Happy Halloween Birthday Party!

I love my kids’ birthdays. I love giving them gifts, I love taking them out for birthday donuts, I love seeing how fun it is for them to have a special day, and I love throwing them a birthday party they love. There’s lots of stuff out there about “Pinterest culture,” and how being a mom is hard today because we hold ourselves to some super high standard because we have access to everyone’s absolute best ideas. I like to think that although I do frequent Pinterest, I have a realistic idea of what my kids actually need from me & realistic ideas about what I can and should be expected to do as a parent. I don’t give my kids cutesy lunches, and when it’s our turn for snacks at playgroup we bring oranges and Oreos. However, as I mentioned before I love a good birthday party. I don’t plan games and themed food because I feel like I have to or need to compete with anyone, I just genuinely like doing it. And I don’t have any judgement on somebody who rents out the jumping place because they just don’t want to think about it. I get it – it’s a lot of work to do a themed party, and it’s not work that everyone enjoys. I think kids love their birthday parties whether they are extravagant affairs, middle of the road planned (this is usually my line!), or thrown together at the last minute, so as parents I don’t feel like it’s necessary to stress about something you can’t/don’t want to do.

My 3 year old is all about Halloween – all year long. We read “Splat the Cat: What Was That?” and “Little Blue Truck’s Halloween” at least once a week, with other Halloween books mixed in (with a healthy sprinkling of truck books). I really don’t even know what sparked this love of Halloween. Neither my husband nor I are super Halloween fans – though I do decorate, and he was incredibly excited about our giant spider web and fake spider that covered the mantle last year. He likes to talk about “ghostes” and pumpkins, but he is not into anything scary or suspenseful (in fact both of the books I mentioned have pages that at least at some point he has asked us to skip!) This year, he wanted to celebrate his birthday with a Halloween party. It was fitting for him, and I was excited because I knew we’d be able to figure out some fun things to do and make.

The invitation was made in Photoshop using some free patterns for personal use. My kids love to have their picture on their invites – I guess it’s one of those things that you do it once, and it becomes a ‘thing.’ He really likes the word “spooky” so I had to throw that in there!Halloween party invite

I asked him what he’d like to do at his party, and he said, “Play with my toys?” So I figured I was on my own there. I know that nobody has high expectations for a 3rd birthday party, but I at least wanted to have something to offer so that it wouldn’t be like we were surprised everyone showed up! After all, a birthday party is a special day, so I like to have a little bit of out-of-the-norm fun. I started by thinking about bean bag games or something that would be easy to make out of a large piece of cardboard. I figured I could cut some holes pretty easily and paint some pumpkins and ghosts & call it a day (we already have beanbags for other games). But then I had a genius idea (if I do say so myself!) The church where I take the boys for a weekly play group puts on a huge Halloween carnival, so since it’s off season I thought it was at least worth a shot to see if they would let us borrow a couple of games for the party! And I was ecstatic when they agreed – one more thing off of my list!

My older son is Pokemon obsessed, and at his party we had a “pin the Pokeball on the Pokemon” felt board game. It was a big hit with the kids, so I really wanted to incorporate a felt board game at this party too. I don’t mind putting in work for things like this, because my boys can play with the felt board year round. For felt board games the fun is putting on and taking off, so what’s a better Halloween felt activity than mix-and-match Jack-O-Lantern faces? Nothin’, that’s what! It turned out that this one was not AS big of a draw as the Pokemon felt board, but it definitely kept a few kids busy, and again – mine will use it again, so I’m calling it a win.

Finally, what is Halloween without Trick-or-Treating? There was no way we were going to have a Halloween party for kids without taking a loop around the block begging for candy. I did give my neighbors a heads up, and everyone I asked (that was going to be home) agreed and loved the idea. I offered to bring candy to each of them – because I didn’t want this to be a burden to anyone else – but it turned out that most of them were so excited about it that they bought their own candy. We have great neighbors who love seeing happy kids. We had the kids wear costumes, though most of them were surprised about the Trick-or-Treating. My in-laws live in the country and holiday fun almost always includes a hay ride. We threw it out there as an idea for the Trick-or-Treating, and my father-in-law was all in. He loaded up the trailer and puttered around the block. We thought about asking if it was legal beforehand, but we figured it was the kind of thing that might be better to ask forgiveness! And hey – if my 3 year old got his first ticket for a birthday party hayride, I figure that’s a pretty good story for the future, right? It was truly awesome, and a little bit of rain made it bearable to be outside in the Texas summer heat. I know that not everyone would have access to a city hayride, but don’t let that deter you from a Halloween themed birthday party! The kids won’t even know they’re missing it, because candy.

