Monday, August 14, 2017

Knowing You're Real

You were the surprise that knocked me off my feet. There was the word 'pregnant', but I couldn't believe it--I didn't believe it. I didn't feel any different besides the occasional bout of nausea. I just kept waiting for someone to tell me that all of my excitement was for nothing and honestly I kept waiting for my hopes to be crushed by hearing the pregnancy had ended, but that excitement was never taken and rather than my hopes being crushed I saw your heart beat. 

At your first ultrasound, I went in believing I was almost 8 weeks along with you, but to my surprise you were only measuring at six weeks and all we could see was this tiny little flicker of a heart beat. I couldn't see your tiny little body, but we were told everything looked great. Just to make sure they rescheduled me for another ultrasound after we got back from vacation. The fear rushed in again. What if you didn't grow? What if I miscarried before the next ultrasound? 

I prayed and prayed that you would grow and that I would start to feel more pregnant. I wanted the reassurance that you were in there growing and healthy. Sure enough, my belly started growing, the nausea was frequent, and little-by-little the reality of your little life was settling in. 

We were gone for six weeks and when we came home I was giddy for our prenatal appointment. My palms were sweaty and my stomach was in my throat as we climbed into the elevator. I went into my appointment thinking that I was only 11 weeks with you, but everything measured at 13 weeks! She found your heartbeat faster than she found your brother's. There it was a strong at 164 bpm. You are most definitely real.

A few days later, we were able to see your beautiful little forming body on the ultrasound. Actively moving, sucking your thumb, and perfect. I felt as if I could breathe. Seeing you took away every fear and every doubt. Your brother sat on daddy's lap and whispered "". He could see you on the screen and he knew you that you were the baby we've been telling him so much about. 

Every now and then I feel you move. It took so long to feel your brother move, but you little won't let me forget that you are here. I feel so grateful that you are healthy and growing strong. I'm so thankful that you are real and someday soon I will see your face and call you by your name. 

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Birth | Training For My Marathon

I remember the contractions, the full body tensing, my breath being taken away with every wave, the deep concentration of trying to push Jackson down into the birth canal (not realizing at the time he was stuck sunny side up), the pain of changing positions, and longing to give up. At times I felt like I was dying. Contraction, break, contraction, contraction, contraction. "Where are my breaks in between? Where is this baby? I can't do this. Ouch! I can do this!"

I wasn't prepared for what my body was going through. I spent 6-7 hours a day sitting at a desk, taking small walks around the building, doing yoga maybe 4 times a month, eating whatever I craved, meditating, and reading birthing books. I just assumed my body would be ready and never thought about actually preparing my body for the grueling birth experience it would endure.

This time I'm taking a different approach. I'm training for a marathon--my birth marathon. On top of chasing a toddler this round, I'm trying to eat better (trying the keyword), running, walking, doing yoga often, and incorporating HIIT workouts each week. I want to be prepared this time and I don't want to end up on that operating table again. I can already tell a difference in how I am feeling. My energy level is higher when I exercise, I don't suffer from nausea as often, and I feel empowered.

Working Out In The First Trimester

 I found out I was pregnant as soon as a test was able to pick up my HCG levels and it has made this first trimester seem so long! Only two more weeks until the second trimester and I'm desperately looking forward to having my energy back. 

Let's jump back in time just a bit, I started working out consistently about two months before I found out I was pregnant in addition to teaching yoga since the beginning of the year. I started running and crossing out milestones--small milestones for some, but they felt grand to me. I finally was at a place physically, mentally, and emotionally that made me feel great. I didn't want all of that to end with those two little lines on a test. I made the decision to continue on and make this pregnancy one that I trained for. 

I was running 3-5 miles a week the first 6 weeks, teaching yoga 3 times a week, and working out to videos on youtube. We started vacation on my 7th week, my running slowed down, but I've been trying to maintain a consistent workout schedule. My exhaustion makes it hard to keep up with working out, but I grit my teeth and get it done because I know I'll feel better after. It's not perfect, it's not always easy, and my eating needs some work, but I'm moving and challenging myself. 

Setting Goals

My goal is a VBAC and experiencing a natural birth. I was so close last time, but I didn't have the endurance after the 40 hours of labor (does anyone really have endurance after 40 hours of labor?). My focus is set and that goal is pushing me to fight. Setting goals is easy when you have your end goal in sight. It's the completion of those goals that gets tough, but I take it day by day and remind myself that this isn't for my health alone--it's for the health of the baby being knit within me, too.

I'm leaving space for grace--I mean, I am growing a human and that's hard work! I want to train for this birth marathon, but I also want to make sure that I'm listening to my body and giving it the rest it needs. Am I working hard? Yes! I'm giving it all I'm able, but I'm being gentle to myself on the days that I can't power through it.

