Gonna Eat My Cookies

Repeat after me, moms. “You’re a good mom.” Repeat it again. And again. And once more for good measure. And if my own mom is reading this, I apologize (again) for every time I made you whisper, cry, yell, or speak this mantra.

Yinz guys, it’s been a tough three hours since I got home from work. I’m finally feeling inspired to write again, inspired to maybe actually pick up that guitar I kept yearning for, and like my running and weight-loss have hit a stride. I’m feeling GOOD at this working on me thing, but see, I think that’s exactly the problem.

I’ll be writing more as the days come, but Greg and I just embarked in a study at our church of “12 Traits of the Greats” (which you can get here and start digging in, too). Long story for another blog short, we focused on responsibility and mindset last night. Our group didn’t get through all of our questions, so we decided to ask each other some of them before bed. This started my wrestling with myself.

The thing is, responsibility comes pretty darn easy to me. I was the oldest kid, a preacher’s kid, who always was striving to be good. I wanted to work hard to get good grades and get into a good school and get a good job. I happened to say to Greg in our conversation that I didn’t struggle with responsibility and that I was anxious to dig into some of the other traits that I do struggle with. But the reality was is, our conversation made me wrestle with something I haven’t taken full responsibility for.

A little over ten years ago, I got a fairly good job and had a fairly good life, but was in fact very irresponsible. I had been living with a boyfriend for just about two years and wasn’t leading a very good, responsible life. The story unfolds throughout these pages, but basically I became a victim of nasty things and didn’t have the strength to get out. I ended up pregnant and took on the responsibility of having my first child. Or did I?

I wasn’t responsible with myself during the month I got pregnant. I wasn’t honest with anyone, not even with myself. I was letting Satan take something beautiful and turn it into something very broken. And the thing was, I didn’t care. Not one bit. I didn’t care so much that I never found out some very important facts that one day my kid might want to know.

So last night, I struggled with this. I wrestled with my spirit and asked God over and over to help me release my anger and tension and anxiety over this, things I’ve carried for almost ten years. I asked him some pretty private, personal, and important things.

So then, of course, tonight was going to go a bit haywire when I was trying to get the now nine-year-old innocent child to do some simple tasks – sit with her sisters while I took a phone call, warm up her dinner while I plated the other kids’, find boots that actually fit her feet. And then this mama lost it.

I didn’t get mean. I just let the Devil take the joy from the room, let him suck the good things that were happening in front of me away. I missed the fact that she’s nine and that she’s probably even more tired of being responsible than I am. I let my guard down and let what I am wrestling with as my personal pain and chains impact precious time with my precious children.

But after some coffee and {keto} cookies and a quick mama time out to get my thoughts out, life feels eons better. I’m going to go back tonight and re-read some of the 12 Traits book and make my knees hit the floor again asking for God’s triumph to unfold. And don’t worry – I won’t eat the other ten cookies that I made. A keto cookie is nothing like the red velvet brownie cookies I’d much rather have right now – but my mindset tells me I made the far better choice.

 Stay tuned for more on this story and more details about the study our church is embarking on. For now, I’m gonna eat my cookies.

Lottie Dolls: Birthday Girl Sophia

Disclosure: This post is a collaboration between this blog and Lottie Dolls. We were provided a Birthday Girl Sophia in exchange for our honest review. All opinions are 100% our own.

Tomorrow is a big day – our oldest ‘lil girl will turn nine! We celebrated a ‘lil bit tonight and shared with her a doll this mama is swooning over – the Lottie Dolls Birthday Girl Sophia! She was the perfect addition to Arianna’s doll collection – she already has a Lottie Doll and LOVES her – so both of us spent some time checking out all her cool features.

Lottie Doll

Birthday Girl Sophia is part of the Lottie brand, one created to empower kids to be themselves and engage in imaginative play. They are built proportionate to a nine-year-old child, can stand, and have realistic hair. The best part? They encourage both girls and boys not to grow up too quickly. (If you have to have her, head over to the Lottie Dolls site to find Sophia, Lottie, Finn and more friends!)

