Friday, February 23, 2018

painting party.

Give this boy a paint brush and he goes to town like Picasso. He got several craft projects for Christmas, and we finally broke into one of them last week. Oh, he was so happy! I snapped pictures, Bethany watched her big brother's creative juices flow from her bouncy seat, and Teesh got home just in time to see him put the finishing touches on it.

Our monster truck loving boy was in heaven this day, so careful to cover as much of it in blue as he could. "Like Leo, Mommy!" he would say with a proud smile on his face. And I grinned right back at him with my whole heart, just like I always do.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

a girl and her boys.

Our sweet girl stole the show the minute she was born. Two boys, especially, think she's the best thing ever, and I love watching how gentle they are with her. I like to sit back a bit and take in every interaction they have with her, from kisses and smiles to dancing for her in hopes that she will smile back.

One night, in particular, she was so content to just lay on her daddy's chest. She laid there the whole time she was awake between naps, and I kept giggling at Teesh over how much pride and love was written all over his face. This scene immediately took me back to when he would hold Braxton around this time three years ago, making my heart swell until it nearly exploded.

It really is amazing when prayers become reality before your eyes, and we are living in the midst of God's faithfulness in ways we never have until now.

Nope, there is nothing sweeter for me than witnessing the man I've loved for half my life love the ones who call me Mommy. Nothing in the whole, wide world.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

sleeping beauty.

Sleep was not a friend of little miss until she was about eight weeks old. It was really more like an enemy. I would put her down in her crib, where she would immediately start crying screaming, and I’d stand outside of her room crying with her. And praying. Yes, lots and lots of prayers have been lifted since she started fighting sleep as soon as we brought her home, asking God to: first, to calm her when I couldn't, and second, to give us the patience to endure this season of rowdy sleeplessness.

She's nearly fourteen weeks old now, and those sleepless days and nights are mostly gone. This genuinely sleepless season lasted, in total, for about ten weeks. During those ten weeks, I seriously thought I might drop dead from exhaustion at any second (something I'm sure all parents can relate to on some level). And now that I'm on the other side of it, I've got a new perspective on storms, trials, and endurance. I was constantly reminded, by both the Holy Spirit and dear friends, to shift my perspective and view this season in light of eternity. In one of the loneliest seasons I can remember, I've never been more thankful for those few people who constantly checked on me, dropped by unexpectedly with food and a hug, sent me text messages just to say they loved me, and prayed for me and our family. They helped me press on through what felt like a fog of darkness with no end in sight.

Our girl is worth it, she always has been. Yes, I'm thankful to be on the other side of that season, a season which is so brief in light of all the days we will have with her, Lord willing. But in a wacky sort of way, it's bittersweet to move to the next season. Isn't it always?

I used to sneak in watch her big brother sleep all the time, and I'm already doing the same for her. We all endured a lot to transition from restless to rested, so sneak in I will.

I mean, a sleeping babe is pretty much the closest thing to heaven while earthside. Listening to her breathe, watching her tiny tummy rise and fall -- these little moments are the big moments.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

they see me rollin'.

Braxton got a brand new balance bike for Christmas, and he's been tearing up the road with it since! I did lots of research on the best started bikes for kiddos, and ultimately decided that a balance bike was the route we should take. He is already racing around like a professional, and I'm usually running alongside of him to see who will win the race. We spend lots of time just out in the driveway (perfect for when baby sister naps), but we also take frequent trips downtown and have even done some trail biking with one of his little buddies.

The best part is seeing his eyes light up with pride when he gets going fast or when he picks his feet up for long periods. He will loudly exclaim, "Look, Mommy! Look what I can do!" and I always cheer and dance in joy. I love watching him try new things and succeed at them, I suppose I will forever. And when he crashes, many times head first, I go to him and simply encourage him to stand back up and shake it off. My response to him is so crucial to his response, in both the good and not so good things he does, and I've found this especially true when he gets hurt. Teaching him to be tough and get back up when he falls while still showing compassion and empathy has proved to be a pretty good method so far. I think we'll stick with it!

We are so proud of our brave little dare devil. His resilience and capability to thrive at new things is inspiring! We learn so much from our big boy.

Monday, February 19, 2018

bath time with two.

Big brother always asking to help rinse his baby sister, always telling her stories with his toys, always being so careful with her. Bath times have changed a lot since we first began this journey of parenthood three years ago -- mostly sweet with a dash of chaos.

These moments are what make up our days, and I often just sit back and watch our two learn each other. I'm a proud, proud mama. I'm, also, a mama who nearly loses her mind a dozen times a day, but that's another story for another day. The hard moments make the sweet moments -- like this one -- even sweeter.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

bethany victoria | three months old.

