A Family Health Challenge Recap

For 8 weeks, Brett and I participated in a health challenge with several family members. I really liked the challenge we did, because it really focused on making healthy habits and healthy lifestyle changes.  I'm not a real advocate of cutting out entire food groups and I also liked that this health challenge was able to be customized for each individual and what works best for them.  We did the 8 Week Health Challenge from Six Sister's Stuff.  I seriously think it is a great one for people to try out!  Like I said, it can be customized to encourage weight loss, or just to create good habits.

After the Family Fun Run

For instance, any exercise would qualify, so that was up to me!  I have really liked blogilates.  She has awesome work outs, and an excellent beginner's workout calendar.  She also releases a new (free!) workout calendar every month.  Honestly, I have seen some incredible results for the limited amount of time I dedicated to doing her workouts.  I have improved the strength in my core, legs, arms, and feel so much more toned.  I also am improving my flexibility, which is great and makes me feel better.  The first time I did some workouts, it was embarrassing how quickly I tired, and how poor my form was.  But I love going back and doing the same workouts and realizing how far I have come.  I also liked having the option of doing this at home during nap time or later in the evening, especially if I couldn't make it out to run during daylight.  There is no way I am running outside in the dark.  Besides the fact that it is pitch black most places, there are wild packs of javalinas, snakes, rats, and endless amounts of creepy crawlies out there.  I prefer to have bright light to have the best use of all my senses.  (I still sometimes run by tall grass and think I hear rattling, and think of a rattlesnake all coiled up, but it is most likely my imagination...however, it makes me run faster!)

I combined some blogilates with running 2-3 times a week.  Usually I run in the late morning and push the kids in the jogging stroller.  Also a good workout.  I don't run too far, usually between a mile and a half and two miles.

Some days I did a run and workout video the same day, sometimes I did one of the activities in a day.  And many days I didn't do any workouts.  It's still a work in progress.  However, I feel so much better now that I am more active and it is motivating to get up and do something, since I know I will feel so good the hours and days following.

For food, it was also up to us to decide for ourselves!  I think all of us wanted to lose weight, especially since a handful of us have recently had babies and wanted to get back down closer to our pre-pregnancy weight.  But since I still breastfeed, I wasn't interested in counting calories or cutting back on them too much.  So the way I approached the food portion, was eating "clean" and less processed foods.  Trust me, I still cheated a lot, though.  It is eye-opening to realize the small bad habits you have, until you are forced to pay attention.  I didn't realize how often I reached for a bite of chocolate, or skipped breakfast, or didn't quite pack as many veggies into a day as I should.  That's why I liked this challenge, it increased my awareness.  I started eating multiple helpings of green salad and steamed veggies at dinner time, if I wasn't full, instead of loading up on the pasta that I made as an entree, I tried to push through cravings or not have a midnight snack before crawling into bed.  Sometimes I succeeded and sometimes I did not.

Most importantly, I got to drinking a lot more water.  I invested in this water bottle, and I am obsessed with it.  Unfortunately, so is Landon.  I should probably get another one to rotate with, since I often turn around and see too much toddler slobber all over my water bottle.  If I drink about three of these a day, I am doing excellent in regards to water intake.

End Results
At the end of the challenge, Brett weighed in 10 pounds lighter and I weighed in 8 pounds lighter.  We were really excited about that!

A couple weeks following the challenge, we did an Allred Family 5k/10k.  I came in last, but it's okay.  Hopefully it will be an annual event and I can set goals to improve.  I did run the whole time and I had had a rough week in regards to kiddos, so I'm considering it a success.

I plan on posting a few meals that we liked during our health challenge. They aren't earth-shattering ideas, but they are the kind of ideas I like to stumble upon.  If a recipe is too weird or complicated, I won't even attempt making it.  Hopefully I will get around to posting them soon!


It's Been a Rough One

It's been a rough week.

An ER visit with Vivienne who has a double ear infection and possibly a UTI...

And Landon split a little bit of his face open near his eye and has a bruised eyelid now...

I've had better weeks.  And I've slept probably more in one night than I have totally combined this week. Poor Brett can't really sleep well when I'm up with Vivienne during the night, so he takes turns helping with her and he is sleep deprived too.  He did bring me a big bag of chocolate home last night when he went to buy some butterfly band-aids for Landon's face.  Smart man.  I sure love him, and wouldn't want to be doing this parenting thing with anyone else!

We are surviving.  And I think we are slowly on the mend!  Hopefully the weekend will bring better days!


Living among the Living...

Wow, that was a long blogging break.  Not intentional at all, but between moving and my babies, it's just been hard to find extra moments.  And then our laptop got a virus, so blogging has been on the backburner.  But I miss it.  I like having a place to record little snippets of our little family life.  

I have been loving our new home and tiny town.  I'm surprised at how well I have adjusted up to this point.  It is suiting me much better than I ever could have anticipated.  I have to say though, the hardest part of living here, is living among so many living things (or things that were once living).

Oh. My. Goodness.  I never knew so many bugs, beetles, and insects could possibly be around one little home.  And figure out so many creative ways to weasel their way into a home.  I hardly bat an eye at some bugs in our house that once would have had me in a fit of panic and trying to cover it with tupperware until Brett could come kill it.  And we can't forget to mention the mosquitoes.  My children have been looking like tiny pimply little teenagers with all the bites they have been accumulating (and yes, I do use repellent too!) all over their faces.  In fact, one Sunday I was ready to stay home from church with Landon because he was surely breaking out into a contagious rash...until Brett explained that they were just mosquito bites.  And indeed, at church, many of the other little children's faces were also covered in bites.

