14 Things I Will Say to My 14 Year Old Today

Today is my first born’s fourteenth birthday! Each year, we are one year closer to the dreaded send off to college! Of course, he could always go somewhere local and stay home with his family 😉 😉 (He claims he’s moving to Germany for college. Not happening. I don’t care how good the school is. My hubby doesn’t call me “Dream Crusher” for nothing! LOL!)

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Here are 14 things I am going to say to him today (not in any particular order):

  1. It’s noon, time to get up.
  2. Fix your hair.
  3. No, not like that.
  4. Eat your noodles.
  5. Just kidding, it’s zucchini, your favorite! Bwahahaha!
  6. Can I pop that zit?
  7. Pleeeeeeeaaaaaaaazzzz???
  8. Are you sure you have deodorant on?
  9. Yes, you have to come with us, it’s Family Day, and you’re still technically part of the family.
  10. I don’t care if you have better things (like absolutely nothing) to do.
  11. I love you.
  12. Tell me you love me.
  13. Give your mother a hug!
  14. HAPPY BIRTHDAY Juli Bear!!!

You see, my son enjoys staying up late, sleeping in, the bed-head look, eating anything microwavable but hardly anything that grows in the ground, spending all of his time in his room (watching TV and YouTube, playing video games, talking to his friends online or on the phone, reading comic books and science articles, and lifting weights), and pretending the rest of us don’t exist. He smells, even though I see him shower frequently and know he owns deodorant (I make sure I buy the 48-hour stuff, which must be a typo b/c it doesn’t even hold up 4-8 hours on him). He still hasn’t found a girl he likes because he’s “too busy with school to worry about girls” and “isn’t old enough to take one on a date by himself” anyway.

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Every night, I knock on his door (because it’s locked to keep the rest of us out), tell him good-night and make him wrap his arms around me and tell me he loves me. It’s much different than it was a few years ago when we’d read a story together and he’d give me more kisses than I could count without even asking.

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It’s hard to watch your kids grow up. It’s amazingly fulfilling to watch them become their own person, but with that comes a separation from you.When they’re little, they need you, they want you around all the time!

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I can still remember when he was my only baby.

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I can still remember when he dressed up like a super hero and played with Legos and Hot Wheels.

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And then overnight, he was taller than me!

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And now, he wants nothing to do with me anymore. 🙁 I can still remember what it was like being a teenager, so I know it’s perfectly normal, it’s just hard. I’m glad I have my girls to fill the gap, but what on earth am I going to do when all 4 of them are teenagers???

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I can’t even think about it.

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For his birthday, Jules requested cash, to go out to eat to his favorite restaurant (IHOP) so his “friend who’s a girl” Carolyn could come, along with one of his other best friends, who he wanted to come home with us to spend the night, and plenty of junk for them to gorge themselves on as they stayed up all night.

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Check!

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Check!

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Aaaannnnd check!

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IHOP was a nightmare. First of all, I think the only reason he requests to go there every year for his birthday dinner (at least for the last 3 years) is because I don’t like IHOP so we never eat there. The food is always meh and the service eh. Last night was no exception. It took an hour for the waitress to take our order, which might have been understandable for a party of 15 if they were even remotely busy. There were 3 tables of two when we arrived, and they had already been served. She just kept disappearing to bring the kids more crayons, menus, and condiments…for food we hadn’t even ordered yet! It took another hour to get our food. Mine and Joe’s bacon crusted chicken came with no bacon and pink chicken. Our side of steamed broccoli wasn’t cooked at all. Thankfully, the kids’ meals were free because between paying for my mom and Jules’ 2 friends, we still spent $70 on one of the most horrible food and service experiences I’ve ever had. It was also so cold in there, that all 15 of us were shivering the entire time, taking frequent trips to the bathroom, where it was warm, to defrost.

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They did sing ♫Happy Birthday♫ and bring free ice cream to the birthday boy and girl. That was kinda nice.

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I think Jules just enjoyed being with his friends…who hate pictures just as much as him.

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Unfortunately for them, I don’t care if they don’t like taking pictures. 😉 I told Jules after we left that I hope he enjoyed it, because the only way he’ll get IHOP for his birthday again is if we order just him something TO GO!

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He and Wesley maintain that he and Carolyn are just friends. All I know is, he’s been a much nicer person since she came around, so I’m fine with whatever they want to call themselves.

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Despite his fuddiness, Jules is a good kid. He gets straight A’s in all of his classes (which are all advanced), and pretty much has every year of his life.

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He watches the girls anytime I ask without complaining (and actually comes out of his room and watches them responsibly). I never have to ask him to bathe, clean his room, put up his laundry, or do his homework. Heck, I don’t even have to wake him up in the morning! He wakes up on his own at 5am and wakes me up at 6am!

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I’m so proud of how smart and responsible he is. He amazes me with the amount of information he can retain (we don’t call him “The Walking Encyclopedia” for nothing)! He makes my heart sing when he helps me with the groceries without me even asking. He drives me nuts by constantly changing the wallpaper on my computer and leaving his Ramen noodle trash on the counter until after he’s finished eating. Considering what some parents have to deal with from their kids, I think I’ve got a pretty good one.

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So today I celebrate all that he is, and all that I hope he will become (hopefully rich so he can take care of his ol’ ma and pa 😉 ). He will always be my baby, but I can see him turning into a man before my very eyes, and the view is spectacular!

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Happy birthday baby boy! Mama loves you!

 

Phoenix 2-001

Another Kitchen Makeover Complete!

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When we bought our house 8 years ago, THIS is what the kitchen looked like. Yeah, I wasn’t a fan either. Can you say BORRRRIIIINNNNGGGG?!

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Those honey colored cabinets! Those gold knobs! Those cream colored walls! Yuck, yuck, yuck!

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I clearly didn’t always take great pictures (haha!), but you can see that the kitchen needed a makeover.

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The first thing we did, before we even moved in, was paint all of the walls. We had lived in rentals for the previous 5 years, so we were oooover white walls. My mom gave us her old kitchen rugs, which had black, burgundy, olive green, and yellow in it, so we painted one living room a yellowish beige, the other (which also had the dining room in it) an olive green, and the kitchen a cranberry/burgundy. They weren’t my favorite colors, but they went with the hand-me-downs we had been given.

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I knew those honey colored cabinets and gold knobs had to go, but I put that task off for a bit.

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We originally used the eat-in-kitchen as just that, but quickly realized the closet for the laundry wasn’t gonna cut it.

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Because the rugs (and the counters) had black in them, I decided to paint the cabinets black (against the warnings from our parents that they wouldn’t look good).

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The kitchen was small, but I thought the cabinets looked way better black than that honey color. I really wanted white (especially since we had white appliances), but I didn’t think they’d go well with the rest of the house and decor.

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We took the table out of the kitchen and made this little space into a folding/hanging station for the laundry, which was much more useful.

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Eventually, I got sick of all those ugly colors and painted the whole house beige so I could decorate with more colorful stuff. Those black rugs were a pain to keep clean, so I bought some new ones. Again, this wasn’t really the style I wanted, it was just what went with what we had.

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We also bought new stainless steel appliances when our fridge stopped working. If I could go back, I’d keep the white ones we had and just buy a new side-by-side white fridge. I hate trying to keep these stainless ones clean, and I’m not a fan of the bottom freezer.

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The stainless appliances definitely looked better than the white with the black cabinets.

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Because there wasn’t much color I could add into the kitchen, I grew tired of the beige walls. I wanted to paint them a blue to match the blue in the rugs I bought, but I had a hard time matching it for some reason. After painting the kitchen three different colors, I settled on this one.

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I also hung some curtains to hide the laundry area! Man, I wish I would have thought of that sooner!

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I loved the idea of hanging colorful plates on the wall! Unfortunately, I hung them on a wall that no one ever sees!

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A few weeks ago, I happened upon this cute valence at Walmart. It was so cute and only $10 and went so well with the rest of the house…just not with the kitchen in its current state. I took the valence with me to the paint department and got a gallon of teal paint and a gallon of white paint. I decided I would finally paint the cabinets white!

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I also grabbed a green rug to match the valence. I knew the hardest part would be parting with my old rugs. Having rugs in the kitchen meant I didn’t have to sweep and mop every day, just vacuum.

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Oddly enough, since it took me three weeks to finish painting the cabinets, I got used to the kitchen being rug-free. I almost didn’t want to put the rugs in there!

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The teal came out much brighter than I expected, but it’s really grown on me!

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The white cabinets really make the kitchen feel bigger. I really wasn’t expecting that, even though I know that’s why you want to paint small spaces light colors. And I replaced all of the knobs from the antique-looking silver to a brushed nickel. I was surprised how much of a difference they made as well!

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The stainless appliances look great with the white too, but once they need to be replaced, white will look even better! 😉

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I was able to keep all of the old decor on the walls. I lowered the fork and spoon a bit (I centered it to the cabinets before and didn’t really like the way it looked, but never bothered to change it). I also spray painted the stools a turquoise (which is another color from the valence). They were the same color blue as the walls before.

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I took down my wine rack since I don’t drink anymore (45 days and counting!) and moved the clock to the other side of the kitchen with the chalk board so I could put my plates in a place where they’d get plenty of views! 🙂

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The plates are my favorite! 🙂 I also got a new utensil holder that’s bigger and prettier than my old black one ($12 at Walmart!).

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I also changed the red swirly curtains I had up before to these more neutral gray ones (which I have a picture of somewhere, I just didn’t feel like searching for one and I didn’t bother to take before pics of the kitchen right before I started painting).

As you can tell, the kitchen has changed quite a bit over the years! It took me a while to realize that it wouldn’t be that expensive to just buy the style stuff that I like instead of trying to match the crap that was given to me. I spent less than $200 to makeover the kitchen this time between the rugs, the curtains, the utensil holder, the valence, the new knobs, paint, and Command strips to rehang everything! Not bad at all!

I love my new kitchen all by itself, but I love it even more because now, it goes with the rest of the house, which I’ve spent years making over to reflect my personality and style. If I have to be at home so much, I may as well love the space I’m looking at all day! LOL!

And in case you’re wondering, YES, I will be doing another makeover in the future! Eventually, we want to tile the entire house with a hardwood looking tile, including the kitchen and bathrooms. When we do that, we also plan to redo the back splash, counter tops, get a new sink and faucet, and replace the light fixture. There’s always gonna be something that needs redoing! I can’t look at the same old stuff for too long! 😉

Phoenix 2-001

The Supplements That Changed My Life

I started working out consistently a couple months before my 5th child turned a year old (August 2013). I had joined the gym that January, but only lasted the month. It was exhausting trying to get my big kids to school, Scouts, church, and sports, clean the house with two toddlers at home, breast-feed an infant, and exercise every (or even every other) day. I remember the first time I hopped on the elliptical. I lasted two minutes before I had to stop because I couldn’t feel my legs. 

That was 3 years and 30 lbs ago. A lot has changed. Now, 4 of the kids are in school, we aren’t doing hardly any extra-curricular activities (I just have to drop one kid off at gymnastics for an hour and a half each week), the kids help me keep the house fairly clean, and I’m not breast-feeding or changing any diapers so I’m able to go to the gym every day (sometimes twice a day) during the week. I’ve lost 10 dress sizes and 30 lbs! I’ve been able to squeeze into clothes I hadn’t worn in 6 years!

But up until a year ago, I really struggled to work out without being in extreme pain. I started running a couple years ago and ended up with shin splints (after running half a mile all at once), which I didn’t know were shin splints at the time, so I just kept running until I literally couldn’t run anymore. It took an entire year for my legs to heal well enough for me to start running again, and my shins still get sore if I try to run more than a mile or two. I also started lifting weights in a couple of my fitness classes. I would burn out long before anyone else, and I’d end up so sore I could barely move, let alone make it to my other classes for sometimes as long as 5 days!

When I’d ask my friends at the gym for their advice, they’d tell me to stretch really good, make sure I was eating enough protein, and drink plenty of water. Those were all things I made sure to do before they even told me, so I was at a loss.