Hands down, my favorite part of planning a party is the food. My family has a lot of fun coming up with silly names for all of the items we serve. A few of the things we ate this time were mummies, zombie eyes, and worm food. I’ll be posting more about the food soon! I decorate cakes as a sometimes paying hobby, and this year when I asked what kind of cake I should plan on, he said “Sprinkles and pumpkins.” Ask and ye shall receive, child. He got sprinkles, and a pumpkin. I was a little bit bummed because we wouldn’t be able to find cute Halloween plates and stuff, but alas, JoAnn Fabrics seemed to know what was up, and put their Halloween swag out about 3 months early. Normally I’d be with everyone else saying slooow on down JoJo, but this time I was like yesssss. So we got some cute on-theme plates. But black and orange would’ve done fine had JoAnn not come through in the clutch.

I was really excited about how everything turned out, and I think all of the kids had a great time. (And the games just might have gotten more play by some of the parents than the kids!) I think our 86 year old neighbor said it best, “I never heard of this, but I like it!” Halloween in the summer was awesome, and if you don’t know your neighbors, well – what are you waiting for? Go out and meet them, because you may want to ask them something crazy soon, and they need to know up front what type of nut you are! We lucked into a wonderful neighborhood, and I was so happy that everyone was on board to make the day special for our big 3 year old boy.

DIY Toddler Pumpkin Costume
The cutest Jack-O-Lantern around!

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Bullet Journal for Beginners

Bullet Journal for BeginnersIf you’re on Pinterest, you’ve probably seen pins pop up every now and then about bullet journaling. If you’re not on Pinterest, or only look at food on Pinterest, then you probably don’t know why I’ve put these two words together! Whether you’ve heard of it or not, I firmly believe that after having used one for just under one year, everyone can benefit in some way from starting one.

If you talk to my college roommate or my husband, they would probably tell you that I’m… a bit of a mess. I don’t do well at the whole “a place for everything…” rule, and I generally have about 5-6 unfinished projects going at any given time. Whether it’s stopping in the middle of paying bills, cutting fabric to be sewn (later, of course!), or getting distracted while making a snack, I’ve probably got a little something in every room at any given time. I’m also not that great at keeping things organized, and used to have about 100 “super important” random pieces of paper with notes on them (that my tidy husband sometimes threw away). I’ll get great ideas for organization and go all in, but I usually slip back into old habits in a short time. (I’m not making myself sound too great right now, but I do have redeeming qualities!) That’s why to my husband it is completely shocking that I’ve stuck with this for a year now. My bullet journal has changed over time, but it is one of my most handy tools. And I have a feeling it is about to get to a whole new level of helpful now that my big boy is starting school. Cue the tears.

What Is A Bullet Journal?

A bullet journal is a journal that you use as a calendar, organizer, to-do list keeper, doodle pad, or whatever else you would maybe be doing on post-it notes or in several other organizers. I use mine for my weekly menu, grocery list, calendar/to-do lists, and a host of other lists and functions including a “restaurants to visit” page and a page with current orders and their necessary materials. It is a minimalist system that allows for ultimate customization and creativity (if you’re into that – but if you’re not, that’s fine too!). You literally buy an empty journal, and fill the pages how you see fit – with some guidance to get started! How many times have you bought the “it” planner and spent like $50 to find out that you don’t actually want to record about half of the things on the pre-designed pages? I’ve only done it once – because I’m no fool. If you do end up searching Pinterest for bullet journal uses, you’ll see some pretty intricate page designs that most of us cannot replicate. But it’s important to note that the creator of the bullet journaling system uses a very simplistic system of lists and notes – no fancy doodles, drawings, and colors. So no matter your skill level in the doodle zone, you’ll be great at bullet journaling. There are no rules about how fancy you have to look. I’ve played around with different styles and levels of prettying up, and I feel like my journal is a reflection of my style. My husband just started one too, and his is a reflection of his style – straight to the point without any fluff.

Where To Start

Step 1: Pick your journal. I searched through many posts about what the best choice would be, and I landed on this one. It’s the Moleskine large dotted soft cover notebook.