Here are a few encounters I have had with other living creatures in my short time here:

- A snake in our carport right next to the door to our house.  We had only lived there for 3 days.

- A dead squirrel in our front lawn that I did not see until my foot was hovering over it and I nearly stepped on it.  Heart attack followed.

- A bat flew down our chimney and into our house.  My brother caught the footage (he was visiting) on his GoPro.

- A large "thing" was flying around the patio, and I blurted out, "Oh my gosh, what is that?", to which my nephew replied, "It's a hummingbird!".  I can assure you, it was most definitely not a hummingbird, but it was the size of one.  Brett later told me, it was a Tarantula Hawk, named appropriately, seeing as they prey on tarantulas.

- Threw something in our outside trash can, to see a rodent with a long tail, hopping through our carport, right by me.  Brett told me it must've been a Kangaroo Rat, also named for obvious reasons.

- Attended a church campout where they beheaded and hung a rattlesnake they found from a tree.  You should know, that those things (dead or alive and with or without heads) will move around for at least an hour or so, writhing up their muscles back and forth.  It is awfully eerie.

- If you turn on an outdoor light when it's dark outside and then walk out there, be prepared for beetles to dive bomb your face.  I still shreak...every time.  There is no getting used to that!

- Found a massive centipede in our house.  Doesn't sound too bad at the end of this list.  But those things are gross, and can actually hurt you too.

I am probably forgetting some of the memorable moments, but this list will do for now.  Maybe this should be a "series"?  Ha!  Doubt this list will be the extent of my encounters with non-human living things.

However, we do have a dog that we quite like.  His name is Rex.  And we think he is a pretty fun non-human living thing to have around.  Landon loves petting him, watching him sprint around the yard, and watching him drag his tummy across our lawn.  Vivienne's eyes stay fixated on him while we play in the backyard, she just adores him.  And Rex loves licking her toes (I do not love it, but he sneaks it and I don't catch him until it is too late and her toes are smothered in slobbery dog kisses.  I just have to remind myself it won't kill her, and dog kisses are part of childhood, right?).  We also will probably be getting some kitties next week!  They are so cute, plus they eat mice.  And who wants mice around?  Not us!  And if mice aren't around, then the snakes don't usually come around.  It's a win-win in that way.


Beach Bummin' 2014

Before we made our big move, our friends, the Mertz's, suggested we take a vacation together and hit the beach.  We are so glad we joined them!  We stayed in a hotel suite, and split the cost.  It worked out great!  It was a really affordable and fun break.

I'm going to get real here, though.  Roadtrips with babies aren't always for the faint of heart.  On our way to California, it was baaaad.  As in, 3 hours in, I told Brett to turn around and go home, because this just wasn't worth it.  Vivienne screamed for over 2 solid hours.  Not fussed, whined, or whimpered--full fledged screaming.  We stopped 3 times in that time frame for me to hold her, soothe her, feed her, change her, etc. I was sitting in the back seat this whole time, and still, couldn't calm her.  At one point, Landon, Vivienne and I were all crying in the back seat.  It wasn't my finest moment.  Finally, in a moment of total desperation, I turned on Pandora, to a lullaby station, and it was like magic.  She sat listening so concentrated and then after a while drifted off to sleep.  I think I will be buying this pronto.

Thankfully, the trip home went much smoother.  We stopped once for gas and for all to eat, and eeked out enough good behavior out of those kids the rest of the way home.  I mean, I was singing overly-enthusiastic songs of the "itsy-bitsy spider" and what-not for the last hour, to keep them distracted.  But Brett typically prefers my obnoxious singing to children screaming, so it works out.

Also, we were thankful for toes and stickers, which occupied much of Landon's time while he was carseat-bound.  And we discovered Vivienne also loves books, so I held a board book in front of her face the last hour and turned the page every minute or so, to give her something new to look at (I didn't read it aloud to her, since I was enthusiastically singing!).

Enough talk about the travelling, once we were there, it was great!

We stayed up late hanging out with James and Jenessa laughing our heads off at stupid lists on BuzzFeed.

We hit the beach one day, and it turns out, the beach is my children's "happy place".

We recently got this foldable wagon, and it was a lifesaver for the weekend!  Doesn't take up too much trunk space, heavy duty wheels, and really roomy.  We loaded Landon and all of our beach gear into it, to walk to the beach.  Then, while at the beach, we laid a towel down in it, and used it as a bassinet for Vivienne.  She took two of the longest naps of her whole life while in the wagon (I'm sure the ocean noise helped her too, she needs white noise to sleep for long periods of time during the day, I discovered).  Landon just needed a few snacks, and a few beach toys from the dollar store--and he was in heaven.  Seriously loved the beach.

Nursing Vivienne, before her first long nap...beaches are perfect for babies

Kaeti (James' sister) also joined us and is introducing Landon to seashells

The next day we hit the Orange County Swap Meet, napped, walked around Downtown Disney, and went out to dinner.
James showing us some hat tricks

Thanks for the good time, James & Jenessa, Kaeti (and Sam).  Until next time...!


