Taking a perfect photo of kids is tough. Rarely do I get a perfect picture that is social media post-worthy unless I try a hundred times. There’s bribing, making silly faces, jumping up and down like a fool trying to get them to laugh- it can be exhausting at times! However, the results can be hilarious. Reality is refreshing, and so much better than those perfect pictures sometimes. I’m very guilty of posting the most precious pictures on social media, but I also love it when someone posts a “real-life” picture of their kid. I love seeing kids being kids- because they certainly aren’t perfect! And it makes my crazy life seem a little more normal.
Because I never delete pictures, and because I secretly love those “imperfect” pictures the best, here is a refreshing dose of picture taking reality (or Facebook vs Real Life, as I like to call it).
And sometimes, no matter how hard you try, that perfect picture just never comes.
And other times, you get the perfect photo without even having to try…
I’ve been a runner for several years, mostly training for and competing in distance events (my favorites being 15ks and half marathons). When I became pregnant with my first daughter, I knew I wanted to continue running, but wasn’t sure of any risks or benefits that would be associated with it. I had friends who ran up to their 40th week of pregnancy, and I was hoping that could be a goal of mine as well.
There are quite a few myths out there about exercising while pregnant. I’ve heard many (older) fitness instructors say pregnant women should not get their heart rate above 140 (not true). I’ve also heard that abdominal exercise should be avoided and that running can be too jarring for the baby (both also not true). The American College of Sports Medicine recommends exercising while pregnant because there are so many proven benefits. Of course, it’s important to be safe. The safe level of exercise depends on the fitness level of the mama.
Right before I became pregnant with Carli I ran my fastest marathon to that date. I had been training hard all fall, and already had a 15k and half-marathon under my belt (both were PRs for me at the time). I’m a prime example that strenuous training does NOT make you infertile, and I found out I was pregnant with her 3 weeks after the marathon. My body was already in great shape from all the training I had done that fall, so I was able to continue running at about the same speed and distances. Instead of keeping a watchful eye on my heart rate monitor, I exercised at the intensity I felt comfortable at. Some days that was a 7:30 min/mile pace. Other days it was closer to a 9 min/mile pace. Some days I had to stop and take walking breaks, other days I could run 8 miles continuously. The bigger my belly grew, the slower my pace and distances became. Once I hit about 25 weeks I started using a belly support band during runs. This not only kept my belly more comfortable but it also lifted some of the strain off my back.
By the time I was 35 weeks pregnant with Carli I was still running 4-5 days per week, with 5-6 miles being the longest distance I could cover. My last week of pregnancy I was able to run 3-4 miles maximum, and ended up running 3 miles the day I went into labor with her.
As a runner, one of the best benefits to maintain my running while pregnant was the effects it had on my fitness level post-partum. Even though I was training at much shorter distances and speeds, my body had to learn to be more efficient at transporting oxygen to my working muscles and the baby. Studies have shown that a person’s VO2 max can actually increase when exercising while pregnant, and this definitely proved to be true once I was able to start running again post-partum. I ran my fastest 5k when she was only 3 months old (I didn’t start running again until she was about 7 weeks old). I ran a personal best half-marathon when she was nine months old and beat my marathon time by 5 minutes when she was 19 months old. The crazy thing was, I wasn’t training as hard as I was before I got pregnant- I didn’t have the time to! I really think that my fitness level just improved over the course of my pregnancy, and I was able to maintain that once I started running again.
With this pregnancy, I’ve been incorporating more strength training. I’m horrible about resistance exercises, in fact, I HATE them. I can run all day long but I hate picking up a dumbbell. Because I wasn’t weight lifting much before I got pregnant, I don’t push myself in this area. There are a few total body conditioning type classes at my gym, which focuses mainly on light weights and a lot of repetition. One class I absolutely love and plan on sticking with it until the baby comes. I’m not overly straining myself, but I’m also building muscle in areas other than just my legs which feels nice.
Something else I’m doing that I didn’t with my first pregnancy is more abdominal exercises. I’m not trying to have a six-pack form immediately after she’s born, but mainly to build strength in my core which can be beneficial for labor and recovery. If there is core work in a fitness class I’m attending, I do have to modify it at times. Doing a full sit up (from laying to sitting position) can put too much strain on the ab muscles and cause them to tear.
Here’s some encouraging evidence about exercising while pregnant from the IOC, based on a systemic review of studies:
There is little risk of abnormal response in the baby’s heart rate when exercising at <90% of maximal heart rates in the second and third trimesters.
Baby’s birthweight is less likely to be excessively high, but also not a greater risk for being at a low birth weight
Exercise does not increase the risk of preterm birth.
Exercise during pregnancy does not increase the risk of induction of labour, epidural anesthesia, episiotomy or perineal tears, forceps or vacuum deliveries.
There is some evidence that the first stage of labor (before full dilatation) is shorter in exercising women.
Exercise throughout pregnancy may reduce the need for caesarean section.
Exercising while pregnant can decrease risk of developing gestational diabetes or preeclampsia
Exercise can reduce maternal weight gain
Exercise enhances psychological well-being (something that has been crucial for me this pregnancy- those hormones have been extra crazy this time around!)
So yes, exercise (in elite athletes, even strenuous exercise) is safe during pregnancy. I have gotten some disapproving looks or looks of shock from some when I’m out running with my big ol’ belly. I know it probably seems weird to some people. But as long as I’m listening to my body, I know both me and my baby are safe.
Halo Top ice-cream is a pretty decent version of low calorie ice-cream. It has 6 grams of protein and only 5 grams of sugar per serving, vs 2 grams of protein and 20+ grams of sugar in regular ice-cream. I’ve tried most of the flavors, and while I can’t say any of them taste exactly the same as a bowl of Blue Bell, the taste and texture of some are actually pretty comparable.
There’s nothing like a cold milkshake to have as a treat in the summer, and I’ve tried making some milkshakes using Halo Top recently. The result actually tastes pretty incredible! The best part is that added sugar content is very low compared to regular milkshakes, but it still tastes sweet from the natural sugars occurring in the fruit that I add. Here are three different milkshakes I’ve tried and fallen in love with.
