Getting Back to Healthy

The beginning of the year always seems to be the time people look for a change. Everyone wants to be a better version of themselves in the previous year. They start off with so much hope and great intentions. But, unfortunately, they don’t tend to stay on the course.

Well, guess what…I’m joining those ranks (the ones looking for a change, not the one straying off course). However, I started my journey at the end of November.

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When I finally got a full-time job that allowed me to have a little more cash flow, I knew I immediately needed to get back into the gym. While I haven’t been in a “normal gym” for three years, I knew that I had to make the most of it, until I can afford to join a new CrossFit box. So I joined Anytime Fitness in my hometown. I chose this gym because it was close to my office, and open 24 hours a day. My plan has been to use my lunch break the days I work in the office to workout to get in short cardio sessions (25 minute hill or speed intervals on the treadmill). On days that I work from work from home I hope to hit the gym early in the morning before my husband has to leave for work for some weights.

It’s been so hard to be my normal self. When I lived in Lexington I had the support and community of Man O’War CrossFit. My guys were always looking for me every morning. Even after Baby A&W was born, I still managed to go almost every day. But that’s when she would sleep throughout our WODs, which made it more manageable. Our neighborhood was so perfect for walks of all lengths, and I would walk the dogs everyday after work (whether Baby A&W was in her carrier or stroller).

But now, I don’t have the CrossFit community for support. I don’t have the flexibility of a sleeping baby in her carseat to bring with me. I don’t have sidewalks, street lamps, or multiple routes for walks–country roads aren’t the best to walk on come dusk/dark. And the winter weather isn’t conducive for a baby to be out in the elements for long periods of time.

But I can’t continue with the excuses. I’m at a stage in my health that I never thought I would be at, and it’s frustrating.

So I looked for what I call “Forced Motivation.” Knowing that I’m paying for a gym membership means I need to make the most of it. For Christmas my sister paid for my registration in two half marathons (April 16 and May 7). Knowing that I have two big races. so close together, means that I need to be getting my strength back before adding the mileage.

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So, I’ve been hitting the gym more regularly now. I’ve set goals–not only in weight loss but also in ability when it comes to getting back to my old self. I’m already feeling a difference and I look forward to the workouts. There have been some exhausting nights with A&W not sleeping through the night, teething, or just being sick, not to mention that I’ve worked a lot of late nights trying to hit my freelancing deadlines. But those aren’t an excuse.

I’m thankful for Coach Taylor that he continues to post the weekly WODs for MOWCF on their Facebook page. When I’m preparing for my weight lifting days, I check to see what my old CrossFit family did as far as WODs and then try to see if I can do them in some form or fashion at my “boring gym.” Or, I’ll make up my own.

Here are some workouts I’ve done:

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I’m also going to get back to blogging more regularly, as I want to use this as an accountability tool again. I’m excited about the two half marathons I’ve got coming up, but also very nervous about training on my own and getting back to being fit.

Your turn: How are you getting back to being fit in 2016?

Dealing with Depression in Your Own Way

I wanted to share a story I wrote for a contest with everyone. The story happened to win, which I am extremely excited about, but even if it hadn’t won, I wanted to share. A couple of years ago I started dealing with depression due to a myriad of things happening in my life. I fought through it with the help of some medication and discovering CrossFit. Unfortunately, again because of a myriad of things, I’m dealing with a slight tinge of depression, but I’m not combating it with medication this time, just going through the motions and doing my best to look forward to better days ahead. Marlise Langenhoven dealt with clinical depression for almost her entire life, but because she discovered horses and the power they have to make everything better, she’s now medication-free and living her life in a more positive light. Is she 100 percent cured? No. But she’s doing everything she’s ever wanted to do now and enjoying life with her family. All thanks to finding the Time To Ride.

Not Your Standard Medication

Depression is like a dark hole, and there are days that you struggle just to see a glimmer of light. For some it can be crippling, but others find a way to fight through. They might do it on their own, with medication, or with the help of angels around them.

For Marlise Langenhoven, her angels just came in the form of horses.   Riding horses has been a lifelong dream for Marlise, but it was unreachable in her early years. Growing up in South Africa, horses and riding were for the more privileged.   Marlise grew up moving around a lot with her family moving to the United States when she was 28 years old. She struggled through abuse as a child and multiple moves until she became an adult and married her husband of 20 years, Mark.