One day, my husband brought home a giant box of supplements that his workout buddy had given him. Some of the stuff was to make protein shakes. I looked at the ingredients. They were full of artificial sugars and flavors, which I not only have a sensitivity to, but don’t believe are healthy. Some of the other stuff I hadn’t heard of, so I did a little research and discovered there are natural supplements out there that actually help with things like muscle repair and endurance, which was exactly what I needed!

Since I started taking these supplements, I have been able to work out longer and harder than ever without being in excruciating pain! Sure, I still get sore, but it’s a dull sore that tells me I worked hard, not the kind of sore that leaves me unable to sit on the toilet without assistance.

I also have more energy all around! I gave up caffeine 9 months ago, which had been my primary source of energy for nearly 20 years! Just cutting out the caffeine helped boost my energy levels (which is crazy sounding, I know, but it’s true!), but I also cut way back on added sugar around the same time, which I believe is imperative if you’re gonna give up caffeine. Sugar and caffeine both make you feel incredible when they hit your blood stream, but they don’t last long and you end up crashing and craving more, which produces a roller coaster effect on your mood and energy levels. After I got through the withdrawal stage (which lasted 5 long miserable days for me), I felt amazing. The cravings were gone and I felt stable, not too energetic, but not sluggish either.

Of course, life can drain you. I do pretty well getting enough sleep, but having to wake up early every morning at 6am to get my middle schooler on the bus, followed by my elementary kids, then working out for 1-2 hours, cleaning or running errands, cooking dinner, doing homework, giving baths, and tucking kids in bed just exhausts me. Taking these supplements has really made a difference though!

So here they are, the supplements that have changed my life!

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Probiotics

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Most of us have heard of probiotics. Yogurt companies put great emphasis on them, but the truth is, you’re probably not getting any of the benefits of them if you only eat yogurt. Most yogurt is processed in a way that actually kills the live cultures so that they can’t thrive in your body. Kefir is a better option than yogurt, but taking a probiotic supplement is the best way to go. To find a good probiotic, look for the number of strains (you want at least 7) and the number of live cultures (you want at least 15 billion). I found these on sale at Kroger, buy one get one half off, making them $30 for a two month supply.

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I tried a different probiotic that didn’t have the specific strains listed, and I noticed a big difference when I switched to one that did. If you have digestive issues (or Crohn’s like me), you really need to give probiotics a try! Your stomach will thank you!

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I’m almost out of the probiotics I’ve been taking, so I went searching on Amazon and found this one! 16 strains and 50 billion cultures!

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I hope they are amazing because they were $20 for a one month supply on Amazon (which isn’t as good as the deal I got at Kroger).

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They are the same brand as the chewables I buy for my kids, which I think have helped reduce Tristyn’s herpes outbreaks and keep them from getting as sick as often. I found these on Amazon for $20 for a month’s supply as well.

Multivitamin/multimineral

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I think this Armor-V multivitamin/mineral supplement from Muscle Pharm might be the best one out there!

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Not only does it have all of the typical vitamins and minerals you would find in a multivitamin/mineral, but a lot of other great stuff too! It’s got Omega-3, 6, and 9, greens, veggies, and fruits, antioxidants, 3 billion active cultures of 10 different strains, turmeric, and a bunch of other stuff too! You can find it on Amazon for $22 for 120 capsules, which would be a 60 day supply if you only take 2 like me. I read that if your pee neon green you’re taking too much and it’s getting flushed out of your system, so I went from taking 3 to 2. 6 is ridiculous. They either want you to over buy or there are extreme athletes that need that much.

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I bought a double pack of Vitamin B12 after I gave up caffeine to help boost my energy levels for working out. I didn’t really do any research on it. Since starting the Armor-V, which only has 130mcg (and states that is 2167% of the daily value needed), I decided to read up on it a bit. Apparently, anyone over the ago of 14 only needs a very small amount of Vitamin B12, but since I don’t like to waste things and I also read that there is no maximum limit on the amount of B12 you can safely take, I’m still taking these every morning, until they’re gone. I guess we’ll see how much of an effect they’ve had on me once I quit taking them!

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This nighttime vitamin/mineral combination is supposed to promote sleep, muscle repair and growth, and hormone production (which is supposed to help with libido). I haven’t been good about taking this one consistently, so I haven’t really noticed any of the benefits it claims to give. I’m gonna try putting it next to my alarm clock so I can remember to take it! A 2 month supply is $14 on Amazon.

Amino Acids

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Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAA) are a combination of 3 amino acids (L-Leucine, L-Isoleucine, and L-Valine) that help with endurance and recovery.

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The first BCAA I took were by Muscle Pharm. The recommended dosage was eight capsules one to three times daily. Um, hellll noooo! So I found these “On” brand on Amazon. Later, I did the math and realized that the Muscle Pharm ones had more of each amino acid per capsule, they just like to tell you to take a lot more than you probably need. Once I did the math, the Muscle Pharm ones end up being a much better deal at $15 for 240 rather than $24 for 400 (see here). They come out to be the same price per capsule, but you get a good bit more of the amino acids in each capsule. I still have an entire unopened bottle of the Muscle Pharm ones to go through (glad I didn’t throw them out!). There’s also a powder that has a BUNCH more amino acids per serving that I may try in the future so I don’t have to take as many pills every morning (at least on the days I drink a protein shake). It’s $18 for a 2 month supply on Amazon.

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L-Glutamine is another amino acid that plays a role in muscle protein development. Glutamine levels can deplete faster than the body can replenish them during intense exercise and can cause muscle breakdown. These On caps come out to be the same price per serving (if you get the 240 count) compared to the powder that Muscle Pharm sells, but the powder has 1.7 grams per serving, whereas the capsules have 1 gram. I will probably go for the powder when I run out of the capsules. Amazon has it for $14 for a 6 month supply!

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On the days that I work out in the morning, I make a protein smoothie out of frozen fruit (one banana and a handful of another frozen fruit like strawberries, mangoes, blueberries, or a combination), fresh spinach, 3 Tbsp flax seeds, 2 Tbsp chia seeds, 4 Tbsp brown rice protein powder, 1 cup of 100% pineapple juice (not from concentrate; sometimes I use Simply Orange juice too), and a cup of plain fat free Fage Greek yogurt (although I’m going to try switching it out for kefir soon). I mix it in my Ninja, and split it with Joe Daddy (yeah, that’s not all just for me! LOL!).  On the days where I use weights (Tuesday and Friday), I add a scoop of Muscle Pharm’s creatine to my smoothie.

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Creatine is an amino acid that increases energy and stamina, but apparently, it can cause weight gain (I haven’t found that to be true, but then again, I’m only taking it twice a week). Go here for more info. From what I understand, it’s good for lifting and does little for aerobic exercise (which is why I don’t take it before Zumba or Yoga). I have noticed a difference in how much I can lift and how hard I can train, but who’s to say if it’s from the creatine or one of the other things I’m taking? LOL! You can find this powder on Amazon for $12 for 60 servings (which lasts me 7-8 months).

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These are the newest set of amino acids I’ve added to my collection!

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This Nitric Oxide Fuel contains L-Arganine HCL, L-Arganine AKG, L-Citrulline Malate, and Pine Bark Extract (which is considered one of nature’s super antioxidants! Read more about it’s amazingness here). For 6 vein popping reasons to use this supplement, go here! I found it on Amazon for $29 for 60 servings (since I only take 2). I have only started using it this week and I can tell you, it’s amazing! I can’t wait to see my muscles grow!

Conjugated Linoleic Acid

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CLA is a fatty acid found in meat and dairy products (apparently, more so in grass-fed cows, according to this interesting article here). Among the benefits of this fatty acid is the reduction of body fat while increasing lean muscle mass!

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The recommended dosage is 1-2 capsules with every meal. I only take 1 with breakfast and 1 with dinner, so this $21 bottle (on Amazon) lasts me a month.

Allergy Meds

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No, these aren’t supplements, but I do want to mention them, because they too have changed my life! This year was definitely the worst for me as far as allergy symptoms go. My allergies caused a bunch of fluid to get stuck behind my ears causing really bad ear infections and major vertigo. I couldn’t even walk without feeling like I was going to fall over for two days! The doc hooked me up with antibiotics and told me to take an expectorant as well as some seasonal allergy meds. Well, we already keep Flonase and generic Zyrtec (Cetirizine) at the house for Jules, so I started taking his stuff. The difference has been night and day. It reminds me of when I got glasses when I was 12 and discovered I hadn’t been able to see clearly in God knows how long. I had no idea everything was so blurry until I put those frames on and saw clearly for the first time! I had no idea my allergy symptoms were so bad until I started living without them!

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So yeah, I’m up to 12-13 pills a day now! Thankfully, I can take a pill like a champ, but I am interested in getting some of the amino acids in powder form so I can just drink them down in my smoothie (which will reduce that number to 8-9 once I’m done with the B12). I’m no expert, so don’t just take my advice and go load up on all of this stuff, especially if you don’t eat healthy, drink plenty of water, or exercise regularly. Do your research and try adding one thing at a time even if you do all of that! That’s what I did and I’m so thankful for the difference these supplements and meds have made in my life! I’m no body builder, but compared to how I felt a year ago to now is vastly different. I have a feeling this is going to be the year I see the most changes in my muscle tone!

*Please note that the prices I’ve mentioned may change over time. It’s Amazon after all!

Phoenix 2-001

Our Amazing Anniversary Weekend!

This past Saturday marked mine and Joe Daddy’s 15th anniversary! We aren’t big celebrators, but we do enjoy taking a little time each year (on our birthdays and anniversary) to spend a few hours alone.

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At 9:45am on Saturday morning, we woke up to a surprise breakfast of ham, egg, and cheese sandwiches, made by Taylor.

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Bleu wanting in on the action! LOL!

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Taylor also helped The Littles make us some sweet cards! #HaveAGoodHappyLUCKEYAntiversy #DaddyWorksAndMommyWorksOut

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Joe Daddy brought in some red roses, like we had at our wedding, and the flutes from our wedding and filled them with apple juice since I don’t drink anymore. #39DaysAndCounting.

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He even sprinkled little drops of water on them to make them even prettier (knowing I would be taking a picture of them)! #HeGetsMe

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We spent the first part of our day just hanging with the kids at the house. Then at 4pm, we picked up my mom and dropped her and the girls off at my sister’s, even though she was headed out for the night as well (to a wedding). Our mom and her dad and step-mom were gracious enough to agree to add our crew to the bunch they were already keeping tabs on for the night! I don’t normally trust just anyone with my kids, but Nana, Opa, and Cherie are on the very short list! It’s kinda crazy seeing my mom and ex-step-dad get along so well, but I’m super thankful since we all end up having to be around each other so much.

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Our typical date of choice is dinner and a movie. For dinner, we decided to try a place on a neighboring town square that has a little rooftop you can eat on. It was super cute and had a great view of the cute little town square, but because we got there at 5pm, it was pretty sunny out, so it was a little hot.

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Joe Daddy ordered the ahi tuna BLT on focaccia bread and I ordered the Santa Fe chicken sandwich with avocado and pico de gallo. We both chose fries as our side, even though I was kinda interested in the kale slaw. We split our sandwiches and traded halfsies (which we typically do when we eat out). My sandwich was sooo good. Joe Daddy’s was disappointing. The ahi tuna was pretty flavorless and the bread was like styrofoam (the bacon, lettuce, and tomato were the best part of the sandwich 🙁  ). Over all, we enjoyed our experience, but I doubt we’ll go back. It wasn’t anything to brag about.