At the end of the day after all this work, if I still end up on the operation table I won't be disappointed because all that truly matters is mine and my child's health. Will I regret the work that I put in? Absolutely not, because all that work will help my body heal faster! It's all worth it!

How did you prepare for birth? What did you do to maintain a healthy pregnancy? 

Friday, July 14, 2017

Growing Our Family

It's been over a month ago now that I found out I am expecting another sweet little babe. It maybe from my lack of sleep or exhaustion from battling my toddler, who is just on the cusp of entering into his terrible twos, but I'm just now slowly beginning to wrap my head around it. I don't feel pregnant other than the occasional nausea that rears it's ugly head and the fact that I pee about every 30 minutes, but I'm excited--really excited. This pregnancy is different, though. When I was pregnant with Jackson, I talked to him and rubbed my belly it seemed like all day long, but with this baby I just feel so disconnected from my body. Please read that again carefully this time--disconnected from my body...not the baby. It's almost as if I can't feel the changes happening this time around or maybe it's just that I'm so busy chasing around my full-of-life toddler that I'm not able to feel the changes. Every now and then, I feel guilty about it, but I quickly remind myself that the person who I was when I was pregnant with Jackson just isn't me anymore. I've been through the process, through the excitement of seeing daily changes in my pregnancy app, reading all the birthing books I could get my hands on, giving birth (well, okay, more like worked hard for 40+ hours and then had him surgically birthed), watched him go through the newborn stages, and now I chase after a toddler who likes to pull hair, give slobbery kisses, tells me "No Mo, Mama" a hundred times a day, and still latches onto me for "mama milk".  Not that going through all of that has taken away from this new baby, but it really makes it different this time around. I have distractions that I didn't have before.

I do pray for this babe and dream about him/her. We even have names picked out! So, yes, I do care--I care very, very much. I'm just trying to wrap my head around this sweet little surprise. We prayed that this day would come soon, but we never expected it to come as quickly as it did. We prayed for God to guide us through our trials and this babe is an answer to that prayer. Even if it was an answer that we weren't expecting. His timing is better than our own--His timing makes sense even if in the moment it doesn't feel like it. I'm grateful that my body is able to grow and nurture another precious human. I don't take this experience lightly. It's a grand gift to be able to grow life.

I want to document these thoughts, these moments of figuring life out as a mama of 2 to babes two and under, and I want this blog to be a place where people can come to relate or just read about another person's experience of motherhood. Motherhood has been the greatest gift. I've learned more in these last two years than I did in my life before kids. My hope is that this blog can help to encourage a community that laughs together, cries together, shares triumphs and failures with one another, and finds joy through it all. Being a parent is messy and hard, but it chips away at the selfishness and flaws all the while changing all that we are inside helping us to become better people each day. 

Monday, June 12, 2017

Vegetarian Summer Tacos with Peach Salsa

Has an idea ever just sprouted up in your mind and you get into a place of continuously playing that idea over and over until you find yourself bringing that idea to life? Well that idea lead me straight into the kitchen to whip up these refreshing and filling summer tacos!

The real winner of this meal--peach salsa! The sweet and spicy combination is unreal! A sweet friend of mine went to Bennett's Greenhouse when The Peach Truck was in town, purchased a box of these fresh Georgia peaches and gifted me with a few of them to try. If you've never heard of The Peach Truck I highly, highly recommend you check it out and see if they will be on tour near you soon.

I couldn't think of a better way to use some of the peaches. My mouth is watering as I sit typing out this sentence and staring at the picture above. It's a perfect way to add a little refreshing summer flavor to your tacos or any meal!

Choosing to make your own tortillas is a great way to save money, but also a great way to monitor the ingredients making sure there are no sneaky additives. Honestly, I prefer making my own tortillas because they are delicious and probably the most simple thing you will ever make. If I was a betting woman, I would bet that you have all the ingredients in your kitchen right now.

On to the "meat"(okay, not literally meat because these are vegetarian) of the meal! A mix of black beans, mushrooms, and just enough seasoning make these tacos filling and leave your mouth watering for more. To give these tacos a little crunch we topped them off with some crispy kale. 

Is your mouth watering yet? You're definitely going to want to add these to your meal plans this summer! The soft homemade tortilla, flavorful filling, sweet and spicy salsa, and the crispy crunchy kale is a perfect way to kick off your summer. 

What are some of your favorite summer recipes?

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Paleo Double Fudge Brownies

Over the years, we've made a lot of dietary and lifestyle changes and I will definitely be making a post all about that soon, but one thing that has always stayed the same for us is our sweet tooth. When I was pregnant with Jackson, Jack and I began ending our evenings with chamomile tea and eating a sweet treat. They're days that I look back and feel so much thankfulness for. We would call it our "Tea Time" and it helped ease some of the anticipation of Jackson's arrival. Now that he is here with us and usually likes to join in on our evening ritual I decided to start making treats that were a little healthier without the harmful sugars that would send him into a wild frenzy before bed. Let's be honest though, it was a much needed switch for Jack and I, too.