Then came her first child, and the stressors of being a new mom and the new challenges the dynamic change brought about led to her diagnosis of clinical depression.   “I was very depressed, on medications … having a hard time coping with life in general,” Marlise recalls.

Then one day her daughter suggested riding lessons. “When she said that, my heart kind of sunk a little bit because where I come from, riding is a very expensive hobby, and my family couldn’t afford it at all,” she says.  Still, she looked around her home in Murfreesboro, Tenn., for a place to just take one lesson at the age of 38.

“I can remember the first time I got on and started riding,” she says. “I was just on a lunge line going around in a circle, but I can still remember how it felt to just be on a horse and to do something I have always wanted to do.”

Expecting to only take one lesson, Marlise was hooked from the very first step and continued her lessons, even though she was one of the oldest riders at her first trainer’s farm.

“When it comes to riding as an older adult, it’s very intimidating…at least it was for me,” she says. “You’re surrounded by all these young kids who are much better than you are.”

Ending the Victim Cycle

Marlise found that with every lesson, every little thing that she started getting right during her lessons, as a rider, pushed her to want to do more. She felt accomplished after every ride, no matter how small the gains were.   After about a year, Marlise and her daughter moved on to their current trainer, Lauren Romanelli in College Grove, Tenn. In one of her early lessons, Lauren said something that hit home to Marlise.

“Lauren would say, ‘Stop riding like a victim.’ But I had no idea what she meant,” she says. “I had my shoulders back, my chin was up, and heels down.”

Then it hit Marlise that she needed to let go of all the negativity and early struggles, and just live in the moment.

“Dealing with horses really taught me that I had to deal with my stuff and that I had some unpacking to do, instead of keeping it all boarded up,” she reveals. “I just needed to leave it alone and move on. Go forward.”  Her new life mantra was to no longer look back: “If you want to accomplish anything with riding, you have to move forward. You don’t achieve anything by looking back.”

Moving Forward

Now Marlise and her daughter share a leased horse together. It’s wasn’t long before Marlise was learning about more than just counting strides between jumps, but other horsemanship skills. With each stall she mucked, each hoof picked, each horse groomed and fed, she discovered more of the beauty and the strength that radiated from horses.   “

One of my favorite charges, Chance, would give me big hugs and nibble my back pockets whenever I picked his feet,” she says. “And with every perceived show of affection, or evidence of trust earned, another little piece of me would fall back into place. My time at the barn was the joy of my life.”

Marlise has also learned that life, like jumping, is about making adjustments as best you can as you go. Some days you ace it and other days not so much, but tomorrow, you tack up again, take a deep breath and try all over. It’s enlightened her and given her a new lease on life, a life without any more depression medication or extra weight. While her depression isn’t totally in the rearview mirror, she continues to manage it with exercise, riding, and therapy when needed. She attributes it all to her time spent in the saddle and in the barn, looking up and moving forward.

Marlise enjoying competing at her first three-day event with a fellow adult rider in 2015.

Marlise enjoying competing at her first three-day event with a fellow adult rider in 2015.

“I do think there is something to be said about riding and being around horses. That has really, really helped me,” says Marlise. “For me, at the barn it’s all about being in the moment—you focus on just you and your horse. There’s always something you need to focus on when you’re at the barn, and because you’re focusing on these little things while you’re riding, you shut out everything else going on. For that time, I am not a mother, I am not a wife, I don’t have responsibilities … all I have to worry about is in that barn—me and my horse.

“For that time, I can just be me, I can just be that young girl that has always wanted to ride, but never had that opportunity. For that time I can be living my dream. It’s like the only real selfish time that I have, and I’m really, truly selfish with it—I don’t care about anyone else, I don’t think about anyone else, it’s just me and my horse and riding, and our connection.”

The Move: Struggle, Tears, and Changes

I had started writing this more than a month ago, and I should have posted it before now, but life has just been way too crazy for me.

Flashback to May…and I, along with the help of some family, packed up our entire home into a Budget Rental truck and we set out for a new beginning. We moved from Lexington back up to Indiana. It was time to be a family.