I was not sure about how I would do with dots instead of lines, but it turns out this was a good call. There are times that I do want to sketch something (like when we were working in our kitchen and needed to constantly reference how many cabinets/drawers we had – a super simple sketch on my “home improvements” page was added). I would not want lines going all through my (not so) beautiful drawing! And I also think it just kind of makes the pages look neater to have your writing straight because of the dot guides, but the areas without writing more or less looking blank. You can also use them to make boxes and vertical lines, which I do often, and that would be harder with traditional lines. But that’s personal preference! I like that it’s a soft cover because it makes looking through it comfortable. The size is perfect – fits in my purse, big enough to write what I need. And they come in a few cute colors. I’m about to finish journal #1 and start on #2, and it’ll be a nice but weird change to switch colors! (And now that there are two of us keeping them we know whose is whose!)

Step 2: Pick some pens. You’ll want some that have little to no bleed through. I chose these. I love these pens. I have bought different packs to get more colors (a pack without purple was no pack for me!), so this 10 pack is actually a mix of two. These pens are wonderful. The best. Ask anybody. They’re great pens.

Step 3: Get going! You can go to the official bullet journal website for the suggested guidelines straight from the creator, but I’d suggest starting by setting aside a few pages for an index – yes, it’s really necessary.

See, my pages are NOT super pretty! Just an attempt at a header, and a list!

You don’t want to flip through hundreds of pages to find your restaurant list! This does require you to number your pages, but it is really truly easy to get into that habit. And if you forget, then it’s very easy to go back and add them in!

Step 4: You might have a great list you’re excited about having in your journal. Maybe it’s a reading list because people are always suggesting books to you and your mind goes blank at Half Price Books. Maybe you hate the tea at one restaurant and the ranch dressing at another and can never remember that until your cup is full and you have gross dressing all over your salad, and you want a place to write that stuff. Whatever your awesome idea is, take a minute first to add a few pages. My husband didn’t put any of these in his bullet journal because he “does all that on the phone.” But I find it very helpful to be able to see a clear overview of my year/month/week and throw in to-do lists too!

  • A “future log”/yearly overview. Here’s mine:This is handy especially when I’m looking for something that I’m not sure what month/week it falls on and I don’t want to have to be searching through my phone to find it. One quick glance, and it’s there. I use this for future events – I only write something on this page if it is further out than the current month.
  • A monthly overview.
    This was a particularly slow month – just the way I like it!

    I transfer dates from my yearly view at the start of each month, then only add to this page if something is happening further out than the current week. For the record, ‘Finish painting the kitchen’ wasn’t scratched off until much, much later.

  • You guessed it… a weekly spread!I used to take time each morning to write down what I needed to do that day. I’m not that disciplined right now, but I still keep up with my weekly events here. My weekly spread is much more time consuming than the one on the bullet journal website, so if this looks intimidating, don’t sweat it. You do not have to draw boxes every week. I just like doing it. My favorite part of my weekly spread is my menu. This menu was clearly before I was eating Whole 30ish, but the spirit of the spread is there! I write my grocery list as I make my menu, and that green box is for things that come up during the week that I’ll need to put on next week’s list – that I haven’t drawn yet!

Some people take it even further and put in a daily spread, but you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. Because it’s your custom journal! I have enough room in my weekly spread for anything I need on the daily level.

What about the bullets?

I love the “bullet” part of the bullet journal. The whole idea is that you are quick logging everything – as this is meant to be a tool, not a time consumer. The bullets for lists follow a simple system. You write tasks with a traditional bullet, and then use the following on top of those initial bullets:

  • X: Task complete
  • >: Task “migrated” or moved to another time

There are other symbols suggested on the website, but these are the ones I use most frequently and consistently.

Habit Trackers

One of the things that I was most excited about when I started my bullet journal were my daily/weekly/monthly habit trackers.

Oops! Guess I took a week off!!

With a habit tracker, you can add in tasks that you either want to improve upon (like making sure you do your daily chores!) or things you want to track – like how often you are eating out. I now just keep a yearly tracker (the headings are the months of the year) where I store things like ‘clean the fans,’ ‘change toothbrushes,’ and ‘back up pictures on phone.’ That way I can see when it was I last did all of the things that are sporadic and easy to let go.

Ideas for Other Pages

I have mentioned quite a few of my pages that I utilize, but here’s a recap and roundup of some of my favorites.

  • Calendars and future planning
  • Daily to-do lists
  • Habit trackers
  • Wish lists – seriously how often does someone ask you what you want for a Christmas gift and your mind is vacant?!
  • Books to read
  • Restaurants to try
  • Instructions you have to look up all the time – for me one of these is an Instant Pot cheat sheet!
  • Home improvement wish list
  • Cleaning Schedule
  • Lawn & plant care record/planner – I keep a chart of when I’m supposed to fertilize, apply weed killer, and trim various plants
  • Meal ideas
  • Places to visit

Go for it!