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We had about an hour to kill between dinner and the movie, so of course, we ended up at Walmart (our favorite store). #NoShame

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Taylor was really unhappy about having to spend the night at her cousins’ house, so we bought her a poop emoji pillow to cheer her up. Right about the time we were walking out to the car with it, she texted me with, “I hate you.” So I replied, “I guess I’ll take this back then,” and sent her a picture of the pillow. After that she was much nicer and actually helped Cherie take care of the little kids. I don’t always bribe my kids, but hey, whatever works! #TeensAndTweensWillNOTBeTheDeathOfMe

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After we got bored in Walmart, we headed to the movie theater, but still had some time to kill, so we made a pit stop at Ross. I actually found something I’d been looking for: mats to cover the messed up floors in the living room where the girls’ play kitchen is! I was even more impressed that I only found one thing! LOL! #Shopaholic

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We love scary movies, so I was stoked there was one out that we both wanted to see! It was sooo good y’all!!! I was jumping and screaming and squeezing my man for dear life! I love a good scary movie! My heart was racing for a good half hour afterwards! That might have also been in part to all the sugar I ingested between the M&Ms and cherry Sprite 😉 . #DontBreathe

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We got home close to 11pm, watched some TV, played a little dress up 😉 , and cleaned the house til 2am. We couldn’t resist this Ted suit when we found it in Walmart! The kids love it too! LOL! #ISleptNextToMyVeryOwnRealLiveTeddyBear #HeSeriouslyFellAsleepInIt

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We woke up around 9:30am the next morning so we could pick up the kids by 10am. We scooped up the girls first. Cherie said they didn’t give her any problems and that Taylor was a big help (success!). Then we grabbed Jules from his friend’s house and got everyone a biscuit from Hardee’s so we could finish picking up the house before Pa came over to watch the kids while we went to the tattoo parlor. We took one last picture(s) of ourselves without our new tattoos.

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A couple years ago, we decided to start getting tattooed for our anniversary. We were 31 and 32 when we got our first tattoos! I went ahead and got two, since I couldn’t decide between one for me (the peacock feather) or one for the kids (the 5 bird silhouettes). Joe Daddy knew he wanted a hunting sleeve eventually, but the artist he got just copied one of the pictures he brought in instead of coming up with any original ideas. I remember it hurting like hell, during and after, so I was pretty darn anxious, especially when my artist said it would probably take two hours from start to finish!

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Well, it took three. It was the most God-awful pain, but it was totally worth it! It’s not what I envisioned or asked for, but it came out beautifully. I got the same guy who did my first two tattoos, which is kinda cool, only now that he’s given me two tattoos that aren’t what I asked for, I think I’ll go with someone different next time 😉 .

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I think next time, I’ll ask for Joe Daddy’s artist! He did such an amazing job, and gave Joe the deal of a lifetime! #Jelly

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Joe Daddy’s half sleeve took six hours to complete, but it looks amazing!!! The guy drew it on his arm with a sharpie, which took about 3 hours, then…

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…he outlined it in ink, taking another 3 hours. Look at those clean lines and all that detail! He stayed an hour after they closed to finish it and charged the same price as they charged for mine! #WhatADeal

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Of course, we got home too late to take our “after” picture (it was after 8pm, so the sun had already gone down 🙁 ), but Joe Daddy got home in time tonight! Yep! We totally hopped back into our dirty clothes from yesterday to take these! I think we look so much cooler with our tattoos! #CouplesThatGetTattooedTogetherStayTogether

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My shoulder feels like someone punched me in it twenty times and then viciously rubbed it with sandpaper. I knew it was gonna hurt, but that really doesn’t make it any easier. I still made it to Zumba this morning. I even wore my new red snakeskin pants that I also found at Walmart on Saturday (which I’ve been wanting for a while, but they didn’t have my size at any of the Walmarts I’ve been to over the past couple of months). I was in excruciating pain for most of my class, but it’s Zumba. You can’t not enjoy it!

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I also got to try my new amino acids this morning, and I gotta say: they are AWESOME! My cousin encouraged me to try them. I’m so glad I took his advice! I had more energy than ever…and I only took half the recommended dose! I can’t wait to see how awesome they make me feel when I’m not in so much pain! LOL!

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For those of you keeping count: I’m up to 12 pills every morning. Shew!

And that was our amazing anniversary weekend! I can’t wait for next year! I’ve already got a bunch of tattoo ideas ready to go! #NotStoppingTilImCovered

Phoenix 2-001

15 Reasons My Marriage is Amazing

15 years ago, I chose Joe Daddy to be my husband and he chose me to be his wife. We swore an oath, for better or for worse, to stay faithfully committed to one another until we die. Of course, when you’re madly in love, it’s easy to make that promise. Honestly, staying faithful to my husband hasn’t been hard at all, it’s staying committed to making the marriage the best it can be that has taken all the effort.

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Here are 15 reasons my marriage is ahhhmazing:

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We love each other unconditionally. Marriage is a commitment. It’s choosing to love someone despite their faults each and every day. Most of the time, I’m pretty lovable. Sometimes, I can be a real pain in the ass. Same goes for my husband. We choose to remember that we’re not perfect and don’t let the bad days outnumber the good. That takes intention. Loving someone at their best is easy. Loving someone at their worst takes commitment.

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We put each other first. I love to be right (mostly b/c I always am), but over the years I’ve learned that I care more about the happiness of my husband and the health of my marriage than being right. There are times when I just have to hand over my pride and let my husband figure out how wrong he is all on his own 😉 (there are even times when I don’t mention, “I told you so!”).

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We don’t sweat the small stuff. Nitpicking and nagging are exhausting (whether you’re on the giving or receiving end) and rarely solve anything. I’ve learned that while I can certainly influence my husband, I can’t change who he is as a person, nor should I want to. I have embraced his quirks and accepted his faults. I’m sure there are plenty of things I do that my husband doesn’t like, but he doesn’t complain (like ever, which could just mean that I’m perfect 😉 ). Just like with the kids, we pick our battles wisely.

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We try to “air grievances” and “discuss possible solutions” rather than fight. I know a lot of people say you should never go to bed angry, and that’s a nice idea, but sometimes, that’s exactly what we’ve needed. We’ve had a few instances where we’ve come to an impasse, called it a night, and woke up feeling much more like compromising.

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We tell each other everything. Communication is sooo important. My husband tells me so much about what goes on at his work and the things he and his friends talk about (more than I really even care to know), and I do the same. I’m sure we bore each other at times since we’re not really interested in all of the same stuff, but I enjoy the fact that he is so open and honest with me, and I’m grateful to have someone to vent to that just listens and offers moral support.

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We choose to trust each other. Could my husband be cheating on me every time he says he has to work late? Yes! Could I be having an affair with the postman while he’s at work? Yes! (Well, actually no…he’s a woman 😉 ). But instead of questioning each other and looking through each other’s phones or email accounts (or even worse: sharing them), we choose to believe that we’re doing exactly what we say we’re doing…until we have a reason not to.

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We respect each other’s beliefs and opinions. I think at our core, my husband and I agree on a lot, but we have somewhat different religious beliefs, political views, and ideals on how our children should be raised. Thankfully, we respect each other enough to agree to disagree and realize that neither of us are right or wrong, just different. We choose to enlighten our children in both of our beliefs and opinions and let them choose for themselves what they want to believe. There are times when we butt heads because we honestly can’t understand how the other person can think a certain way, but we’ve come to realize that those things don’t change who we are to each other.

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We know it won’t always be this hard. Our kids are our world and they have certainly enriched our lives, but they make everything more complicated. As if living with and loving another person unconditionally wasn’t hard enough, we had to add five more people to the mix who we have to feed, clothe, bathe, transport, provide for, and love with every fiber of our being, independently and as a unit. Kids make financial decisions more complicated, dinner decisions more taxing, and making time for our relationship as husband and wife nearly impossible. I’m glad that as they get older, it gets easier to find that time.

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We make time for each other. We know that one day, we’ll have nothing but time for each other because our children will have their own children making their marriages more complicated, but we also know we can’t just put our marriage on the back burner for 30 years, so we just keep squeezing out drops of time from our busy schedules to dedicate to each other. Every night after we put the kids to bed, we sit on the couch, vent to each other about our days, and watch a little TV. It doesn’t seem like much, but just being in the same room as my husband without the kids makes me feel grounded. My husband works long hours, so on his days off, we spend as much time together as a family as we can. The only time we ever really go off together is on our birthdays and our anniversary. Somehow, it’s enough for us, for now.

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We make time for ourselves. We are not one person. We don’t have the same likes, hobbies, friends, or interests. I love that my husband loves to hunt, I just don’t want to go with him. My husband loves my photography, but he doesn’t want to sit and watch me edit a bunch of pictures for hours on end. His friends are old high school buddies who like to go beer tasting at breweries. I don’t drink beer. My friends are my sister, my neighbors, and anyone with kids that my kids want to play with. My husband doesn’t like other people’s kids. There are a lot of things we do have in common, but those aren’t the only things we ever want to do. So just as we make time for each other, we let each other make time for ourselves.

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We have mastered the art of compromise. I think one of the reasons our marriage works as well as it does is we both know when to sacrifice our own desires for the happiness of the other. I’m sure I get my way more than my husband does, but there are times when he makes it known that he feels strongly about something and I’ll give in and let him have his way. It doesn’t feel like giving something up though, because I enjoy seeing him happy. I think our biggest compromise over the last 15 years has been how often we have sex. There is one of us who still has the hormones of a teenager and is ready to go all. the. time, and there is one of us who would be happy just to sleep next to each other in the bed every night, except maybe once a month (I’ll let you decide you is who 😉 ). We’ve managed to meet in the middle so that the horn-ball feels somewhat satisfied and the old geezer doesn’t have to wear their self out, haha!

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We know each other’s love language. Mine is vastly different from my husband’s. He craves physical attention. He likes to cuddle and kiss and…well, you know. I, on the other hand, enjoy my space, rarely like to be touched, and would rather he show me he loves me by helping out around the house and with the kids. Of course, my love language was a lot more like his 15 years ago before we had kids, so it’s taken a bit of adjusting on both of our parts to come to understand how different we are and respond appropriately.

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We’ve accepted that, like life (and our bodies…and our hair), love changes. My husband and I started our family when we were 18 and 19 years old. We fell hard and fast. We were living with each other within the first month of meeting each other, engaged a month after that, and expecting our son 3 months after that. Just a year after we met, we were parents to a baby boy (who is getting ready to turn fourteen next week…oh, my gosh, make it stop!). A lot of the people we know who started out the same way are no longer together. We got lucky. Instead of growing apart year after year, we’ve grown closer together. Sure, it’s taken some trial and error, lots of “sanding and repainting,” but we’ve remained committed and now, we’re stronger than ever! We both feel like we’re more in love now than we were 15 years ago because we realize: that love was easy. That love was full of hormonal passion and desire and didn’t have any baggage or complication. The love we have now is despite the baggage and complication, and full of intentional passion and desire. It’s a love we’ve nurtured like a fire. Love grows and changes, and that’s a good thing!

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My husband is the yin to my yang. Just as yin and yang are seemingly opposing forces that interact to form a dynamic system in which the whole is greater than the assembled parts, my husband complements me. Where I am weak, he is strong, and vice versa. I know it’s cliche to say “we complete each other,” because we firmly believe that we are complete people all on our own, but without him, I don’t feel as whole (and I’m only speaking from the few experiences where he is away on business or out hunting for short periods of time).

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My marriage doesn’t look like everyone else’s. What works for us, doesn’t necessarily work for everyone, and that’s OK! Comparison is the thief of joy. My marriage isn’t perfect, but it’s amazing, and it’s mine, and I love it!

And in case you didn’t get enough of our adorableness, here’s some more for ya! 😉

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Happy Anniversary to the one I love! I look forward to many more years of growing in love together!

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“If you’re a bird, I’m a bird.”

Phoenix 2-001

The Best Labor Day Weekend EVER!!!

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I was so excited when my sister Lauren called last week and told me she was coming to visit over the long weekend, like sooo excited! My sister lives 7 hours away in the rural hills of Kentucky, so we can’t exactly visit her (there’s literally no where to stay), and since she works full-time and has 2 small children, visiting us isn’t possible but once or twice a year. I was really surprised when she called to say they were coming this weekend because they had just come to visit at the end of May and this weekend just so happened to also be my youngest niece Madison’s first birthday!