You see, M had started a new job up in Indiana in mid-January. There was no way I was going to move nine months pregnant, nor with a newborn, and I needed my job for the insurance, so I stayed in Lexington. After Baby A&W was born, M was able to spend two weeks in Lexington with us before he had to return to work. Since I had four weeks of maternity left, and a baby who needed to be fed every two hours (which included 30 minutes nursing on me, plus 30 minutes of me pumping, then 20 minutes of feeding baby the bottle…repeat the process 40 minutes later), I temporarily moved back to Indiana with M and my parents so I had some help. At the end of my maternity leave, I moved baby and the dogs back to Lexington and started to live the life of a pseudo-single mom. When M wasn’t traveling on the weekends for his new job, he’d come down to spend a couple days with us, then he’d return to my parents’ place and I returned to being the lone wolf.

How I coped on my own many evenings freelancing at night with a baby...it's all about multi-tasking.

How I coped on my own many evenings freelancing at night with a baby…it’s all about multi-tasking.

It was like that for 3.5 months. And it was hard. It sucked. It was lonely. I don’t know how single parents do it everyday for 18+ years! I had so many breakdowns, so many rough nights, and all I could do was cry in the phone to my mom or husband as I struggled with just about everything. But, yet, I still worked out every morning, dropped my daughter off at daycare, worked 9 hours, picked her up, then we’d walk the dogs, and I’d feed her and make bottles for the next day, put her to bed, and then maybe I’d eat dinner around 9 or 10. I got it done. I had to. I had no other choice.

Then in May, reality hit us. The cost of rent on our house plus daycare each month was more than what I was making at work. Add to that a (HUGE) mistake by my HR with my FMLA paperwork, which meant I went five weeks without any income coming in at all, and we needed help. The only option we really had was that I moved up to Indiana earlier than planned. I had hope to find a job before the move, so it’d be an easier transition, but things weren’t panning out that way. So we set a date for Memorial Day weekend and I gave my final notice to my boss, which sucked.

Let me tell you, packing and moving with a 3 month old is not fun, nor do I recommend doing it when it’s 80+ degrees out, and you’re dealing with your parents and your in-laws, and are totally emotional because you don’t want to move. It was one of the hardest weekends ever for me. While I was happy to be able to finally have some help with Baby A&W (since we were moving in with my parents to help us get on our feet again), I didn’t want to leave Lexington. Lexington has been my home for eight years, and I built such a life, with friends, work, hangouts, dog training, Man O’War CrossFit, etc.

But, I knew it was for the best. M and I needed to be together again, and he needed to be able to be a father to Baby A&W more than just a couple days every couple of weeks. And I needed help.

While the accommodations are tight (four adults, one baby, three dogs, and four cats under one roof), I know it brings my parents great joy every morning to hear A laugh and screech with joy. M and I are crammed into my childhood bedroom, while A’s crib is in my dad’s office. Most of our belongings are in storage in my brother-in-law’s garage next door, so if I’m needing something (which is most of the time), I walk over there and dig through tons of boxes and hope I can find it (to date I’m still looking for flea/tick meds, bottle brushes, dog brushes, and I think something else). I’m thankful for my family to be such big help.

One perk to living back on the farm: Baby A&W gets to grow up around horses like me! (See how thrilled both she and my old barrel horse is?)

One perk to living back on the farm: Baby A&W gets to grow up around horses like me! (See how thrilled both she and my old barrel horse is?)

I’m going on a second month of still looking for a job, and it’s hard. It’s hard managing being a stay-at-home-working-mom with my freelancing. I feel like my entire life/identity is gone and I’ve lost myself in the move. I can’t do CrossFit everyday like I used to–I miss my boys at MOWCF like crazy–but I do it maybe twice a week with the local police department until I can afford a new membership. I’m trying to get back into running, but it’s hard with a fussy baby (most of my runs are with the stroller because I have to have A with me). And I just miss working…it might sound weird, but I do. But I know I need to cherish this time with A, as she’s changing everyday, and I do. But my sense of worth has drastically declined, though I know that’s stupid for a mother to say.