If you have any questions about bullet journaling, please feel free to ask! I’m not an authority by any means (are there bullet journal authorities?) but I have been at it a while and have picked up some tips along the way! Don’t get swept up in the beauty and intimidation of the Pinterest journals. Yours can be whatever you want it to be, and it will evolve over time as you see what works (and doesn’t) for you. Are you going to start a journal? Let me know what kind of page you’re most excited to add, or if you’ve got an idea for a different page!

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Mermaid Cake Math

I think that most people who know me are aware that I teach math. Few are probably aware of what an actual math nerd I am. As a point of reference, do you know how helpful it is to describe to someone where an itch on your back is by having them picture a coordinate grid on your back and giving them the coordinates of the itch? No? Well, put that in your bag of tricks, and get those itches scratched. Do you play the “make an alien” game in the car with your kids, where you use mathematically correct terminology to describe some crazy alien? Ex: My alien has a purple pyramid head with three square eyes, a rotini noodle for a nose, no mouth, a red cylindrical body, and 5 sticks for arms. Try it – my 5 year old loves it, and he’s learning all kinds of geometry terminology (while having fun!) Because he can’t picture this alien until he asks me, “What does a cylinder look like again?” What’s incredibly rewarding is when he describes his alien, and uses some words that I’ve been tossing around.

In any case, the point of those examples was to give you a little glimpse into how the brain of a math geek works. We like to do other things besides solve math problems because we are also living, breathing, functioning human beings (most of us!), but math seems to creep its way in to everyday tasks – like driving. Sometimes I will calculate in my head how much time I will actually save by going 5 mph over the speed limit on a drive. Spoiler alert – it’s not worth it on most drives! Drive safely y’all! I am not always thinking about math, but I would definitely say I am often thinking about math.

One of my hobbies is cake decorating. I like making things with my hands – crochet, cake decorating, painting, etc. I’ve always said I am not at all creative, just patient. I’ll be the first to say that my best work is usually not done when I have to create the design totally from scratch. These tasks all take a lot of patience. This weekend I had a cake order for a cute little mermaid cake for a 6 year old’s birthday party. I made this cake, sent it on its way, and then met up with it later after it was the victim of a cake-tastrophe on the car ride home. It turned out pretty well, especially considering what it looked like post car ride!

Mermaid Cake
Mermaid cake – Mr. Turquoise Shell is out of place, exposing his icing glob glue! Shame!

Check out all of those circles! The coloring of the fondant, rolling and cutting circles, and placing circles all took quite a bit of time. However, it’s not work that requires a lot of thought, so my mind wandered as I colored, rolled, cut, and placed. And you guessed it – my mind was wandering to all of the ways I could use this cake as a prompt for various math problems. I even drafted a few and used them in the process. I used equations to calculate how much turquoise and white fondant to mix together to create each shade for the hombre effect. I initially intended to go from a 75% saturation to 50%, 25%, then pure white (and do 2 rows of each color). It turned out that I did not want the dark 75% color going up very high on the cake, so I actually went with a 75%, 50%, 30%, 16%, and 8% before switching to white! I weighed my balls of fondant on a food scale for accuracy. I finished each row (bottom up) with more than enough left over, so I just calculated how much white to add to the mix to end up with my desired saturation. I thought about the diameter of the circles compared to the circumference of the cake to see how many circles of each color I would need. I used the diameter of the circles compared to the height of the cake to figure out an estimate of how many rows I would have (estimate because I did not know exactly what the overlap situation would be until I was actually in it!) This is thrilling, no?

Was math necessary to complete this cake? Ummmm no. The hombre effect I did could have been done by just adding turquoise/white fondant gradually until the color variations looked good. In fact, I’ve done it this trial and error way before with great results, I was just feeling extra mathy on this day. All of this got me thinking though, “Would this application of mixture problems be more engaging than the ones I’m currently using in my class?”

As a math instructor, I’m often met with resistance.  My husband and I both teach college level courses, but I often joke that we have two completely different jobs. He teaches Criminal Justice courses, which is a field that people choose to sign up for. I ask him all the time what it’s like to have a class full of students that are, at least on some level, interested in the subject matter. In a math course, I’m feeling like a champ if like 10% of the class would say they ‘enjoy’ or ‘like’ or ‘are interested in’ the subject on the first day. Sometimes I too get bogged down with the feeling that if my students are bakers, they probably are going to wing it rather than work a mixture problem to figure out how much of each material to use. That maybe the complainers have a point – a lot of what we do in a college level math course is just not necessary for a large portion of the population. But I have a job to do, and if talking about cake decorating makes mixture problems a little less blah for someone out there, then by golly I’m going to give it a go.

