I just gave BIRTH!

To this adorable BLOG:

After today, and then there were four…will be no more. Don’t worry, it will live on via the archives of my new site. So join me, I promise to not disappoint!

Thank you for your support and readership, this has been an amazing little home for the past five years!

Anything But A Face!

This week’s I Heart Faces Photography Challenge was right up my alley. The theme is “Anything But A Face”. Finally! A photo contest I can enter!

I decided to go with one of my Project 365 photos everyone seemed to love: Olivia ringing her rainbow bike bell.

 

To see all of the other amazing entries, head over to:

 

P90X Update: Week 7 (Redux)

Day 50 (Monday): Partially because I had been sick and was still recovering, partially because I had taken the week off, I was struggling with today’s workout. I didn’t attempt the Dreya Roll (some days I’ve got it, today just wasn’t one of those days), nor did I get through all of the push-ups. And I was really not able to keep up as I had previously, but I still felt like I had given it everything I had, instead of half-assing it.

Day 51 (Tuesday): I actually enjoy cardio. It’s the shortest workout of the week, but I always feel like I do the most and I’m not sitting around or waiting for the next exercise. I was sweaty and gross at the end, so that means something, right? I felt good about the entire workout.

Day 52 (Wednesday): Today was shaping up to be an incredibly busy day. I was crunched for time, so I decided to not do the Ab Ripper first, and just go to the actual workout, which I did, with incredible intensity. I tried every single exercise and attempted every push-up, noticing I was doing more than what I had previously done on some of them. My arms and chest ached after, but it felt nice. I assumed I would have time in the afternoon to do the Ab Ripper, but no such luck, we were so busy I didn’t get home until late and then we went out again for a family get-together.

Day 53 (Thursday): I was so sore. I woke up thinking there was no way I would be able to complete anything, much less an hour and a half of YogaX, but I decided to do it anyway. While I fell out of a good handful of poses, still didn’t attempt Crane, and was interrupted a few times by my children, I got through the entire workout. I don’t know why it is so hard for me to remember that the program is designed appropriately. The Yoga helped stretch everything I thought was too sore to do anything. Also? I totally rocked the Plough and Shoulder Stand. Got my feet over my head and touching the floor. Flexibility YEAH!

Day 54 (Friday): My butt is still feeling the effects of this workout, two days later. I did all of the lunges, and used my ten pound bands for all of the pull up exercises. I attempted every exercise and was successful except for the Single Leg Wall Squat. That is hard. And I did try, but failed after a few seconds. When my hour was up? I also did the Ab Ripper X workout in its entirety. I did the full 25 reps for the first two exercises, and then felt my energy slipping, so made an attempt to do at least 10-12 for every other exercise. I was successful except for the second-to-last one, where I think I got 5. I was toast and wanted to finish somewhat strongly.

Day 55 (Saturday): I love Kenpo X, but I was so sore today I wasn’t at my usual level of intensity. Don’t get me wrong, I did the whole workout, but near the end, some of my kicks were kind of half-hearted ones. I still felt decent after the workout and positive about what I had done.

Day 56 (Sunday): I’m resting. Olivia woke up with a really high fever last night, so I am a little preoccupied (hence the late posting of this update), and am planning on spending the day snuggling with her and making her as comfortable as possible so we can hopefully nip whatever it is in the bud and I don’t have to redo another week.

Here are a few things I think will make my workout better after Week 7 (redux):

  • Keep writing my food intake down. I started strong this week, but got sidetracked and waffled a bit. I’ve got to be better!
  • Dairy is definitely my enemy (cheese, sour cream and yogurt are still on the fence–further testing will be needed). Field tests are proving that milk & whey protein powder are to be eliminated from my diet. Also? Luna Protein Bars. I ate two this past week and couldn’t figure out the stomach cramps and gas until Bill pointed out I should probably read the label. It was my idiot moment of the week. I am not proud, but at least now I know.

Notes for Week 7 (redux):

  • I gained half a pound back. For a total of 1 pound gained back in the past two weeks. Yes of course I am bummed. I keep losing and gaining the same damn weight. BUT I am forcing myself to keep remembering my inches lost and trying to keep in mind that it is a marathon, not a sprint. I still feel really good about myself.
  • I did nap more this week (earlier in the week), but I think it is because I am still building my strength and endurance back up. Closer to the end of the week, I noticed my energy levels did rise somewhat.