What We Have Been Up To

Boxes and chaos are slowly starting to creep into the corners of every room in the house.  Our move date is quickly coming upon us.  Brett is finishing his last couple days of work at his current job, and then it will be time to get down to serious business and pack up the rest of the house, spend the night at my parent's to celebrate some festivities (my brother is leaving to Texas to serve a mission for our church), and then head to our new home.

The other night, I drew out a birds-eye-view of our farmhouse, solely based off of memory (we were inside for only a few minutes) and three crappy pictures I snapped on my phone.  Then I showed Brett some pinterest boards (his favorite, ha!) of paint ideas and what not.  Then I showed him where I thought certain furniture and paint colors should go, labeled on my sketch.  It got me excited.  Hopefully my memory was somewhat accurate!

I have been picking up a few things for our new home (keeping the tags on and the receipt, just in case).  It seems counterintuitive to be buying more "stuff" right before moving, since usually decluttering and getting rid of things is typical for pre-moving (and we have been doing that too).  But since we will be so far from stores, I am making an exception and getting some things I think will look nice.  I am being conservative though, not going too crazy and buying up too much at once.  I know I can order things online, but I'm weird and like to touch and look and pick up things I want to buy, especially things like throw pillows.  But I'm sure I'll do online shopping as well.

Here is a secret for buying cute decorative pillows for a good price--check the outdoor furniture and pillows as well!  Often times they are less even at full price, and usually have better markdowns when they are on clearance!  My mom told me about this, and I just found a really cute oblong navy pillow in the patio section of Target, for $7.48.  Can't beat that price!

Other things we have been up to...

Vivienne likes the mirror, and since all of them are propped up against walls in anticipation of our move, it really works out.

Squeezing in some visits to the Sweet Tooth Fairy Bakery before we move too far away from it.

I am throwing out all our nasty tupperware that is stained and breaking, and replacing it with some Pyrex glass storage.  So excited!  Target has them on sale for $26 right now!

Renewed my Costco Membership.

Finishing up a women's doubles tennis league with one of my best friends, McKenzie.  Having a blast, but pretty rusty!  Haven't played since before I was pregnant with Landon...

Jumped on the "Saltwater Sandal" bandwagon, and I am so glad I did.  Now I know why everyone else is obsessed with them.  I plan on buying the kids gender neutral colors and letting them become the most awesome hand-me-downs for each other.

Vivienne got another round of vaccinations.  Not our most favorite part of being a baby.  But she still is cute, so it all works out.


Our Future Farmhouse

So, since last posting we were able to take a peek in our future farmhouse.  It was a leap of faith planning on moving somewhere that I had never been.  But Brett and I are somewhere on the spectrum of being "visionary" and "DIY-ers" and knew we could probably fix up whatever we would need to.

However, we were so pleasantly surprised when we walked in!  Sure there are little things that aren't perfect about it, but overall, it is adorable and will be such a great fit for our family!  Here are a few things that I am excited about, now that I have been to our future farmhouse:

- Built-in hutch, for my platters and pretty dishes...similar to the one our current house has!  I was sad to leave the one here, and told Brett I wanted to find an old used hutch and refinish it, because I loved having stuff on display...turns out, I won't need to do that!
- Butcher block countertops.  If you read my post on our current kitchen, you already know that I had dreamed of possibly having butcher block counters replaced in there someday.
- Beadboard kitchen cabinets, add some sweet charm and character to the kitchen.
- A cute little window sill above the kitchen sink and a cute little nook above the stove.
- A natural gas stove.  I mean, who would've thought we would have natural gas out in the boonies...turns out, we do!
- A pantry.  It is small, but we've never had one before, so it's exciting for us.

Living Areas
- A large stone natural gas fireplace...swoon.
- A large fully enclosed Arizona Room with hard wood floors and giant windows.

- Each one has a bathroom connected to it
- We will have a walk-in closet!  It's small, but still a huge upgrade from any closet we've ever had.

- Huge enclosed backyard, lined with giant mature trees, for plenty of shade (and tree swings, don't worry--Brett is aware this will be another project he will have, along with farmhouse picnic tables).
- A hot tub in the back yard, which will provide for great date-nights-in (or girls nights, if any of my friends come and visit me!).
- Apple trees with apples growing and ripening up for the fall.  I will make apple crisp, homemade applesauce, and dehydrated apple chips with them.

I'm excited to get to decorate such a charming little house to call ours for the next while.  Stay tuned!


I'm a List Person...

So, I have had a whirlwind of emotions in regards to this move.  Both excitement and sadness.  I have never lived in a rural area before, I've never even really lived outside of Mesa.  It doesn't mean that I haven't dreamed of having an adventure living in a new place, or that I don't appreciate other places, or travel (I have been lucky enough to do some traveling).  However, for my living situations up to this point, life has kept me in the same area for a while.  So this is all going to be so new.

I've been thinking about all the things I will miss here and all the things I'm excited for there...because as someone who has lived all over the world (the awesome Becky Mecham), told me, "If you think you'll like it or if you think you'll hate it, you are right".  So I'm letting myself miss some things, but I'm trying to go into it happy and exhilarated for the changes to come. I have compiled two lists of things I'll miss and things I'm excited about, in regards to our move.  Enjoy!  You might learn a few things about where we live now and where we are moving to!

