February 19, 2016

Book update: A little TLC, a little QT

Hey friends, does anyone remember that somewhere in the last three years I said I was writing a book?!? Anyone?! Anyone??

Well, in those last three years I've done a lot of things- including but not limited to having a whole extra child...and yes, I did write a fair amount too, but as I evaluated  my 2015 when it came to writing I had fallen waaaay behind. I was stuck. I wasn't sure what to do about it. I think under different circumstances I would have taken a long weekend, gotten rid of distractions- maybe even checked into a hotel- and gotten myself back on track with my manuscript. But instead I changed another diaper, managed another 3 year old threenager moment and read aloud to a 5 year old. 
And then, seemingly out of no where my solution arrived through a little thing called Story Spool: Editing Services. 
I contacted Melissa immediately and I knew within seconds that I would be able to trust her with my "baby" (full disclosure- Melissa is also one of my forever friends, as well. Which makes it handy.). 
I filled out a questionnaire, wrote a few emails back and forth and then sent her a copy of my book thus far... And then I waited....In actuality it was not a long wait- Melissa is AMAZING! She's got two kids and an Army hubs and yet she was super timely! - yet I felt like someone who's called someone for a date is now waiting to hear back. 
In the end, what I received in return was pure gold:
In just two short days Melissa had taken my work, and projected it back to me in a workable format. Without changing word of the manuscript-  I was able to see it for what it was, and better yet for what it COULD BE. What a gift! 
Oh, and she also gave me a schedule for writing as I move forward.  Which we all know is, like, my love language. The only way it would have been better is if she'd included a sticker reward chart. ( I'll be sure to mention this to her in my review). 

So, as I head into March I am suuuuper excited that my book and I finally have a plan to spend more time together and I truly believe I'll be able to give you all more exciting updates in the near future! 

In the mean time, have you "liked" my blog on Facebook, yet?! Have you shared my page with your friends?! Because you'll be getting regular memoir updates there first, and I think you'll want to be a part of the cool crowd when this next "baby" is born. 

February 16, 2016

Third Baby Things

After Tabitha was born I wrote a blog post about things I found invaluable with a second child. You can read that post here. I definitely still stand by those things, but now I'm on to baby number 3 and I thought you might like to know about the things that have been life savers for me this go around....

First of all, something I got before Justice was born that I wish I had had with my previous two kiddos was this amazing nursing cover from Covered Goods. The amazing thing about it for me is that it gives 360 degree coverage! I can put it on and nurse and not have to worry if I'm sitting against a wall so as not to flash people from behind or if Justice is going to throw off the side before I can catch him! I have not flashed a soul since getting this puppy! Hooray! ( Now, as you'll see from the website, you can also use this as a seat cover at the grocery store-which is a very "first child" thing to do! I'll probably not use it for this purpose...but I DO use it as a scarf just because its easier to carry that way! haha!). Check out these from the same company where I get my bibs:  Copper Pearl Stretchy Multi-use Baby Car Seat / Nursing Cover "The Classic"

The next thing that I could not live without are my Lily Jadebags . Granted I got these about a year ago but I find the SO useful having THREE kiddos! I can fit SO much inside them! 
Here is a picture of what I fit inside my diaper bag. 

And then for those really interested here is a video ( as requested by cousin Kimery! Hi!) of me packing my diaper bag....

If you're interested, I had a Elizabeth in Brandy as well as a Madeline. I love them both and switch them out a lot...And in case you're wondering...I wouldn't mind having a Rosie in Black but I guess I shouldn't be greedy, huh?!  ;-) 

Pro tip: Follow Lily Jade on instagram, they're always doing giveaways! You never know you might get lucky! xoxo

Another love I can't live without for my third baby are theseCopper Pearl Baby Bandana Drool Bibs

I came across them when I was looking for bibs for a newborn ( poor spitting up Justice!)-these are not only seriously the most adorable bibs I've ever seen but they also have multiple snaps meaning they can be sized down for a newborn and sized up for a 1 year old ( or older?!?!).  When you visit the website you'll see why I own six of these and why I wish I owned more! They are SO SO cute! And very durable and thick! Justice literally wears one every SINGLE day ( even though he doesn't spit up as much, he is a mega drooler) ! And I basically do laundry when all 6 are dirty. 