Our set came with a fun friend, Biscuit the Beagle, and adorable accessories like a tiny bone and dog bed. Arianna was quick to start imagining how Sophia and Beagle could be best of buds! (Head over here for information on how to purchase Biscuit.)

Our Experience: Birthday Girl Sophia and Biscuit the Beagle

I admit I hung onto Sophia a little longer than I wanted to because she was going to be perfect for Arianna’s birthday. I think it was worth the wait. Arianna loves realistic dolls (Lottie Dolls have flexible limbs – that’s one of the things she looks for in dolls), especially ones that have a theme or story. Sophia fits the bill perfectly. And the accessories that come in the Lottie Dolls Pets make for tons of imaginative play, too!

Check out this video to watch Arianna unbox Sophia and Biscuit. Listen for what I love most – Arianna just might agree with me! =)

Isn’t she just adorable? I’m thinking that Sophia (+ friends like Biscuit and other Lottie Dolls) are going to be a hit this holiday season…and top the birthday girl gift lists!

(PRO MOM TIP: Get Sophia now and keep her on hand for those surprise birthday party invites that sneak into your kids’ backpacks!)

If you’re in love like we are, join Club Lottie and follow Lottie on Facebook and Twitter! You can purchase any doll from the Lottie Dolls collection online at lottie.com.

Win Your Own Birthday Girl Sophia and Biscuit!

We love to spoil our fans and are sure you’ll love having a Sophia and Biscuit of your own! Enter our giveaway which is open to US Residents 18+ and ends at 11:59 PM on Sunday, October 15. Good luck!

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British Soccer Camp: Success!

*articles may contain affiliate links* This post about British Soccer Camp is one such post.

Do you remember what Evan really wanted to do this summer? He was super excited about spending a week at British Soccer Camp at Pittsburgh Indoor Sports Arena – and he did it! 

Last week, he (and Arianna) stayed with Pappy and Grammie so he was nice and close to the camp. (We live about 35 minutes away and six year olds go to half day camp from 9 to noon – huge kudos and thanks to my parents for helping make this easy on my commute!) While he didn’t tell us much about camp specifics, his excitement to get up each morning without Pappy having to encourage him speaks volumes. (This is a boy who sleeps like a rock and does not like to wake up.)

soccer camp

The week started by me and my dad dropping Evan off – we wanted to meet the coaches and get all the logistics covered. (Which can I just say that British Soccer Camp makes this so easy – they sent some reminder emails before the week started and included a release form that allowed my dad, mom, and uncle to get Evan throughout the week. We printed that off and had no issues all week – super easy.)

Evan was the third kid to check in, but would have been first if he didn’t have a I HAVE TO PUT MY BRITISH SOCCER JERSEY ON NOW moment in the van once he saw the coaches walking into PISA wearing their jerseys. He was younger than the other two kids and said to me, “good thing I’m small, I’m going to outrun them cause I am so fast from not running in a while”. Hmmph! This was seconds before he pushed me out of the bench area and said to go to work ’cause he was good and settled. Well then, looks like we have a Beckham on our hands?!?!

My dad handled camp the rest of the week and he was impressed with the ease, the facility (and staff), and coaches. Evan was exhausted after each day but definitely loved it.

On the last day of camp, we took the whole family plus Pappy and Grammie to watch the campers play a game and get their awards. Coaches James and Diego also gave the kids an evaluation – lines right up with what we’ve been trying to work with Evan on.

After a week of camp, Evan definitely shows that he loves playing defense over anything (sorry, Coach X, but we think he will try to do some more goalie work soon, too!) and is still all about fairness on the field. He’s looking forward to his fall season at our local Y, but keeps asking if he can do camp again next year!

British Soccer Camp

While summer might be coming to an end, there are still some several options for the soccer camp around the country. And keep watching – they’ll be back in Pittsburgh next summer!

