oil, salt, and pepper and roast at 400* for about 20 minutes).

6. BBQ chicken tenders with roasted broccoli and mashed potatoes.  The BBQ sauce recipe came from the book It Starts With Food and although it wasn’t really much like regular BBQ sauce, it was tasty!  I tossed the broccoli in a little olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder and roasted it at 400* for about 20 minutes.  The potatoes were diced and boiled till tender, then mashed with a dollup of ghee and a splash of coconut milk.

7. Not-So Shepherd’s Pie!  This recipe was featured on the Whole30Recipes Instagram account and Andy requested it so I made it!  We skipped the mushrooms because I’m the only one around here that likes them and I added a finely chopped zuchinni because I had an extra one laying around.  It was very good and everyone liked it!!

8. Pre-cooked sliced beef from Costco (found in the fridge section and totally compliant!), roasted cauliflower (tossed with avocado oil, salt and pepper and roasted for 20 minutes at 400*) sauteed spinach with minced garlic (throw a little ghee and garlic into a pan and heat over medium for about 2 minutes – add baby spinach leaves and sautee just until wilted…about 2 more minutes) and sauteed portobello mushrooms. Yum!

9. “Peanut” Sauce Noodle Bowl from PaleOMG this dish had really good flavor, but turned out really runny!  I would recommend making your zoodles and “peanut” sauce  separately, then combining them with the meat/veggies mixture right before serving.  That will allow you to get the ratio of sauce to zoodles to meat mixture just how you like it.  This was really filling!

10. Costco Smoked Pulled Pork (from fridge section – does contain sodium nitrite as a preservative, and spice extract which can be questionable, but I figure the short ingredient list on this product is far better than the average laundry list on so many foods people eat without hesitation!  Plus, we only eat this occasionally) with steamed asparagus and roasted potatoes (tossed in oil/salt/pepper/garlic powder and roasted at 400* for 20 minutes).

11. Chicken Broccoli Almond Stir fry over cauliflower rice.  I made this recipe up based on my Kong Bao Ji Ding recipe and it was surprisingly delicious! I used coconut aminos instead of soy sauce, tapioca starch instead of corn starch, skipped the sugar and added some fresh ginger when I sauteed the veggies.  So tasty!! (to make cauliflower rice, add chopped raw cauliflower to a food processor and pulse until it resembles rice.  Then sautee with coconut oil over medium heat for about 5 minutes)

12. Meat sauce and sauteed mushrooms over zoodles!  This dinner is SUPER easy!!  I love Kirkland Marinara Sauce from Costco…no sugar, only good ingredients!  I browned about a pound of ground turkey with half an onion finely chopped and 3 cloves of garlic minced.  Then I poured the marinara sauce on top, gave it a stir, and let it simmer for a while.  I made zoodles with my handy dandy spiralizer (which you can now get at Bed Bath and Beyond!) and sauteed them in a tiny bit of olive oil until they were just tender.  I added some ghee to a pan over medium heat and sauteed my sliced mushrooms until they were cooked to my liking.  Layer zoodles, meat sauce and mushrooms and you’re good to go!

13. Pork belly, mashed cauliflower and steamed broccoli.  You can buy pork belly at Trader Joes in the refrigerated meat section.  Just slice it up, fry slices in a hot pan (no fat needed….it’s pretty fatty!) and make sure it gets brown and crispy on all sides.  Steam cauliflower until it’s very tender then mash it up with ghee, a splash of coconut milk, salt, and pepper.  The pork belly is rich, but definitely has yummy bacon-y appeal!

14. Roasted Chicken with carrots, onions, and red skin potatoes.  I throw everything in a big roaster pan, drizzle with olive oil and a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper, and throw it into a hot oven for just over an hour.  More detailed instructions can be found in this older post of mine.

15. Meat sauce, mushrooms and fresh basil over roasted spaghetti squash!  See #12 for how I prepare my meat sauce and mushrooms.  Roast a couple of spaghetti squash (cut in half and lay cut side down on an oiled baking sheet.  Bake at 350 for 30 minutes then use a fork to loosen all the spaghetti-like strands) and top their yummy innards with the meat sauce, mushrooms, and thinly sliced fresh basil leaves.  Don’t skip the basil…it takes this dish over the top!!