*it should be noted all these opinions are my own. I received nothing from these companies before writing this post! As always, it is just my love of sharing great things with my readers that motivates me!* 

So there you have it! What are you loving for your kiddos lately? Any amazing finds you want to share with me?! I'm all ears! 

Reading is "allowed" ( get it? get it?)

When I was growing up we didn't have a TV. Yup, you read right! NO. TV. So when Brett makes Goonies references or discusses various early 90s cartoons I have no idea what he's talking about.
I usually roll my eyes and look superior which works really well for our marriage. Ha!

However, lets talk Heidi and Little Women, The Secret Garden, Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit, or The Chronicles of Narnia or the Chronicles of Prydain...or a Wrinkle in Time or the C.S. Lewis Space Trilogy, The Giver, Anne of Green Gables....yeah, ok, I didn't mean to give you so many examples-but basically my Television growing up was a book.

And we're starting at a very very young age. ( I was the youngest and my sister was 5 and a half years older than me, so I got most books probably before my technical "age bracket" allowed.). All of this was because my mother read out loud to our family. I "read" The Hobbit before I could actually read. 

I think I've told you before how I have strong memories of laying on the couch while my Mom read to us for hours on Sunday afternoons. She'd read till her voice started to go out.

These memories are strong and they are some of the happiest of my childhood. And I want more than anything to pass those memories on to my kids!

So this year as we have "homeschooled"...one of the standards has been reading allowed chapter books. In fact, when we don't get anything else  accomplished I make sure we do a piano practice and our read allow time. ( we're clearly an "arts" family! hahaha!)

Because my mind is so stock full of favorites from my childhood and yet I have no real recollection of when we read a certain book it has been a bit of an all over the place education for Ransom so far but I wanted to share  a few of the books we've read so far this year and give Ransom's 5-year-old rating on each:

This most definitely has to do with his age. He just isn't quite there on the listening front. Or maybe its because I love these books SO MUCH that his own love just can't measure up. Anyway, we have only read The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe  and The Horse and His Boy.  and I think we'll probably wait till next year to continue.  ( seriously, he actually did like these books its just that he didn't CRY when Aslan died and I felt like he needed to. I'm a jerk book-snob) 

Both Homer Price  as well as Centerburg Tales: More stories of Homer Price were pretty big hits with Ransom. They are the perfect read-allowed stories for those starting out because each chapter is almost its own stand alone story just with the same reoccurring characters. 

We will probably be reading more of the Paddington books in the near future. Ransom got the physical humor and he laughed a lot at the silly situations that Paddington got into. Boys and their physical humor...it cracks me up! 

We've read a few Carolyn Haywood books this just being one of them. I was a HUGE fan as a kid ( I think maybe these are girl books?!) and I've got loads that are sadly now out of print. I do recommend them to those reading to their 6-8 year olds...particularly girls. Also they are perfect for early readers-maybe second graders? Seriously loved these as a kid. Not enough "action" for Ransom I think. 


I think this was a fail on my part. While the stories of Peter Pan are quite riveting the reading level is a bit high for Ransom and I think some of the language went over his head and made it less interesting for him. I'll probably wait a year or two and hit this one up again. 


Ransom looooved this book! Which was fun, because I remember loving it as a kid too! I think it hits that sweet spot of little kids who like to go outside and build forts and "secret little houses" in their parents bushes ( read: all children) and Ransom was legit sad when this book was over ( little does he know there are about 30 thousand more of these books! hahaha! Seriously, how prolific of a series is this?!?!) 


Now, bear in mind we JUST started Farmer Boy this week, but its already a HUGE hit! I mean, not to ruin it for you-but starting a book out with a "will they won't they" beating scene is pretty much right up a 5 year old boys alley (!!)..

So, I'll stop there, I don't want to make this post too long! Have you read any of these books? Have memories from your own childhood? What about other favorites? I'm all ears! You know I'd talk about books all day if you let me! 

February 12, 2016


Jehovah Rapha: "The Lord who heals." 

As I type this my cousin Ryan's son Rapha is being born. Like right now. My cousin Ryan and I were best buds growing up and it makes me so happy to think that Justice is getting a built in best bud just 3 months after he was born...these two boys are going to have so much fun together I can feel it.....and really, just by name alone they are already tied, for we have seen first had that Rapha's namesake is true to His word....