Teacher Talk

I decided that I would create a few lessons based on this cake, and I’ll be posting them here. Some of my favorite lessons that I’ve done with kids have been when I give them about 3-5 sentences describing a scenario and turn them loose. So, that’s how these lessons have been derived. If actually used with students, you should note that there are many ways to skin the math cat. (Is that an actual saying?) Your students may not use the “desired” method of solving the problems without prompting. I’d encourage you to be okay with that, and leave the “desired” method of solving for the discussion after everyone has presented their findings.  I promise, kids love it when “their way” hasn’t been talked about yet – even if they got the same answer as the presenter before!

I’ve drafted an activity that, from my experience, I believe students in grades 4-6 (and up) have the reasoning skills to take on. They may not know how to multiply with decimals or two digit numbers, but I have experienced in multiple classrooms that when students are given a chance to reason, they will take it and run.  They may not “set up a proportion” to solve as you might, but it is important to note that that is 100% okay. If your goal is to create problem solvers, then with some coaching as necessary, your students will succeed. In my classroom, I would have available any materials that I had – whether I found them helpful or not – and put the students in groups of 3-4.  Oftentimes, we create graphic organizers, give students “the” manipulative, and let them “problem solve” – our way. In fact, I almost included a table to record fondant amounts in, and thought better of it! My most rewarding experiences as a math teacher have come when I allow the students to attack a problem and make their own decisions.

Your students will likely have questions about this problem due to lack of experiences and vocabulary.  It is important to read through the problem as a group and get all of those questions answered prior to turning them loose. You do not want to be explaining what “50% saturation” means and what fondant is 6 different times before anyone can begin! If your students have absolutely NO idea how to calculate the amount of each color needed for the various shades, I’d encourage them to start by figuring out the 50% saturation first, and see if they can reason from there. And it’s okay if some students just. don’t. get it. The struggle makes the explanations that much more rewarding.

This lesson may seem like it will take too much time if you just let them go without guidance, and it will take time. I would allow 30-40 minutes for exploration, and 15-20 minutes for presentation – depending on your allotted class time. I have been in the panic mindset where any deviation from the set plan seems like it will be impossible to make up. The strains of standardized tests and countless learning objectives can send us into a frenzy. But I’d encourage you to take time for this type of lesson at least once per 6-weeks period. Your students will thank you, and you may find that you enjoy it and they gain more than you anticipated. Give it a shot! If you do, please let me know how it goes. I’d love to hear it!

I’ve included two handouts, and a link to a widely circulated page that discusses serving amounts for different sizes of cakes. You will need all three pieces for this activity! Enjoy!!

thumbnail of Proportional Reasoning Mermaid Cake Problem 3-5thumbnail of Proportional Reasoning Mermaid Cake Student Recording Sheet (3-5)

Earlene’s Cake Serving Chart

 

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Why We’ve Accepted the Whole 30 Challenge

Why Choose the Whole 30

I’m a mom of three sweet, happy, healthy, sometimes grumpy & picky boys. Three boys who sent my body through the wonderful and sometimes unpleasant miracle of pregnancy and C-Sections to get here. Are C-Sections considered a miracle? It depends on if you’re asking one month before or after it happens or almost one year later. It’s been almost a year, so yes. I think so! With boys #1 & 2, I – much like Big Sean – bounced back.  It didn’t take long before I was wearing all my old clothes, and thanks to a couple milk protein allergies and a crazy elimination diet while breastfeeding for their first years of life, I actually had to buy new smaller clothes. Boy #3 was a different story. I don’t know if it was my 30+ body getting tired of bouncing back, the fact that I didn’t breastfeed him (a week in the NICU and yes – another milk protein allergy played a big role in this decision!), or my less than stellar diet, but when he was about 6 months old I finally relented and bought new bigger pants.  Bigger as in bigger than the bigger size I already keep on hand for when I put on just a little extra. So I knew I had to do something.

Baby in Highchair
This guy’s not picky!

Maybe There’s a Problem

I’ve always had a sweet tooth. My favorite food is probably ice cream, and I’ve also always had a super need for a snack.  I have long felt like I needed to find a way to have that sweet tooth extracted – but I don’t think dentists actually do that. And remember those 3 beautiful babies with milk protein allergies? When I took in #3, their pediatrician had the “maybe it’s you” talk with me. And I think he may be right. Maybe my body has been trying to tell me for a long time that what I’m eating is just down right harmful for my body.  Enter: The Whole 30.