Things I'll Miss...
- The corner window in our kitchen, I had plans for Brett to build me a little breakfast nook underneath it
- The neighbor boy, about 6 years old, from the house behind us.  He talks to Landon over the fence when they are both playing in their own backyards, and he calls Landon "Jacob, Jakey, and Jake".  Not sure why he is so convinced his names is Jacob, but it's hilarious to eavesdrop on them "playing" and interacting together, even though a big fence divides them.
- The blackberry bush in Frankie's backyard.  It drapes over our fence, and she told us we can eat all the ones we can reach.  Besides the fact that they are the yummiest blackberries, it is too cute seeing Landon on his tiptoes reaching up and picking himself a snack.  He can gobble up endless amounts of those berries!
- Of course, all my local restaurants and amenities within a few minutes drive.  Can you say, Target and Costa Vida?!
- The citrus trees in my backyard, or any citrus trees close by.  Bowie is great for growing a lot of things, but citrus isn't one of them.  Good thing my parents have citrus trees, they usually have plenty to spare.
- Trick-or-treating, for my kids.  It's one tradition that is just hard to do when your closest neighbors are few and far between.  The church and schools do carnivals, but it just isn't the same.  I'm trying to convince Brett to make it our tradition to come to Mesa for Halloween.  He isn't super convinced yet, seeing as he lived in a rural area and doesn't feel as if he is "damaged" by his lack of "trick-or-treating".
- Having a hospital close by.  Mostly for the next time I have a baby (no, this is most definitely not an announcement, but I imagine I will work up the courage to add another one or two to the mix, eventually).  Because there is a pretty big chance of me delivering a baby pulled over on the side of the highway...which is less than ideal.
- Family and friends so close.  Of course, this is what I'll miss the most.  Thankfully, we will be living close to other family and friends, but still.  I'll miss my mom, let's be honest!  I don't think my mother-in-law will look at me the same way if I walk into her house "ugly crying" over how bad of a day I had.

Things I'm Excited for...
- A real-life Tow Mater.  I kid you not, Bowie has a rusty little old tow-truck that drives around town.  I will take pictures for proof.
- Having a tab at the gas station.  I mean, how cool is that? Pull up to the pump, wave to them inside, then they will start the gas pump for you.  I told Brett that I insisted on having a tab at the gas station, because if I'm going to live in a small town, I need to have some of the perks, ya know?
- Literally living up against a pecan orchard.  Have you seen a pecan orchard?  Hundreds and hundreds of beautiful trees for me to see out my window every day.  You can bet that we will be taking family pictures in an orchard this year (and maybe every year).
- No traffic or congestion on the roads.  I mean, Brett literally won't even have to factor in a commute at all, which will save him over an hour of driving time every day.  It's nearly impossible to have a traffic jam when the population is less than 450 people, and is very spread out.
- More animals.  We already have a pup lined up to move down with us.  We plan on keeping our chickens.  Who knows, maybe we will get a goat or a pig or something.  I mean, we are living on a farm, for Pete's sake!
- Star-gazing.  You really forget how many stars are out in the universe, until you are in the middle-of-nowhere and the sky won't stop twinkling.  I'm thinking many "date-nights-in" where Brett and I star gaze in our backyard.
- The fact that you can only pick up like two radio stations, and they are both country music.
- Cooler weather, due to the higher elevation.  I mean, we will be able to enjoy evenings together outside in the summer!  Plus, a little bit more of a distinct difference in seasons.  It sometimes even snows!
- School off during the County Fair.  Yes, that is right.  The kids get school off during the County Fair, so they can go take their pigs to compete, and stuff.  It's "small-town" and so awesome.
- "Country directions".  Actually, I'm not super excited about this one since I rely on navigation to get anywhere and can't read a map for the life of me, but it makes me laugh to think of hearing Siri tell me to "turn right at the tumbleweed and left at the broken fence".
- Brett building me a farmhouse picnic table. Or two or three (since I like hosting people for dinner).  I already informed him that this will be a project he will be heavily involved in (aka, a project he will be doing for me).

I haven't seen the inside of the house we are moving into yet (it's a leap of faith I am taking, moving into a place I've never been inside of).  But Brett promised me we can fix it up some, if it needs it.  I get to see it this weekend.  Hopefully I can add more to the list of "things I am excited for" after going inside!
I think Landon will fit in just fine...


The Power of Paint: Before and After

We are in the process of selling our house to a cute young family.  It makes me happy to think that a lot of fantastic memories will be created here and for this to be their home.  I am sad to leave this house though, if I'm being totally honest.  Even though we haven't lived here a whole entire year, I became quite attached.  We (mostly Brett, let's be real...) put a lot of love into starting to update and personalize this house for our family.  I envisioned a porch swing hanging from our back patio, and adding some cute little bar stools to our kitchen to serve up fresh-squeezed orange juice from our backyard trees to our sleepy-headed kids at breakfast-time...I had years of future memories playing out in my mind, that will never happen now.  But I have a new swirl of future memories that will take place in our new home, that are still wonderful too. I am so glad we at least got to experience one Christmas here though.  It makes it feel like we lived here, since we did, after all, have Christmas together here once.  