Thank you for your continued support and positive comments! They mean the world to me!

Next week is my recovery week and my schedule will be less intense, but will include two days of Yoga. Wish me luck!

Project 365: Days 50-56 (February 19-25)

50/365 (Saturday, Feb. 19) Sharing Mama’s headband. Olivia decided she wanted to wear my fancy headband. I think it looks better on her than me. Good thing I ordered two new ones for her and Sophia!

51/365 (Sunday, Feb. 20) Sunshine! It was so nice to wake up on Sunday morning and see the sun out and shining, drying up all the rain from the huge storm we had the night before.

While I loved this photo, I had a really hard time choosing, because today was a very photo heavy day. I also used a photo from today for Wordless Wednesday, but here are some of the others I loved:
52/365 (Monday, Feb. 21) Style. Both girls chose their outfits today. I couldn’t NOT share the amazing combinations they came up with. (Both are wearing their R2D2 shirts–FYI)

53/365 (Tuesday, Feb. 22) Flowers! I have no idea what kind of flowers are on my neighbor’s shrub, but they’re pretty!

I really enjoyed all of the photos I took of the flowers, so it was really hard to decide. I played around with different color techniques and textures. Here are some of the others:

54/365 (Wednesday, Feb. 23) Cake! We celebrated cousin Gabe’s 3rd birthday. The girls enjoyed it tremendously.

55/465 (Thursday, Feb. 24) Hand-in-hand. Walking to the library, hand-in-hand, to choose some new books.
I loved the one I chose, but had a hard time choosing between it and this one:

56/365 (Friday, Feb. 25) Goodnight Goon. In their reading nook, Olivia reading one of their latest library finds, “Goodnight Goon” to Sophia.

Hope you enjoyed my week in Project 365 (and a few outtakes!) Are you doing a Project 365? I would love to see your photos!



Words.

My mama is a force of nature. She tells you what she thinks, and if you don’t like it, well, that is too bad. She is not afraid to speak her mind or stand up for what she thinks is right (or wrong). Growing up, she was a dynamite, and most people like to say it was her red hair that gave her the firey temper. But I think it was living a life of constantly being pushed down and told what she couldn’t do, that caused her to rise above and shout at the world. Sometimes, effectively, sometimes…well…my mom would talk to a tree. And if it talked back, I wouldn’t be surprised.

I grew up with this force, walking the line of watching my tone (as to not incur her wrath) and being a “Chatty Cathy”. All of my report cards would have that nice line of straight A’s and the conduct grade of “S” (‘Satisfactory’– the second highest conduct grade). Never did I get an “O” (for ‘Outstanding’–the highest possible conduct grade). The explanation was pretty much always the same: “Natalie is a terrific student, and gets along well with others, she just talks too much.”

Bill hates listening to us talk when me, my sisters and mama get together, because we tend to talk OVER each other, and it sounds like a lot of noise, but we can follow the conversation and know exactly what is going on.

Basically, we’re talkers.

It is no surprise that both of my girls are talkers. They’ve both been talking since before their first birthday, stringing sentences together before they were 18 months old. They could fully articulate what they wanted by their second birthday. Words have never been their problem.

As a parent, I have walked that fine line, of wanting my children to be polite, how to be nice and kind to people, but also wanting them to be assertive and stand up for themselves. While I was a talker, I was never someone who stood up for myself. Other people, yes. I was the champion for the underdog, but never for myself.

I think it was my inner turmoil: wanting to be a good girl, but wanting to stand up for what was right. I could justify standing up for others, just not myself. I just rolled with it, and didn’t want to cause a fuss. Don’t get me wrong, it was never anything serious, maybe something as silly as not wanting to play a game the other kids did, or going along for the ride when maybe I didn’t want to. I was so busy trying to prove to the world my mother had raised a “good girl” that I never found my voice until I was much older.

On Wednesday, I had a parent/teacher conference, where I was informed that while Olivia was doing very well and starting to socialize more, she was having a problem standing up for herself, and using her words, especially when she was being wronged.

Bill and I had noticed that Olivia was very good at using her facial expressions and waving when people would acknowledge her, but was really not speaking when spoken to, except at home and around those people she was comfortable with. We both said we wanted to work on it, but didn’t know how to do it without pushing her to do things she wasn’t comfortable with. We were kind of at a loss.