Why Choose the Whole 30

Just Eat Real Food

I started by borrowing this book from a friend. In it, the Hartwigs (Whole 30 creators) explain the reasons why they designed the diet the way they did, and the various benefits that have been reported by the thousands of people who have taken the challenge. (And believe me – it is a challenge!) For 30 days, you eat nothing but real food. No added sugars, dairy, legumes, grains, or highly processed stuff. (Yes, legumes and grains are “real food,” but they can be hard on a digestive system, so for the purposes of this program you cut them out!) The idea here is that this drastic change in the way you eat for 30 days will reset your body and mind, making long term change more attainable. It also gives those of us who have often wondered if there might be some food sensitivities lurking a way to put that suspicion to rest.

No Means No

I have tried before to “snack better” or “not have as much sugar,” but without a clear set of guidelines I was sure to fall back into my same old habits sooner than later. The Hartwigs discuss in their book how a drastic change seems like it may, in some ways, actually be easier to follow than a gradual one because it’s a clear yes/no on every food. And it also cuts out the inevitable negotiations that’d go on. You know… “Okay. If I have salad instead of a burger, then it won’t be as big of a deal when I eat the Blizzard.” With the Whole 30, it’ll just be a no.

Bigger Than My Waistline

As I mentioned earlier, the jump start to making a change was definitely my growing (or rather, stagnant) waistline. But my reasons for doing a Whole 30 are bigger than that. Some of the benefits that Whole 30ers have experienced include (but aren’t limited to):

  • Raised energy levels/loss of Chronic Fatigue
  • Reduction/elimination of unexplained aches and pains
  • Elimination of seasonal and other allergies
  • Clear skin
  • Fertility issues rectified
  • Elimination of symptoms of IBS
  • Loss/reduction of symptoms of auto-immune disorders
  • Improvements in sleep
  • Elimination of chronic acid reflux
  • Elimination of anxiety/depression
  • Improvements in blood pressure and cholesterol

All of these things and many more have been cited time and time again by people who have taken the 30 day challenge.  I’d encourage you to check their website for a more comprehensive list if you have other symptoms you’re curious about! I do not suffer from all of these ailments, but I have problems with enough things that 30 days seems totally worth it for a shot at relief. Heck – if I can just kick my Zyrtec habit it’ll be worth it! And, I’ll be able to put my mind at ease after I re-introduce dairy into my diet. I’ll know for sure if dairy is just something I should avoid altogether, limit, or eat without worry.

So Far, So Good

When I decided to make the change, we jumped in immediately….ish. We are not planning to do a full strict Whole 30 until September. (I did not want to be worrying about every single thing I ate during the summer – too many birthday parties, family gatherings, and invitations to dine out!) We did, however, throw away the candy stash and other junk in the pantry, put an end to purchasing chips and junk food, and have essentially begun following the Whole 30 guidelines for all at home meals. I have still allowed myself Italian dressing on my salads (alternating with compliant dressing – recipe to come soon!) and we are enjoying Dr. Pepper until September. We’ve cut out nearly all other added sugars – except sneaky sugar in sausage & bacon – and are giving ourselves some freedom when we are out with family at a restaurant or someone’s home. It has been pretty difficult at times, but I keep telling myself this – We used to eat the same stuff over and over before, it was just junky. Now, I’m eating the same stuff, but it’s great food. If I get in a rut, I remind myself it’s not the type of food I’m eating that’s the problem, just that I’ve gotten a bit lazy in planning.

best green sauce ingredients
These simple ingredients combine for THE BEST SAUCE EVER.

What We’re Eating

The general guideline for a Whole 30 meal (whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner) is to give yourself 1 serving of protein, fill the rest of your plate with vegetables, and round out the meal with a serving of healthy fat (avocado, olives, coconut, almonds, etc.) Mix in a couple servings of fruit per day, and you’ve got it! My breakfast used to be a granola bar and/or cereal. Now I’m eating eggs, bacon, or sausage with a huge variety of veggies every morning. I did not think I’d be able to *do* broccoli in the morning – but it turns out I eat it lots of times for breakfast, and love it! My husband has been making sausage/potato hash often, with things like bell peppers or greens mixed in. We’ve quit buying things like spaghetti sauce that have unnecessary added sugars (keep your eyes out for a post on sneaky sugar soon!) and started making our own. My oldest son (who’s got a reputation as a picky pants) has discovered he loves raw mushrooms and whole carrots – though we must give partial credit to Bugs Bunny on the carrot thing. I am not restricting my kids’ diets like I am mine, but many of the changes have been for the entire family – and they haven’t seemed to mind.