"Before and After" pictures are just some of my favorites!  They can be so inspiring and fun to see the dramatic change, since some things take time and by the end of a project, one might not appreciate all their effort because they forgot how much work and change they created to get the end result.  This house was built in the 50's and the original owner/builder of the house had lived here until we bought it.  So it was...outdated.  Very well cared for, but outdated.  And we didn't have much of a budget to just pour tons of money in at once.  So thankfully, we could slowly start changing things as our budget and time would allow.  

The best tool in our endeavors, was paint.  Paint is relatively inexpensive, pretty accessible, and has the potential for a dramatic impact!  I will share two examples of my two favorite rooms in the house in this post.  Our kitchen.  And our laundry/playroom.  

Check it out!

Our kitchen:

We took all the wallpaper down, instant update for sure!  Brett spent some time painting the cabinets (with a special paint intended for cabinets, so it is super durable.  Food that gets splattered and dripped on them, can easily be wiped off without chipping or peeling the paint).  We also replaced the cabinet hardware (we ordered it off of overstock, it was the cheapest option for the brushed nickel knobs and pulls we wanted, since we could order them in bulk).  We replaced the sink and faucet and painted the walls, and changed out the outlet panel fronts for new ones.  That's all we did!  Paint and a few small replacements literally took decades off of this kitchen!  The major appliances (stove, oven, dishwasher, etc.), flooring, cabinets, etc. are all the same.  It is so bright and light and I love the end result!  

Now, if we were living here long-term, here are a few things I would have loved to add/change about this room in the future: paint or change the kitchen door leading to the garage (maybe a darker charcoal gray for some contrast), add a backsplash (maybe subway tile), change the countertops to either butcher block or cement and extend the bar out more for a more comfortable "bar stool" situation.  I also planned on having Brett build me a few shelves and add a little open shelving near the "dining area", and also have him build a corner breakfast nook underneath this corner window.  But for only having lived here for 10 months on a tight remodeling budget, I think we did a pretty good job in a room that can cost thousands upon thousands of dollars to renovate!

The laundry room/playroom:

 As you can see, the carpet was extremely outdated (not to mention mildewy underneath the washer and dryer), so we are super glad that this was not the carpet throughout the whole house.  We ripped the carpet out and bought special paint that can be used on flooring (indoor or outdoor).  We simply painted the walls, the cabinets, and the concrete (with the floor paint).  I also added chalkboard paint to the lower 3 cabinets, for fun, and I love it!  The framed art are printables found on Pinterest.  If we were staying here long term, I planned on adding a play kitchen (a DIY from an old entertainment center), a growth chart that looks like a ruler to hang on the wall to document the kid's heights, a large corkboard to hang art projects and pictures as the years went by, and possibly an alphabet strung around the top perimeter of the room.  But look at the dramatic change, with just some paint!  

Hope you enjoyed taking a peek into this house and some of the work we did on it.  Even though we didn't live here very long, we will have fond memories of our short time here!


Heaven in a Cup: Dirty Dr. Peppers

Those who know me well, know that I love an ice cold Dr. Pepper!  Fountain sodas are normally my favorite, and I love just sipping on one throughout the day.  Soda straight from the can is my least favorite, but it's definitely the cheaper option, so I do drink canned soda more often now. I don't have soda every day, but it is definitely an indulgence (along with chocolate), that I treat myself to often.

Fountain sodas have been taking the back-burner though, since I discovered the awesome dirty Dr. Pepper.  Now, this can be done with Diet Dr. Pepper/Coke/Diet Coke, etc. but original Dr. Pepper has got to be the greatest option.

You just need a couple simple ingredients, and you will have a little bit of "heaven in a cup" after a minute or two.

Here is what you need:
A can of your soda (pick your poison!), ice, coconut syrup, a lime wedge, and some half and half or heavy cream.

Drizzle a little bit of coconut syrup in your empty cup.  Place a handful of ice on top, and then squeeze your lime wedge over the ice.  Pour your soda over the ice and add a splash of half and half or heavy cream.  That's it!  Use your straw to stir it all around, and enjoy!

You'll have to play around a little bit with the ratio of coconut syrup/lime juice/soda for your taste buds.  Don't start with too much coconut syrup, you can always add more!  I buy the coconut syrup at Smart and Final, for right around $4.  I know that the coconut flavoring can be harder to find in stores sometimes.  It's also sold on Amazon.

Invite some friends over and indulge in some dirty drinks on the back patio some Summer evening!


More Big Family News...

Oh boy!  Our family sure has had a lot of changes lately, and we are about to have another one!

We are moving!

And not just around the corner this time, but rather a few hours and a completely different lifestyle away...

We will be moving to a rural little unincorporated community of southeastern Arizona, called Bowie (pronounced Boo-ee).  The population is less than 450 people...that tiny!  It is about 20 minutes away from Willcox, Arizona, which is Brett's hometown.

Brett has a great job opportunity down there.  He will be working with his brother, Jared, managing the business side of a big pecan farm.  He will be dealing with things like inventory, quality control, and marketing.

There are no stoplights and no stores (aside from a tiny little drive-thru market.  Which I am kinda excited for, because as a mom, I have a new-found appreciation for drive-thrus).  Pretty much there is a post office, a small library, and a gas station.  And lots of space!