British Soccer Camp

Before we signed up, our friends over at US Family Guide filled me in on why this camp is so special:

British Soccer Camps are the most popular soccer camp in the US. With an innovative curriculum that develops skills, speed and confidence in players ages 3-18, The British Soccer Camp provide boys and girls with the rare opportunity to receive high-level soccer coaching from a team of international expert’s right in the heart of their own community. In addition to teaching new skills and improving game performance, each British Soccer Camp provides lessons in character development, cultural education and is the most fun your child can have learning the sport they love!

Want to keep in the know? Follow along on Twitter with @ChallengerCamps and be sure to follow @usfg for family-friendly fun near you.

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What camps did your kiddo participate in this summer? 

 

Like Statues

Arianna and Evan have always loved visits to the Pittsburgh Zoo. On a recent trip, they acted just like statues as part of their journey through what’s become “the norm” for them.


If you ever have the chance to experience the zoo on a cloudy afternoon, late in the day – do it! We were there the day they brought the baby elephant out to public but just an hour after they’d closed up the elephant house to visitors. It was like a ghost town and we got to slowly mingle and truly enjoy our favorite parts of the park up until closing time.

Fat to Fit – The Struggle is Real

When people tell me how proud of me they are, I usually smile and say thanks. In fact, it’s still a work in progress, so sometimes I even get down on myself and say how far I still have to go. Truth is that deep down, I feel like they don’t really get how real my struggle has been to go from fat to fit.

Yeah, sure, I’ve run half marathons (yes, that’s plural). I’ve lost 173 pounds (in total, not off my highest weight!) over the last six years. I’ve done things I never thought I could (like jump off a sail boat into the Caribbean or jump up on a box at a crossfit class). But I hate that people probably think I make these things look easy, because they are not.

Imagine you are in a starting corral of runners and you start to breathe really fast because you’re looking down at your body and looking at the body next to you. You start to question if you really should be here doing this thing. You are not a runner! You quickly forget the miles and hours of training, the on point eating you’ve done in the last five months and just hyper focus in on the moment. It’s crushing. It’s numbing. And it’s a real struggle. You forget that (even though you are still working) your journey from fat to fit has been full of way more endurance than many of the people with the full marathon bibs have ever gone through.

Or maybe you are laying face down on the floor of a crossfit class wiping away tears because you can’t do burpies and you really don’t want to be a baby about doing them again. You justify your thoughts that you have way more pounds to lift off the floor than anyone else in the room and jumping up with this much flab just isn’t pretty. You forget that a year ago you were laying face down on a different floor crying because you were so tired of being so tired and unwell. You forget that you have come so far, all you can do is focus on that moment and get down on yourself.

Even if I make it look easy with my posts about running and Whole30, I am here to tell you it hasn’t been. I’ve had to overcome a lot of physical and mental struggles. Even when I was at my thinnest in 2014, I still had a lot of issues. (I couldn’t do a burpie or box jump, for instance.)

But what I can say is I am working on being proud of how far I’ve come. And sometimes, that may show too little or too much. This is all part of my journey, and I am thankful for those who support me, those who get me, and those who are inspired by me. No, it’s not easy going from fat to fit – but it’s my struggle and I’m loving it.

Whole30: Round Two

Yesterday completed Whole30 Round Two for me. Let me just shout it out – I am out top of the world happy with my results. There, I said it and that’s that, right?

No, for real. I’m more proud of myself than I was the last time I went on my weight loss journey. And if you don’t remember, during that one I dropped 130 pounds, ran a half marathon, and even wore a bikini for the first time since I was a kid. I was (excuse me) damn proud of myself and what I accomplished – and not just because I looked good but because I felt good and was healthier for my kids.

But this time is different. This time, I am older and have two more kids and a longer commute. I have more faith. I have more drive. I have more to overcome. And I am doing it.

Choosing to do a second round of Whole30 this year was a no-brainer. After reintroducting foods and then training for the half, my eating sort of slushed a little. I was mostly gluten-free, but I allowed myself some treats (and paid for them later). I was mostly dairy-free, but I ate ice cream twice in one weekend – packed with guilt. It was time to do something for me again.