A Boy and His Carrot
Ehhhh. What’s up Doc?

Results So Far

I have high hopes for when we actually do our 30 day challenge, because I’ve already started seeing/feeling results with our Whole 30-ish diet. So far, the things I’ve noticed:

  • Looser fitting clothes. I still have a ways to go, but I definitely feel and see change happening already.
  • Loss of the need to snack. That’s right. Completely. I do not feel a need to snack at all because I am giving my body exactly what it needs for all three meals.
  • Clearer skin. Again, nobody is going to be asking me my regimen just yet, but my skin is clearer than I can remember it being in a looooong time.
  • Aches and pains gone. I can’t remember the last time I complained to my husband about my arm/foot/back/leg just hurting for no reason.
  • Reduced IBS symptoms. They come and go, but I definitely can tell a big difference when I’ve been eating right for several days and then have bread/beans/cheese.
  • Losing the sweet tooth. Sometimes at the grocery store I see something and think, “Maaaan that sounds nice.” But I don’t sit around the house wishing I could head out for an evening shake or go grab a quick piece of candy or ice cream from the kitchen.
  • I stopped at one s’more. This one was big for me. We recently had a campfire on the river, and I ate a s’more and it was so satisfying I didn’t need another.  I’d usually have at LEAST two, and still be wishing for more. But when I’m not filling myself with junk and sugar all day, then one s’more truly felt like a big time treat.

Take the Challenge

If you have thought even ONE time while reading this that maaaaybe you could benefit from this, then I’d encourage you to join us in September.  I’ve heard it’s easier with support, and I’ll be posting here about how we’re doing and what we’re eating, and would love to have the feedback of friends and family (or strangers!) that are following along. I am looking forward to seeing even more improvements when I truly commit to the Whole 30 challenge. Let me know if you’ll be along for the ride!

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6 Texas Bathroom Bill Improvements – What I’d Like in My Bathroom Bill

I’m from Texas. Texans can agree on a lot of things, like that we have some pretty spectacular Bar-B-Q, rivers, sports, and people here. But if you so much as whisper the words “bathroom bill” in Texas, you’re bound to be met with some strong feelings one way or another.  My husband recently tweeted that his bathroom bill would start with a ban on trough urinals.  I don’t know much about trough urinals except that I want to stay far, far away from them, so I decided to draft a bathroom bill of my own.
6 Things Moms want in a bathroom bill

      1. Mandatory soundproofing of stalls.

        We’ve all been there. You’re in the bathroom with your 2 yr old, chatting away, and it’s finally your turn to pee. You sit down, and he yells, “Mom! Where your penis!?” You remind him (for the millionth time) that you don’t have one, and the conversation is over.  Until he squats down in front of you and yells, “Oh! There you penis!” Wait, what? “No! No penis down there!” And now you’re just hoping the bathroom bill doesn’t pass because you don’t need to be questioned by the bathroom police on account of a loudmouth toddler. What’s that you say? You’ve never been in this position? Okay, well then I ask the same thing I asked a 4th grader who didn’t understand why teachers had their own rest room. “Do you want me hearing your bathroom noises?”

      2. At least one sink should either be lowered or have the option of a pull out step stool.
        Washing Toddler Hands
        It’s super hard to get a photo of this process!

        I don’t know how many times I’ve seen the looks of utter discomfort as I’ve hoisted a kid up to a sink and smashed his body to the counter so he won’t fall so that I can wash his hands that have been touching everything. Kids don’t do a stellar scrubbing job, so I feel like I have to at least help a little! This doesn’t happen at Chick-Fil-A, because they have step stools. And so should everyone.

      3. Purse hooks must be in working order at all times.

        There’s nothing like sitting down for dinner and gazing around the kitchen only to catch a glimpse of your purse on the counter. Cue the flashbacks of your purse on the Joann bathroom floor earlier when you had to choose between wiping and holding your purse because the stall was too tiny to possibly do both at the same time, and there was no freaking purse hook. Just those 2 sad holes where there USED to be a purse hook. Tragic. Because then, instead of enjoying your dinner, you must immediately get up and wipe down the counter so you can stop being tormented by what’s schlepping off of your purse.