It took many failed attempts, crumbly messes, and lots of moments of Jack running to the trashcan to spit things out, but they gradually started getting better. It wasn't until I ran across a few other Paleo cookie recipes that I realized I was choosing the wrong base flours and the wrong sugar replacements. After a few test runs, I finally nailed down exactly what I was looking to do--make a brownie that didn't lack in flavor, texture, and density. That's how this little beauty came about.

Choosing Your Base

As someone who always had white bleached flour on hand, I never even thought twice about any other base for a brownie let alone the health concerns of using that product. I would just throw things together and it would turn out every time. Over the years, I gradually stopped buying white flour and transitioned to whole wheat flour which is better for you, yes, but in moderation! Too much wheat sends our bodies into a glucose frenzy. I've also found lately that buying sprouted whole wheat flour is even better for you because it aids in better digestion of the flour.  

I wanted to stray away from the wheat, I believe it is partly the reason for some of Jack's stomach issues anyway, but there seemed to be way too many gluten-free substitute flours with lists of words I had no idea how to pronounce. I decided to stick to the basics--coconut flour, oat flour, and almond flour. I practiced with the almond flour and experienced lots of very dense and heavy desserts, next I tried the coconut flour and ended up with very dry and dense desserts, and finally I tried the oat flour which turned out better than the first two, but still not what I was looking to create. 

I began experimenting with mixing the flours and that is where I began to find the most success with my desserts. I was extremely grateful to run across a blog that made some delicious Paleo Chocolate Chunk cookies because a) they became a staple in our home b) finally I realized where my ratio mistakes were happening with the flour blends. 

It wasn't until I finalized this recipe that I discovered that the blend that works best for our family is the oat flour and coconut flour blend. 

What About The Sugar?

Who is addicted to sugar, raise your hand! My hand is raised high as I type awkwardly with one hand. Sugar is my weakness and a cruel one at that. It wouldn't take much research for you stumble across a handful of documentaries on Netflix, articles in google, or books at Barnes & Noble to see the havoc that it's doing to our bodies. I'm currently going through the book WomanCode and I am complete astonished at just how much sugar and our blood sugar level spikes affect our hormones. This book is seriously changing my life. I highly encourage you to read it. It will teach you about your body and how it operates.

Back to sugar, just because there isn't any cane sugar in this recipe doesn't mean it has to be any less desirable of a dessert. Coconut sugar has been the answer to my tastebud dreams. The rich toasted, brown sugar-like taste will send your tastebuds on a wildly delicious ride. The toasted flavor is the perfect additive for brownies because it still allows you to achieve that syrupy base that you need to get your brownie batter started. I also found that by adding a little raw honey it not only helps you retain some moisture in your brownie, but you also get the added benefit of nutrients in it as well.

Double The Chocolate?

You bet! What's better than a brownie? A double chocolate brownie! I played around with using dark chocolate chips, varying percentages of dark chocolate bars, and used a few different methods of adding them in. What worked best for me was buying real dark chocolate bars at our local health food store (I just discovered I can buy them at Target, too). They are a bit pricey, but I always buy them when they go on sale and I don't mind spending a little bit more on better quality when I am able. Out of the different bars that we tried we ended up falling in love with Chocolove. I, personally, loved that they are certified sustainable socially and ethically. They have lots of different concentrations of cocoa ranging from their extreme dark to their milk chocolate bar, but we almost always buy their strong or extra strong dark bars with an occasion splurge on their sea salt almond bar. 

When it comes to the method of how you add it in, I have found that melting the chocolate down in a double boiler worked the best for brownies. Let's be real though, chocolate is chocolate no matter how you add it so if you'd rather have those chocolate chunks then go for it! 

Let's Talk Oil

I have the gift of very receptive tastebuds and because of that I choose my oil very wisely. I found that the taste of olive oil, which I love mixed with herbs, balsamic vinegar, and dripping off bread, stood out way too much for me. Coconut oil has a sweetness to it that adds a depth of flavor and avocado oil has very little flavor so I switch between both of these. 

Mix It, Baby, Mix It!

I always make sure to mix wet ingredients + coconut sugar first, then in a separate bowl mix the dry ingredients, so that I can lightly fold the two together. I just notice that if I blend it all at once, I over mix it and the texture and density change.

Bake It + Eat It All Up

My oven is not very reliable. It's one of those ovens from the dawn of time and the temperature always seems to be off every time. What I'm getting at is you're going to have to play around with the bake time on these. For my oven, I crank up the heat to 400 and bake for roughly 30 minutes. Just make sure that the center isn't gooey and you're good to go.