A few weeks ago I posted on Facebook a picture of Justice and I making funny faces with the caption that our gastroenterologist appointment was going really well...well it did, in fact, in the last few weeks we'd dropped one of his medicines down to once a day ( we had started off with four times a day and then dropped down to three and then two over the last few months-we've been highly motivated to drop this medicine because it has some nasty side-effects), and his thickened bottle feedings down to just three times ( the evening and nighttime feedings). We've taken away these various steps slowly, understandably so, and yet with each one Justice's condition has barely changed. The kid is just not spitting up.  

I was pretty excited about our follow-up Swallow study and Upper GI, not because I didn't already know what the study would show but mostly because those were the studies that first diagnosed Justice with severe GERD and the radiologist who did those studies was so effected by the results that he called our pediatrician and urged her to put us into the hospital-something he said he had never done before with a baby. He also put Justice in the top ten cases of reflux he had EVER SEEN. All that to say, such severe GERD sticks around....sure you can treat it, something that a week in the hospital trying to figure out treatment was able to accomplish...but for the most part something that terrible? Babies  usually struggle all the way until they are around 1 year old.  It doesn't just go away.  

But it did. 

The same radiologist who did the first Upper GI was able to see with his own two eyes that Justice does not have GERD anymore. 

Here is a quote from Justice's follow up Upper GI that was done last week:
 " Substantial interval improvement. minimal reflux..." 

In fact, during the 10 minute study Justice only refluxed once...which, well, he's a baby and all babies spit up! 

When we went yesterday to the Specialist to receive our results in writing ( it wasn't worth the $50 co-pay...but whatever. live and learn) the doctor walked into the room and said, "Good Job Mama! Whatever you did! It worked!!" 

To which I responded. "No. Definitely not. Good Job, Jesus!" 
Because let's be honest here, no amount of "good mothering" fixes a sick kid. I know this all too well by watching and learning from plenty of amazing Mamas who's babies are sick....if we could wish it away, or do it away you know we'd have hardly any sick kids running around today! No, Justice was healed by something much greater than a Mother's love. And that's saying something!
No, once again we have seen first hand the gracious hand of healing. 

Thank you for all those who prayed for Justice's healing. I am humbled by how many prayed for him and cared for us, I am equally humbled that the Lord would heal Justice in such a clear and remarkable way. I realize how blessed we are in that regard and I hardly know what to do with such a blessing minus to shout it from the roof tops. Yes, Justice is a now the happiest 3 month old you could ask for and is developing some substantial rolls of fat. Sure he spits up a little bit, but most babies do...and I'm happy to say that he is now a completely from the source breastfed baby...no more pumped feedings for us!!! Let's just say the extra 15 minutes of sleep I get at night is really just as amazing as I thought it would be. 

Take a picture, it'll last longer. ( hopefully)

Thanks to the invention of the  iPhone combined with having 3 children we have an abundance of digital pictures. In fact, just this time last year I shared my love of pictures-particularly displaying them and putting them in books....in fact, it seems like it is a theme to the beginning of my year-how to get a handle on all the pictures!!!

Sure, I print them out and I put them in awesome photo books-but what to do with them after that!?! I mean, you can't delete them. Heaven's no!!! If there is one thing I can be accused of being, it is a hoarder of pictures. ( In fact, ask my husband, it is the ONLY thing I can be accused of hoarding. hahaha!). The problem lies in the fact that there is just not unlimited hard drive memory space in the world to fill up with all my pictures! I also have this OCD need to have ALL my pictures in ONE PLACE....last year I started having trouble with iPhoto ( it crashed continually) and so I started transferring all my pictures into folders on my computer that I would then use Photo Mechanic to look at them and sort through them. It was a task, and I'm not going to lie there are STILL pictures over in iPhoto yet to be transferred. It stresses me out. It keeps me up at night.

AND THEN...I realized I was fast running out of space on my computer ( thanks adorable children for making me take so many pictures of you!)...and that is when I discovered my new photo organizational savior: The Amazon Cloud.