Another month has passed, which means you are THREE MONTHS OLD! Big girl, we can't believe it. The past month has been full of things to do and places to be, and you've happily been along for the ride every time. We've, also, had our fair share of stay-at-home-and-just-be days, and they have been just as wonderful. Your little personality hasn't fully come out yet, but we're patiently waiting for you to show us what you've got. And although you're a tough little cookie when it comes to smiling, you do give out lots of grins each day. Your daddy, brother, and I make fools of ourselves while trying to get you to smile at us, and you usually just look at us with big, wide eyes as if to say, "Y'all are crazy..." HA! We're in it for the long haul though, little one, because we know that you'll be smiling from ear-to-ear soon enough.
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You've made SO much progress on sleeping this past month. It really amazes me! The first six-ish weeks of your life were the sleepiest I've ever been, but you're making up for lost time now. PRAISE YE THE LORD! About a week and a half ago, you started regularly sleeping for your naps AND through the night. Every few days you wake up early, but all you need is your paci to go right back to sleep. Girlfriend, there were SO MANY TIMES when I wanted to throw in the towel on sleep training, telling myself that you just needed to do what you wanted and that we would just deal with it. But then, all of a sudden, it's like it just clicked with you! I think it probably had something to do with the fact that you're eating what you ought to be eating now. You struggled so badly with the bottle for the first ten or so weeks of your life, but now you're chugging away. That's another huge answer to prayer, baby girl! We have asked God for more patience than ever before since you came along and grew our hearts, so you must have just been delaying these two milestones for the sake of our holiness. HA!
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You're still rolling over regularly (such a big girl!), and you've gotten so good at holding your head up during tummy time. You don't scream through it like your brother always did, so that's a treat. Usually, he lays down in the floor with you and tells you how great you're doing and how precious you are. Even as I pen this, you're laying on your playmat, and Braxton is telling you all about the Ninja Turtles. He loves to talk to you and love on you -- yes, he still gives you "smooches" all day long.
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Everyone is always dying to scoop you up and give you snuggles, and I love watching it unfold. I never doubted that you would be loved beyond our imagination, but it's really quite surreal to be in the midst of all this love with you. Sometimes I forget that you didn't grow in my belly -- it's amazing! And not a day has gone by since you were born that I haven't told you about your first mama and the way she loved you (and continues to love you) so sacrificially. Adoption is the messiest, most beautiful thing I've ever been a part of, and I'm ever grateful that this is the way God prompted us to grow our family. You have been worth it since we first learned you were just a little peanut, and you'll be worth it forever. And ever and ever and ever!
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Warmer weather is on the horizon, and I can't wait for the days when we literally stay outside from sun up to sun down. We've taken a good many walks around the neighborhood since we brought you home, but those are nothing compared to what we'll do when the cold weather is gone for a while. I have every intention of raising you to be a wild child who loves to be outside and play in the dirt and splash in puddles and find more enjoyment in playing with leaves than watching TV. We will be taking you on your first official hike soon, and I am so pumped about that! Because what's better than one nature baby? TWO nature babies! I pray that you and your brother always choose to break free from the chaos and get into the woods.
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We can't wait to keep watching you grow, little one! Time goes so fast, I tell ya. And I'm scooping up every memory I can. You are so, so loved. We hope you never doubt it for a single second!

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

new year, new journey | 21 day fix.

Since the beginning of our marriage, we've been pretty good about eating at home. We've been on a fairly tight budget since we said "I do," and preparing meals in the house has been the best way to stick to it. One thing we've not managed very well, however, is our portion sizes. Before the first of this year, we'd typically eaten more than we should while relying on our metabolism and active lifestyles to balance things out.

This system was working out okay until a little over six months ago when I started taking a certain medication that really messed up my insides. I gained weight, was increasingly bloated, experienced a negative shift in my metabolism, and had a big drop in my energy levels. I took the medication until the beginning of December before stopping, and I was hoping that once it was out of my system things would go back to normal.

A month later, I still felt awful and, quite frankly, hated my body. I knew I'd have to be proactive to reverse what had been happening for six months, so I started researching. I looked up lots of plans we could follow, shared all of it with TJ (who agreed to take this challenge with me), and together we decided that a modified version of the 21 Day Fix was the best fit for us. We researched recipes, made a grocery list, went shopping, came home with our loot, and began the process of meal prepping -- something that neither of us had done before.

