Saturday, August 11, 2018

An Excited Twist In Our Story

This summer was a whirlwind. After completing Whole 30 in May Mike and I had never felt better, I mean aside from the dislocated jaw and sprained shoulder fiasco. The first few days in June I felt sluggish and thought it was just from dealing with the last week and just having visitors. Mike and I joked about the possibility of being pregnant, but more than anything it was really just joking. In fact Olivia was giving us a ride through tantrums and starting the terrible two’s early while also teething some of her most difficult teeth. Being seriously pregnant was pretty far from our minds and we didn’t even know how it would have been possible based on certain details, but God can be funny and throw things at us we just never expect. It is in fact all in His timing, not ours.

So to put all the assumptions to rest or maybe even surprise some people we are in fact expecting our sweet #4 early next year! After the initial shock, we are crazy excited and the kids have known since the beginning of June and are truly the best secret keepers! We were able to keep our precious surprise to ourselves for quite a long time, since we decided to really lay low and allow me to rest as much as possible. I also didn’t start showing until this week which is nearly 4 months along. I know our parents have been dying to share the news and they have been such great sports about letting us share on our time.

So here we go with another incredible, crazy, life changing adventure and we couldn’t be more thrilled! The kids have been the absolute best! All three of them love snuggling on my barely showing belly, giving kisses to my belly button that has been popped for a few weeks and coming up with the most unique baby names! We really can’t wait for this little joy to join our crew early next year!

Sunday, August 5, 2018

End of Summer

I’ve pretty much taken a good break from the blog this summer and it was much needed. It’s really nice to be able to escape from something, even if it’s just a short while and really focus on self love, family and good old mental and emotional health. I would never classify myself as a stressful person, but this year I realized I became very stressed and it actually affected me physically. At the beginning of summer my jaw began to pop frequently and became very sore. Eating was painful and because I knew my jaw was irritated I began clenching at night. After a visit to my dentist I learned I had in fact dislocated it and since it wasn’t a direct result of an injury such as taking a soccer ball to the face like I did in high school, it’s then stress induced. Say whaaaaat? I had no idea stress could cause me to actually dislocate my jaw. And since the jaw isn’t like other joints like say a shoulder that can be popped back into place, the muscles of the jaw have to become relaxed enough to naturally move back into place which can take some time and medications. I’ll be honest, talking to my dentist about three different medications he wanted me to take sent me into a panic attack in his chair. It was absolutely embarrassing and it was very clear just how stressed I had become. I refused the medications other than a muscle relaxer and applied our Panaway essential oil down my jaw bone. About a week later I had to eliminate the muscle relaxer, but that’s another twist in this whole story that will just have to wait a little bit!

Today I can happily say, I have removed the things in my life that were causing me ample amounts of stress, I took a break from nearly everything I do and spent the summer taking care of myself with much needed rest. By the way if you happen to go through a similar experience with your jaw talk to your dentist about an Aqualizer, it worked wonders! On top of my jaw incident, a few days later Mike thought it was a great idea to sprain his shoulder by falling off our dining table bench. Okay, okay, he did sprain his shoulder and yes he did do it falling backwards off the bench, but he also completely protected and saved Olivia from falling and hitting the back of her head on the floor which would have been so much worse. We are so very thankful it was Mike who was injured and even more thankful it was just a severe sprain.

Today, even though it’s August, I felt like I spent most of July throwing spaghetti at the wall so I’m jumpstarting into fall. Mostly because I’ve been ready for it for awhile, but I just need a fresh new season. We’ve spent the last few weeks stuck inside with constant rain and we finally had some sunshine this weekend to make life enjoyable again. We’ve also spent our summer weeks celebrating the 4th of July in Southport, traveling to Maryland and Raleigh to visit friends, chasing butterflies, catching fireworks at the beach and taking trips to the pool, beach and splash pad as long as we had breaks in what seemed to have been non-stop rain. We’re getting ready for Kensi to start kindergarten and Finn preschool which just seems crazy. Having a few days with just Olivia this year will be a new routine I”m excited to learn.

I hope your summer was packed full of fun and you were able to get some much needed R&R as well. I have so many fun things to share in the next few weeks and I hope you’ll join me and our fam as we get back into the swing of things here on the blog!