Her teachers suggested just keep reiterating “Use your words, Olivia” “Use your words”. So I decided that was what I would do.

Wednesday afternoon I talked to her and said “Olivia, you know you can speak up and use your words if something is going on that you don’t like, right? Your words are important Olivia and you are allowed to say when something makes you mad, sad, or upset.”

I just kept that mantra going all day Thursday, “Use your words, Olivia, your words are important.” This morning, I told her “Today, Olivia, I want you to use your words, okay? That’s the new rule. Use your words!” On the way to the car, I told her that we were going to practice. “Good morning, Olivia, how are you today?” I said. “Good morning.” Olivia responded, grinning. “I can also say “hi, or hello, right, mama?” “Of course, baby!” I smiled.

At her school, some of the faculty stands by the gate after it is opened, welcoming the students. “Olivia, we can practice using our words.” I whispered to her. She grinned at me.

“Good morning, Olivia.” One of the teachers said.

“HI!” Olivia smiled. I smiled.

When we got to her classroom door, I knelt down to her and gave her a big hug. “What are we going to do today Olivia?”

“Use my words.”

“YES! But wait, What is the rule for today?”

“Use my words!” Olivia was grinning by now.

I asked her about five more times, just making a funny game out of it, Olivia erupting into giggles every time I would ask and she answered.

Her teacher smiled at me and said “Good morning Olivia!”

“Good morning!” Olivia said, and walked into her classroom, her head high.

I always try to remember to put a note into her lunchbox. Today’s note?

Dear Olivia,

Mama and Daddy love you very much. We hope you have a terrific day.

Remember: Your words are IMPORTANT!

Love,

Mama & Daddy

When I picked Olivia up today one of her teachers came up to me, gave me a smile and said “She did awesome today, she had a great day.”

One of Olivia’s classmates came up to her and said “BYE Olivia!”

She waved, and I prodded “Hey, where are your words?”

“Bye!” She said.

I grinned.

We walked out of the gate and another teacher commented on the airplane she had made out of an empty paper towel roll.

“That’s cool, Olivia!”

“Thank you!” she said.

Another parent commented on how awesome the airplane was.

Olivia smiled and said “Thank you!”

My mouth hurt I was grinning so much.

It is a small step, but it felt so good.

Words. We have to learn to do more than say them. We have to learn to use them. It’s an important lesson for me to remember too, even at almost 30 years old: Our words are important. MY words are important.

Using the Force

When Olivia first became a Star Wars fan, she would get REALLY frustrated that she couldn’t use “the force”. She came to me crying “Mama! Why can’t I use the force? I’m trying so hard!” We tried to explain to her that she was still a Padawan and she had to train really hard and grow up to become a Jedi, so she could use the force.

What? Why is that any different than maintaining the belief in Santa?

A few nights ago we were joking around before bed: I was pretending to turn the light off by using the force (quickly running my hand over it and flicking the switch off, making it seem like I wasn’t even touching the switch). She was amazed and I explained that I was already a Jedi. She looked at me skeptically.

“I don’t want you to turn the light off, mama, I want you to make something move with the force.”

Busted.

I meekly explained that I wasn’t a FULL Jedi and that was beyond my skill set.

We tucked them into bed and kissed them good night.

About 10 minutes later we heard some noise and Sophia started crying, so Bill ran into the bedroom to find out what had happened.

He came out a few minutes later, holding himself up, laughing.

He told me that when he got in the room, Sophia was incredibly upset, saying that Olivia had taken her book, but Sophia still had the book she was crying about.

“What are you talking about? He asked, “the book is right there! What did Olivia do, bring the book back to you?”

“Yes, she gave it back!” Sophia sobbed.

“I didn’t take the book daddy! I didn’t!” Olivia interjected, adamantly.

“Are you sure you didn’t take the book and then give it back to Sophia when she got upset? You need to tell the truth, Olivia.”

“Yes, I took Sophia’s book, Daddy.” Olivia finally admitted.

“Did you get out of bed to get the book?” Bill asked, “You know you’re not supposed to get out of bed.”

“I did not get out of bed to get the book Daddy!” Olivia proclaimed.

“Olivia, how did you get the book if you didn’t get out of bed?” he asked her.

She looked at him, with a big smile on her face and simply said:

“I used the force.”