We shopped on Saturdays and cooked on Sundays, and each day of prepping took about four hours to complete. We prepared all breakfasts, lunches, and dinners for the following week, and we tag-teamed it from start to finish. We chopped and mixed and stirred and whisked and boiled and baked and paused for high fives and kisses, and we were pooped by the end of it! Each week got a little easier because we were getting used to it, and we became such big believers in portion control and preparing every meal with lean meat and fresh vegetables that we decided to continue meal prepping indefinitely. I especially loved making everything in one stint and not having to worry about forgetting to eat (something I'm very guilty of) or deciding what to make for dinner every day. Snacks were pre-determined, too, so it made it easier to not just grab whatever junk we had in the pantry when I got hungry throughout the day. We, also, drank lots and lots of water throughout the day. We've been a water-only couple for many years, but the amount of water we drank during this stint even impressed us!
At the end of our 21-day challenge, both of us had lost several inches in various areas, I was no longer bloated, my metabolism was almost back to normal, and we both just felt a whole lot better. It was amazing! I never dreamed that just three weeks of intentional discipline with food could bring about such big changes in our bodies and spirits, but I'm a most definitely big believer now. By simply eating good meals proportionate to our body size with a little bit of exercise each day, TJ and I both experienced better results than we thought we would. I've always known that it matters what we put into our bodies, but these results wowed me!

My advice to anyone who feels the way I felt is simple: be proactive! Make the necessary changes, no matter how difficult you think it will be. You will never regret being a happier, healthier you. I sat around for months hoping that the weight I had gained would simply "fall off," but it didn't. When I committed to reclaiming myself, THAT'S when things changed. And I plan to keep myself accountable and continue on this road for a long time. Our health is worth it, friends. YOU are worth it!
Week One
Breakfast:
-Fruit
-Avocado Toast
-Homemade Strawberry Oats
-Eggs
-Greek Yogurt with Honey

Lunch/Dinner:

Snacks:
-Almonds/Cashews
-Hard-boiled eggs
-Celery with hummus
-Fruit
Week Two
Breakfast:
-Fruit
-Sliced bananas on almond toast, sprinkled with cinnamon
-Smoothies
-Greek Yogurt with Honey

Lunch/Dinner:
-Roasted Veggies with Rice

Snacks:
-Almonds/Pecans
-Hard-boiled eggs
-Carrots with hummus
-Fruit
Week Three
Breakfast:
-Fruit
-Avocado toast
-Omelette with spinach and cherry tomatoes
-Greek Yogurt with Honey

Lunch/Dinner:
-Honey Sriracha Glazed Meatballs with rice and sautéed carrots
-Avocado Tuna Salad on Rice Cakes

Snacks:
-Almonds
-Hard-boiled Eggs
-Homemade Energy Bites
-Fruit
We aren't professional meal preppers (yep, just made that word up), but we've learned a lot in our few weeks of doing it. We spent a little more on our groceries than we typically do during the three weeks of our fix, but we felt strongly that it was worth it. We shopped for our meals for this current week on Sunday, and we narrowed our meals based on our budget so we could get back on track. We reused some previous recipes, we added a couple of new ones into the mix, and we've decided to take turns picking the menus each week.

This whole experience benefitted us in so many more ways than just physically. Honestly, my favorite part of this new journey we're on is that we get to spend time together in the kitchen. We both fell into our roles pretty seamlessly, and they stuck. You know how I mentioned those high fives and kisses earlier? That's worth it to me! In our 14+ years together, we're always learning new things -- both in life and about each other -- and this meal prep thing is continuing to teach us to treasure each other, work well with each other, encourage each other, and flirt with each other.

We were allowed three "cheat meals" during our fix, and we used them for Braxton's birthday, a midweek trip to Chick-fil-a (nom nom nom), and date night this past weekend. We both agreed that we ought to celebrate this little milestone, just in time for baseball to begin again for the spring (aka no date nights for a few months), and we giggled over the fact that the things we ordered for dinner were steamed veggies and grilled entrees. Now, the ice cream we had afterwards, on the other hand, was definitely not compliant with our new lifestyle. But it was date night, so we didn't feel bad about eating all that chocolate!
As a grand finale, I finished off my fix with a one-day juice cleanse yesterday. My gut has been through a lot because of the medicine I was taking, and I thought this would be a good way to help it heal even more. It wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be (even though I did gag several times and have to coach myself to keep going --it's a LOT of juice to down in a day), and the juices were all pretty tasty. I drank six juices in a day's time, one every three hours, and drank 16 ounces of water between each one -- a total of 200 ounces, because I drank an additional 8 ounces between juices four and five. WOWZA! I chose the Signature Detox Cleanse from our local juicer, Southern Pressed Juicery, and it was a good mix of great flavor and incredible nutritional benefits. My body is definitely hydrated today! If I stay on top of it, I'd love to do a cleanse once a season.
And that, my friends, is our little journey in a nut shell.

Eating good food regularly can heal you of so many things. I'm now proof of that! Three weeks ago, I got all kinds of emotional when I looked at myself in the mirror. Today, I'm proud of the progress I've made so quickly, and I've got a renewed motivation to be healthy -- notice I said healthy not skinny.

Because healthy is the new skinny.

And I want to be healthy!
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