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I was thrilled to hear that she wanted to stay at our house the entire time! Usually, she splits her time between my house and my other sister’s house, which is only 5 minutes away. I like when she stays with me because I feel like I get more time with her than when she stays at my sister’s and I just go to visit with her for a few hours. My girls really like getting to spend the night with their cousin Bailey (who is Trini’s age), too. I know she doesn’t like having to pack up and move houses, even though they aren’t far apart, but I really hate when she doesn’t stay at our house any of the nights that she comes. I guess I’ll just have to get over it because she’s decided to take turns from now on. I told my other sister I’ll just have to send all of my girls to spend the night at her house when they come to visit next time! Haha!

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Anyway, they started their journey here after Bailey got home from school and my sister got home from work, so they didn’t get here until 11pm. We set the baby up in the living room with my sister and put my brother-in-law and Bailey in the bottom bunk with Taylor, who was asleep like the rest of the girls (Trini passed out at 4:30pm! #KindergartenIsExhausting). The next morning, everyone woke up super early, except me. They were kind enough to let me sleep til 10am. I needed it after staying up late all week painting my kitchen (which still isn’t finished). My sister had some returns to make at Children’s Place and Carter’s and we needed to find a birthday cake for the birthday girl’s party!

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I love that no matter how much time they’ve spent apart, they just mesh together when they see each other again! #CousinsMakeTheBestFriends

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After we finished returning her items, we made a pit stop at Chick-fil-A (since my sister and I both were so excited to go shopping we forgot to eat…and the kids are always hungry for chicken nuggets ;)), then we went to Kroger and found cupcakes, an ice cream cake, a smash “cupcake,” and some other stuff for the birthday party.

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When we got back to the house, I set up a back drop and got a couple outfits and accessories ready so we could take Maddie’s first birthday pictures! I haven’t been able to take all of my nieces’ birthday pictures, but I’m glad I’ve been able to do some!

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We dressed that baby up all purdy and began hooting and hollering our best to try and get a smile out of her. This was the best we could do. Sad, I know. She was smiling up a storm afterwards! The little stinker!

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I don’t go gaga for babies anymore (I’ve had my fill I guess! LOL!), but I couldn’t get enough of this little doll!

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Isn’t she precious???

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Soooo stinking precious!!!

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Of course, she wanted nothing to do with her smash cake. Nothing. She kept staring at us like, “How long must I sit here avoiding this thing???”

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We did get her to touch it once on her own…

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…then we helped her of course 🙂

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And she did end up sticking her foot in it after a while, haha!

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She ended up getting more cake on her dress than in her mouth, but that’s OK! It was still cute as can be!

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As the birthday girl, she was entitled to do what she pleased 😉

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This one would  have been my favorite had it not come out blurry 🙁

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I wanted to capture her “smashing” her cake during the photo shoot on video, so I gave Taylor my phone. She ended up taking a couple of cute pictures! This is one of them.

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This was another one.

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Which I thought also looked nice in black and white 🙂

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After the photo shoot, we loaded the van up with kids, drinks, mac and cheese, and chips and headed to my sister Monika’s house. The kids swam (in the freezing cold pool…glad I decided to drain mine instead of trying to keep it clean another week!) and played while the rest of us watched MoMo cook.

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Maddie enjoyed chewing on my necklace 🙂

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One of the most exciting things about that day was getting to celebrate Maddie’s first birthday with my PawPaw (my mom’s dad). Up until a couple years ago, he wasn’t really apart of our lives. He and my mom had a falling out when I was 8 or so and because they’re both stubborn as mules, we didn’t see him again until I was 19. Over the past 15 years, he’s spent a lot of his time working and caring for his wife who died last year, so in that time, I’ve only seen him 4-5 times, and 3 of those times have been in the past year. I’m thankful for his presence in our lives now. The kids couldn’t be more excited to have another PawPaw! And now he’s finally met all 11 of them!

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Once the burgers and hot dogs had been grilled, we ate! Then we sang ♫Happy Birthday♪ and ate some more!

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Joe Daddy got off work just in time to eat dinner with us, but he had to get home to load up his trailer to bring a bunch of stuff down to the hunting land he leases for his company picnic the next day. All 3 of the guys decided to make it a camping trip. They loaded up tents, air mattresses, guns, food, and beer and headed out.

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After we got home from the party, we bathed the kids and made them a pallet so Maddie could have the girls’ room to herself. They started a movie and passed right out! It’s funny. We have enough beds in the girls’ room to sleep 8-10 people and yet all of them slept in the living room so one baby could sleep in the room, in her pack and play! LOL! Taylor ended up sleeping with me since her daddy wasn’t there and she wanted to read before bed.

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The next day, I went out to grab breakfast at Chick-fil-A so my sister (who doesn’t have a CFA where she lives) could try the new Egg White Grill (which is delicious if you haven’t tried it yet), and realized halfway there that it was Sunday (not the first time I’ve made that mistake). So I took a detour and got us some Bo-Berry and country ham and egg biscuits from Bojangles instead. I popped a Stouffer’s mac and cheese in the oven (yes, another one), along with a frozen apple pie, and got myself and the rest of our crew (minus Bene and Maddie, who stayed home) ready and loaded up to head to the land for Joe Daddy’s company picnic. This is the second year they’ve had one out at the land, only this year they had it near Labor Day and not on Memorial Day when it’s miserable outside. The weather was nice and there was plenty for the kids to do: fly a foam airplane their Pa brought, take rides in the fishing boat on the lake, fish, and take rides on the trailer behind the 4-wheeler. There was a whole pig cooking, and everyone brought side dishes to share (we brought mac and cheese and pie).

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Unfortunately, my poor sweet sister’s allergies went haywire and started flaring up her asthma. She was weak and had chills and couldn’t even eat. We tried to hold out til the pig was done cooking, but she started having difficulty breathing, so we left a little early. Pa offered to take Joe Daddy home so he could stay and enjoy some time outside of work with his coworkers.

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Taylor really wanted to introduce LuLu and BayBay to snoballs, and since I thought they might actually help her feel a little better, we stopped (I made sure she wasn’t going to stop breathing on me if we did). They really enjoyed them (DUH!)!

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When we got home, I dosed my sister up with Flonase, Mucinex D, prednisone, and albuterol and sent her to sleep in my bed so the baby could nap in the girls’ room. Monie came over with her kids for one last visit. Unfortunately, Lu slept the whole time they were here 🙁

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After my sister and her kids left, we ate a simple dinner of pork tenderloin, mashed potatoes, gravy, and green beans (which I always get compliments for, LOL!). Lu actually got up and felt well enough to put some food in her belly! Then she laid back down when we put the kids to sleep.

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They really loved getting to spend the weekend together!

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They left the next morning at 6am. My sister wasn’t 100%, but she said she felt much better (YAY for my medicine cabinet!). All of us girls got up to give them one last squeeze (the boys were content having said their good-byes the night before). I’m especially gonna miss that sweet baby because I have a feeling my sister’s not gonna make that difficult journey again any time soon. They had an awful car ride down (Maddie gets car sick so she cries and throws up and has to take breaks), my poor sister gets sick every time she comes (that Kentucky air is just so much cleaner!), and Maddie’s just in a difficult stage of life right now (she eats, sleeps, poops, and plays on a schedule which isn’t easy to keep when you’re not at home). The next time I see her, she probably won’t be a baby anymore! I’ll miss my BayBay and my sister too, but at least we can FaceTime.

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I’m so grateful for all the precious memories my sister and nieces gave me this weekend! I truly treasure them! I just wish they lived closer!!!

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We spent the rest of our Labor Day not laboring. That was our only rule.

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I went back to bed after my sister left and slept in til 11am. When I woke up, I made everyone bacon, egg, and cheese sandwiches for lunch. I had mine on an Ezekiel sprouted grain English muffin, which are sooo good, and sooo expensive, but still cheaper than McDonald’s! Then I spent a couple hours blogging before I cooked dinner.

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Since we had already eaten a bunch of junk over the weekend, I decided to make a healthy dinner: Bruschetta stuffed balsamic chicken with sweet potato and Brussels sprouts hash.

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Mine ended up like this, ready to mix! The chicken was great, the veggies weren’t spectacular. I don’t care for them roasted. I prefer them sautéed…in bacon 🙂 After dinner, I helped the girls pick out their clothes for the week (best idea ever!), pack their bags, bathe, and tucked them in bed. Then Joe Daddy and I enjoyed a little TV on the couch before bed, our usual. It was a very relaxing day at home with just the 7 of us, exactly what we needed after a long weekend with our extended family!

It really was the BEST Labor Day weekend EVER!!!

 

 

 

Phoenix 2-001

What’s For Dinner?

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Well, it’s been 2 weeks since my last What’s For Dinner post, so I thought I’d share some of the meals we’ve had since then! I’ve been doing really well eating better, drinking a gallon of water a day, making it to all of my fitness classes (7 hours last week and 8 hours this week!), staying away from alcohol (for 24 days now!), soda (I went 4 days, then 7, then caved and had one with my pizza last night, but I’m still not drinking them every day like I did this summer, and now that they’re out of the house I might be able to give them up completely again!), and cutting out as much sugar as I can stand (which is probably the hardest part). I can tell that doing all of these things has dramatically decreased my bloating and lethargy, which isn’t something I notice during the summer when I’m sleeping in and being lazy all day, LOL! I gained 7 lbs this summer and then gained 6 lbs over the last couple of weeks while my body was getting adjusted to all the dietary and exercise changes I’ve made! Thankfully, I’ve already dropped those extra 6 lbs that was probably just water weight! I’m not really focusing on losing weight this year, but increasing my muscle tone. As my husband so eloquently stated to me, I need to “build my muscles up so they push through the fat.” Already, I’ve increased my heavy weights to 15 lbs! Last year, my heavy weights were 8 lbs! I upped them to 10 lbs 2 weeks ago, then 12 lbs last week, and upped them again this week since I wasn’t hitting that exhaustion point on some of the exercises. I think a huge part of being able to do that is due to all the supplements, vitamins, and minerals I’m taking, along with eating right (cutting out the alcohol and sugar), drinking plenty of water, and getting 8 hours of sleep each night. I’ve been getting sore, but only a little for a day or two after, not enough to where I have to miss class because I can barely move. I’ve never consistently worked this hard before, so I’m hopeful this is the year I finally reach my goal! Ok, back to the food!

 Cilantro-Lime Chicken and Quinoa with Avocados

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This was one of my favorites over the past couple of weeks! I got the inspiration from a one-pan cilantro-lime chicken with black beans and rice recipe on Pinterest and just subbed quinoa for the rice (although, not in the one pan like the recipe instructed; I cooked the quinoa on the side and added it in). I love rice, but I like the white stuff, so I try to limit it to once a week, if at all, and I made red beans and rice that week, which I have to have with white rice. I added some diced avocado on top because, well, avocado. Need I say more?

One-Pan Creamy Lemon Chicken with Pasta and Asparagus

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love lemon, and cheese, so I knew this dish would be a hit! It was super easy and all of the kids enjoyed it. I use brown rice and quinoa pasta instead of the traditional because gluten makes me bloat like crazy (probably from the Crohn’s and not because of an allergy). I think it tastes the same, but maybe that’s just because I’ve gotten used to it.

Spicy Shrimp, Cauliflower Mash, and Garlic Kale with Bacon

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This recipe caught my eye because of the way they made the cauliflower mash, using white beans and cornmeal! Well, somehow, the only cornmeal I had sitting in my pantry expired four years before I moved into my current house (which I moved into eight years ago!!!), so I had to come up with an alternative. I figured grits have a similar texture, so that’s what I used, and it turned out ahhhmazing!  It’s so much better than your typical cauliflower mash. I also really loved the sautéed kale with garlic and bacon. Of course, my plate didn’t look like this for long! I mixed it all together and it came out similar to shrimp and grits!