      4. Changing tables must be installed in order to pass code inspection.

        Because if you don’t have a changing table, that means I’m going to be changing my kid’s poopy diaper on your floor, booth, counter, or wherever else I can find a flat surface large enough to contain his wiggly behind. And also it hurts my body to have to get down and change that baby. Barry O knew what was up. Put these suckers in the men’s room too, because it is a) sexist to assume that mom must change all diapers and b) ridiculous to assume that dads never take their baby out sans-mom. It DOES happen. Maybe people think we need a bathroom bill to keep dads from sneakin’ into our zone to borrow the changing tables. Problem solved.

      5. Financial support for research and development of a bathroom robot vacuum/mop.

        I feel like this one is self-explanatory. But when I walk in a bathroom with gross floors, I can just hear Phoebe singing, “Sticky Shoes.” Except these sticky shoes are not making me smile. A bathroom robot vacuum would be ideal if it could pick up stray TP and also soak up a mess – that way I don’t have to spend my whole trip convincing the little ones that they are not in charge of that job. I have seen each of my older boys lay down on a bathroom floor. It’d make it easier for me to want to hug them later if there was a bathroom robot vacuum mop hangin’ out too.

      6. Produce literature getting the word out about these awesome chairs!
        Baby bathroom seat
        Just strap your baby in, and take care of business hassle free.

        I’ve only actually gotten to use this one time. It is at Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, and it was awesome.  I’ve also had to use the bathroom with a baby strapped to my chest in his carrier. This has happened on more than one occasion, but the most notable and also annoying was at a children’s museum. The logistics of this are as hard as they sound. I don’t know how the wildlife preserve took needs of moms into account better than a children’s museum, but I’d like to do my part to spread the word of this baby chair awesomeness.

 

Okay, in the interest of limited government I’m not actually suggesting these things be discussed by our senators – except maybe #4. That one’s a no-brainer to me. But business owners, I’m lookin’ at you! And if you have strong feelings about the actual Texas Bathroom Bill, feel free to share them with your representative. Nobody here can help you, so it’s best if you talk to someone who can. However, I would love to hear what you’d include in your own bathroom bill!

 

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A Little Wild & A Little Strange

A little wild and a little strange… There’s a lot rolled into this little tag line. The first layer of the meaning of this tag line is the face value. We are actually sometimes a LOT wild and a LOT strange (the 5 year old is learning Swedish with his daddy for no real reason in particular, the *almost* 3 year old runs around screaming HA-LE-LU-YAH, the baby is just wild, and there’s too much to type about Dad and Me… but check out @OscarsHead on Instagram for a glimpse into my husband’s hobby) Three boys in the house makes for a little bit of lots of things, but we have no shortage of “wild” and “strange” around here.

A favorite of @OscarsHead

If you sang that tag line, then you probably get me. We are 90’s kids. Nickelodeon kids. Hey Dude kids. “Older” millennials. I recently did a training on strategies for teaching millennials in a college classroom. I don’t think that the creators of the training intended for actual millennials to take the course. It was very meta. I learned a lot about my learning style and study habits. I’ve thrown that word around a lot already (3 times in this paragraph – easy to count, because apparently “millennials” isn’t in the official dictionary of typing on the internet so it’s underlined for me) but what does it even mean? To people older than us, it sometimes means “entitled and no attention span.” To me, it means “not afraid to click that button even though I’m not sure what it does.” In any case, my love of Hey Dude represents that I grew up when the internet was juuuuust starting to get into every home, and my first phone did not take pictures or send unlimited texts. I love me some technology, but still appreciate a good old bike ride.

Big Boy enjoying a bike ride. He says he invented that trick.

I sang that tag line.  I get that from my dad.  We sang a LOT in my house growing up, but not really like sitting around singing whole songs.  More the kind of singing where if somebody says, “Man, it’s really hot in here!” then naturally, there’s only one response.  But we’ll leave that to Nelly. My husband on the other hand always has a song to sing – the whole song kind. I usually don’t mind this and actually kind of enjoy it, except when we’re going on day 27 of the same song.

My mind is like a wild ride. I am one of those “scatterbrained” individuals that rarely finishes project A before heading over to project C for a minute (I had to skip project B because I forgot a few of the things I needed at the store!) I generally finish things when it’s necessary (read: at the last minute) which drives my husband nuts because he generally finishes things when he finds out they need to be done (read: way before they’re on my radar). This blog will almost certainly reflect that. I’ll finish one blog post before I start another, but be prepared to read a new fav Whole 30 recipe one day, and see a DIY project the next!

I hope you’ll join me as I pour out some of the “wild and strange” from our family into this blog. We have enough to go around.

 

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