1/2 cup strawberry Halo Top ice-cram
3/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (feel free to use any type of milk you like)
1 cup frozen strawberries
1/2 cup crushed ice
Blend ingredients in blender until smooth.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana milkshake
1/2 cup chocolate Halo Top ice-cram
3/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (feel free to use any type of milk you like)
1 chopped banana
1 tbsp peanut butter
1/2 cup crushed ice
Blend ingredients in blender until smooth.
1/2 cup vanilla bean Halo Top ice-cream
3/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (feel free to use any type of milk you like)
Going into motherhood, I had quite a few expectations of what I thought parenting would be like. During my first pregnancy I read every book I could on raising kids (which I thought made me some sort of expert), I memorized sleep schedules, and basically expected my baby to conform to the ideal child who adapts perfectly to the textbook discipline, sleep training and potty training regimens that all the experts insist work. Because all kids respond the same, right?
Oh, and as much as I hate to admit it, I would even judge moms I didn’t even know who would be out in public with their kids, looking like a hot mess. I mean, how hard could it really be to prevent your kid from having a massive tantrum in the middle of the toy aisle at Target? And does that 2 year old really need a paci in their mouth? I thought they made it look harder than it really was.
Maybe I just got hit with really bad karma for judging in the first place. Or maybe I’m just raising a perfectly normal two year old who throws mega tantrums (the worst of course being in public places), refuses to sleep without a paci (a battle I’m too scared to fight right now- sleep is just too precious), and is constantly testing her limits. But I got a huge wake-up call when I started this journey called motherhood.
Parenting isn’t easy. It’s messy, it’s selfless, it’s exhausting, and on those days that you can have a sense of humor, it’s hilarious. It’s not the always smiling faces, stain-free and matched clothes, beautifully put-together households and imperfect kids we see on Facebook and Instagram. Real parenting is dealing with mega tantrums, poop (so so much poop), living off of 5 hours of sleep, making compromises, lots of boo boo’s, bribery, huge messes, and the acceptance of chaos. Even though nothing about parenting is perfect, it comes attached with the greatest love imaginable. I love my daughter and everything about being her mom. The learning curve has definitely been tough, but full of so much adventure.
Over these past 2 (almost 3) years, I’ve accepted the need to give up those expectations I clung so dearly to, and just go along with reality. My expectations were SO stereotypical for a first time mom. And now I find most of them to be pretty humorous.
My baby will stick to a perfect sleep schedule- she will be a Baby Wise poster child.
No child of mine will EVER act out in public.
No screen time until she’s three years old. Then strict monitoring of no more than 30 minutes per day.
I will NEVER bribe with food-especially not with sweets.
Potty training will be easy. I’ll just do that 3 day boot camp method.
I will never rely on a pacifier to soothe my toddler- it will be gone once she’s a year old.
Of course I will do all of the those Pinterest activities I pinned over the nine months I was pregnant. From DIY projects with toddlers to science experiments- no pin will go unused!
My child will always listen to me, because I’ve read all the books on how to talk and listen to children effectively. I’ll talk to her using toddler-ese when she’s upset (because that’s the best method for talking to toddlers- just read The Happiest Toddler on the Block) and it will work like a charm.
She will always think I’m the greatest mommy ever…no matter what.
Sleep schedules are great, but we had to go along with what worked for us. From BabyWise to Moms on Call, Carli refused them all. I think she was almost 2 1/2 before she was consistently sleeping through the night. I was too tired to listen to her cry it out for an hour (because that’s what she would do) and I really just couldn’t even stand the sound of it. So I let her snuggle in bed with me in the middle of the night and that was the only way any of us would get any sleep. It’s all about survival!
I would love to meet a toddler who has never thrown a tantrum in public. The best tantrums involve throwing and breaking things that I have to end up paying for- there’s a toy store in Peachtree City that I’m sure would love to never see me or my daughter again. The lesson? Never take an overly-tired or overly-hungry two year old to a store and expect them to behave.
I’m not even going to shame myself anymore for allowing screen time. It helps us survive long car rides and grocery shopping trips I can’t avoid taking her on. It allows me to have an uninterrupted run with her in the jogging stroller. It gives me 30 minutes to cook dinner. It allows me to finish a cup of coffee in the morning. Most importantly, it is my golden ticket for preventing the dreaded car nap.
I know better, especially being a dietitian. I bribe with food often. I know, it’s terrible. But- it WORKS. It’s amazing how easy it is to get a toddler out the door when they know a gummy bear is waiting for them as soon as they get buckled into the car seat. Before you start judging- it’s an omega-3 filled gummy, thank you! Just to lessen my own guilt.
Potty training was the most frustrating experience of my life. That 3 day method? It’s not a one size fits all. My kid wanted nothing to do with it. All that came out of that was the most severe UTI our pediatrician has ever seen. My method? I sat her on the toilet and ate a popsicle in front of her. I said she could have one too if she went. It worked, and after that there was no turning back.
At almost 3 years old, my kid is addicted to her paci. Even though she only has it at nap and bedtime (for the most part….sometimes I whip it out in desperation), I’m about as unwilling for her to part with it as she is. I’ve heard too many stories of kids giving up nap once that paci is gone. No way can either of us survive without nap. And it’s such magic! It transforms a cranky, fussy toddler into a sweet sleepy baby in a nanosecond.
I’ve done maybe two Pinterest activities with her. They always fail miserably. I’m not a crafty DIY type mom- and I’ve stopped pretending to be.
Hahahahaha that toddler-ese talk? I’ve tried it, and Carli just looks at me like I’ve lost my mind. Raising her has completely humbled me after reading all those books. She is no textbook child (thank goodness!) and has a mind of her own. I’ve had to get creative with my parenting techniques and usually I just go with my own motherly instincts. The advice I’ve received provides a good foundation, but I’ve had to figure things out on my own throughout the past couple of years.
I know my kid loves me. But she doesn’t always think I’m so great. She’s given me the stink eye on plenty occasions- it’s a look straight out of mean girls and she has perfected it.
How I balance the expectations with reality
I stopped reading and I take well-meaning advice with a grain of salt. I avoid judgmental people and focus on what works best for us. I scroll through my newsfeed knowing that real life isn’t so well put together. I give myself grace, and my daughter even more. I laugh at the chaos when it used to make me cry.