A lot of Brett's family is involved in agriculture there, so we are lucky that we will be living close to family.  Even though this is a big change, we will still have our built-in-support-system really nearby.

Landon at Grandma and Grandpa's house in Willcox, with his cousin

This will be a huge change for me, as I have been a "city dweller" my entire life.  Brett grew up in a rural area, although not nearly as rustic as this little town.  We will have to travel to his hometown to go to the grocery store (Safeway is about our only option there), for church, and for any eating out (which has very limited options as well).

I am excited and nervous!  However, with the internet so widely used, I feel like I will still be very connected to people, despite distance, and I can order almost anything I really need online (you can bet I will be getting an Amazon Prime membership!).

This will be an adventure, for sure.  I will have to become very organized and good at planning (especially for shopping), due to the fact that so many resources will be far away from me and less accessible.  I am sure I will make a big trip to Costco every 6 weeks or so (a trek that is an hour and a half to Tucson) so that I can stock up on some things.  I also anticipate trying every "knock off" recipe I can find on the internet, to replicate my favorite restaurant dishes in hopes of suppressing my cravings.

But I am so excited for my kids to get to grow up and have the freedom to roam around, dig in the dirt, and be surrounded by dozens of cousins.  Doesn't it just seem like the epitome of what childhood experiences should be?

I know some people think we are crazy, leaving a city life and Brett leaving a corporate job, to go plop ourselves in the middle-of-nowhere and live on a farm.  But honestly, this is really close to the kind of dream job Brett has hoped to have.  And this whole marriage and family thing isn't just about me.  It's about what is best for our family.  Brett spends so much of his time providing for our family, that if moving a few hours away will give him the chance to enjoy that more, I am more than willing to support him and be excited about what lies ahead.  Besides the fact that he is super excited about his job, we will actually get to see him so much more, too.  He won't have to factor in a commute, he will come home for lunch, and he will be working a stone's throw away from our house (for the occasional visit or treat delivery from me and the kids!).

So I hope you follow along with us, as we transition into this new phase of life.

Bowie is the hometown of Rambo!  No joke!  It will be our little "claim to fame".

If this sounds familiar, it might be because this situation will remind you of The Pioneer Woman.  If you haven't read her book, it is a hilarious and entertaining fast read!  I definitely recommend it.


Vivienne's Birth Story

It was a Tuesday morning, and I woke up with some fairly uncomfortable and intense contractions around 4 am.  I'm a pretty deep sleeper, so for them to wake me up they had to be somewhat painful.  But I had been having contractions since I was about 20 weeks along in my pregnancy, and these were just a little bit more intense, if at all, than some I had already experienced the weeks prior.  I had already downloaded a "contractions timer app" on my phone, so I laid in bed to try to track them.  They were so far apart though, that I dozed off in between and had a hard time determining if some were contractions or if they were the baby moving around in her tight quarters.  After a little while, I gave up trying to time them, and just decided to rest.  I figured, if this was the real thing, I needed all the rest and sleep I could get.  From what I could tell, they were about 20 or so minutes apart, so I wasn't super worried.  They could easily discontinue and surely they needed to be closer together before I made any plans for having the baby that day.

I sent Brett to work, and told him I'd call down immediately if I felt I needed him home.  I just didn't want to keep him home if the baby wasn't coming, because it was a busy time for him at work--the end of his quarter and during "crunch time".  Around 9 or so that morning, the contractions were getting closer, maybe around 8 or 9 minutes apart, and quite painful.  While helping Landon with breakfast and doing some things around the house, I was going back and forth in my mind during the contractions (that lasted anywhere from 30 seconds to one minute), thinking, "I need Brett here now, these hurt pretty bad.  I don't know if I can take care of Landon, I'm in pain".  And then the contraction would end and I would think, "Oh, that wasn't too bad, if they keep coming like this in 30 minutes from now, then I'll have him come home".  And this is how I went on for a while.  Finally I decided to text him and tell him I think he should head back to us, that this might be the real deal.  He called me just a few minutes later to tell me he was in the car and coming my way, and I had a nice intense contraction while trying to have a conversation with him.  

That was my last contraction for a while. He came home, and I hadn't had another one since we were on the phone.  They went from only being 8ish minutes apart, back to 20 or 30 minutes apart.  "Oh great," I thought, "I had him come all the way home from work for a false alarm".  We decided to go on a walk to see if a little activity would help them come a little bit more regularly.  So we loaded Landon in the stroller and walked all the way to the Mesa Temple and back.  I had only two or three contractions the whole time.  So we came in, made lunch, and put Landon down for a nap.  Brett and I just decided to go lay in bed and relax for a little bit.  We didn't nap, just kind of talked and rested.  

After about an hour or so of resting, I had two contractions that were five minutes apart.  Now we were getting somewhere!  "If they keep consistently coming," I said to Brett, "then we can get ready to go.  Let's just see if they come for a while".  Well, right after that, I had 3 close together--only about a minute apart.  Brett looked at me and said, "We need to go right now."  I told him, "No, what if they just spread out again, I want to make sure they are consistent.  I don't want to get ready and leave, and then have them send me home!"  He just firmly said back, "No, we really should go right now."  I glanced at the clock, it was 2 pm.  I told him to go ahead and call my mom, I knew she got off work at 2:30, so I didn't feel bad having her leave just a little early.  My mom said she would be there in 15 minutes.  Thankfully Brett was decisive and insisted we leave, because the contractions kept coming.  Nearly on top of each other. Brett loaded our stuff in the car, and called the midwife to tell her we were leaving for the hospital.  My mom got to our house, so Landon could finish his nap and we headed towards the hospital.  