This time, we tried a few new recipes. I ate less sweet potatoes. I lifted heavier (I still have lots of gains to make there, but boy am I seeing changes). I ran less distance. I found beauty in my imperfections. And I learned that eating clean is a good way for me to live.

Whole30 Round Two Results

As a result of my commitment to my health, I have:

  • Longer hair
  • Looser clothes (I have gone from an 18 to a 14/16 and even put on a pair of size 12’s!)
  • More energy
  • More strength
  • Lost 6 inches
  • Lost 17.6 pounds

And you guys – that’s just on Whole30 Round Two. In all this year, I have lost 43 pounds in six months and have found out what I need to put in my body to fuel it properly. And I’ve gained confidence, courage, and strength.

I have to give a big thank you to my husband for letting me take care of me – putting in hours at the gym or on the trail, leaving dinner work up to him, making him read labels and hunt for “weird” ingredients. Greg, you’ve made this so much easier on me, even though this time around of losing it has been the hardest. Thank you!

Last Day of School 2017

This one is coming to you a month late, but The Bigs last day of school photos have to make it to the blog at some point! It’s incredible to take a look at how much has changed in a year.

last day of school

Seriously, though. And in the month since that photo was taken (their last day was May 31), they’ve both changed even more. (For instance, Evan has way less hair and I swear Arianna has grown a foot.)

Arianna completed second grade and fully lives the tween life (the struggle of being the oldest and not wanting to do “baby” stuff anymore is getting to be tough!). Let’s take a close up look at her first day of school photo from this year and then I’m sure you’ll see what we are faced with – the fact that we are raising a smart and gorgeous girl who is going to move mountains!

That there is a baby compared to her “now” photo! Someone hold me.

And then there is Evan. He excelled in kindergarten and is probably able to tell you how many days until school starts again. This boy loves learning and exploring – we can’t blame him – so school comes naturally easy for him, too.

Sure, keeping these two busy for the summer hasn’t been the easiest, but it sure is enjoyable having them home to fill the house with laughs and fun. Their little sisters are going to miss them when school starts next month, that’s for sure!

How are your kids doing this summer? How about mom and dad? 

Stitches

A summer wouldn’t be a summer without a trip for a slushy, right? Especially when that slushy is accompanied by stitches and a trip to the ER.

On Tuesday (gosh, it now seems years ago), this was the scene (I’m sparing you the gory one).

After a fall, Arianna ended up with nine stitches in the underside of her chin. She is so brave, sitting still on the bed while the doctors stitched her up. She tried to see under her chin to watch what they were doing, but you know that doesn’t work!

It meant missing her last softball games, but she seemed okay with it because that slushy though. For the next week she has to keep her face dry. That’s a challenge with how much she loves to swim at the Y for lunch!

Arianna says thanks for all the prayers and love she’s felt over the last few days. xoxo

Fathering

There’s this really great thing we have going on at our house – it’s a balance that sometimes seems so messy and so perfect all at the same time. The fathering part of our lives is something pretty special.

We’ve talked about it before, Greg being a stay-at-home-dad. It’s a semi-unique challenge as we’ve flipped society’s standards for marriage and family life. We’ve had the fights, we’ve heard the opinions, and for now, Greg being the primary caregiver for our kiddos is what works. (That’s not to say he won’t be getting a job any time soon – we’re trying to attack our debt head-on, so perhaps more to come on that later.)

But this fathering thing that he does is pretty spectacular. Do the dishes and laundry always get done? No, but are the kids happy and healthy? Yes. Do the kids sometimes run to him first when they have a boo-boo? Yes! Does Greg struggle with his role and the challenge it brings for friendships and meeting “my expectations”? Sure, but do we have good thing together? Yes. Yes. Yes.

Greg, I know I don’t always show my gratitude for you being the one who carries the brunt of the household or that I get on you about always being “the good cop” or I don’t understand how it must feel to be financially dependent on me. But what I do know is that your fathering heart, your passion for the outdoors and fun, and your way of being you mean so much to me and our kids. Thank you for fathering and doing this crazy life with me. Happy Father’s Day!

 

Love the bag Greg is lounging on? You can get your own here!