My writing has totally slacked, especially with this blog, and for that, I apologize. There’s been quite a few things that I’ve thought “I need to blog about this” but then I don’t because my “me-time” is only so fleeting, and I have so much more that has to get done besides blogging (i.e., laundry, caring for the horses, taking care of my parents’ house, interviews, transcribing, writing articles I actually get paid for, etc.). I’m going to try my best to be better..about everything.

For now, this has been Life on Planet Marsz….coming to you from Indiana.

My First Mother’s Day

This weekend I celebrated my first Mother’s Day. Well, technically this was my first Mother’s Day as a “human mom” and not just a “fur-mom”. (My dog friends will understand.) I’ve always celebrated Mother’s Day (and Father’s Day) with the fullest intentions of ensuring that my mom knew how loved she was and how thankful I was to have her as my mom, but I never fully understood what she’s gone through as a mother until I became one myself. It’s a lesson I think all children should learn at some point or another (but, no, I’m not saying everyone needs to procreate just to celebrate these two holidays).

11071667_10153235788989602_2774834097366942071_oI saw this on Facebook some time ago and saved it just for Mother’s Day. It makes me tear up as I read it, every single time (man I have gotten emotional since becoming a mom!).

This is so, so true in so many ways, and I’ve only experienced this for a little over three months. Being a mother is more than just being pregnant for nine months.

Things I’ve learned since becoming a mother myself:

  1. Everything can be washed, and if it can’t, it can be replaced.
  2. When you think you’re actually running on time, you’re not…start moving earlier!
  3. The best thing you can do for your child is to take care of yourself. If you’re sick, you can’t be 100 percent with it, so take care of yourself just as much as you take care of your child.
  4. Just like with my dogs, seeing her at the end of the day makes my day. Now that she’s smiling, to see her eyes light up when she sees me fills my heart with so much joy.
  5. If you think you’re too selfish to become a parent, think again. I thought I was, but all of that is thrown out the door when that little one enters your life. You will eat last (even my dogs and horses eat before I do), only get to shower if you can quickly squeeze one in, and their clothing needs come before yours. And, surprisingly, I’m OK with that.Mday2
  6. I now have a different perspective on that family eating out with a crying child, or the mother who looks frazzled while dealing with a child at the grocery. Before you gripe about how they’re child misbehave, or how dare they “ruin” your dinner out, take a moment to wonder if maybe they’re out to eat because they just want to get out of the house, or maybe that mother is a single mom doing it on her own. Have a little more patience and maybe offer to help, or compliment.
  7. Just a simple compliment can go a long way for an exhausted mom. Even if you’re not someone into kids, just asking your friend how they’re doing, or offering to meet for lunch (with or without offspring) means the world to them. A simple text to say hello and to check on them goes a long way, more than you’d ever know.
My mom's first Mother's Day as a grandMOTHER.

My mom’s first Mother’s Day as a grandMOTHER.

I am super proud of my baby girl, and it’s surprising how everyday I fall more and more in love with her.

Thank you, mom, for being the best mom a kid could ever ask for. Thank you for sacrificing your life so I could live mine. Thank you for “sharing” your bites with me, and thank you for putting up with me. And thank you, even moreso now, with the constant questions and complaints and just being an open ear and helping hand to offer any kind of assistance. I know I wouldn’t be who I am without you, or dad, and your strength and support. I just hope I’m half as much a great mom to Aubrey as you have been to me and Erin. I love you.

“A baby fills a place in your heart that you never knew was empty”

Good Reads: Running Mothers, Sharing Praise, Stress Eating

It has been a really long time since I’ve done some link loving, but I thought I’d share a couple of things that really made me stop, read, and contemplate, which is pretty hard for me to do lately.

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Why She Runs: To Adapt to Mother Hood (Runners’ World): “Running, with its demands that I mentally focus and take care of my body, ultimately made my transition to motherhood easier. And becoming a parent improved my running, requiring that I make it a priority and get the most out of each workout in the limited time I had.” I’m a big supporter of being active to help your mental health. And as a new mother myself, I know that there are days I need to get my frustration out so I can be a better mom to Baby A&W. I cannot wait to get back into running training again!