Car rides while in labor aren't usually very comfortable.  Fortunately, I was able to zone out enough and cope much better than I expected, while cooped up in a car having contractions every minute.  We arrived to the hospital at 2:35, and Brett dropped me off at the ER entrance, while he parked.  At this hospital, you enter through the ER and get taken up to the third floor, where Labor and Delivery is.  They began asking me for my information, like name, birthdate, doctor, etc.  The nurse could tell I was in pain and decided she had enough information.  She asked a volunteer to get a wheelchair and take me upstairs.  "Can I please walk up there?", I asked.  "Oh no," the volunteer said, "we would get into a lot of trouble if we let you walk, you have to ride in the wheelchair".  Well that's the last time I ever agree to that!  Every door jam and turn we took while I sat in that wheelchair just added to my discomfort.  The volunteer happily chatted away with us as we went upstairs, I was annoyed.  I needed her to be quiet so I could focus on keeping myself together.  This is no time for small talk, I'm trying not to let out a cry or make a scene.  

We got up to triage.  Bad news...no clean triage station.  It was totally empty, but apparently a bunch of women had just breezed in and out of there without time to get another station clean before I came.  So they sent me and Brett into the bathroom to get my gown on while they prepped a station so I could be checked and admitted.  All of a sudden, while attempting to "gown up", I knew it.  The baby was being born.  The baby was coming.  Right then!  No time for formal admittance and checking and all those things, I was having a baby!  I yelled out, "I think I'm going to have the baby!" and my midwife and a nurse came scurrying in and said, "Yes, I think you are, let's get you in a room".  Well, they had trouble finding a clean labor room just like a triage station, because a ton of women just came in and had babies!  So I sat in the hall in a wheelchair, with some nurses and my midwife somewhat frantically looking for a sterile and private environment for me to give birth.  I thought I might have the baby in the hallway, because my body was giving birth whether I liked it or not.  Thankfully it didn't take long to hear a nurse yell out, "Room 18 is clean and available!" and so we scurried around the corner and into room 18. 

Although I planned on giving birth without an epidural, and inside I knew I was far past that point, I remember asking a nurse "Can I have an epidural?", to which she replied, "No, honey, you don't have time, you are having the baby right now".  But I just figured I would rather ask just in case, because at this point, I was in a lot of pain without much relief.  Contractions are exhausting, and when you don't have a break in between them, epidurals start sounding mighty fine.   

I am thankful I was working with a certified nurse midwife, because she was much more open to laboring/birthing in different positions, rather than requiring me to do the standard medical procedural positions.  Because, if someone had told me that I had to lay flat on my back in that hospital bed, there is not a chance I would have been willing or able to do that.  It would have hurt too badly, I would have stayed in the wheelchair.  Instead, the midwife and nurses followed my lead, and I climbed up onto the slightly inclined hospital bed, knelt down on it, and buried my face into the top of it.  That is where I stayed.  My body needed to be like that.

The rest is just a blur.  I had moments of feeling "out of body", like I was looking at myself above and thinking, "Is this really me going through this?  Are those moans coming from me?  Am I really having a baby right now?"  I remember Brett patting and rubbing my back, telling me I was doing well, that I was having her and I was doing it!  

It's a strange sensation, but once in labor, you can feel a contraction coming on before it actually hits hard.  Like a wave starting to roll in.  It doesn't hurt yet, but you know it's coming and you know it will be powerful.  I remember in one of those moments, praying out loud "Oh God, please help me, I don't know if I can do this".  A kind, soft spoken nurse whispered to me, "Oh sweetie, He is helping you, He is".  I loved that.  It made all the world to be in a room full of people that were supporting me and letting my body just do it's thing.  They weren't moving me, they weren't telling me when or how to push, they were just encouraging me, and tending to me.  Brett was giving me sips of cold water through a straw.  I felt my energy fading quickly, but I knew she was almost here.  

Brett caught her as she was born, at exactly 3 pm, on February 18.  She was screaming.  I started to breastfeed her.  She latched on well and nursed for around 45 minutes.  After feeding, she kept screaming.  This little one had a more difficult time adjusting to life outside the womb.  I think she was starving and scared.  She was born so fast that she had little bruises all over her face from going through the birth canal so quickly.  I am sure it was a baffling and terrifying experience for a brand new baby.  No one was giving her a "pep talk" while she was being born, and I had a whole team of people doing that for me.  She probably didn't realize that the contractions were a "pain with a purpose", like I knew.  All she felt was the intensity of being squeezed over and over for a while.  

After having two babies, I've realized my body is really good at birthing babies, quickly and efficiently, but struggles with the recovery immediately afterwards.  I'm a bleeder.  After trying 2 or 3 less-aggressive approaches to stop the bleeding and two shots of pitocin in my legs, they finally decided to hook me up to an IV and give me a line of pitocin.  Even then, I still wasn't in great shape, but the nurse finally let me move to post partum.  I knew I would be fine, my body just takes longer to snap back.  