Now, I have stated many many times before that Amazon Prime is worth EVER. PENNY. of its yearly cost. Mostly because of the free two day shipping-which pays for itself in one week during the Christmas season. And then this happy perk of having almost instantaneous shipping plus subscribing to their monthly savings means boxes of much cheaper diapers and wipes arriving at my door every month just like magic...Then having Amazon Instant video that can entertain my kids with hours of Daniel Tiger PLUS the fact that they now allow you to DOWNLOAD video content on to my devices-meaning we can now TRAVEL with the joys of Amazon Instant....well, I'm already sold.
 But THEN I discovered Amazon Music which allows you access to ALL the music in the Prime Library to once again stream OR download...meaning Abigail can jam to all the praise music her heart can desire. Oh. And Adele and old school Coldplay...seriously the library options are pretty amazing.
 SoOOOOOooo, when I discovered the Cloud it was icing on the already giant cake that Amazon was providing me. Sure, Amazon now knows EVERYTHING about me....what I order, what I watch, what I listen to...so it only made sense that they now have pictures to go along with it. ( kidding. sort of.)*

So, first off, go sign up for Amazon Prime IMMEDIATELY

And then start uploading your pictures into the UNLIMITED photo storage...the joy is, once I'm finished uploading all the pictures on my computer, I've been able to download the app onto my phone and it AUTOMATICALLY downloads my current photo library so that I immediately have it backed up. NO LOST PHOTOS EVER AGAIN! Hooray!
The double( or triple) bonus is I can now look at baby pictures of all three of my kids from the comfort of any of my devices at any time, as well as share entire albums of pictures with family for them to print and do what they want with....Another Hooray! (  all my babies look the same, P.S. my children are like clones. no lie.)

Ok, so there you have it: My new way of taking care of all my pictures. This is a very dear and near issue for me because I'm currently in possession of a giant external hard drive that I have NO WAY of getting into because the technology is so ancient ( read: 15 years old). It stores ALL my pictures and videos from my years at University in New Zealand, plus all of my-no doubt genius-papers that I wrote in my English Lit. classes.....sigh. I still hold onto it in the hopes that one day I will be able to some how get into this hard drive...I have hope. But seriously, it makes me so sad! And I don't want this problem to ever happen again! So friends take it from me- print your pictures, make photo books...and seriously put them in a cloud of some sort!

*Sure, your pictures really aren't private in a cloud. They could be hacked. But, honestly, we all live in such an online world now that we have to know that nothing is really private anyway...so lets live above-board and hope for the best-that's my blasé thought...please do not use my comment section to tell me otherwise. I'm happy in my bubble, thanks.)

Alright, so now that I've shared my Amazon secret with you, I need your help: during my picture moving project...I've been thinking a lot about all the little mini videos I've taken over the last 5 years: first steps, first words, silly dances, birthday songs and morning giggles....does anyone know of an awesome service that would take all these little files and make them into a cohesive DVD or Blu-Ray for me?! I know i could do it myself...but come on, who's got the time!?! Has anyone done this?! Thoughts and suggestions appreciated!

February 02, 2016

Abigail's Whole30 in detail

Mostly for myself ( because I rarely used an actual recipe. Ever) but also for those who have asked...here is my reference on how I ate Whole30. Of course, it should be noted that I am NOT the expert and CLEARLY there are better ways to do Whole30 ( see: Abigail's grocery bill. ouch.)  But, I'm going to edit this to tell you what I WISH I had done. Ok, let's do this.

Shopping Lists: 

Whole Foods: 
( these foods are NOT essentials. They were mostly just helpful the first two weeks when I was much more "snacky" and had periodic cravings. Wish I hadn't had to buy these things because they were pricey... But I also made it because of these things...so? 

Sugar free bacon. It will cost you a fortune. So, if you're like us you'll buy four packages of bacon and ration it to once a week. I know this seems like we shouldn't spend $7.99 on a package of bacon. But you're not me. I looooove bacon.

The Bulk Bins.... I found these Almonds that are seasoned with sea salt and Apple cider vinegar. It sounds gross but Oh. My. Word. They were amazing.

Tessemae Sauces: I'm sure this is another thing one could do without. But I love sauces. And this made life so much easier to have these on hand without having to make my own. I really liked the Whole30 approved BBQ sauce as a marinade and their Whole30 Ketchup for potato dipping.
 ( Remember: Abigail had a 2 month old so I wasn't about making my own sauces this time. )

Freeze dried veggies. Not sure what these are called actually, but they're made by Whole Foods and they have the consistency of chips and are the perfect snack food.

Trader Joes: 
Trader Joes Mayonnaise is Whole30 compliant. I bought this stuff in bulk ( you'll see why later) because I did not have the time to make my own Mayo. Once again. 2 month old.

Coconut oil- they have the best.