You are Doing a Really Good Job (I Got a Dumpster Family): It’s sad, but there are times that really, I just want a pat on the back. The past few months have been rough, and sometimes I wonder if anyone even notices, but I continue to come into work, paste a smile on my face and try to clear my mind of the craziness that is my life. I now understand mothers a lot more than before I had my baby, and I believe that, yes, we do need to support each other and say, “You’re doing great.” No matter what it is.

Stop the Cycle of Stress Eating (Evolution by Ariana): Stress eating is one of my biggest vices, and lately I know that’s what has stifled me losing the remaining baby weight. The crazy mornings, boring workdays, and then the harried evenings with the baby mean it’s hard to eat healthy for me some times. And I know a lot of it is lack of willpower, but sometimes you just say “F– it” and shovel those animal crackers in your mouth as you prepare a bottle for your crying baby. It’s important to just take a moment and think for yourself–you want you be healthy not only for yourself, but for your baby.

Your turn: Share your favorite reads from the past couple of weeks!

Starting to Grow! Dear Aubrey-Two Months

(If you’d like to read my letter to Baby A&W on her 1-month birthday, you can read it here.)

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Dear Aubrey,

Your second month of life has been vastly different from your first. During February, you mostly slept…boy did I think I had it easy from there on out. March was a completely different story as you started discovering the world you were born into, and that you could see so much if you stayed awake.

You finally started gaining weight and gaining ground in growing–your 2-month doctor’s appointment saw you tipping the scales at 8 pounds and 14 ounces, a full two pounds heavier than when you were born (in the 15th percentile). You now measure 21.75 inches long (21st percentile) and your head measures 37 centimeters around (20th percentile). You’re not the biggest girl, but that’s alright. Dr. Wilson (your pediatrician) says you’re going to be long and lean, like your momma. You are constantly moving–the only time I see you still is when you’re sound asleep at bedtime. Because of this, Dr. Wilson says you’re constantly burning calories–truly living up to your “Baby CrossFit” nickname given to you before you were born by mom’s CrossFit coach.

Mid-March we moved back to Lexington–momma went back to work and you started daycare. You’re in the “minnows” classroom at Tot’s Landing and they absolutely love you–they call you “Lil Bit” just like your mom and dad do because you’re the smallest member of the room. You spend your time at daycare either sleeping in the swing, tummy time, or playing with the foot keyboard.

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Baby’s first CrossFit WOD

Our days during the week are crazy: We wake at 5 am for mommy to pump and you to eat your bottle, then around 6 we head to Man O’War CrossFit so mommy can get her workout on (you mostly sleep through the workouts in your carseat). After our workout, we rush home so I can get ready for work, and you demand another bottle before we leave for daycare and work. After work, I come pick you up and we head home to walk the dogs–you love going for pup walks in your carrier, and I hope soon we can get a stroller so we can go for longer walks (and start running together now). Then it’s time to get things ready for the next day (your bottles at daycare, mommy’s lunch at work) and we hope to relax a little for an early bedtime.

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Your daddy’s been traveling a lot for work–he’s still spending the week in Indiana with your grandparents and, if he’s not traveling, he comes down to spend the weekends with us in Lexington. You love falling asleep on your dad’s chest in the recliner.

You’re really developing a personality, learning to make lots of new noises and faces everyday, and trying to take in as much as possible. Your eyes are now gray, and we’re hoping a little green will start to appear. And your hair…ohh baby girl…your hair is cray cray (that’s 2015 slang for Crazy)! It’s long and wild, and that’s made even worse when I blow dry your hair. But, everyone loves it. You’ve got momma’s thick hair and your daddy’s cowlick–so you won’t be able to have bangs or short hair, sorry.

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LaMesa loves her little sister.

 

You’re holding yourself up more and more with each passing day, proving that though you’re tiny, you’re mighty. The dogs love you–everyday we come home from daycare they have to check you out and give you little kisses, just to make sure all is well.

You received your first shots, which was upsetting for you for just a few minutes, but nothing too horrible. You also had your first cold, most likely daycare germs, and shared your germs with mommy–thanks.

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Warmer weather and new adventures await us in the coming months!

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One Month Ago Life Changed–Dear Aubrey

It’s hard to believe that it’s been one month since Aubrey joined this world and changed my life forever. It feels like it’s been longer than a month, but then again, it’s like “It’s already been a month??”