Bake, Love, Share, + Repeat

I hope that you fall in love with this brownie and it becomes a staple in your home to fill those sweet tooth cravings! Something that we found is that we love it fresh out of the oven, but we love it even more after it's chilled in the fridge! Please feel free to share this recipe with your family and friends. I mean who doesn't love a good brownie, especially when it's delicious and nutritious! 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Why Motherhood Isn't Enough

You're probably reading this title and rolling your eyes thinking I'm committing some great motherhood sin by being honest and sharing those words, but let me explain myself. Let me start by saying that motherhood has been the most beautiful, fulfilling, life-giving, fun, and amazing experience. I don't take it lightly that I was gifted this incredible little human. Most days he is the best part of me and my greatest pride. So when I say motherhood isn't enough, I don't mean to disregard all of the areas in my life that it does fill. There are days when motherhood does feel like enough, when it does fill every inch of my being and makes me feel like I'm doing something that is more than enough. But I've realized that motherhood isn't always enough. It's draining, hard, heartbreaking, exhausting, and one of the most difficult jobs I've ever had.

If I make motherhood into an idol in my life, it begins to be more harm than good. If I approach motherhood as the end-all-be-all then I risk the chance of being hurt and empty. Motherhood was made to be good. It's an important role, but it needs to be one among the many roles that you play in this life. When it becomes central to who you are it becomes more about pride and less about the actual child nurturing.

I've allowed myself to be swept up in the pride of it all. I've felt the rise of judgement in my heart towards other moms, I'm guilty of enjoying (a little too much) the pats on the back and being told I'm a great mom, and for spending more time documenting rather than being present with my son. Sure that pride feels great in the moment, but can I share something with you? I feel completely empty after that short burst of pride subsides.

You see, Motherhood can't be enough. There has to be more. You're also a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend, and most importantly a child of God. Those areas of your life deserve space to fill you too. If you make motherhood enough than you risk losing out on parts that make you, you. You have talents, desires, gifts, and interests that also need nurturing. You must find time to make yourself a priority too. Light the creative fire in your heart, tend, and nurture it because I can promise you that if you don't you won't be able to be fully the person that your child needs. Without pursuit of passion we become dull and our spark begins to be extinguished.

Am I saying to not let motherhood be a huge part of who you are? No, that is absolutely not what I am saying. I just want to encourage you to see that at the end of the day it can't be the only thing that makes you whole. There has to be more. If not than you risk burning out your spark and not being the mother that your child needs. Please do pour your heart into motherhood, but also pour into other areas of your life too. Be a good mama, wife, daughter, and friend.

You are important, loved, desired, needed, creative, humble, kind, worthy, faithful, strong, incredible, and beautiful. Press into your heart. Press into all that makes you, you and find joy. Let motherhood become one of your greatest adventures in your life, but don't let it consume you. You're doing a great job, mom.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Arugula Pistachio Pesto With Roasted Brussel Sprouts

It's been such a long time since I've sat down and written a blog post. I've approached my keyboard several times, opened up an empty post, started writing, and deleted it each time. Over the past few months, I have been struggling with hitting a creative block and I honestly don't believe it was only a creative block. I believe I've been battling small bouts of what I feel like could be seasonal depression. The only way that I can explain it is that I've felt like I've been under water. It comes in waves and isn't always as strong, but I finally feel like I've broken through that water and that I can actually breathe again. My desire for creativity is slowly coming back. Almost like that feeling of when your foot falls asleep and the numbness is finally wearing off--it's still tingles and is uncomfortable, but at least you can begin to make us of it again. I'm grateful to be on the other side of that. It's painful to feel so bogged down mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. Spring came just in time bringing with it feelings of hope, joy, and new dreams to discover. 

I was able to approach my kitchen today and make use of an idea that stirred inside of me. I've been craving pesto. Honestly, I hate pesto. So you're probably wondering, then why are you craving it? It's the idea of it that I crave. It looks so creamy, vibrant, and delicious! I thought about the texture, all of the ingredients that are in the traditional pesto, and I realized that recreating it wouldn't be as challenging as it seemed. I could still access that nutty, full-bodied flavor, and still have a distinct bold flavor even without the basil. All I would need is a delicious bold leafy green, a crunchy nut, lots of parmesan cheese, garlic, and a little citrus. That's when the light bulb went off--arugula and pistachios! They are both equally flavorful and distinct in flavor and what better way to pair it with a crispy roasted brussel sprouts! 

It took me literally minutes to create and it left both of us just about licking our plates! This may just be a small step towards a place of accessing my creativity again, but it felt good to stretch into this. I hope that this encourages you to step into your kitchen and create today even if it's something small.