Red Beans and Rice

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In case I haven’t told you before, red beans and rice is my all-time favorite dish! My father’s side of the family is from New Orleans, Louisiana, which is where I was born and where I lived til I was 6, so I grew up eating creole dishes like red beans and rice, gumbo, jambalaya, and crawfish ètoufèe. Those are my comfort foods. My hubby’s from Georgia, so his are things like chicken and dumplings, chicken pot pie, mac and cheese, and fried chicken (all of which I also love since I have lived in Georgia 27 years of my life, but they’re just not the same). I can’t get the Blue Runner red beans my Gramma and Mama used to make theirs with (unless I wanna pay $3 a can to have them shipped), but I have found some Camellia dry beans that are really good (for only $2/lb, which makes way more than 2 cans of cooked beans). I just cook the beans in water with salt and bay leaves for a few hours, sauté celery, garlic, and onion in olive oil, add them to the beans, then sauté chopped uncured beef smoked sausage and add them as well and serve it all over white Jasmine rice. Those of us who like a little spice in our foods at Tabasco and Tony Cachere’s.

Chicken Zoodle Caprese

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My hubby actually cooked this one! It was really good, he just should have drained the zoodles a little better. It was just chicken, tomatoes, zoodles, and fresh mozzarella seasoned with oregano and basil. Super easy and delicious! I can’t complain anytime I don’t have to cook!

Sausage and Squash Skillet with Pasta

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The inspiration for this meal came from a Publix recipe, which they have in their ads each week (it’s on Pinterest too!). I love pasta and rice, despite the fact that they’re “processed foods,” so instead of eliminating them altogether, I just limit them to once a week or less. The Publix recipe didn’t have pasta in it. I enjoy pasta with tomato or pesto sauce, but my kids really like it with just butter and garlic. So I threw some sausage and squash in with some buttery garlic pasta, onions, and peppers and called it a meal!

Pork Carnitas Salad

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Pork carnitas is one of the easiest things I make. You just toss a pork loin rubbed with chili powder, cumin, salt, pepper, garlic, oregano, and cinnamon, add a bottle of salsa (I like the chunky organic one from Aldi for less than $2!), and cook for several hours on low til it’s ready to pull apart (see the recipe for “Easy Crockpot Carnitas” for amounts on the seasonings, not the one linked with the “Chipotle Lime Carnitas Salad,” although you’ll still want to check that recipe out for the dressing recipe!). The dry rub really gives the pork an incredible flavor, and the salsa keeps it juicy and gives you some tomatoes with the pork. If you can believe it, I grilled 4 corn cobs to use with this recipe and another one and forgot to put them on the salad (they are still sitting in my fridge!). I also didn’t get enough bell peppers, so by the time I made this recipe, I was out. 🙁 It was pretty plain compared to the one pictured with the recipe, but it was still ridiculously delicious because of the dressing! It was so simple, but sooo good! It was just olive oil, honey, garlic, lime juice, salt, pepper, cumin, and cilantro (I omitted the adobo and chiles because my kids are wimps when it comes to spicy foods and will refuse to touch their food if they can even tell I put pepper on it). It was probably the best dressing I have ever had, let alone made!

Grilled Corn and Kale Cobb Salad

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This was the other meal I made the grilled corn for, only since I cooked it on the night I made this, I actually remembered to use it! LOL! I ended up going way off the reservation on this recipe and turned a simple grilled corn and kale side dish into a family sized Cobb salad with chicken, bacon, eggs, radishes, red onions, tomatoes, avocados, and croutons (omitting the squash and zucchini the recipe called for). I liked the other cilantro-lime dressing so much that I just used that recipe again, even thought they were both pretty similar. I really love kale, but I forgot it’s a little hard to eat uncooked if you don’t chop it real good. That was my family’s only complaint.

Chicken Gyros with Tzatziki

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I’ve probably mention a few several hundred times how much I love Greek food, so I’ll spare you all that, but let me tell you, this was the best tzatziki I’ve ever made! My tomatoes for this recipe went bad before I could use them (I’ve just had bad luck with veggies lately! LOL!), but it was still great without them. It was just Greek yogurt, red onion, cucumbers, feta cheese, oregano, lemon juice, garlic, vinegar, parsley, salt, and pepper (which isn’t exactly what the recipe says, but you know me and following instructions!). The sauce was amazing, but the chicken was great too! I marinated it over night in Greek yogurt, lemon juice, olive oil, vinegar, garlic, salt, pepper, and oregano. It was so juicy and full of flavor after I cooked it in the pan! I wish I would have had the patience and time to make homemade pita bread, because the store bought stuff did not do it justice. I ended up just eating the chicken and the sauce without the bread. I served them with home fries, which the kids loved since I don’t serve fries too often!

Coconut Mango Verde Chicken with Black Beans and Rice

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Caribbean foods are another one of my favorites, so I was really excited to try this sauce made of coconut milk, mangoes, green chiles, brown sugar, cumin, chili powder, smoked paprika, and cilantro! Aldi just so happened to have canned mangoes on sale, so that’s what I used in the recipe. They were gross. They smelled all can-y and made the sauce taste pretty yucky straight out of my Ninja, but I had hope that once it was combined and cooked with the rest of the food it would be edible. It actually turned out great! Joe Daddy went on and on about how good it was! Next time, I will definitely use fresh mangoes (or at least some of the frozen ones I keep on hand for my smoothies). I added black beans, which weren’t on the recipe, just because I love them and thought they’d go nicely (and of course, I was right!).

Zucchini Lasagna

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Y’all know I love zoodles (which are noodles made from zucchini, in case you’ve been living under a rock ;)), but oddly enough, I never even thought about slicing them long ways for lasagna noodles! Now I love pasta, and there are gluten-free lasagna noodles out there, but I don’t know if I’ll ever make lasagna any other way! It was sooo good! I opted not to cook the zucchini because I was afraid it would get too soft, so it came out a little crunchy, but everyone agreed it was better that way! Next time, I’ll have to add some mushrooms (which I normally put in my lasagna but didn’t put on the grocery list since I made it from the list of ingredients in the recipe)! Ironically, my friend posted that she was making zucchini lasagna roll ups the same night I made this! I need to try those too!

Asian Skillet

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This was the recipe that started my Recipes I Didn’t Love Pinterest Board. I really liked the idea, but none of us cared for the Chinese 5 Spice (which really stinks considering I paid $5 for it!). I’m willing to give it one more try, in another dish. I wanted to keep this recipe around though, because I think it would be really good with different spices.

Crispy Skin Salmon with Potatoes and Asparagus

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This was another recipe that made it onto the “Recipes I Didn’t Love” board. I don’t know why I didn’t realize when I first read it that there was no way I was going to be able to fit enough potatoes, asparagus, and salmon to feed my large brood on one baking sheet, but that wasn’t even the worst part of this recipe. The mustard sauce was awful. It’s pretty much just 2 different mustards and vinegar, so I guess I should have known it wasn’t going to be any good, but I just followed the recipe like an idiot and was very unhappy with the result. I kept this recipe because I do like the idea of a one-pan salmon dinner with mustard sauce. I think I’ll just save it for a night when the kids aren’t around so I only have to feed Joe Daddy and myself. I’ll probably cut all that mustard and vinegar with some olive oil, or look for another mustard sauce recipe to try!

Remember, you can find the inspiration to these meals on my Pinterest Board: Recipes I Love!

Phoenix 2-001

This Week…

…was better! Last week was rough. It was our first full week of school, plus my first week attempting to give up as much added refined sugar as possible, plus my first week back at the gym 5 days a week, so I was pretty exhausted, to say the least. This week was still tiring, but getting up was a little easier, and I felt like I could push myself even more working out, especially since the sugar cravings subsided a bit. So here’s what our week looked like:

Sunday

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Sunday we went to church. We had plans to go to a birthday party at Fort Yargo that afternoon, so we just wore our swimsuits under our church clothes. Yep. That’s how we roll. Thank goodness our church has a casual service that we can wear jeans and t-shirts to! LOL!

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I didn’t get a picture of us at church, but here’s a picture from the week before that I forgot to put in my last post 🙂

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Since we had about an hour and a half to kill between church and the birthday party but didn’t want to drive 30 minutes to the house and back, we went to our favorite local BBQ place for their ahhhmazing dry rub wings! Even better, who should I spy sitting at a table when we walked in?

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My best friend (she doesn’t know she’s my best friend, but she totally is) and Zumba/Chair Zen/Spin and Abs instructor (and personal trainer that one time) Erin! She was sitting at a table with her husband and son, waiting for their food, when our eyes met and we began running to each other in slow motion, jumped 10 feet in the air, and landed in each others arms (at least, that’s how it happened in my mind). We were so excited to see each other that we picked up her family (with our Jedi mind tricks) and moved them to a large table that could fit us all! We were so preoccupied chatting like crazy that we ignored our families and didn’t even think to take a picture to capture the awesome moment (thankfully, we have amazingly understanding families who didn’t even care that we ignored them…or that Erin took 15 minutes longer than anyone else to eat, LOL). Like I said, she’s one of my best friends. She makes my heart happy in a way that no one else can!

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After lunch, we headed to Fort Yargo for the girls’ friend Skylar’s 5th birthday party. We had hamburgers and hot dogs (and by we, I mean the kids since Joe Daddy and I were still stuffed from all the wings we had just eaten!), veggies, sodas, cookie cake, sang Happy Birthday, watched her open presents, and…

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…went swimming in the lake, of course!

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Yeah, except this guy. #FuddieBubbie “doesn’t like” to swim. (He doesn’t like to do most anything.) But it was Family Sunday Funday, so we made him tag along. #TeenagersAreHard. That’s all I have to say about that.

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The girls had fun at least!

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And it wasn’t ridiculously crowded like the last Sunday we went there!

Monday and Tuesday

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Monday I went to my Zumba and Spin/Abs classes and felt great! I wasn’t even sore Tuesday morning! Then I went to my Boot Camp class on Tuesday morning with an old instructor who had just come back from having a baby (and she still kicked my butt)! For the first time ever, I was able to make it through the workout without feeling like I was gonna die, so I decided to go to Zumba that night. I said I wasn’t going to do any night classes this year, but we’ve had so much time after school and I really missed my Tuesday night gym peeps, so I changed my mind.

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I was sooo happy to see my #GymWife for the first time in weeks! We ran to each other in slow motion and squeezed each other tight and then giggled throughout the entire class together. She is also my best friend (although I’m pretty sure she knows it). Kay has been such a motivator for me over the last 3 years in my weight loss journey. I am blessed to have such a beautiful inspiration to work out with every week! I love her so much! Did I mention we got to coach soccer last year together too? Fun times!

Wednesday

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Since Wednesday morning is the only morning I don’t go to the gym, I go grocery shopping. The kids are taking their lunch this year, since trying to keep up with what each of them wanted and didn’t want to eat at school last year was confusing, and to keep things “fair” I made them each their own “snack basket.” I bought chips, Cheez-Its, peanut butter and cheese filled snack crackers, granola bars, beef sticks, bread sticks and pretzels with cheese, fruit snacks, fruit cups, apple sauce squeezers, individual cups of peanut butter for dipping celery or apple slices, muffins, rice cakes, brownies, Oreos, Chips Ahoy, graham crackers, pudding cups, and trail mix (plus juice boxes, Gatorades, yogurt squeezers, lunch meat, and cheese in the fridge, and Uncrustables in the freezer). Every night (or morning), they can pack a juice box (or Gatorade for the older kids), a water bottle, a protein, a fruit or veggie, a chip or cracker, a dessert item, and one more item of their choosing for snack since the new school lets each kid be responsible for their own snack (which I love!). No, it’s not all health food, but I feel like it’s a nice mix of both.