1 Month Old!

1 Month Old!

One of my favorite bloggers, Lindsay over at The Lean Green Bean, recently had a baby as well, and I love what she does to commemorate each passing month of Chase’s life, so I thought I’d steal her idea (I hope you don’t mind, Lindsay!). Every month she writes a letter to Chase about his month of growth, which I love. I’d hope that one day Aubrey can read these letters…

Dear Aubrey,

I can’t believe it’s already been one month since you joined me and Daddy’s world. All the preparations we did leading up to your arrival didn’t prepare me for the roller coaster ride that is new motherhood.

You’ve already proven you’re like your mother in the fact that you’ll do what you want when you want. Right now, it’s mostly been sleeping–you’ve slept away most of your first month on this Earth. If only I could say the same for myself. I only hope you’re able to sleep well the rest of your life!

Your momma conquered changing diapers pretty quickly, though there are times that I forget to put a diaper under you as soon as I remove the dirty one…and then we have to wash the changing pad. Oops. We’ve had a few blowouts, but nothing horrible.

We’ve had our struggles with your weight, and with momma trying to breastfeed you. But I think we’re starting to get things figured out. After dropping a full pound, you’re now up to 7 pounds 6 ounces! At your last doctor’s appointment, you were 20.5″ long, but I think you’ve grown at least an inch since, because your legs are too long for Newborn-sized sleepers.

Lots of feedings!

Lots of feedings!

My saying for the first month has been: “First time mom + first time baby = not a good combo”. Thankfully you’ve been pretty forgiving. I just hope you’re this forgiving later in life…

We’ve spent most of your first month living with Grammie and Granpie in Indiana–Daddy had to start his new job two weeks after you were born in Indianapolis, so that I had some help, we temporarily moved up to the family farm with your puppy sisters. I think you’ve enjoyed your stay–you get spoiled by not only Grammie and Granpie, but also your Aunt Erin and Uncle Jerry. Win-win.

We’re in this together for a lifetime, and while the future is still scary for me to fathom, I’m happy I have you as my little partner in crime.

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B-Day is Coming–38 Weeks & Counting

It’s so hard to believe that we’re on 38 weeks of pregnancy and that Baby A&W could come at any moment. And let me tell you…I am not ready.

I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted, and for that I apologize. Life has gotten crazy busy, as any mom-to-be can probably attest to. The last few weeks I’ve been busy trying to finish up tasks at work and training coworkers to take over my duties while I’m gone, finishing up the multitude of freelance writing assignments that piled up on me from editors hoping I can get things to them before the baby’s arrival, and dealing with major changes in our family.

Working Out
I am still working out just about everyday. I wake up at 6 am every weekday morning and hit Man O’War CrossFit for my daily weight training. I’ve backed off the weight more, and definitely the intensity, but just to still walk into the box and try my best to be normal. My coach and the rest of the guys I work out with always make me laugh, even when they say it feels like I’ve been pregnant for a year (trust me, I feel the same way). There are more things that I can’t do now (i.e., jump rope, squat below parallel), but I try to not let that stop or discourage me.

There are times that I just don’t feel like going to the box, but I know that I’m going to miss it when the baby comes those first weeks, so I still go. When I have those days, I just tell Taylor “I’m preggo WODding it” which means I’ll do my own thing (like one day I just foam rolled and stretched–which is exactly what I needed that day). He’s OK with that and just keeps an eye on my while working with the rest.

Writing & Work
A few months ago I warned all of my editors about when the baby was coming and requested my assignments as early as possible so I could work ahead and get the assignments into them before Baby A&W arrives. I ended up having more than 15 assignments due by the end of this month. When you’re also working full-time, that’s a lot on a normal (read: non-pregnant) person.

I’ve also gotten additional (last minute) assignments due for the month of February, which I’m currently working on finishing this weekend…I hope.

As far as my full-time job, I’ve been doing my best to train co-workers different aspects of my job so they can take care of anything that pops up during my 6 week maternity leave.

Preparing Home for Baby
With all of this going on, it’s hard to think that I would have the time to get our home ready for the baby. Well, thankfully my mother came down to help me. She’s been instrumental in helping to organize all of the baby stuff from my showers, wash all of the baby clothes, and make sure I have enough receiving blankets and clothing to fit the baby for the next 6 months. We’ve successfully changed the office into a nursery where my dad put together our crib and I put together Baby A&W’s swing and some organization shelves.