Wordless Wednesday: “Come on! That’s not running! Let’s go!”

I want to see your Wordless Wednesdays too!



Specifics.

I was so proud of myself at Christmas. I had set a budget for the girls’ gifts, and managed to stay within that budget.

Enter Bill.

He thought it might be fun to totally blow my budget out of the water and buy a Kinect “for the girls”. For the girls I thought, Sure it is.

But we bought it, wrapped it, and when they opened it, Olivia claimed “Um, Santa gave me YOUR present, daddy! It says Xbox on it!” When we explained that it was, in fact, a game for her and Sophia to play, they were skeptical, but said their thank yous and all was forgotten for a few days in the excitement over ALL THE TOYS.

When we finally opened it up, the girls were hooked. They played Kinect Adventure and after we had played for 30 minutes, we had to make a quick trip to the store to pick up Kinectimals.

Well, let me just tell you, it was all over after that. We have two games. Two. But they love playing them. ALL.THE.TIME. Olivie moreso than Sophia, but Sophia gets into it all the same.

We have enforced a rule about how long they can play video games on a weekly basis. We try to limit it to under an hour a day, but they do not play daily, so if they play a bit longer on the weekends, it evens out. When they play, they have to swap out watching TV for playing, (usually). We are trying to be responsible with it, which is proving much more difficult than I would have imagined.

“Mama? Maybe when we get home from lunch, maybe can play Kinect.” (Please note: We are in the car. We have not gotten to the restaurant for lunch yet. We had just left the park.)

“Olivia, when we get home from lunch, you have to take a nap.”

“Okay, so we go home, I take a nap, but then maybe we can play Kinect?”

“Well, first we need to have lunch, and if you behave in the restaurant you will have a better chance of playing, but I don’t know what we are doing after naptime, so please stop worrying about the Kinect.”

“I’m going to behave in the restaurant, and then take a nap and THEN play the Kinect?”

“Olivia, I’ve already told you what we are going to do, so please stop worrying about the Kinect right now.”

“But I REALLY want to play the Kinect, the Kinect is my favorite thing to play and I promise I will be good!”

“Olivia. If you say ‘Kinect’ one more time, you are not going to play with it. I’ve already told you that I don’t know if you can play because I don’t really know what we are doing this afternoon.”

*silence*

“Mama?”

“Yes baby?”

“I promise you I am going to be really good so I can play that game I was just talking about a minute ago.”

*facepalm*

“You had to tell her not to say ‘Kinect’ didn’t you? Did you forget who you are dealing with?” Bill said to me, voice lowered, trying desperately to hold his laughter in.

“Olivia, you need to stop talking about the Kinect, the game, or anything ABOUT the game or Kinect. The whole entire idea of the game is closed for discussion for now, or you will not play it for a week.” Bill said, while biting his cheek.

Specifics, people, specifics. Olivia demands them.

Butternut Squash Bread

Hi. I’m Natalie. I buy gourds and other vegetables that we do not normally eat, anytime they are on sale.

The first step is admitting you have a problem, right?

I did it with the Zucchini (which, by the way, I still haven’t been able to try Suzanne’s recipe, as Zucchini is now pricer than everything else in the grocery store) and last week I did it with butternut squash (3 pounds for $1!).

Don’t get me wrong, we have eaten butternut squash in the past. I used to make the best Butternut Squash Risotto when Olivia was a baby, and she LOVED it. Both girls loved eating it when they were in the pureed food stage, but I hadn’t bought any in awhile. When I mentioned I was thinking of making the risotto, Bill said “Yeah, that’s not my favorite application of Butternut Squash.” He’s seriously killing me with all of his “revelations” of not really liking recipes when I mention making them again–but, at least he is honest, I guess. So I started racking my brain for things I could do with this butternut squash, because, cheap or not, I’m USING the damn gourds.

We thought it might be kind of cool to try muffins, as pumpkin muffins are our favorite, and a gourd is a gourd, right?

I searched and ran across this recipe for Butternut Squash Bread and decided to re-purpose it for mini-muffins and change it around to make it slightly healthier.