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I did really well at sticking to my diet this week! I had my protein shakes for breakfast; leftovers or tuna fish salad for lunch; fruit, veggies, nuts, and boiled eggs for snacks; healthy home-cooked dinners almost every night; Fage fruit on the bottom yogurt for dessert; hot herbal tea first thing in the morning and again right before bed; and nothing else but water. I even bought some dark chocolate covered almonds so if I got a hankering for chocolate it would be somewhat healthy.

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Most Wednesdays, we hit up Zaxby’s for Kids’ Night before we head to church. Taylor and I split a grilled chicken Cobb Zalad (since it’s so freaking huge) minus the fried onions. I give Taylor most of the cheese and The Littles the bread. Then The 3 Littles split 2 kids meals (since they only ever eat half of one when I get them their own), so we only spend $10 to eat out!

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After Zaxby’s we went to church. Taylor and I went to yoga while The Littles went to choir then JourneyLand together and made butter!

Thursday

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Tristyn had her butter on waffles the next morning before school 🙂

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For some odd reason, I made Jules’ and Tristyn’s asthma check-up for 10:15am on a Thursday morning. That meant I had to miss my Zumba class (which turned out to be much needed anyway since I’m fairly certain I pulled my calf after my Tuesday class), I had to check Jules and Tristyn out of school at 9:30am, make them miss their lunch time, and then bring them back just a couple hours before school ended. Stupid! Usually, I know to make their appointments for around 1-2pm so I have time to get home for the other kids getting off the bus.

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Both of them passed their lung function tests with flying colors, but since Jules is still using his rescue inhaler every week, he is going back on maintenance meds (after being off of them for several months). Tristyn’s only had to use her rescue inhaler when she’s gotten sick, so she’s staying off of the every day asthma meds, but since she has been having issues with allergies, she’s going on 2 daily allergy meds, the same ones I started taking after my big allergy episode this summer (which have made a huge difference in the way I feel!). They also got meds to bring to school.

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I was sooo sore when I woke up Wednesday morning, even at that walking I did grocery shopping and an hour of yoga didn’t help. I was kinda grateful for a break on Thursday, but by Thursday night I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to make it to my Friday classes. (I’m sure that Sprite I had when we ate at Del Taco before bringing the kids back to school didn’t help because I felt awful after I drank it.) A friend of mine swears by Epsom salt baths, so I went home and took my first bath in over 10 years! I filled the tub with Epsom salt (and some Bath and Body Works shower gel to make bubbles), grabbed a cup of hot herbal tea, my radio, and a candle (since it was storming outside) and soaked for a good half an hour. I was amazed at how much it helped! If you aren’t familiar with Epsom salt and all it’s awesomeness, Google it and be amazed!

Friday

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I was so excited that I not only made it to my Friday classes, but I wasn’t in pain anymore! I still had some tightness in my left calf, but I was still able to do all 312 of the weighted squats in my Pump-It-Up class! I even amazed myself by upping my weights for a bunch of the exercises to 12 lbs (which I’ve done on my own before, but never in an hour long class)! I was pretty sore yesterday, but it’s not too bad today! My word of the week has definitely been: MOTIVATED. I’ve been motivated to eat better and work out harder than I have in a while!

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I left my Chair Zen class a few minutes early (missing only the prayer time) to eat lunch with a bunch of the kids at their new school. I tried telling them that I was only coming to eat lunch with them this year on their birthdays, but Trini bribed me with a lunch visit to get on the bus without crying Friday morning, and she held her end of the bargain so I had to do the same. It’s not that I don’t want to see my kids while their at school, I just feel like school should be their time away from me. I also just want to do whatever makes them happy, so I guess if they really want to give up time with their friends at school for me, how can I refuse??? I swung by Chick-fil-A to get Ty a kids’ meal before dropping her off at my sister’s for a play date with Holly and grabbed myself a grilled Cobb salad. I wasn’t sure of the school rules about bringing in outside food (their old school forbid it), so I snuck it in. We ended up eating at the same table as a teacher and her family who had also brought in Chick-fil-A, only they didn’t hide it, LOL! First, I ate with Taylor and Caden from 11:30-12. I felt so bad when I saw Cameren leaving the lunch room 15 minutes after I got there! I’m so used to Taylor and Caden being together and Tristyn and Chase being together that I often leave him out of the equation! I promised him that next time I come, I’d eat lunch with him too. I had to wait 15 minutes between the time Taylor and Caden left and Tristyn’s and Chase’s lunch time, but I ran into some old cheer friends, which made the time pass quickly. 15 minutes later, Trini showed up, so the 4 of us got to eat together for 15 minutes before Tristyn and Chase had to leave. Then Trini and I got to have 15 minutes all to ourselves!

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I was so proud of her for not crying when lunch was over…although I did threaten that if she did, I wouldn’t eat lunch with her again.

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When Tristyn came home from school, she told me she passed her first spelling test! I can’t tell you what a relief that was since she struggled all week with them while we studied at home. (Trini also came home with her sight words marked off, which she struggled with at home all week as well.) I absolutely hate homework because I just feel like my kids are so over school work by then that they don’t get anything out of it (at least, until their older). I really don’t think they should have homework until 4th grade. That seemed to be the grade my older 2 could finally do it on their own without any meltdowns (although I never really had any problems with Jules and homework).

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On the way to pick Taylor up from gymnastics, I picked up Ty from my sister’s house…and 3 of her kids so they could hang out with us while my sister ran some errands.

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Look who was driving behind me on the way! #MayfieldDairyCow #OnTheMoove

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Some of the kids played inside, while the others jumped in the pool.

Saturday

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The kids let me sleep til almost 11am Saturday morning! I got up, ate some breakfast, and hopped on the computer to blog for a bit. Then the neighbors called asking if they could come swimming.

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The little boy was having a hard time getting along with the girls, so he went home, but the girls swam and played together for about an hour before abandoning the pool for the trampoline.

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Which was fine by me! Adult swim! 🙂

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Until the black clouds rolled in and the rain started to pour. Boo! That was the fourth time this week the rain ruined my pool time!

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Joe Daddy came home early so we could visit his dad in the hospital. He had a hemorrhagic stroke the night before and had been transported via ambulance to Grady’s ICU. The bleeding in his brain had stopped, so he was supposed to get a regular room. We were hoping he’d be moved in the time it took us to eat dinner at KFC and drive the hour out there.

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Unfortunately, they just didn’t have a room for him to transfer to. The hospital wouldn’t let anyone under 12 go back to visit in the ICU, so we lied and said Taylor was 12 since she was the most worried about him. He was just sitting next to his bed watching TV when we walked in. We totally surprised him since he told Joe not to worry about coming out! He said his face was still a little numb but that he was feeling fine. They did discover that his blood sugar is pretty high, along with his blood pressure, so once he leaves the hospital he’ll not only have to up his blood pressure meds, but change his diet and exercise habits as well. I still think he looks pretty good for a guy pushing 70!

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The girls were a little bummed that they couldn’t see their Pa, but they behaved so well in the waiting room. They just read their books and played games on their Kindles for over an hour while Joe Daddy and I took turns visiting.

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Jules and Taylor stayed with Pa the whole time, but they spent most of their time watching TV and checking out the view from his little side guest room.

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None of us have ever been to Grady, so we looked like tourists checking out all the cool architecture and displays, LOL!
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It was really cool to see it both during the day and at night! I’m glad we got to enjoy our little trip since Pa is doing well. He finally got a regular room today! He might even get to go home today! He said if he does, he’ll stop by so he can see The Littles.

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This week has been much better than last week, at least as far as how tired we all are. Trini is probably struggling the most, but she’s getting better every day.

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I talked to her teacher when I went to eat lunch with her, telling her how I was only there b/c of the fits she’s been pitching at the bus stop, and she said she’s been perfectly fine at school. That’s the most important thing, but honestly, it doesn’t make the fits any more bearable. Seeing her sweet self-portrait this week definitely helped lift my spirits. I just have to remember that a spirited little girl will make for one heck of a strong independent woman!

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Bleu is almost done with her 14 days of antibiotics and steroids and is looking and acting almost perfectly normal again.

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I’m not an “pet person,” but I really love her. She’s such a good dog.

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She’s completely spoiled, just like the rest of my girls. Just look at her poking her nose outside while keeping her body in the cool A/C. Spoiled.

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I’m feeling better and better the better I eat. I’m finding that eating the crap I love just isn’t worth how awful I feel afterwards. I seriously gained a pound per day this week, despite mostly sticking to my diet, which I know is just my body working through all the inflammation I’ve caused it working out and eating crap all summer, plus all the water my body is retaining from not having enough of it for a while (and to repair my muscles), but I still don’t enjoy seeing the scale go up that much in a week. The good news is: it was 4 lbs less when I hopped on this morning, and I know it will just continue to drop as I continue to be consistent. I don’t care about what the scale says as much as how I feel and look, but I do like keeping track of it. I feel like it motivates me. My main goal for eating healthy foods and working out is to be healthy and build muscle tone. If I gained weight but looked ripped, I’d be perfectly content.

Well, that’s it for this week. The pool is calling my name!

Phoenix 2-001

Getting Back into a Routine!

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Getting back into a routine has been exhausting, but I love it! I’m always super organized at the beginning of the school year. Unfortunately, I just don’t stay super organized. Slowly, exhaustion will take over and chaos will ensue…and then summer’ll come and I’ll turn into a zombie again. At least that’s what has happened every year for the past 9 years since my kids started going to school. I was really hoping to stick to a routine this summer, but it just didn’t happen. Maybe next summer? Anyway, because I’m in full-blown super mom mode, I made myself a cleaning schedule. So far, it’s working out really well! You’d think 9 hours without the kids, 5 days a week, would be plenty of time to get all this stuff done, but because we had a couple of appointments this week, I never got around to shampooing the rugs or mopping the floors. It’s not the end of the world, I just haven’t mopped the kitchen floors since before summer. Yeaaaaah.

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I also made the kids an “After School Schedule” (on the backside of the board). Because we only have church on Wednesday nights and gymnastics after school on Friday, as opposed to something every night of the week like last year, it feels like we have so much time after school! The kids get home around 4pm, which means we are usually done eating dinner before 4:30pm! People are usually amazed that we eat so early, but all I’ve done is switch the time they would be eating a snack with dinner. This way, they fill up on protein and fibrous carbs instead of junk. I still let them have the junk of course, just after they’ve eaten their dinner. After dinner, they have two hours to play or relax and watch TV before having to do their homework! This makes doing homework much less like pulling teeth for me since they are completely worn out when they get home. Jules and Taylor have been doing their own homework for years now, but I still have to help Tristyn and Trini memorize sight words and read for 10-20 minutes each night. Tristyn also has math homework now that she’s in 1st grade. After homework, we pack their backpacks, lunches and snacks, pick out their clothes for the next day, pick up whatever mess they’ve made playing, take baths (which we have a schedule for as well), brush teeth, say our prayers, and they get to watch TV til they fall asleep in their rooms while I get to watch a little TV on the couch with Joe Daddy.

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I was kinda worried about being able to make it to all 7 of my classes this week at the gym, but I’m happy to report, I did it! I went to Zumba and Spin and Abs on Monday, Boot Camp on Tuesday, Yoga on Wednesday, Zumba on Thursday, and Pump-It-Up and Chair Zen on Friday! I’m definitely feeling strong, fearless, and proud about that!

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Ty came to the gym with me every day, except for Thursday when she stayed home with her daddy. They took away child care for my Tuesday class, but she sat on the bleachers and watched me the whole time without any complaints!

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I’m so thankful she loves going to the gym as much as I do! We love spending time together, but it’s nice to have a little time apart each day!

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I seriously thought about putting her in some sort of preschool this year, but she enjoys chilling at home and I know this is the last year she’ll get to (plus she’s like my best friend! I’m not ready for her to be gone all day yet!). Going to child care at the gym 6 hours a week (plus the 1-2 play dates we usually have each week) is plenty time out of the house for her. She’s an introvert like her mama, I can already tell.