It can be so easy to fall into the infamous “mommy wars.” It’s hard to not aim for perfection and let everyone think that I don’t have any flaws as a mother. Shame is very real, and if I focus on what everyone else thinks I’m doing wrong, I’m doing harm to both me and my kid. My closest friendships with other moms involve the ones who can be just as transparent around me- there is something so liberating about wearing your imperfections with no shame or judgement. We are all doing the best we can to survive some of the toughest, yet most incredibly rewarding years of our lives. Why hold back? Authenticity is so much better than trying to be perfect.
The best part about motherhood? It’s an adventure, never boring and full of learning curves. Even with all those messy, chaotic, and exhausting days- the snuggles, hearing the words “I love you mommy” for the first time, the sweet little giggles, the big grins on their faces when you see them after being gone for awhile, and the big bear hugs make it all so incredibly worth it.
I would have to say that one of the biggest differences between this pregnancy and my first is that I’m a lot less strict about what I’m eating. The first time around I cut caffeine cold turkey, obsessed about calories (was I getting too little? Too much?) and tried to avoid heavily processed foods as much as possible. I was so worried that the smallest glitch in my diet would produce a baby who wasn’t healthy, and I didn’t want to be responsible for doing anything to potentially harm her.
Now even though I still make sure I’m eating as healthy as possible to give both myself and my growing baby the nutrients we need, I’ve definitely learned that balance is okay. I’m also trying to not focus so hard on what I shouldn’t be eating, and more on what I should be eating. When I know I can’t have something, it makes me want it even more. All I want is a deli sandwich for lunch and a large plate of sushi with wine for dinner. Why is it that the foods I know I can’t have are the ones I crave the most??
Most OB doctors and midwives spend a good deal of time talking with expecting mothers about the foods that are off limits. Rarely is there time spent on reviewing the foods and nutrients that bring benefits to expecting mothers and babies- even though it’s just as important!
Pregnancy is a time of high metabolic and nutrition demands. It’s important to remember that even though you are feeding both yourself and baby, the baby is not the size of another adult. Calorie needs are higher during pregnancy, but you don’t need to literally “eat for two.” Conversely, it’s important to meet the higher calorie needs to support a healthy growing environment for your baby. Eating too little can cause intrauterine growth restriction, low birth-weight, and may even set metabolic markers in place that results in the baby being more likely to become obese as an adult. There’s evidence that if that baby’s not getting adequate nutrition in utero, it causes their tiny bodies to think they will have very little to survive on. This can result in their metabolism being impacted long term. A poor diet during pregnancy can also put the baby at risk for insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and cardiovascular disease later in life. So what can you do to make sure you are giving your growing baby and body everything it needs?
What you need
This important nutrient is found in all prenatal supplements. In fact, it’s role in neural tube defect prevention is largely why practitioners say taking a prenatal vitamin is so important! I actually recommend that women of childbearing age aim to get an ample amount of folic acid in their diets, either from foods or a supplement, before trying to get pregnant. The reason? Because of the amount of development that happens in those first few weeks post-conception, you’ll want to make sure that you aren’t folic acid deficient from the start. Food sources of folic acid include orange juice, fortified cereals, beans, lentils, leafy greens, and whole grains.
Iron needs are high during pregnancy due to increased blood volume, fetal development, and the possibility of blood loss during delivery. Iron needs increase as the pregnancy progresses. It’s important for proper brain function, especially in the development of the hippocampus (which is responsible for memory formation and emotional regulation). Because the baby’s brain experiences a growth spurt in the 3rd trimester and then relies on iron stores obtained in utero to sustain growth for the first sixth months of life, consistent and adequate iron intake is essential during pregnancy. Children who aren’t exposed to enough iron prenatally have been shown to have poor cognitive and motor skill development due to improper gray-matter organization. Iron-deficient children tend to suffer learning and behavioral problems and also show abnormal cognitive development into their late teens.
Iron is found in a variety of plant and animal foods as well. The type of iron found in animal foods (red meat, seafood) is referred to as heme iron, and is absorbed best by our bodies. Nonheme iron is found in many plant foods, the best sources being spinach and other leafy greens, dried fruits, beans and peas, tofu, seeds, nuts, soy milk and fortified breakfast cereals. Nonheme iron has a decreased rate of absorption by the body, so if you are getting most of your iron from non-animal sources try consuming a good source of Vitamin C in the same meal. The acidity will help to absorb the iron. Avoid consuming nonheme iron sources with foods high in tannins and phytate (coffee, tea, bran, soy and pinto beans, potatoes) because they compete for absorption and reduce iron availability. Iron isn’t commonly found in prenatal supplements, since the calcium found in these will bind to it and reduce absorption. If you are anemic you may need to take an iron supplement throughout your pregnancy.
Calcium absorption is increased in pregnancy, which typically results in positive calcium balance. You will still want to get calcium from food sources, because prenatal supplements only provide about 500mg (the maximum amount that can be absorbed by the body at once). Aim for at least 2 extra servings of calcium per day. Aside from cow’s milk, good sources include yogurt, leafy greens, beans, soy/nut/rice/hemp milk and fortified juices and cereals.
Vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy is currently the focus of ongoing research. It has been suspected to be linked to preeclampsia, low birth weight, poor postnatal growth and higher incidence of autoimmune disease in babies. The best food sources of Vitamin D is oily fish, fortified foods (some dairy products, soy milk, cereals), egg yolks and cheese.
The omega-3 fatty acid DHA is a necessary part of cell membranes and is important for brain development. Babies born with higher umbilical cord plasma levels of DHA have been found to have higher memory function once they are school-age. Sources of DHA include fatty fish (salmon, herring, anchovy), fish oils, and fortified egg and dairy products. ALA is a fatty acid that is converted to DHA, and is found in flax seed, hemp seeds, walnuts, canola oil and leafy greens. The conversion of ALA to DHA can be reduced by having an excess of omega-6 fatty acids in the diet. Sources of omega-6 fats include animal meats, eggs and vegetables oils (corn, safflower, soybean and sunflower). Aim for obtaining fats from DHA and ALA sources, and less from omega-6 sources.