Butternut Squash Bread

Ingredients:

1 cup butternut squash puree (halve & roast a squash in a 375 degree oven for 1 hour or until softened. Remove skin & puree)
2 eggs
1/2 cup applesauce
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 3/4 cups bread flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tbs vanilla
2 tbs wheat germ (it was all I had left, you could use more if you wanted)
1/2 cup flaxseed meal

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Pick your pan (I used mini muffin pans) and grease and flour or spray down with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the puree, eggs, applesauce, water, sugars and vanilla until thoroughly combined. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, wheat germ and flaxseed meal.
  3. Stir the dry ingredients into the butternut squash mixture. Combine just until incorporated: do not over mix. Pour into the prepared pan.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes (if using mini muffin pan) or 55-65 if using a loaf pan.

This is what your batter will look like. It will be thick. Very thick.

They make perfect little mini muffins!

Even better with a dollop of cream cheese!

I can’t say that this is my favorite mini muffin recipe, but it may be because of my changes. I’m going to make the original recipe in the future and report back. Bill said they were a little too chewy for his liking. That may be because of the addition of the flaxseed meal OR changing out the vegetable oil for applesauce. The flavor was really good–the cinnamon was very noticeable (perhaps slightly too much?), but very reminiscent of my pumpkin bread (which, yum). I think I should have just baked it in a loaf pan as bread instead of mini muffins.

The girls love them and think they are yummy, so this recipe is a win in my book.

Edited to add: These are very good the next day, similar to my pumpkin bread, the bread is much more moist than it was yesterday.

P90X Update: Week 7

This was a week of sickness, non-exercise, and a decision to redo my week 7. But, in honor of full disclosure I am posting how my week went.

Day 43 (Monday): I only got half of my workout done, as we had company coming over and they came earlier than I anticipated. We spent the day together so I was unable to finish later in the day. Okay, so MAYBE I could have finished my workout, but I had a belly full of sushi. And it was good.

Day 44 (Tuesday): Totally did the entire Cardio workout and felt good after.

Day 45 (Wednesday): I started with the Ab Ripper X, but knew something was off about halfway through. I had no energy and felt drained. I didn’t finish all of the exercises, but dutifully went about the Chest/Shoulders/Triceps workout. I knew I was done about 20 minutes into it. I just had nothing to give. I couldn’t figure it out. I spent the rest of the day on the couch, hoping whatever it was would pass.

Day 46 (Thursday): I got up. I got the girls breakfast. I laid on the couch. I fell into a half-sleep. I did this most of the day. My body ached, my throat was weird, and I felt like I was on the edge of being REALLY sick, but not quite there. I was in a mental funk and felt really sad a lot of the day.

Day 47 (Friday): I still felt crappy, so I laid in bed (Bill was home) and slept on and off until lunchtime.

Day 48 (Saturday): I thought maybe I was feeling better, but I still had that weird throat feeling and didn’t want to risk overexertion. Or maybe I just knew in the back of my head I was going to redo the week and why bother?

Day 49 (Sunday): My throat is still weird, and I’m head-achy, but overall, my energy level feels higher, so I’m hopeful one more day of relaxing will bring me back to 100%.

Here are a few things I think will make my workout better after Week 7:

  • I’m glad I listened to my body. I hated not completing the week, and I hate that I am having to “redo” the week, but the sheer fact that I’m willing to go an extra week beyond what I thought I was going to have to do, tells me this program has definitely changed my outlook on exercise. I may not be cut out for a 6-day a week program for the rest of my life, but I can’t cut it out entirely. I know that now.
  • I need to find a soy-based protein powder. (Warning, TMI ahead) I had been having the most horrible gas and I couldn’t figure it out. I thought it was Diet Coke (and I almost had a heart-attack) but after a week of not eating smoothies and not having gas, and THEN having Bill bring me a smoothie that had dairy in it and the gas returning…well, hello lactose intolerance. I always thought that was what it was, but also thought “meh, I only drink milk occasionally and who does it hurt, really? It’s just farting.” Well. The Whey Powder takes the “just farting” to massive “I’m going to divorce myself” levels.

Notes for Week 7:

  • I gained .4 pounds back. Though considering my week of no exercise, coupled with me almost devouring a whole red velvet cake alone (I’m not proud of it, but it happens and it was over the course of the week…those sneaky bites add up) AND eating more take-out than normal (sick=no cooking), I’m okay with that.
  • I’m not going to dwell on this week. I don’t consider it a “failure”.

So, see you back here next week for Week 7, redux.

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