But even after all that, I couldn't believe how good I felt!  I kept telling Brett, "I can't believe I just had a baby, I feel too good to have just had a baby!".  Of course, I still dealt with all the not-so-glamorous post partum changes a body deals with, but my recovery overall was incredible.  By two weeks after giving birth, my midwife cleared me for gentle exercise to ease me into regular activity.  At 6 weeks post partum, I felt totally normal, aside from the fact that I was still really squishy, have some pounds left to lose, and my hips are still wider than normal.  I credit my amazing recovery to the fact that I gave birth unmedicated, because I was able to let my body do it's thing, and I was able to know exactly when and how to push effectively.  Your body just does it, it's miraculous.  

That is how our sweetheart, Vivienne came into our lives.  She has remained a feisty one.  But oh do we love her.  And you should see how Landon just adores her and dotes over her.  He runs over to her while she is in the swing and gives her an extra push, he peeks over into the bassinet when she naps, he snuggles her, he kisses her, and exclaims "uh oh!" when the pacifier is out of her mouth, even if she isn't fussing.  At 6 weeks old we realized she had a pretty bad double ear infection, which might have contributed to her fussiness.  But even with all the crying and cluster feeding, and all the messes and emotions that having two children brings, it's hard to remember how life was before she was here with us.  She belongs to us, and we are so glad!  She is a wiggle worm, a restless sleeper, an adorable smiler, and she is ours! 

I am so excited to continue to see her sassy little personality emerge, listen to her squawks, and look at those gummy grins.  We are all pretty smitten!


Baby Girl is Here!

I am obviously taking a blogging break for a bit, because, BABY GIRL ARRIVED!
Her name is Vivienne.  We sometimes call her Vivvy.
Her birthday is February 18.
She arrived at 3 p.m.
I'll write up her birth story soon, but we barely made it to the hospital in time.  Sheesh!
She was 6 lb. 15 oz. when she was born, and is gaining weight really well.

I think the two words that sum up our household at the moment are: smitten and sleep-deprived.  She pretty much has her days and nights totally backwards.  As in, if she literally flip-flopped the two, it would be perfect.  But we are working on it.  We have had some good nights, but mostly hard ones.  She is just two weeks old, so I guess we will give her a little more time to work on it :)
Landon is warming up to her quite well.  I know sometimes he gets annoyed, whiny, and clingy when I am tending to her or feeding her.  But mostly he just likes being close to her, giving her kisses, snuggling up to her, and trying to lovingly touch her (although sometimes it is a tad too aggressive for our liking).

I will definitely continue my Baby Series soon.  I think I will even have better/more advice for certain things, since this is all still so fresh in my mind.  But right now, I'm just trying to make the transition to having a newborn and a toddler that I am supposed to take care of and love.  It is definitely an adjustment for sure!  Well, not the loving part, that just comes.  But juggling everything else is proving to be quite tricky.  But I'm sure I'll survive :)  Stay tuned, more posts will come your way soon!


Happy Valentine's Day!

Aren't I the luckiest girl to have more than one adorable Valentine?  This year, I get to spend most of the day with this adorable guy...

And Happy Birthday to Arizona, as well!  We are going to party all weekend long around here!

If you need any ideas, check out Camille's blog, Friday We're in Love, for a list of 10 easy Romantic Date ideas!  We were already planning on doing her first suggestion, fondue, tonight for dinner.  Or, mix up a few "mocktails" for a romantic evening with your significant other.  Enjoy!


My Favorite EASY Valentine's Inspiration

I'm taking a break in my baby series to post a little Valentine Inspiration!  If you have kids, they most likely will exchange Valentine's with their friends.  If you didn't realize, that is this Friday...

But don't worry!  The internet is jam-packed full of fun, easy, DIY (or free printable) options that are probably simpler and cheaper than buying the pre-packaged, over-priced boxed Valentine's plastered in cartoon characters.

I first fell in love with the personalized lollipop Valentine's that I saw a few years ago.  And with the free online picture editing sites (like picmonkey), and the inexpensive cost of printing pictures (think Costco, Walmart, or Walgreens), these personalized Valentine's would be a cinch to make and very budget-friendly!  Now I have stumbled on a ton more personalized Valentine's that I am crazy about.  Here are a few more ideas!
Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
If personalizing isn't in your time frame, here is an idea board full of simple, DIY Valentine's that are too cute for words.  (Be sure to follow the links to the sources, many have tutorials or are FREE printables!).
Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
And if you are sick of all the candy and other sweets, give these adorable non-sweet Valentine's a try!  I'm sure they will still be a hit with kids, they will get plenty of candy elsewhere!  I'm sure most of these things could be ordered in bulk online, or found at the Dollar Store for very little.
Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
Fun Valentine's aren't just for school-aged children, though.  Last year I made a little personalized Valentine "from Landon" to give to grandparents, aunts, uncles, and a few little friends with a treat attached.  I did another one this year, I'll share on Valentine's Day.

Last year's Valentine from Landon...
Photo inspired by this pin

And even if you don't have any kids, you could do some variation of these as a married or dating couple or a single person, to send to loved ones.  Think of it as a light-hearted holiday card.  People love receiving happy mail or finding something fun on their doorstep.  Hope you have a great week and show those closest to you how much you love them.  Even a thoughtful note or encouragement means a lot!