Strive for balance and variety
Eating a well balanced diet when pregnant may result in having a child who’s more inclined to try and accept a larger variety of foods. Around 21 weeks post conception, babies start talking gulps of the amniotic fluid surrounding them- and it actually tastes like the foods and beverages mom has consumed in the past couple of hours! It was hard for me to pass up sweets in my first pregnancy- and my firstborn loves them (but then again, what kid doesn’t love sugar??). But she also loves and is willing to eat about any vegetable I put in front of her. Something else I ate a lot of when I was pregnant with her!
To make sure you are getting the most balance and variety in your diet as possible when pregnant, aim for lots of color in your meal. The more colorful your meal, the more nutritious it is! Try to avoid an all brown or all white plate. I know this can be hard in the first trimester- I lived off buttered pasta and bread for two months straight! Once the nausea wears off and food tastes good again, really try to focus on that good nutrition. It’s when it matters the most.
You’ll want to ask yourself each meal if you are getting all of the major nutrients (fat, carbohydrate, protein). Aim for carbohydrates that are high in fiber like fruits and whole grains. Reach for lean proteins and healthy fats. I know I feel much more energetic when I eat a healthy balanced meal- especially in that 3rd trimester! With my last baby, it was extremely difficult to eat a full meal once I was past 30 weeks. Especially since I was so pregnant in the heat of the summer! I have a short torso, and eating the littlest bit made me feel overly full. Instead of focusing on meals, I tried to make the most out of snacking. I would snack about once every 1-2 hours, still incorporating a variety of all the major nutrients. Smoothies were my best friend! Much easier to eat spinach and fruits blended together with flaxseed than making myself eat a big salad or heavy meal.
Balance doesn’t just mean eating that perfect plate. It’s about treating yourself a little bit too! My sweet tooth definitely comes out when I’m pregnant, and it can be hard to control at times. I remember having one of those huge cupcakes from a food truck in Austin, TX when I was about 27 weeks pregnant with Carli. I told myself I would only eat 1/2 and finish the rest later, but I couldn’t stop from eating the whole thing. It was delicious and Carli seemed to enjoy it too- the gymnastics she did in my belly from the sugar rush kept me up until almost 2AM that night!
Eating a healthy diet during pregnancy isn’t about being perfect. It’s about doing what you can to provide the best nutrition for yourself and your growing baby. I’ve definitely had to give up the guilt I’ve had for not passing up my morning coffee or being too tired to make anything other than a bowl of cereal for dinner (or..ahem..ice-cream) some nights. I just make sure that 80-90% of the time I’m filling my body with the best nutrition I can give it- and in just 13 more weeks, I’ll be enjoying that big plate of sushi and tall glass of red.
Last weekend I took Carli to pick strawberries for the first time this season. Unfortunately, most of the berries were either not ripe enough or very close to being too ripe. It’s early in the picking season so hopefully later this spring there will be a better selection. Carli loves to fill up her bucket, so we had a pretty good quantity of strawberries to bring home that were only edible for a few days.
I decided to freeze most of them to put into smoothies later on. I recently purchased Popsicle molds from Amazon and had promised Carli we would make our own popsicles soon. I thought it may be fun to try and make popsicles out of some of the fresh strawberries that were starting to become over-ripe. It was something my two year-old could easily help me with, and it was pretty cool to teach her how to make something with one of the freshest ingredients possible- fresh fruit that she picked from the ground herself!
First, I sliced the strawberries into small pieces. Then I let Carli fill each mold to the top with the berries.
After the molds were full with strawberries, I added lemonade to the top of the molds to fill the spaces between the berries. I froze them overnight, but they only took about 4 hours to set.
They were definitely a hit! I felt good about letting her eat them for a treat the next afternoon- much lower in added sugars than the popsicles you would find at the grocery store. Another option would be to add yogurt instead of lemonade to hold the berries together- we are going to try that next time! Maybe I can trick Carli into thinking it’s ice-cream.
Here’s some other combinations that may be worth trying:
Kiwi, peaches and strawberries with fruit juice of choice (dilute the juice for less sugar)
Strawberries, blueberries and raspberries with vanilla yogurt or grape juice (this would be perfect for a Memorial Day or 4th of July treat!)
Blueberries and Greek yogurt
Oranges, pineapple and grapefruit with orange or pineapple juice
The weather is getting warmer, and there’s nothing I love more for a spring/summer lunch (or in my case these days, even a snack) than chicken salad. Lately it’s been one of my biggest cravings and I’ve made several trips to Zoe’s, Chicken Salad Chick and Sprouts to grab a container to have in my fridge at all times. Zoe’s chicken salad was one of Carli’s first foods, and she’s loved it ever since (although there’s not many foods that child doesn’t love). I’ve been wanting to make my own for awhile now to control the ingredients that are going into it, especially since I’m pregnant and also because my two year old will eat so much of it. Only the best for my growing girls! I’ve seen recipes for homemade mayonnaise, and I always intended to use a homemade mayo to put into my chicken salad. At the last minute I decided against the homemade mayo and opted for a mayonnaise that was store bought. I’m all about quick and easy!
After some trial and error, here are my 3 favorite chicken salad recipes that I will be sure to make over and over again this summer. The mayo I used in these recipes can be found here. The only ingredients are avocado oil, organic cage-free eggs and yolks, organic vinegar, organic rosemary and sea salt. It’s sold at our local Publix, and I’m sure you can find it at most large grocery stores or health food stores (such as Sprouts or Whole Foods). It’s a little more expensive than Hellmann’s or Kraft, but the ingredients are definitely higher in quality. If you want to make your own mayo (less expensive but a little more time consuming), here is a good recipe.
Greek Chicken Salad
This is super easy to make, and most closely resembles your typical chicken salad. We had friends come to visit over the weekend, and they loved it!
3 cooked chicken breasts (shredded) or you can use chicken from about 1/2 a rotisserie chicken
1 cup chopped celery
1.5 cups sliced red grapes
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbsp Greek seasoning (see recipe below)
Mix the mayo and Greek seasoning together. Blend with remaining ingredients. Serve with crackers or on top a bed of salad greens.
Greek Seasoning Recipe
Mix the following herbs together. Store in an airtight container- you can use this later for a Greek chicken recipe! Yum!
