Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Why I Write

This was a writing lesson in my fifth grade class a couple of years ago.  We had a big poster and in the middle was a bubble that said: Why Do We Write?  The class brainstormed reasons and we filled up the poster.  They came up with some good responses, such as: to entertain, to learn, to inform and for enjoyment.  The last one surprised me a bit; especially given it came from a student who openly hated writing.  Writing used to be my least favorite thing to teach but that year, it became my favorite.  It was like I fell in love with it all over again, and hopefully brought my students along for the ride with me. 

This lesson popped into my head the other day as I read one of the blogs that I frequently check.  This woman and her husband have made a VERY good living with their blog.  In fact, she is currently travelling in Australia FOR FREE just because of the popularity of her blog.  She writes mainly about food and travelling, but you can find all sorts of things on there.  It’s also filled with advertisements and borderline annoying because of it.  Nevertheless, I keep reading and obviously so do thousands of others. 

I started this blog to document my path to better health following my surgery and also to create a modern day baby book of my kids.  But as I thought of why else I actually write, I quickly came to the realization that it’s more than that.  Writing is an outlet; it’s like free therapy for me.  I can take all the jumbled, unclear and sometimes stressful thoughts that are constantly in my head and dump them here.  What I’ve also come to understand is that I also enjoy having an audience.  But not in the “give me attention” kind of way.  I imagine it’s how an actor, comedian, or anyone who works with people feels.  It’s connecting, it’s relating and even though in my case it’s often without any direct feedback, it’s learning. 

When I sit down to write these posts, they’ve usually formed in my head first and my fingers are just working to get it all down before I forget.  I actually do a lot of thinking in the middle of the night when I’m up with Audrey.  So you can thank her for these reflective (hopefully not too boring) pieces. 

I highly doubt that I’ll ever make it to Australia with this blog, but if one day writing made me a little money, well obviously that would be wonderful.  But for now, I’m just going to keep at it with the hope of entertaining, learning, informing and definitely enjoying.

Friday, July 24, 2015

If Only My Kids...

I’ve found myself thinking this phrase a lot the past few weeks.  If only my kids would sleep better.  If only they could be more independent.  If only they would get along better.  Then I might get more sleep, I might have more time to myself and less stress.  If only Aiden liked to do something other than play in the dirt.  If only Audrey could walk.  Then we may have more options of ways to spend our days.

These thoughts may seem harmless enough but today I started to really think about where they may lead.  Aiden and Audrey may not pick up on these vibes now but they absolutely will, as they get older.  I started to worry.  What if one day I think…if only my kids got better grades?  Or if only my kids liked sports.  If only my kids were social.   I have no idea what they are going to like to do as they grow up or who exactly they’re going to be.  But I do know that I have to stop these “if only” thoughts immediately. 

I do not ever want my babies to think that I’m not proud of them or I want them to be any different than they are.  We are bound to have different interests and varying personalities and that is perfectly fine.  I never want to force them into something that they don’t enjoy (except maybe eating vegetables), and I want to give them the confidence they need to make their own choices. 

So instead of wishing Aiden would enjoy running around a waterpark or Audrey would just sleep through the night, it’s time for a new approach.  One of the many parenting lessons I’ve learned so far.  Aiden LOVES playing in the dirt and he loves it even more when I play with him.  Audrey actually loves it too and they are (slowly) learning to play together.  Audrey says mommy in the middle of the night and it’s the only time we get to snuggle.  If these things change, that’s much more difficult than a million “if only’s.” 

Monday, July 20, 2015

My Go-To Summer Dinner

I love cooking and it's been fun, yet challenging, to make healthy, easy meals that everyone in my family will eat.  I've never been able to grill without Andrew being home (long story, but it involves almost blowing myself up), but he recently made the grill Andrea-Proof, so it's easy and safe for me to use.  Grilling in the summer is great and since the kids love to be outside, it makes meal prep easier too.  We've eaten variations of this meal many many times the past few months and we're not sick of it yet.  It's not anything you'll find in a gourmet foodie magazine, but it's easy, yummy and healthy.  I hope you try it and enjoy it!

Grilled Chicken Thighs
Parmesan Quinoa
Roasted Veggies
Fresh Fruit

So the chicken...Andrew's mom got me hooked on chicken thighs.  Even though they are slightly higher in fat and calories, they are so much more flavorful and easier to cook, in my opinion.  I season them (and most chicken dishes) with salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika.  I drizzle a little olive oil on and throw them on the grill.  These are equally as delicious in the oven - I put them on a foil lined baking sheet and cook about 30 minutes at 400 degrees.

Parmesan Quinoa...Quinoa is an acquired taste and has taken me awhile to perfect.  I buy the kind that is already rinsed and you just have to cook it like rice.  I use 1 cup of quinoa and 2 cups of low sodium chicken stock.  Put them in a pot, bring to a boil then turn down the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes until it's fluffy like rice.  Then I add in 1 Tbs of margarine (could use olive oil), salt, pepper, garlic powder and about 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese.  