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I won’t lie, I’ve gotten plenty sore this week, but it hasn’t been nearly as bad as I anticipated. I wasn’t sore at all after Monday! I was pretty sore after Tuesday though, so I didn’t run before Yoga like I usually do. Thursday was probably my sorest day, which is when I wore my new “My Everything is SORE” shirt. I hated having to buy new clothes to go back to the gym, but after all the crap I ate this summer, I’ve been bloated like crazy and since all of my clothes are very form fitting, I had to get a few shirts that don’t hug my bulging gut. I don’t normally like to wear loose fitting clothes because I feel like they make me look larger than I am, but I’m happy with the shirts I found. They don’t hug my waist but they fit snuggly everywhere else so I don’t look huge (although I’m pretty sure a couple people think I’m pregnant…I’m not, just to be clear).

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Isn’t it the coolest gym shirt?! I love it! And I found it on clearance at TJMaxx, so it didn’t cost much at all!

Meal Plan 2016

Being back at the gym every day means I have to eat better. When I don’t drink enough water or eat enough protein or take my vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, I get much sorer and can’t workout nearly as hard, long, or as often. To help myself stay on track, I prepared a simple meal plan.

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I did an amazing job drinking at least 8 cups of water every day, making my protein smoothies each morning before I left for the gym, and taking all nine of my pills. I even got Joe Daddy drinking protein smoothies for breakfast! I can’t honestly say that I stuck to my meal plan, but I can say that I ate much better this week than I did over the summer!

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Speaking of Joe Daddy, guess who I got to eat lunch with this week?! Yep! We had our first dentist appointment in 6-7 years last Monday, so we met up for lunch at Chick-fil-A. We both ordered salads, but I forgot to specify grilled nuggets in mine so I ended up eating fried chicken. The way I look at it is, I ordered a salad. That’s still an improvement over the sandwich and fries I’ve been eating all summer. Baby steps.

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So yeah, Joe Daddy and I had our first cleaning in 6-7 years. Years, not months. That’s not a typo! About 9 years ago, I went to the dentist for the first time since high school, which was about 7 years before that. Once I had my son, I didn’t have any dental insurance or enough money to pay out of pocket, so I just didn’t go. Then I started working at Aldi and had really good insurance, but between going to college full time and working full time on top of having a kid at home, I just didn’t have any time to go. After I had Taylor (and dropped out of UGA), I finally made my way back only for the dentist to tell me I had a couple cavities and the beginning stages of periodontal disease, which scared me! I let them fill my cavities and do something called “scaling and root planing” where they clean and apply antibiotics between the gums down to the roots. They also convinced me to buy a $150 tooth brush and a special $20 mouth rinse. 3 months later I returned, only for them to tell me that I had more cavities and my gums weren’t any better. So they did the scaling and root planing and filled my cavities again. This went on for 2 years before I could not take the pain of the treatments and fillings anymore (and got a clue that I was being lied to) and sought a 2nd opinion. Not only did the next dentist tell me that I did not have any sign of periodontal disease (not even gingivitis), but I did not have any cavities (the other dentist told me I had 3 the last time I saw them!). He also said that I had a lot of “superficial fillings,” meaning they barely drilled into my teeth and that all those treatments on my gums was probably doing more harm than good. I was livid! I wrote Coast Dental a nice longer letter about how upset I was at them for their actions over the last 2 years (to which I never heard a reply, go figure!). My mouth never bled or hurt before I started seeing them, but every time I saw them, I left in worst shape than before. That traumatic experience coupled with the loss of dental insurance when I left Aldi, is why I hadn’t been back to the dentist over the last 6-7 years. Knowing I need to go to the dentist (and my hubby’s constant reminder that he needs to go as well), pushed me to look for a new dentist this summer. One of my friends posted about her awesome experience at one of our local dentist offices, and since she mentioned that they were very gentle with her because she has a sensitivity, I decided to give Creekside Dentistry a try. I am so glad I did! Not only were they extremely gentle with me, they didn’t take forever and they didn’t try to rip me off! I was completely honest about how long it had been since I saw a dentist (and why) so my hygienist took extra care to make sure I was comfortable throughout the cleaning process. Of course, I wasn’t comfortable, but I wasn’t in pain either. I was in shock when the dentist told me that my gums and teeth were in great shape…like jaw dropping shock! I didn’t have a single cavity??? But it’s been 6-7 YEARS! My gums aren’t infected??? I don’t need any kind of additional work??? I seriously happy danced my way out of there…til I got the bill. $600 for the pair of us! Yikes! I don’t miss working, but I sure do miss that dental insurance! It was only so high because of all the x-rays they took. Next time, it’ll be less then $200 for the both of us. I might look into dental insurance, but if it costs more than $600 per year, I’ll probably skip it and just pay out of pocket.

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Yay for healthy (and now clean) teeth and gums!!!

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Joe Daddy and I weren’t the only ones who had to go to the dentist this week. Jules and Taylor had to go back to get their extractions done.

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Jules went first. He had 2 baby teeth removed and a crown put on one of his 12 year molars because the cavity was in a place that couldn’t be filled.

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The picture on the right is before and the ones on the left are after. The dentist said that his teeth might straighten out on their own more now that they have room, but I wasn’t planning on getting him braces anyway. His teeth aren’t that crooked and he doesn’t want braces. If he changes his mind later in life, he can certainly choose to pay for them himself! Haha! I wore braces 3rd through 8th grade and while it did straighten out my teeth, I didn’t wear my retainer like I was supposed to so they aren’t perfectly straight anymore. I won’t get braces for any of my kids unless 1) they are medically necessary, like they can’t chew or talk right; 2) they have all of their permanent teeth (except for wisdom teeth); 3) they want them and agree to take care of their teeth properly while they wear them (and I believe they are capable of doing such).

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Because Taylor doesn’t like to be left alone with strangers, she asked me to stay in the room with her. She had to have 2 baby teeth removed as well, but not because they refused to fall out (although most kids do lose them before age 10), but because she had ground them down to the nerves and was in constant pain (at least when she would wake up and anytime she’d eat). Because the teeth that are supposed to fall out before those hadn’t fallen out, she had to be fitted for a spacer as well, which was probably more traumatic than getting her teeth pulled. She had a full-on panic attack while they were working on her, so they had to stop and let her catch her breath, but she handled it so well! I’ve had panic attacks for as long as I can remember, but I’ve always been able to handle them so they don’t affect me from being able to function, so I was so proud to see her calm herself down and tell them she was ready to continue after only a few minutes.

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I don’t think she realized how much she was going to have to suffer to get rid of those 2 teeth, but I think once the pain subsides, she’s going to feel much better.

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Ty played with Tay while we waited for Bubbie.

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Then she went back with me when I sat with Taylor and passed out!

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One of my favorite parts of this week was my Mother-Son Date with Jules! We haven’t had one of these since he was in elementary school! The best part was HE ASKED ME to take him to see Suicide Squad, just the two of us! Of course, I couldn’t say no! We went on Tuesday since movies are only $5, a large popcorn is $4, and medium drinks are $3. We managed to see a movie, have more popcorn than we could eat, our own drinks, and candy that we snuck in from the store for less than $25! It was totally worth the sugar hangover I had the next day. The movie was good and I learned that my son knows just about everything there is to know about comic books, old and new! I mean, we call him “The Walking Encyclopia,” but I had no idea he knew so much about comic books simply because he doesn’t own any, LOL! Thanks be to Google! 😉

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Joe Daddy got to have a little Father-Daughter Date with Ty while I went to Zumba on Thursday since it was his day off.

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I came home to them riding on the 4-wheeler around the yard together.

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And Bleu chasing them, of course.

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Other than Joe Daddy, Ty’s Bleu’s favorite person.

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Could they be any cuter?

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On Wednesday, I met my sister at Chick-fil-A for breakfast before we went grocery shopping so Ty and Holly could play together for a bit. These 2 are constantly asking to get together and I don’t make nearly enough time to see my sister.

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On Friday, we had Holly over at our house for a play date. It was only the 3rd time I’ve had my niece on my own and I gotta say, she’s much more manageable! LOL! I seriously couldn’t watch her for the first 2 years of her life because she was such a handful! I mean, I could have, I just avoided it like the plague and my sister had my mom so she didn’t ever need me to keep her. She actually listened to me and didn’t try any Evel Knievel stunts! I think my sister and I are going to take turns hosting play dates on Fridays so they can enjoy playing with each other and we can each get a little break.

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All of The Littles had a play date at the neighbor’s on Thursday after school. There were a total of 12 kids from around the neighborhood playing!

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They played with bikes and bubbles…

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…babies and Barbies (and had cheese balls and Hugs before dinner because it took us longer than anticipated to get home from the dentist).

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They had fun, and I got to chat with my bestie, which is always nice.

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The kids had a good week at school. We managed to get up and get to the bus stop on time every day! Success! LOL!

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Our only mishap was on Friday. Trini missed the bus from school so I had to go pick her up. I think it was because her teacher wasn’t paying attention when the buses were being called, but she agreed to let Taylor get her from class and bring her to the bus in the afternoons so it doesn’t happen again. It wasn’t that big of a deal, but I’d rather not have to drive up to the school to get her. That’s the whole point of riding the bus! LOL!

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We’ve spent our Saturday hanging out in the pool with friends. Taylor invited 3 of her friends over.

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Tristyn invited one friend over. Well, in actuality, Taylor invited one friend over yesterday, then Tristyn’s friend’s mom texted me this morning and asked if her daughter could come over since the rest of her kids are doing stuff with their friends, then when Taylor found out Tristyn’s friend was coming over, she asked if her sister and her other friend could come over too.

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Of course, they’ve all asked if they can spend the night, and I hate that I have to say no. I’m not saying we’ll never let people spend the night here again, I just don’t want them to get used to doing it all the time. The rule is they can have a slumber party on their birthdays and maybe an occasional sleepover during a school break, but not every weekend like I used to get talked into. I have agreed to having these play dates. That will just have to be enough.

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I mean, isn’t playing with your friends while you’re awake more fun than getting to sleep next to them?

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If it’s not, they’ll just have to sleep next to each other during their play dates 😉

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This week’s gone fairly well, but I’m exhausted. I’ve been craving sugar like a beast, and have not been able to completely avoid it, which means I’m still having sugar crashes. I know it’ll get better, but right now it’s hard. I have to wonder if it’s harder because I gave up alcohol too. 10 days and counting!

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I can’t say the same thing for sugar though! LOL! Yeah, we ended up back at Angie’s after gymnastics on Friday. I totally passed by, determined not to give into temptation, but Taylor really wanted a snoball since her mouth was still hurting, so I turned around. We ended up running into some friends while we were there who told Angie that I was the one who got them addicted. Oddly enough, they weren’t the first, which Angie thanked me for! LOL! Too bad she didn’t thank me with a complimentary snoball 😉 I got my 2 faves mixed together: piña colada and wedding cake. Taylor got banana mixed with wedding cake. I tried the banana with her after my friend said it was good and I was surprised how good it was since I don’t typically like banana flavored foods.

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There have been several days when I just wanted to curl up and take a nap, but I know that napping will just make me more tired. I have just resigned to going to bed as early as possible.

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Hopefully, next week will be a little less exhausting, but just as much fun!

Phoenix 2-001

What’s For Dinner?

I’ve had quite a few people tell me they miss my food posts, so I thought I’d start my What’s For Dinner? series up again. It’ll be a little different, but there will be food and pictures of food involved! LOL! If you ever want to see the inspiration for some of the meals I make, check out my Recipes I Love board on Pinterest.

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This post is dedicated to some of the amazing meals we had over the summer!

Pan Seared Pork Chops with Garlic Butter Carrots with Herbs and Crispy Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Garlic

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This dinner is pretty self-explanatory. I pan-seared some pork chops with butter and fresh herbs (and sugar, that’s the secret ingredient!), whipped up a mustard sauce using Dijon and whole grain mustard, white wine, and rosemary, boiled some baby carrots and dressed them with garlic, butter, and herbs, and pan-seared some Brussels Sprouts with garlic and bacon. To say this dinner was delicious is an understatement. I seriously made out with my plate that night. Ahhh, memories…

Thai Crunch Bowl with Salmon

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Y’all know I love to eat my food all mixed together, so I looooove me some bowls! This bowl had some broiled salmon on a bed of quinoa, edamame, dry roasted peanuts, shredded carrots and red cabbage, dressed with a mixture of peanut butter, soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, and lime juice. It was delightFULL!