1 Tbsp salt
2 tsp dried basil
4 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
4 tsp onion powder
4 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion flakes
2 tsp dried dill
2 tsp pepper
2 tsp dried parsley
2 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp nutmeg
Avocado Chicken Salad
If you love avocado, I promise you will love this. The avocado replaces the mayo in the chicken salad and it’s delicious.
3 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded (again you can also use about 1/2 of a rotisserie chicken)
1 avocado (ripe enough to mash)
1/4 cup chopped onion
2 tbsp lime juice
2 Tbsp fresh chopped cilantro
salt and pepper to taste
Mash the avocado and mix with all other ingredients. This tastes really good on top of toasted bread or pita chips.
Herb Chicken Salad
This resembles a type of chicken salad I love from Publix. It has a light taste and is delicious. I was able to sneak some veggies into it too, which was a bonus!
3 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded (again you can also use about 1/2 of a rotisserie chicken)
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp dijon mustard
2 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 cup green onion, chopped
1/4 cup shredded carrots, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
Stir together the mayo, mustard, dill, parsley, and garlic until smooth. Add the chicken, green onion and carrots. Enjoy!
I’ve officially reached the last week of my 20’s. For years I thought I would dread this moment- I thought the end of my 20’s would mean the end of having fun and the beginning of getting old. I only saw getting older as going to bed early, getting bad knees and dreading the month of March (my birthday month) for the rest of my life. I’m starting to see it’s so much more than that. I actually can’t wait to turn my back on my 20’s- it was fun, I’ve learned some life lessons, by the grace of God I’m still alive (I made some stupid decisions in my early 20’s), and my experiences have shaped me into the adult I am today. I’m ready for a new chapter, one that I hope will be filled more with grace, rest, and deep connections rather than the hustle, selfishness and surface-level relationships I was drawn to a decade ago.
I look back, and the experiences I’ve had over the past 10 years feels more like a lifetime. I graduated college, grew to be completely independent from my parents, met my husband- got engaged to my husband- and married my husband, overcame the challenges of struggling with an eating disorder, lived in four different states, became a registered dietitian, worked for two different companies, traveled all over North America, ran 6 marathons, and became a mother. I’ve gained some very meaningful relationships, but I’ve also lost some. I’ve gained a boatload of wisdom, and I’m a much stronger person than I was in my early 20’s. I’ve learned that I can’t let people walk all over me. I’ve found my voice- I’m not at timid as I once was.
I don’t have it all figured out. I don’t think I ever will! That’s the beautiful thing about getting older- you are continuously learning from experiences. Looking back, oh how I would have done things so much differently if I knew then what I know now! I catch myself saying all the time- “If I only knew.” Even though there are so many things I could change about my past that would have made my life then (and even today) a little bit easier, I wouldn’t do it. Constantly falling and getting back up is what has made me a stronger person. It’s given me confidence and I’ve learned from my mistakes. The best part is, I can take those mistakes and help other young people who are struggling with the same thing. God never wastes a hurt. I believe that firmly now.
There are areas that I’m working on to make my 30’s more grace-filled, restful, and deeply connected than my 20’s. The past 10 years have worn me out, both physically and emotionally. I’m starting to learn- it’s just not worth it.
People-pleasing: NO MORE
If there was an award for pleasing other people and not ever letting others down, I would win it. It doesn’t matter who it is, it could be someone I met 30 minutes ago or someone I’ve known my whole life, I want to make people happy. Most would say this is a good quality. It can be, but not if you’re letting down the people who are closest to you in order to win over the approval from others. It’s good to be dependable and a hard-worker. Those are qualities I’ll always want to possess, but no longer at the expense of my own well-being and certainly not at the expense of my family. I’m tired of constantly letting my husband or daughter down just so others will praise me for being a good and dependable person. I’m learning to find balance here, and it’s been difficult to navigate. Not only because I feel guilty for saying the word “no,” but also because I feel that some of the value I place on myself comes from making other people happy, no matter what the cost. But I’m looking at my own family, and they want me to be present more. Not for other people, but for them. My husband and two girls will always come first, followed by my closest friends and the rest of my family, followed by everyone else.
Not everyone is going to like me
I want everyone to be my best friend. I don’t ever want to offend anyone, I don’t want to make people mad because my opinion is different from theirs, and I certainly want everyone to approve of me. I know this is all normal, especially for women. My husband could care less what other people think of him- I envy him for that! I also get envious of women, usually who are much older than I am (like my mom or some of my older friends), who say that they just don’t care what people think of them anymore. They are going to be their own person and not let people’s opinions get in the way of that. Gosh, what a burden would be lifted off of my shoulders if I felt that way! This is hard for me, but definitely a goal of mine. It’s difficult to form deep relationships with people if you are always at the surface level, just because you are worried about what they are going to think of you. The more I’ve come out of my shell and allowed myself to open up and just be me, the deeper some of my friendships have grown. And some have grown to be more distant. As hard as it is for me to be okay with that, I’m accepting it. I would much rather have close connections that allow me to be comfortable being myself, than just having surface-level relationships.
I spent my 20’s focused on being exhausted and shrinking. This is where I found most of my value. I think that’s part of the reason why I loved marathon training so much. After a 20 mile run my body would feel drained and small. This tired and thin body was everything to me, and if I didn’t feel as light as a I wanted to or if I didn’t wake up the next morning still feeling tired, I felt worthless. I hate that my mind has become so addicted to that feeling, and it’s been hard to erase. It’s different from getting a high after a good workout at the gym or feeling proud of yourself because you ate healthy that day. I was a slave to it. And now? My almost 30-year old body feels like it’s 60 sometimes. Everything still works well and my knees are still holding up great (thank you Jesus), but sometimes I feel as if the abuse I put my body through for so long has taken its toll. I know I can’t treat my body like this forever, I only have one! Gone are the 2-3 workouts a day, exercising even when I feel exhausted (I’m no longer afraid of lying on the couch if I need it), and 15 mile runs in the heat of the day. I want to take care of my body and give it some grace. I stay active as much as I can and do an actual workout 5 days per week. I rest when I need it, and am no longer finding value in how tired or small I feel.