Monday, June 18, 2018

Kensi’s Mermaid Inspired 6th Birthday

Over the weekend we celebrated Kensi’s sweet sixth birthday with a mermaid themed party. She’s been planning her birthday for months and actually stuck with her theme this year. We can’t believe she’s already six. Time really is a thief, but we do love watching her grown into the beautiful little girl that she is. Parenthood is so bittersweet, but we cherish these sweet memories we get to make with our kids.

We wanted to keep the party very simple with lots of balloons for most of the decor. We did a variety of ocean blue colored latex balloons and left them float in the dining room to give it an under the sea vibe. We also added in clear balloons which we filled with confetti and finished our balloon decor with a few silver dazzler stars. For the table decor we purchased three yards of shimmery metallic fabric to use as the tablecloth and topped it with basic colored paper products.

Food was kept to a minimum with delivered pizza, homemade cupcakes, custom donuts and salt water taffy candies. Our party was low key and low matience which kept the stress levels low and it helped to have some of our favorite oils going in our diffuser along with some mermaid music playing in the background! The best part was gifting each of Kensi’s friends with a bundle of balloons to take home with their party favors. They were excited to have their own bouquet and we were happy because it left us less to clean up! Pure genius.

Source List
Colored Latex Balloons \ Shop Sweet Lulu
Mylar Star Balloons \ Shop Sweet Lulu
Mermaid Confetti  \ Shop Sweet Lulu
Metallic Paper Straws | Shop Sweet Lulu
Seashell Napkins \ Shop Sweet Lulu
Colored Paper Products \ Hobby Lobby
Donuts \ Duck Donuts

Friday, June 8, 2018

Whole30 & How We Changed

Mike and I have toyed with the idea of committing to the Whole30 plan for almost a year and we finally decided to give it a whirl after feeling a little crappy and in a major recipe rut. Honest...we’ve been ordering out more than we’d like, we typically keep it to once a week tops, and we’ve felt quite lazy and tired. Aside from eating out, our eating habits are pretty good. We eat a lot of produce, but we do like crunchy snacks such as pretzels, tortilla chips and crackers with hummus and pasta is always an easy choice for dinner when we’re feeling uninspired. We wanted to feel better which made us decide to take on Whole30 for the month of May.

When we started reading what we would be cutting out (dairy, grains, alcohol, legumes and sugar) we were surprised how much added sugar is in our food. Condiments are a biggie and we’re saucy people! But we knew the journey was short and if we didn’t gain better health at the end, then we wouldn’t do it again, but we were only kidding ourselves by saying that out loud because we both knew this challenge was definitely for the better and it needed to be done. It just made us feel better to allow ourselves that type of thinking, it was safe but not at all realistic.

Getting started, we decided now or never and May was our next full month. We built in a cheat day for Mother’s Day and discussed possibly cutting our month short since we would have visitors at the end of the month, but we had every intention to carry this through the end of the month as closely as possible. If you follow me on Instagram I shared what I ate each day following with a dinner photo and sometimes a recipe. There are some Whole30 cookbooks out there to purchase, but I didn’t want to overwhelm Mike or myself by feeling like we were creating everything new. If we wanted this to be a lifestyle change, in the sense of working in healthier options we knew we needed to set ourselves up for success. So instead of finding all new Whole30 recipes, we tried our best to keep our normal meals in place and alter them to meet Whole30 guidelines. That more or less meant instead of using flour, we used almond flour, soy sauce was swapped out for coconut aminos, we omitted cheese, worked in almond milk which we keep on hand anyways because of Olivia, and changed up our normal coffee routine.

The first day was easy, just as anything is in the beginning. I felt empowered, in control and motivated. The second day I woke up with a headache, dreaded drinking almond milk in my coffee because of the flavor change. My headache lasted most of the day. I rolled peppermint essential oil on my temples multiple times and really wanted to eat something sweet. I was cranky, tired and not motivated to eat what I knew I needed to eat. On this day Mike was feeling good which made me even more irritated because it was my bright idea to start what was now a painful journey and I wanted it to be a breeze and it wasn’t. I finished the day taking ibuprofen and went to bed praying I would feel better in the morning.

When Day 3 rolled around I felt so much better. The day before had to be my body detoxing and angry for not giving it what it craved: sugar. I felt like a new person and I was excited to keep this thing going. Mike on the other hand was me 24 hours later. He felt like pure crap. He was cranky for two full days and I was at the point of giving into something he wanted to eat just to cool him down, but he insisted he was working through it. Thank goodness Day 5 came and Mike was finally back to himself, but better. We made it to our one week mark and this journey felt as if it has lasted a lifetime. However, we were both feeling lighter and less bloated, and finding ourselves staying fuller longer throughout the day.