Salsa ( no preservatives or added sugar!) 
Salsa verde ( so good)


Veggies and Fruit- we went through SO MUCH romaine lettuce, spinach and apples.
Lara Bars ( they were the cheapest here)
Eggs-by the case
Meat ( particularly the Chicken Apple Sausages and the Pork Butt Roast)
GIANT bucket of Dates to last a life time

other Store of your choice: 

Coconut Milk
La Croix ( this is at many different stores but they all seem to carry different flavors-go figure)

Meal Plan: 

Brett ate ALL THE EGGS. I only ate eggs the last two weeks because my doctors hadn't approved it for Justice's diet till then. But honestly I'm glad, because I don't really like eggs that much and two weeks of eggs every day was MORE than enough.

SO, Abigail's breakfast's were either leftovers from previous meals or:

Sweet potato plus either ground turkey or ground beef. Avocado. Seasonings. Any veggies I had in the fridge. All in a bowl. 

Baked Apples with cinnamon . ( I hear Apples in Almond butter is awesome but I don't keep Almond butter around because of Tabitha's tree but allergy...) 

*ps whole30 is not the friend of those with a tree nut allergy. They should work on that. 

*whole30 specifically says to NOT DO what I'm about to tell you. But I'm a rebel and they don't own me. Plus life is too short. 

Full fat coconut milk in the can is actually quite amazing. Keep it in a Tupperware in your fridge. Put it in your coffee and feel instantly better about life.

Make date syrup by boiling dates in water and then straining out leftover date bits, put some in your coffee as well. It will not make your coffee "sweet" but it WILL take the bitter edge off. This was VITAL to my sanity. You can't take that away from me, Whole30!!! 

I kept grilled chicken pieces in my freezer. When I was inevitably starving and needed food fast ( read: every. day.)  I would microwave some grilled chicken which I would eat in a salad with avocado  and pumpkin seeds ( any time you read pumpkin seed you can feel free to substitute some other nut because you probably don't live with a toddler with a tree allergy) and dried cranberries or some other dried fruit. 

I also would make chicken salad with my trader joes mayo plus pumpkin seeds and raisins, throw in some paprika, some curry powder and some cinnamon and whoa. Tasty. Eat on a crunchy crunchy lettuce leaf . I am STILL eating this for lunch AFTER whole30. Sometimes I mix up the seasonings or change up the fruit (apples are good too). So good. 

Throw things in the crockpot.

Seriously! Do it!

Pork shoulder with my whole30 approved BBQ sauce. Amaze.

Chicken pieces, olives, dates, dried apricots, garlic, dried plums. Awesome.

Chicken legs, onion, bell pepper, Mexican seasoning (check label for sneaky sugar!) 

Chicken, can of tomatoes, trader joes salsa, raisins, cumin, cinnamon, garlic, bell pepper. 

Then eat these meals with my standby sides of: baked sweet potato
roasted potatoes ( cut up, shake in a bag of olive oil and salt, put on foiled baking sheet on 400) 
Cauliflower "rice": ( I found after making this several ways,that to insure a nonsoggy caulflower (ew) the best thing to do was to take flutes of cauliflower chop up into rice size pieces in my vitamix ( or food processor), spread on oiled oven sheet and bake till it starts to brown a little on top.
EDIT: several weeks after finishing up my Whole30 I was in Trader Joes and I found that they sell bags of "Cauliflower rice" in the produce department! AND it was cheaper than buying a whole cauliflower! IT WAS THE BEST DAY EVER. It was a major nerd-alert at how excited I got about this product...because HONESTLY I did not enjoy the chopping up cauliflower and putting into my vitamix business....

We also ate a lot of sautéed spinach, steamed broccoli, asparagus and salads. 

Other than the stuff I picked up at Whole Foods for tons of money I also had the following as snacks...

La croix water.  (I know, carbonated water as a snack?! Yes. This is whole30) 
Get the coconut flavor it's amazing.

Lara bars ( cashew cookie was my favorite)

Dates, coconut milk, banana in a blender (yes, I'm told you shouldn't do smoothies while on whole30, but I was also breastfeeding, so several times when felt like my milk supply was going down this is what I made myself. It was amazing. I also made it for brett that one time he wanted to quit and eat ice cream) 

Dates wrapped in bacon. This is the best thing I've ever tasted both on or off of a diet. DO THIS. 

So there you have it!!! Now hand over $900 because that's how much all of that costs apparently. Sigh. Here's to every meal being beans and rice in February ;-)