I want everything to be perfect and look perfect all the time. I am always looking for something to do- sweep the floors, fold laundry, load the dishwasher- it just stresses me out if these things pile up. I about have a panic attack if my kitchen floors are dirty! I promise you, I hate being late to anything, but cleaning up dirty floors always takes priority to getting out the door. This drives my husband (and even more recently Carli) absolutely crazy. I’m not sure what made me to be wired this way, but the past 10 years I have always felt as if I have to earn rest and playtime. Work hard, play hard is my motto. If everything is done, if the house looks perfect, if I got my workout in….then we can have fun. I don’t want my kids to look back and just remember a mom who was there, but not really there. Instead of rushing around making sure everything is in place all the time, I want to be certain that I am fully present in their lives. No, it won’t ever get it the point where I’m okay with living in a filthy house, and I want my kids to know that there is a time for doing chores and cleaning up our messes. But I no longer want to be a slave to a to-do list. Instead, I want to enjoy impromptu play with Carli more often, and fully allow myself to be a part of her little world.
I’m hard on myself, and this has gotten much worse after becoming a mom. I am quick to put blame on myself, especially if Carli is acting out. I compare myself to other moms and judge myself for things that are sometimes out of my control. I’ll call myself a pushover mom, fault myself for not being confident enough in my ability to raise her well, and make myself believe that I’m a bad parent because my own parenting and discipline style is different from someone else. I’m always questioning myself- am I doing this right? Maybe that mom is doing it better.
I’ve had to step back from this and really look at the big picture. All kids are different and there are lots of different parenting styles. I’m doing what I believe is best for my two-year old. She is a lot like me and we both have very strong personalities- and are both very strong-willed! It’s going to be a challenge to raise her with her headstrong personality (now I truly believe in karma- sorry mom), but if I can help her channel all that energy and determination she has toward a positive direction, I have no doubt she’ll grow into a strong young woman. I just have to give both myself (and her- especially when she is a teenager) a lot more grace.
I’m raising one little girl with another one on the way, and I couldn’t be more thankful for them. The moment I looked at my firstborn’s face for the first time, I wanted so desperately to protect her from anything that would cause her to feel like she wasn’t good enough, that her body wasn’t good enough, and that she needed to change herself to fit into what her peers and society want her to be. I wanted to preserve her all her newness and naïveté, and wanted so badly to do whatever I could to make sure that she never went down the same road I did.
I often look back and ask myself- “was it worth it being thin?”
It wasn’t. Fighting an eating disorder for ten years left me lifeless. I was there but I wasn’t there. I was a different person- not myself, but who my eating disorder wanted me to be. It caused failed relationships. It stripped me of my passions, my dreams. It was a dark place that I never want my girls to be.
Now I’m here, and I’m healthy. I’ve overcome one obstacle, but now I’m faced with another one, almost more scary than the first.
“How do I protect my girls from all this? Is there hope? Is there something I can be doing for them as their mother?”
One of my best friends has always told me that when it comes to kids “God gives you what you need.” That couldn’t be more true. To be honest, it if weren’t for my girls I’m not sure I would have ever come forward with the struggles I faced having an eating disorder. I’m not sure if I would have the same passion I do now to spread awareness and advocate for prevention. Every time I see my two year old daughter with her sweet friends it breaks my heart knowing that someday they will be exposed to the reality of our culture today: full of dieting, body dissatisfaction and airbrushed models on magazine covers.
There is hope, and we can help our girls learn to love themselves for who they are. We can raise strong and confident girls who understand that it’s not their bodies that give them value.
First, we have to talk about it. Expose them to the reality of eating disorders and distorted body image. Ask them how they feel about that. Guide them to make their own healthy decision about how they feel the way bodies are portrayed in the media. Sheltering them from these issues doesn’t always work, generally it backfires. Girls need a safe place to discuss feelings about their bodies- if that’s lacking then it’s easier to fall into the lies that their bodies aren’t pretty enough, thin enough, fit enough, tall enough- the list goes on!
Next, being a positive role model is so important. Don’t discuss diets around them. Don’t trash-talk your own body. Don’t trash-talk other people’s bodies. They’re watching you.
Always talk function over looks. We use our bodies to play, work, give hugs, perform tasks- not to look good in a bathing suit. This is important when discussing fitness as well. Exercise is good for our bodies because it makes our heart healthy and gives us energy. It lowers our risk of chronic diseases and creates good mood-enhancing endorphins. Exercise is not for achieving a certain number on the scale.
Help them to believe they are beautiful just the way they are. Don’t criticize their looks or tell them what needs to be changed. Celebrate them in their uniqueness every day. Tell them they are beautiful and praise them for their strengths often. Build them up daily and provide constant encouragement. Be confident yourself! Confident mothers raise confident daughters.
LET THEM BE AWKWARD. They will all go through it. Every single one of them. Sometime between the ages of 9-14 they are going to be amazingly awkward and you are probably going to cringe and want to do whatever you can to get them out of it. Don’t do it- let them be. I can’t tell you how many times during this stage of my life I was torn down because of the way I dressed and the way I acted. The constant criticism- mostly from people in my life who were supposed to be safe- destroyed me. They won’t be awkward forever, I promise. It’s all part of growing up.
Encourage healthy eating, but don’t discuss calories and “bad foods.” Never tell a child that a food will make them fat. Don’t talk about carbs and fat grams- talk about nutrients and health. Be an example of a healthy eater. Kids do by example.
Know that eating disorders do not stereotype, and there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to eating disorders. A person does not have to have a low BMI to have an eating disorder- in fact this is probably one of the biggest myths around eating disorders out there. Look for the signs: change in personality, food rituals, sneaking away after meals, hoarding food, lack of interest in usual activities, unhealthy exercise habits and extreme dieting (this can include elimination of multiple types of food, an obsession with eating “clean” and an calorie counting). Weight loss is the not the only sign of an eating disorder. In fact, in many cases, it’s not a symptom at all.