16. Costco smoked pulled pork (see #10) with a side of steamed green beans drizzled with a delicious sweet and tangy mustard sauce from @WholeSisters on Instagram and some home made sweet potato fries (thinly slice sweet potatoes into fries then toss with salt, pepper and melted coconut oil.  Spread into a single layer – not crowded – onto a baking sheet and bake at 400* for about 20 minutes or until they are browned and have crispy edges.

As always, feel free to ask any questions you may have about the recipes, ingredients, or cooking methods.  I hope some of you out there give Whole30 a try!!


Whole 30 Lunch Ideas

March 23rd, 2015

Let’s do lunch…Whole 30 style!

whole30 lunch ideas

Lunch was one of my favorite meals during Whole 30.  Because I was making it just for me (not Andy and the kids) and I wasn’t trying to have something that felt breakfasty (like I usually was for the first meal of the day), I branched out and had some tasty things that were right up my alley!  I’m talking stinky stuff like tuna salad, saurkraut, and crazy salads with things like onions and dates!

If you’re a food weirdo like me, you’ll probably like these lunches…especially the stinky ones ;)

So, here’s the rundown:

whole30 lunch collage numbered

1. Two chicken apple sausages sliced lengthwise to get nice and browned in the skillet (Adelle’s brand is the most popular but I couldn’t find them at my Costco so I found another brand at my local Better Health store), sauteed mushrooms, garlic and spinach in ghee.  Side of blackberries.

2. 2 Applegate hot dogs (cut in half to make 4) in butter lettuce wraps (I get butter lettuce for a great price at Costco), topped with Trader Joe’s raw sauerkraut (it’s in the fridge section and it contains pickles too! Be still my stinky-food-loving heart!) and Trader Joe’s spicy brown mustard (only $.99!)

3. Tuna salad (canned wild tuna from Costco, homemade mayo – from It Starts With Food, chopped celery, chopped carrot, chopped onion, salt, and pepper) in lettuce wraps with a deviled egg (hard boiled egg yolk mixed with homemade mayo – from It Starts With Food, yellow mustard, salt, and pepper then sprinkled with paprika)

4. Same as #2, oops!

5.  Grass-fed burger on a bed of chopped romaine lettuce, topped with homemade mayo, sliced tomato and spicy brown mustard.  A side of homemade sweet potato fries (slice peeled sweet potatoes into thin strips, toss with melted coconut oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder then roast at 400* for about 20 minutes) and a side of strawberries and blueberries.

6. Romaine salad with grape tomatoes, green onions and cubed broiled chicken breast (toss chicken in a little avocado oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder and Trader Joe’s Everyday Seasoning then broil on highest rack of oven in a broil-safe pan or a sheet of foil for 4-6 minutes on each side, depending on thickness of meat), dressed with fresh lemon juice, olive oil, salt and garlic powder.  A side of deviled eggs (see #3) and a La Croix sparkling water.

7. Grass-fed burger on a butter lettuce “bun” topped with homemade mayo, sliced tomato and spicy brown mustard.  Side of sliced cucumber (I love the little persian cucumbers from Trader Joe’s…so mild, tender and almost seedless!)

8. Big old salad with a little of everything…romaine, tomato, cucumber, carrot, chopped dates, green onion, Applegate turkey, sesame seeds and homemade vinaigrette (olive oil red wine vinegar, spicy brown mustard, salt, pepper, garlic powder and Trader Joe’s Everyday Seasoning).

9. Sliced carrots and cucumbers with 2 Applegate hot dogs on a bed of Trader Joe’s raw sauerkraut topped with spicy brown mustard.  Lemon La Croix sparkling water.

10. Sliced avocado, two hard boiled eggs, leftover sweet potato cubes (peeled sweet potato cut into cubes and tossed with avocado oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder and roasted at 400* for 20 minutes)

11. Salad with romaine, spinach, mushrooms, carrots, onion, cucumber, hard boiled egg, broiled chicken (see #6), chopped dates, sesame seeds and red wine vinaigrette (see #6)

12. Tuna salad (see #3) scooped up with Trader Joe’s plantain chips.  Carrot and celery sticks on the side.

13. Leftover grass-fed burger, steamed broccoli, and roasted potatoes (see #10 but use red skin potatoes) with a squirt of spicy brown mustard because I can’t quit that stuff!