We continued into week 2 with no problems. Mother’s Day was quickly approaching and we were over the moon excited to have a cheat day! It’s so silly, but a lot of our conversations that week revolved around what we wanted to eat on Sunday. Pasta was #1 on our list along with wine. However, the day before we worked outside in the heat and I didn’t fuel my body with enough food and developed another massive headache. Mike offered to make dinner and we planned to have spaghetti squash with homemade meatballs (altering our go to recipe to meet Whole30). It was late and we finally got the kids to bed when I laid down on the couch and asked him if he has started the spaghetti squash. He had no idea how to prep it so we decided to just make some whole wheat pasta.
We ate maybe, MAYBE 1/2 cup of pasta and literally couldn’t/didn’t want to eat anymore. We were SO FULL!

While we woke up Sunday morning to our much anticipated cheat day, we were feeling a little off from our pasta the night before. We moved forward with our planned breakfast, Mike made me one of my favorites, cinnamon french toast. It was absolutely delicious, but shortly afterward we finished we were both starving! We had only fed our bodies forms of sugar and they were begging for whole foods. Throughout the day we found ourselves making healthier food choices where we were choosing items with minimal carbs and tons of veggies. We did indulge in some wine, chocolate and popcorn by the end of the night, but our cheat day was different than we thought it would be. We literally couldn’t eat the foods we thought we could anymore, or at least not to the extent of qualities and that’s where moderation comes in. We learned a big lesson. Where we always thought we ate in really good moderation is now nowhere near how we define moderation today. Of course that could change again over time if we slowly allow ourselves to fall back into our old habits. Not that they were necessarily bad habits, just different as everyone’s body reacts and functions slightly differently. That’s the beauty we’ve found doing Whole30, we were able to detox our body and learn what foods really fueled it, made it function and made us feel better.

I’m proud to share we finished our month out strong! The last two weeks (and a few days) went quickly because we were enjoying our new routine. My mom came to visit and she asked us to not change a thing, except maybe have some wine with her as she wanted to go back home with the habits started. Mike and I feel so much better, better than we thought we could feel. Does that make sense? We realize we were living our lives constantly feeling heavy, tired and unmotivated. We have changed so much in the last 30 days physically, mentally and emotionally. We feel lighter, our bodies are more toned, we’re not bloated and my face has cleared up in spots I’ve been struggling with for months! We’re exercising more and going to bed earlier. We are genuinely happier. We’re excited to start each day and what it has in store. We’re not stressing out over different things like we use to, we’re accomplishing more, using our essential oils regularly and managing our time better. I’m not saying Whole30 made all things happen to us, I’m saying by making healthier lifestyle choices it spurs us to make even more healthier choices. It’s addictive. And it’s well worth working on it for 30 days to gain a better perspective on our health and our life.

Photos on the left were taken April 2018. Photos on the right were taken May 26, 2018.

Our Whole 30 challenge may be over, but it doesn’t mean the habits are gone. Due to how good we feel, we both want to keep it going and work it into the kids’ meal routine. Of course we’ll still make our favorite cookie recipes and celebrate our birthdays with desserts, but it’s all in moderation and special occasions. Our goal is to keep up these eating habits and continue the Whole 30 and branching into Paleo the first 10 days of every month to keep us on track and to help us detox if needed.

Below are several of the recipes we used and will continue to use in our weekly meal plans. You can also see my daily menu on my Instagram Story bubble for Whole30 (@rachbraden).  I hope our experience with Whole30 inspires you to try it and see what changes come from it!

Fruit Bowls: 2-3 different fruits topped with sliced almonds, sprinkled with cinnamon.
Tomatoes + Eggs: 2lbs tomatoes (roughly chopped), olive oil and 3 garlic cloves. Simmer 15 minutes. Season with salt, pepper + red pepper flakes. Add six whole eggs, cover & cook 4 minutes. Serve with fresh basil.
Kale + Eggs: Sautéed kale with garlic. Top with one over easy egg. 
Grapefruit + Scrambled Eggs with Ghee.
Mushroom Chicken Burger: 1lb ground chicken, 5 baby bella mushrooms, 2 tablespoons parsley minced, salt & pepper. Drizzle olive oil. Mix with hands, form into 4 patties. Grill on medium heat, 5 minutes each side. 
Chicken Lettuce Wraps
Beef Carnitas with Lettuce Wraps

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