The statistics are out there, body dissatisfaction starts at such a young age it’s disturbing. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, 70% of 6-12 year-old girls want to be thinner and according to a study conducted by Duke University, 40% of all 9-10 year-old girls have already been on a diet. Implications of poor body image and dieting at such a young age include increased likelihood of developing an eating disorder, lower self-esteem, and depression. In my experience, I started comparing my body to my friends at the young age of 8 years-old. By age 9 I started experimenting with diets. By the time I was 12, I was so dissatisfied with my body that I was depressed, and placed all my self-worth in what size my jeans were and the number on the scale. Sadly, my body confidence only started to rise after people started noticing that I had lost weight, and complimented me on how good I looked. It fueled my desire to keep going. Before I knew it, I couldn’t stop.
My hope for my girls and our future generation of women is that they help each other to rise above the body type standard. I hope they don’t encourage each other to diet or make their bodies look a certain way. I hope they don’t praise each other based on what they eat or what the scale says or encourage one another to go through unhealthy measures to obtain a certain body type. My hope is that their focus for life is far away from looking like a bikini or fitness model. My hope is that they build each other up in their strengths and that they focus on the beauty of their hearts, not outside beauty. I hope they don’t bully others to make themselves feel better. I hope they grow into confident young women who place value above their looks. I hope that even though they will one day be subjected to the reality of pressure that will be around them to look and act a certain way, that instead they are able to preserve that sweet sense of innocence that they posses now. I hope they don’t lose their sweet personalities and dreams to reach an unobtainable standard in looks.
I believe that there is hope in this generation of girls. They can be the beginning of a world without negative body image and eating disorders. I hope they grow up knowing that they are perfect just the way they are, and their bodies are beautiful- just as God created them to be. If you have any influence in a young girl’s life, think about her own personal attributes and what makes her special. What can you do to help her believe those special qualities give her value?
Here’s to celebrating this generation, what makes them unique in their own way, and how beautiful that is. These girls know now that there is nothing more beautiful than being yourself- I hope they still believe this 10 years from now!
Our sweet Carli- she is special in so many ways! She is as hard-headed and independent as her mama, but those qualities will take her far in life! Even though she is full of determination and will do whatever it takes to get her way, she has the most tender and loving heart. She will stop whatever she’s doing to make sure that someone she knows is sad feels better, and will always offer the best hugs. She may be a little firecracker that has nonstop energy, but she is the best snuggler! I hope she never loses her sweet and caring spirit and the joy she has in her heart. I hope she grows up putting Jesus first in her life, and is as loving toward others as she is now. -Jennie
Willow turned 5 in October. She has the nickname in our family of “joy” because she is never seen without a smile on her face. She is so in love with life and can find happiness and fun in everything! She has a wonderful sense of humor, and loves dancing around in costumes pretty much all day long, if she could. She has one of the kindest hearts I have ever seen and can make friends with anyone. One thing I admire about her is how she does not give up on things. When she decides she wants to do something, she will find a way to learn how to do it! My husband and I could not be prouder to be the parents of this amazing little girl. -Emily
Kynlee is 5 and a half (the half is very important!). She is the easiest child and probably the sweetest little girl I have ever known, though I’m quite partial. She loves unicorns and could color for days on end. She’s also my movie-goer girl, though she is a homebody and just loves being around our house. She absolutely loves the beach and finding treasures and shells there, and cries every time we have to leave. She loves animals, especially her horse Buzz and wants to “work in an animal hospital” when she grows up. Kynlee is shy in the beginning, but has such a bubbly and loving personality once you get to know her. She’s smart, loves school, loves making crafts and creating, loves reading, and loves “learning about God and Jesus”. She is my soft, tender-hearted little lady, who loves wearing dresses and being cute! -Jeanine
Charlotte Elizabeth Bowen is a 5 year old girl that loves all sorts of things. She is just as comfortable in a dress as she is in a pair of tennis shoes and athletic pants. One side of her loves twirling around pretending she is a Disney princess and another side of her loves exploring in the woods. Some call her shy but I just say that she is very selective in who she speaks with. Strangers don’t impress her but you better believe that she is taking everything in. Charlotte is very caring and loves being a big sister to her 3 year old brother, Samuel. She always watches out for him and others. Charlotte always tries to do the right thing; she tells the truth even it it means she may get in trouble. Charlotte is naturally athletic; she can accomplish anything she puts her mind to. She might need a little boost of confidence because she is cautious about new experiences but she doesn’t give up. Charlotte can “snuggle” so tightly that her hugs will make anyone’s day better. Love pours out from her daily and I hope that never changes. -Jamie
Chloe just turned 6 in January and is loving being “older.” Chloe has a sweet spirit and is very tender-hearted, smart, silly and sometimes a little bossy. We’ll say, assertive. She is named after generations of strong women dating back to the 1700s and has proven to live up to her name. She loves pink…and white, for some reason. She is stereotypically a girly girl and into princesses, but isn’t afraid to pick up a bug or a frog. She’s pretty obsessed with lizards, in fact. She likes to make new friends and is affectionate toward them. She loves to laugh and we see Jesus shine straight through her spirit. She knows who her Savior is and we think that’s most important. She is beautiful on the outside but her beauty on the inside far outweighs her flesh. -Holli
Robyn just turned two and and she is a little firecracker! We love her spunky, outgoing personality. She loves splashing in puddles, jumping on the trampoline, coloring, twirling in her princess dresses and riding her bike. Despite her age, she speaks more than and just as well as her four year old brother! She definitely has some of the family engineering genes too, as she loves to ask what things are called and how they work. It’s fun to have full conversations with her as she discovers more about her world. Two is a hard age full of big emotions, but we hope to raise Robyn to be a strong woman (being sandwiched between two brothers sure will help), and to know that she can be whatever God calls her to be. We can’t wait to watch her grow and see the plans God has for her. -Andrea