Quinoa Bowl with Salmon, Zucchini, and Butternut Squash

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I enjoyed the salmon bowl so much, that I made another variation with zucchini and butternut squash that I roasted together. For this salmon I just baked it in the oven in soy sauce. All those foods together= YUM!

Chicken Salsa Burrito Bowl

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Like I said, I love me some bowls. We eat burrito bowls pretty often (which is like twice a month since I make so many different things). I’ve come to love using the crock pot to cook the chicken for this meal. All you do is put chicken with a jar of salsa in the crock pot and let it cook on low for several hours! Easy peasy! I made rice, black beans, and corn to go in this particular bowl, which I topped with cheese, avocado, black olives, and sour cream. Yuuuum!

Chili Dip

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There was a couple weeks at the start of summer when I got really lazy and didn’t make a meal plan (or even a grocery list)! We ate things like pizza, Stouffer’s frozen meat loaf, fried chicken with boxed mashed potatoes (which I hadn’t bought in years and will never buy again! Gross!) and a salad kit, and this dip. It’s a recipe Joe Daddy’s family introduced me to back when I lived with them for a couple months while I was pregnant with Jules (15 years ago!). You layer cream cheese on the bottom of a baking dish, then canned chili with beans, then shredded cheese, top it with green onions, and eat it with tortilla chips. It is so simple, yet so delicious, and probably not the least bit healthy (even with those green onions in it, haha!).

Pesto Chicken with Asparagus, Tomatoes, and Mozzarella on Quinoa and Brown Rice Fussili

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I absolutely love pesto, and since I can get a jar for less than $2, I’ve been using it in our dinners much more often (at least once a month). For this dinner, I simply combined cooked chicken, pesto, grilled asparagus, tomatoes, gluten-free pasta, and mozzarella cheese. It had pesto in it. Need I say more?

Red Pesto Chicken Spaghetti
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Aldi also has a red pesto sauce that is really good too! I paired it with chicken and tomatoes and served it over brown rice spaghetti.

Teriyaki Chicken and Pineapple Stir Fry

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I just love hot pineapple! Whether it’s on a pizza, on a kabob, or in a stir fry, I love the clash of it’s sweetness with other foods! I kept things simple by buying premade teriyaki sauce (shhhh…don’t tell the “Nutrition Police” ;)).

Greek Fritatta

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I am slightly obsessed with fritattas, and even slightly more obsessed with Greek inspired food! I’d eat a turd if you put red onion, tomatoes, olives, feta, and basil on it. Not really, but now you have a better idea of just how much I love this stuff! Hahahahaha!

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You won’t find this recipe on my Pinterest board, but if you’re interested in how to make a fabulous fritatta, I’ll tell you what to do: Mix 12 eggs with half a cup of milk and one cup of shredded cheese (I like sharp cheddar). Cook your veggies in an oven-safe pan, like a cast iron skillet (which is what I use), then add the egg mixture. For this fritatta, I only put spinach and mushrooms inside it, the others I used as toppings once it was cooked. Bake in the oven at 350° for 20-30 minutes and enjoy!

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I’ve made a Greek inspired fritatta before, but I put all of the veggies and feta on the inside. This time, I used the tomatoes, Kalamata olives, basil, and feta as toppings (I forgot the red onion, dangit!). It was sooo much better this way! I was fortunate to get the last piece the next day for lunch, so I got all the extra toppings that had fallen off of the other pieces as they were extracted for consumption. Score!

Loaded Baked Potato Fritatta

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That new Greek fritatta gave me an idea for another: Loaded Baked Potato Fritatta! I cooked some diced potatoes in my cast iron skillet, poured my mixture of 12 eggs, 1/2 cup milk, and 1 cup shredded cheddar over them, baked it all in the oven at 350° for 20-30 minutes, and then topped it with green onions, bacon, shredded Mexican cheese, and sour cream.

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It was just as delicious as it sounds!

Quesadilla Nachos

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I got giddy when I found this recipe for quesadillas made into nachos! We had just eaten salsa chicken bowls the night before and had enough leftovers to make another meal, so instead of leaving the inside of these quesadillas plain cheese like the recipe called for, I loaded them up with salsa chicken, black beans, and corn as well as plenty of shredded cheese. Then I cut them into 8 slices and topped them sour cream mixed with lime juice and zest, black olives, tomatoes, avocado, cilantro, queso fresco, green onions, and radishes (which are my new favorite veggie to hide in food!). They really came out more like Mexican pizzas (I made 2), but they were sooo freaking delicious!

Philly Cheesesteak Quesadillas

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Speaking of quesadillas, my family enjoyed these so much that we had them three times this summer! I would have never in million years thought to put a Philly Cheesesteak into a quesadilla on my own (which is why I go to Pinterest for dinner inspiration weekly), but boy was it awesome! The first time, we followed a recipe that called for deli roast beef, onions, and green peppers with swiss, cheddar, and pepper jack shredded cheeses.

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It was really good, but for the 2nd attempt, we added mushrooms, a sauce made from ketchup and mayo, and used Steak-Umm instead of roast beef. Ummm, don’t use that greasy crap. The roast beef was sooo much better…and cheaper…and easier to cook with! We also decided that we liked the sauce for dipping instead of inside the quesadilla. Third time was a charm in this case!

Chicken Parmesan Wraps and Quesadillas

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If there’s one thing I learned this summer, it’s you can pretty much turn any meal into a quesadilla! Haha! This one was actually a wrap, made with shredded chicken, marinara, spinach, and mozzarella, but because the Flatout Bread I bought only came with 6 wraps (and I made this on a day when the big kids each had a friend over), I made The Littles a quesadilla (using the last spinach tortilla!). I bet this would be even better with actual chicken parmesan, but it was still great with plain shredded chicken!

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Sausage Skillet

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One of my favorite meals to make (mainly because it’s so simple and delicious) is what I call “Sausage Skillet.” It’s just smoked sausage (I get the less processed uncured beef one), green bell peppers, onions, and potatoes cooked together in a skillet (I recommend cooking the sausage first then the other veggies, then mixing them together). I also like to make a “Cabbage Skillet” that is made with smoked sausage, onions, and cabbage, again because it’s so easy and delicious!

Amish One Pan Ground Beef and Cabbage Skillet

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This is another one of those super simple, but super yummy skillet dinners (with the food all mixed together, yay!). It’s just ground beef, cabbage, onions, garlic, diced tomatoes, and a little tomato sauce (which I actually omitted this time around). It tastes like spaghetti, only with cabbage instead of pasta!

Eggplant Parmesan with Grilled Parmesan Zucchini and Brown Rice Spaghetti

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Joe’s dad gifted us lots of goodies from his garden over the summer (which was especially nice since I killed everything except the herbs in our garden, whoooooops!). In one haul, we received 2 gorgeous eggplants, so naturally, my mind started dreaming of eggplant Parmesan.

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Taylor was all about wanting to fry up some eggplant, so I salted them to draw the bitterness out, and once they drained, she dipped them in an egg and milk mixture and coated them with gluten-free bread crumbs and then handed them off to me to be fried in oil.

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She did a pretty good job!

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We put the fried eggplant on top of some gluten-free spaghetti, which we topped with spaghetti sauce, and then covered it all with Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses and fresh basil from the garden.

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Pa also gifted us a bunch of zucchini, which we ended up grilling and topping with Parmesan. It was a cheesy-good night! Haha!

Pork Chop and Squash Skillet

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We also got a bunch of squash from Pa, which I ended up throwing in a pan with diced pork chops, potatoes, and onions. Taylor said it was the best squash dish I’ve ever made!

Honey Mustard Chicken Salad 

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Salads are another favorite meal of mine. They’re easy, full of veggies, and all of the food mixes together! This salad had chicken, bacon, avocado, radishes, corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, and a honey mustard dressing I made from scratch! It was really good…and yes, I ate that entire bowl all by myself!

Greek Chicken Salad

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I love Greek food and I love salads, so you know I love Greek salads! What’s not to love? Grilled chicken, cucumbers, red onions, tomatoes, Kalamata olives, feta cheese, and basil! Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, YES!

Jambalaya with Riced Cauliflower and Garlic Bread

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I’m from NOLA so Cajun food has been my favorite since birth. Unfortunately, my family doesn’t share my love for it, so I don’t make it nearly as often as I would like. If I had my way, we’d eat crawfish étouffée, gumbo, jambalaya, and red beans and rice every week! In this jambalaya, I omitted the chicken (to keep the cost down) and used riced cauliflower instead of white rice. It was good, but I missed the rice. Just another reason why I shouldn’t eat it very often. 😉

Spinach and Artichoke Dip with Chicken

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For some reason, I was seriously craving spinach and artichoke dip. I decided to add some chicken to make it a meal. Some of us had it with bread chips and some of us had it on top of gluten-free pasta. I cooked the pasta and the dip in my new cast aluminum pots I found on clearance at Aldi that week for less than $25 (for both)! Not only are they bright green (which is awesome all by itself), but I have never boiled water so fast!

Mackerel Salad Lettuce Wraps

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From the time I was 12 until I was 16, my mom was married to a guy from Thailand. His mom taught my mom to make a couple authentic Thai dishes. My favorite was this mackerel salad with lettuce wraps! My mom hasn’t made it in a while, and recently I just got a hankering for it, so I asked my mom for the recipe. My mom’s a lot like me (or I guess I’m a lot like her), so she didn’t have a recipe. She just said, “Mix some canned mackerel with some cucumber, red onion, cilantro, lime juice, and fish sauce and wrap it in some lettuce.” Thanks Mom. No really, thanks! I managed to find the perfect balance of those ingredients when I made it for the first time! My hubby loved it, but the kids weren’t impressed. Taylor doesn’t like any seafood, except canned tuna, which I thought would be similar enough, but I was wrong. Oh, well! Mama’s definitely going to be making this a lot more often! It’s just as good as I remember!

Garlic Butter Cheeseburger Sliders with Mexican Street Corn Style Grilled Zucchini

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I tried Mexican street corn for the first time this summer and fell in love instantly! I’ve always thought the sound of mayo slathered on corn sounded DEEsgusting, but man am I a fan now! If you too think it sounds gross, just try it. You can’t taste mayo, just awesome goodness! We had a bunch of zucchini to use up, so what better way than to grill it up and top it with butter, mayo, queso franco, chili seasoning, cilantro, and lime juice? I assure you, I ate more than those 2 pieces pictured! Yuuuuuummmmm! And those cheeseburgers topped with butter, garlic, and parsley were mouth watering good too! They weren’t quite as good as the ham and cheese sliders I made one night when our friends (the kids’ Godparents came over), but they were really really good.

Bahn Mi-Less Rice Bowl

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I really love pho (a Vietnamese noodle soup), so when I found this recipe for a bowl-take on the Vietnamese sandwich (bahn mi), I knew I had to try it, and boy am I glad I did! I cooked half a pork loin in the crock pot covered in a marinade made with garlic, soy sauce, and brown sugar. Then I pickled some radishes, carrots, cucumbers, and cabbage in white vinegar and sugar. Then I served them all on a bed of white rice and topped it all with chopped jalapenos, cilantro, and more of the pork’s sauce. It was heavenly! I liked it even more than pho! And my kids, who totally turned their noses up at it when asked what we were having for dinner, not only ate what I gave to them, but asked for more! I’m really interested in trying it in sandwich form now! “Bahn mi” actually means bread, which is why this bread-less dish is called “Bahn-Mi Less.

And there you have 24 of the dishes I cooked over the summer! So next time you find yourself at a loss for what to make for dinner, give one of these meals a try!

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