14. The avocado mango chicken salad from a local restaurant (Red Olive).  I skipped the dressing and didn’t even need it!  This lunch was delish and it was really nice to have something I didn’t have to make.  I took the risk that the chicken may not have been compliant, but I’m guessing it might have been since Whole 30 allows for occasional canola oil consumption so that you can eat out (many restaurants use canola oil which isn’t great for you, but ok from time to time).

15. Trader Joe’s Chili Lime Chicken Burgers (found in freezer section) in butter lettuce topped with Tableside Guacamole (found at Costco in a 3 pack).  Sooo fast and easy but delicious!

We ate a bunch of other things, but this is a pretty good sampling.  I didn’t include pictures of the days I ate leftover dinner and there were a lot of those days.  Always try to make more dinner than you need so it’s available to have for lunch or dinner the next day!

Another helpful tip was to make a BUNCH of extra potatoes each time I roasted some for dinner.  That kept the fridge stocked with them throughout the week for easy grabbing at breakfast or lunch.

Also, if I was going to slice a few green onions for something, I’d go ahead a slice all 3 bunches to store in the fridge for later meals.  Same goes for peppers and other produce.

If you’re taking the time and effort to prep something for one meal, you might as well take a little extra time to do more.  Plus it saves a future cleanup!

As always, let me know if you have any questions! :)


Egg-Free Whole 30 Breakfast Ideas

March 20th, 2015

So you hate eggs, huh?

No problem!

You can still do Whole 30.  I promise.

egg free whole 30 breakfast ideas

If you’re ok with eating non-traditional breakfast foods, you won’t really have a problem at all.  But I’m guessing most people don’t really want a salad for their first meal of the day :)

If you do, more power to ya!

If a salad at 7am doesn’t sound awesome to you, here are a few things you could eat throughout your 30 day Whole 30 experience.  Heck, these are great to add into the mix even if you love eggs like I do…variety is the spice of life!

non egg breakfasts numbered

1. Sliced bananas topped with roasted, unsalted pecan pieces, a generous sprinkling of cinnamon and a splash of coconut milk (Trader Joe’s has the tastiest one in my opinion!) This is my absolute favorite sweet breakfast.  If I had some unsweetened coconut flakes on hand, I would have thrown them into the mix too.  Yum!

2. Larabars.  These little gems are basically dates and nuts mixed with other fruits and sometimes cinnamon.  That’s it.  They are good in a pinch when you don’t have a lot of time or you’re out and about and get HANGRY.  I wouldn’t rely on these everyday because they pack a lot of natural sugar, but they are great to have once or twice a week.  My favorites are Apple Pie, Pecan Pie and Chocolate Coconut Chew.  I normally LOVE anything cherry, but I found Cherry Pie to be too tart.

Be sure to choose bars that are Whole 30 approved, here’s a very helpful graphic from @getting.body.back.girl on Instagram:

larabars

 

3. Sautéed veggies with compliant bacon or sausage.  I didn’t ever make it to Whole Foods to look for compliant bacon (so the one pictured isn’t compliant but it’s a decent after-plan option, but I’m betting they carry it.  I know you can also purchase it online here, but you have to REALLY want it because it’s not cheap.  There are great recipes online for making your own breakfast sausage with compliant ingredients…I didn’t get around to doing this because I love eggs and didn’t find myself running out of variety, but I do plan to make this one sometime soon! Sautéed veggies are delicious and when paired with some kind of breakfast meat and a cup of coffee, I know you’d feel like you were eating a real breakfast, not some kind of side dish :)

4. An apple with almond butter.  This is one of Andy’s main breakfast options.  It’s easy to put together in a hurry and it really does keep you full until lunch.  It’s a great alternative to eggy breakfasts, so I definitely add it into my routine at least once a week.  Costco has a great deal on almond butter!

5. Chia pudding!  This breakfast option is also simple and would be easy to grab fast in the morning.  You prepare it the night before, so it takes a little planning ahead, but once it’s ready you could divide it into small containers and top it with fruit so you could grab it and go in the a.m.  The recipe I like to use is:

1/2 cup chia seeds

2 cups coconut milk (I love Trader Joe’s light coconut milk the best)

1 hearty dash of cinnamon (optional)

Mix all together, cover, and refrigerate overnight.

So there you have it!  5 egg-free Whole 30 breakfast ideas and I know there are dozens more out there.  Don’t let an aversion to eggs keep you from trying Whole 30.  I just know you’ll be amazed at how incredible you feel when you try it out!

As always, let me know if you have any questions.  I’m happy to answer them! :)

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