Bailey Grace- This 3 year old crazy child broke our little mold when she came into this world. She’s everything we never knew we wanted, and we love her for it! She is definitely the one that keeps us on our toes. She’s outgoing, though slightly shy at first. She is hilarious, and is the one teachers tell me is the one that makes them laugh more than the rest. There’s never a dull (or still) moment with Bailey, which is probably why her current love is gymnastics. She loves SO big, needs her daily snuggles, is passionate and determined about what she wants, loves being active and doing “a workout”, and loves being outdoors. She loves her big sister like crazy, as well as gets a thrill from driving her crazy. She’s too smart for her own (mischievous) good. Of all things she loves, her blanky and lovey take the cake! -Jeanine
Emily is a sweet yet sassy 3 1/2 year old. She may be tiny, yet she knows how to stand up for herself. One of her favorite activities includes wrestling with her big brother. When brother is not around, Emily can be found playing with baby dolls, painting, reading books, or snuggling up to mommy and daddy. Emily is also in love with gymnastics! She will climb, hang, and flip any chance she gets. Sweetest moments with Emily include morning cuddles and bedtime routines. Emily loves to “read” the Bible to the rest of the family at night and pray: “Thank you Jesus for dying on the cross because You love us.” While those are precious words out of a babes mouth, our prayer is that Emily will find her value in the love that Jesus has for her, and this is a beautiful start. -Amy
What makes Ryleigh special is that she marches to the beat of her own drum. I also lover her confidence. Whenever someone says she can’t do something, her response is “I can do anything.” And anytime someone tells her she is pretty she says “thank you, I’m smart too!” She loves her curls and isn’t afraid to tell me that she is perfect! She is strong and determined. She doesn’t tend to let anything get in the way of what she wants. I pray she continues to be this way for the rest of her life. -Jennifer
Caroline is special because she has such a tender caring heart! –Heather
Reese is special because she never gives up! She will take over the world one day! -Heather
My husband and I make a conscious effort to tell our girls daily how beautiful the are (multiple times a day), and both of them truly believe they are real-life princesses (their mommy and daddy’s princesses and God’s sweet princesses of course)! Man I would have loved to have “known”that growing up. I struggled with an eating disorder (starting at the age of 14) throughout high school and college; and when we found out we were pregnant with girls both times, I truly panicked. The questions/doubts that ran through my head were: how am I going to raise girls with a healthy self-image? will they have eating disorders too? will they know that they are beautiful no matter what? What God has taught me over the past 4 yrs (and that I often have to remind myself of) is that He called me to raise these girls, and He can equip me daily to give them exactly what they need.
My oldest daughter, Marylee, 4, has the most sensitive and kind heart I’ve ever seen. I fear this trait is going to cause her to get hurt and find myself being overly protective of her at times. She was my 2lb 8 oz 29 week preemie after all! She loves to sing, dance, and twirl. She also loves all the Disney princesses! She is quite the expert! She loves to read and watch movies too (just like her mama). She likes to change her outfit 6 times a day and wants to be told how beautiful each and every wardrobe change is. She is always looking out for her younger sister and always splits her oreo cookie with her that she gets on the way out of dance class. We love this about her.
My youngest daughter, Joanna, is the funniest person I know. She makes her dad and me laugh out loud daily. We have no idea where she comes up with the stuff she says! She loves to bake (she is all in I’m when helping me bake cookies-especially chocolate chip) and helps me cook dinner nightly. She also loves to sing, dance, and twirl; and her favorite time of the week is dance class! She calls herself “the baby” and I’m totally good with that! We recently learned that she loves to kick a soccer ball around and is actually good at it (we don’t know where she got that from)! -Jill
Here’s a video highlighting my journey, the hope that was lost and then regained through recovery. The ending shows the start of our future generation of young women, and my hope for them is that their journey is much different than mine. I pray they are fighters, they can handle whatever comes their way, and that they choose to rise above the pressures our world places on them.
Monday’s have been crazy lately, so I’ve missed quite a few of our Monday meals. I battled rough morning (all day) sickness earlier this winter, and now that I’m almost to the halfway point in my pregnancy the nausea is (thank goodness) completely gone. Even though I no longer feel sick, my second trimester hasn’t been as easy with this pregnancy as it was the last. I’ve been struggling with a really poor appetite in the evening along with a lot of fatigue late in the day, which has made it difficult for me to have the motivation to cook an evening meal. Family meals are important to me, so I’m trying to start planning meals again and get back in the kitchen.
There’s a few pancake recipes I’ve been wanting to try, and have never gotten around to making them for breakfast. Carli doesn’t eat as well in the evening as she used to, but always wakes up ravenous. Usually she’s not interested in waiting around for me to cook her something for breakfast- she wants something quick! So I thought- why not try the pancakes for dinner? I love breakfast for dinner, it’s just not something we do often. The recipes are easy, so it was the perfect meal to make with my two-year old.
I got the inspiration to do this tonight after I noticed the four bananas on my counter that were extremely ripe. Both pancake recipes are made with ripe bananas along with a few other simple ingredients and don’t require a lot of prep or cooking time. Perfect for a simple meal!
The first pancakes I made were with bananas, oats and blueberries. Carli loved to help with the measuring and pouring into the blender. She also helped me break up the bananas into pieces to add to the batter.
Blueberry Banana Pancakes:
1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 ripe banana
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 tbsp almond milk
1/2 tsp baking powder
handful of blueberries
Put all ingredients except the blueberries into a blender. Blend until smooth. Fold in the blueberries and pour batter straight from the blender onto a skillet. Cook about 2-3 minutes each side. I topped with blueberries and banana slices. You don’t even need syrup for these! I put some on mine but next time I think I’ll do without- the bananas blended into the pancakes add plenty of sweetness.
Next, I tried a peanut butter and banana pancake recipe. My daughter has adapted my love for all things peanut butter, so I knew these would be a hit. This recipe makes really thin pancakes, but they are delicious. My husband thought there was too much banana in the mixture, and although I liked the taste I agreed that some may like it with less banana. I altered the recipe below depending on how much you like banana-tasting pancakes 🙂
Peanut Butter Banana Pancakes:
1-2 ripe bananas (depending on how much banana taste you want)
3 Tbsp peanut butter
1 tsp cinnamon
Mix all ingredients in a blender. Pour batter straight from the blender onto a skillet and cook about 2-3 minutes each side. I topped these with banana slices- it would also be good with melted peanut butter drizzled over the top.
I served the pancakes with turkey bacon and fruit. I had some batter left over, which I kept in the fridge to whip up some quick pancakes in the morning. This was definitely a meal we’ll do again- it was delicious, easy, and something Carli could help out a lot with. Baby girl even enjoyed it- I’ve been feeling her sweet kicks all evening 🙂