Roasted Veggies...we make these a few times a week.  I made green beans here, but we also have broccoli, cauliflower, onion, mushrooms, peppers, squash, zucchini...the options are endless.  I put them on a foil lined baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle salt, pepper, garlic powder then roast at 425 degrees for 15-30 minutes, depending on the vegetable.  By far my favorite way to eat veggies.

I hope the fresh fruit is obvious ;).

Enjoy and have a great week!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Time at the Lake

This past week we went on our first vacation as a family of four.  Friends of ours were invited to a wedding in northern Wisconsin and we worked it out that we would stay in a cabin with them and make a vacation out of it.  So the four of us, plus our 3yo, 2yo, 1yo and 10 month old, headed out in the middle of the night last Wednesday.  We stayed at Black Bear Lodge in St. Germain, WI and it immediately made me think of the movie Dirty Dancing.  We lucked out with a cabin right on the lake with a beautiful view and a beach right in front for the kids to play.  We kayaked, paddle boarded, boated, swam, relaxed and got little sleep thanks to Audrey.  Despite that and the loooong drive home, it was a great trip and so nice to have a change of pace.  Here are a few of my favorite pictures from the trip....

Aiden spent 90% of his vacation in the dirt.
There were bald eagles everywhere! I've never seen them in person and even though I'm not a fan of birds, they were gorgeous.
Sunset from our porch.
My early riser/non-sleeper watching the sunrise with me.
View from our deck again.
That's me on a paddle board...not falling :).

Aiden loved going "bumpy" on the boat!
Audrey loved the boat, hated the life jacket.

Meal times were a bit crazy.
Sunset boat ride.

Babies in life jackets may just be the most awkward thing ever.
She loved the sand.
Chubby baby legs
Naptime on the boat.
For Audrey too.
I swear they liked doing this.
So big!
Now obsessed with ice cream.  And his new horsey.

First ice cream cone.
These two turned the beach into their own construction site.

Some alone time, channeling Joey Potter.
See!  Just like Dirty Dancing!  All I needed was a watermelon.

Aiden is SO much nicer to Katelyn than he is to Audrey.  Boys.
We had all four kids while Scott & Julie went to the wedding.  It was actually an easy and fun night!
Boys on the tree stump chairs.
We had lots of time together while Audrey napped during the day.

Sunset on our last night.
Waving goodbye to the lake!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Health Update: Let's Talk Numbers

Time for a quick check in on my progress!  Since starting with my trainer in March, I am down 30 pounds and 6% body fat!  No "21 day fixes," dieting or weight loss fads.  Just an over haul of my lifestyle and making my health a big priority in my everyday life.  Not really "just" though...it's still a daily challenge but the payoff is SO worth it.  My biggest issue right now is balancing not beating myself up while not starting down a slippery slope of "having this here or there won't be a big deal."  It's not a big deal, but I know myself and if I let go too much then I start to slide down that slope.  There is no end date or goal with this journey.  I'm not going to get to my goal weight and celebrate with ice cream and pizza.  Instead, I'll celebrate with a new wardrobe and the best health of my life.  

Before Pic - end of February

After pic...so far :) 

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Audrey Kay - 10 Months

Audrey turned 10 months old on the 4th of July!  We celebrated with 30+ of her friends at our annual parade party and breakfast.  Audrey loved the parade and celebrated further with two great naps!  Thanks, baby girl!  When I got her monthly sticker out, I definitely felt that pang of sadness thinking I only have two stickers left…11 and 12 months.  I read recently that days with little ones are long but years are short and this is so true.  The fun part is, I’ve started planning her 1st birthday party for Labor Day weekend.  Festivities are always a good time. 

Audrey’s personality has come out a lot this past month.  I see it mostly when she “yells” back at Aiden when he takes a toy from her or when I leave the room.  She’s a girl who knows what she wants and I don’t think she’ll have a problem telling us what she thinks.  (sounds oddly familiar…)  Here are some other fun facts about the past month…

Audrey Likes…Playing with whatever Aiden is playing with (water table, sandbox, trains…of course this is Aiden’s biggest dislike at the moment), crawling as fast as she can toward everything that’s not baby proofed, meat and cheese, trying to stand on her own, “talking” to Aiden, especially during meals, stuffed animals, their toy grill, bath time, dancing to Mickey Mouse, blowing raspberries – especially with a mouth full of food.

Audrey dislikes…Still usually wakes up once during the night, but it’s now earlier and she truly seems hungry.  Takes a small amount of formula and back to sleep.  Fingers crossed we’re moving in the right direction.  Riding in the car when she’s not sleepy (this will make our upcoming 10 hour drive a blast, I’m sure!), being alone, vegetables & fruit (ugh).

Audrey is playful, silly, confident and borderline daring.  When she goes to crawl she literally jumps forward onto her hands.  She is ready to take on the world.  Slow down there baby girl, one step (or crawl) at a time.