We went from having an exclusive rodeo themed nursery to a farm/dog (mostly Corgi) themed nursery. My dog friends gave me some great items like a dog musical mobile that was just too perfect. I also had a wall hanging quilt with Corgis playing in front of a barn that a friend gave me years ago that I just didn’t know what to do with–well now it’s hanging on the wall above the crib.

I have a good selection of diapers (size newborn and 1s) as well as plenty of wipes (seriously…plenty). Lots of Dr. Brown’s bottles (I did register for other brands, but all of my friends bought me Dr. Brown’s) and pacifiers (even though I don’t really know if I want Baby A&W to use pacifiers). And lots of baby clothes of all sizes/ages. My parents even brought down an antique cradle for us to have in our bedroom those first couple of months.

We’re just hoping that having the dogs be a part of all of the preparation stuff helps them in the transition of the baby when the time comes. I’ve been doing lots of reading on how to intro duct dogs/pets to the new baby, and I have to say that’s one of my biggest stressors right now.

Changing Life
And then there’s a big wrench in everything… Around Christmas time, M applied and interviewed for a new job…and received a job offer at the end of the year. Great news, right?? Of course. Unfortunately, it also means a huge change in address for us. The job is in Indiana, which means we’ll be moving back there. Since mid-January, he’s been in Indiana training for his new job.

During the week he’s been staying with my dad and going to training, then he comes down to Lexington to spend the weekend with me. His new company will give him his two weeks paid vacation when the baby arrives (which he normally wouldn’t receive until after 6 months in) and they told him that as soon as I call him saying I’m in labor, he is just to get in the car and drive, and call them from the road. They understand the pressures he’s under with a pregnant wife and a baby coming soon. So far they seem like they’re a great company, and for that I’m thankful.

I’ll be staying down in Kentucky until it’s the right time for me and Baby A&W to move. I’m hoping I’ll have found a job by then because we’ll still need the dual income, as well as my freelancing. We will be closer to my family, which will be helpful when it comes to raising our child, but I am sad to be leaving a place that has a special place in my heart. But I know it’s for the best, and sometimes we have to just go with the change and see where it leads us.

So….yeah…that’s been my life up to now! Haha This post has gone very long and for that I apologize. I’ll do my best to keep you up-to-date as time nears for Baby A&W’s arrival. For now, wish me luck! 🙂

A Handmade Christmas List–Unique Gift Ideas

By now you’re probably finishing up your Christmas shopping…or maybe you’re just starting. Lately we haven’t had much money to spend for presents, so we try to make the most of each gift we give by making sure they’re special for that person. Whether it means searching for the perfect shirt at Target, or finding something on Etsy, I pride myself on trying to find the “perfect gift.”

To me, the “perfect gift” comes from the heart and takes a lot of time and effort, not just something you ran out to the store, saw and thought “Hey, that works.” Because of this, I try to plan a little early. This year, I found items for my dad and brother-in-law that I know they love, will use until holes appear (and continue to use), and can be hard to find. For my mom, something that I know she’ll hang up and smile every time she sees it. For my sister, a reminder of some of her favorite things. For M…well…he’s a little more difficult…

So I thought I’d share a couple of my favorite places to shop on Etsy for unique, handmade, and some times custom, items that you still have time to buy for your loved ones this holiday season. These are small businesses, which I love to try to support as much as possible, and I hope you do, too.

All Wooled Up
From handknitted scarves and shawls to handmade jewelry, to needle-felted wall art to reclaimed sweat bags, you’re sure to find something for every female on your list. You can’t argue with one-of-a-kind, upcycled items that can keep you warm, decorate your house or neck, or just look great. And the prices can’t be beat. So many pretty items!

AWU

Porter Productions
What started out as some fun trinkets for friends in the dog agility world has expanded to so much more! Lucky pennies, reminders of accomplishments, motivational sayings..anything that can be stamped into metal and hung from your neck or ears, she can do. She’s even started enameling coins and metal, which looks super cool! You can do keychains for dads, using birth years of their children; or celebrate your latest running domination. I have to say her special 13.1 2014 penny she gave me this summer brought me a PR in a half marathon! 🙂

PP

KeraAshley
Another great place to find handknitted items from scarves to headbands and even cute mug warmers. (Who doesn’t want their coffee or tea to stay warmer just a little longer at your desk??) The crocheting and knitting are great–look cute and stay warm!

KA

Stickman Hardware
Looking for something for the man in your life? If he loves beer, does homebrewing, or aspires to be a brewer, you can’t go wrong with a custom keg handle from a fellow homebrewer! StickmanHardware designs and builds customized hardwood tap handles for homebrewers and beer lovers, using hardwoods such as walnut, maple, bocote, and bubinga and inlaid chalkboards to create tap handles which are both aesthetically pleasing as well as functional.

SMHAll Leashed Up
OK, so what about those pups in your life? They bring you so much joy every time they see you! All Leashed Up offers colorful handmade paracord collars and matching leashes, tug toys, and even bracelets that you can wear to match your pooch. My pups rock All Leashed Up designs at the agility trials.

ALU

The possibilities are endless! Hopefully this helps you if you’ve been stumped for ideas!

Your turn: What’s your favorite Etsy shop for gift giving?

 

A Simple Thanskgiving

I know, I know, this should have been posted days ago, considering Thanksgiving is now a distant memory. But I wanted to share my first Thanksgiving where I fixed everything, by myself, for just myself and M. I was pretty proud of myself for putting everything together!

M had to work all week, including Thanksgiving, so that meant we were staying home. It would be our first Thanksgiving with just the two of us (instead of spending it with family)….and our last with just the two of us (considering Baby A&W will be here next year). I wanted to make it special, but we had a tight budget, so I did the best I could.

On the menu:

  • 3 lb. boneless turkey breast
  • Fresh green beans
  • Mom’s sweet potatoes
  • Hawaiian rolls
  • Spiced cranberry-apple chutney
  • Homemade pumpkin pie

Putting everything together was pretty simple.

Our little Thanksgiving dinner--not as heavy as traditionally, but still delicious!

Our little Thanksgiving dinner–not as heavy as traditionally, but still delicious!

Turkey

  1. Prepare the slow cooker by spraying cooking oil all over the inside.
  2. Leaving the skin and string on, rub the turkey breast with olive oil then sprinkle seasonings (I used rosemary, thyme, parsley, poultry spice, black pepper, and a dash of salt)
  3. Place skin side down in the slow cooker
  4. Add 1/2 cup of broth or water (I used low sodium chicken broth)
  5. Cook on low for 4-6 hours.
  6. Once cooked all the way through, remove the skin and string

So moist! And so easy! If you ever see a sale on boneless turkey breasts, get one to have on hand for any type of meal!

The rest of the sides came together easily. I used my mom’s recipe for sweet potatoes to make a small portion that was enough for M and I.

Mom’s Sweet Potatoes

  1. Combine 1 can of yams (drained) in a large bowl with a quarter stick of softened butter.
  2. Pour orange juice, to you liking, and mix with a hand mixer until incorporated. (There’s no measurement to the orange juice, you just want a nice consistency to the potatoes–not runny, but not stiff.)
  3. Add a handful or two of marshmallows and mix.
  4. Pour into a casserole dish and microwave in 5 minute intervals, stirring the potatoes every 5 minutes, until everything is cooked through.
  5. Spread mini marshmallows on top, covering as much as you’d like, then set the dish in the oven with broil on to brown the marshmallows. (Keep an eye on the marshmallows because once they start to brown, it won’t take long for them to burn.)

We enjoyed some sparkling white grape juice and dinner when M got home, then prepared for our friends to join us for “Friendsgiving–Desert Edition.” A few friends came over and brought desert as well (cherries jubilee and some spice-cake-slow-cooker-concoction that actually came out delicious) to go with my (very first) homemade pumpkin pie. We then watched football, chowed down on desert, and played Apples to Apples until it was time to go crash.

Friendsgiving--Desert Edition!

Friendsgiving–Desert Edition!

I missed spending the holiday with my family, but I was happy to be home for M and to get to spend some fun times with friends. I hope you did the same!

Your turn: Share one favorite part of your Thanksgiving 2014!