Tuesday, February 6, 2018

meal planning and maintaining a healthy lifestyle on a budget...for lazy people

Good evening errybody!

I promised this post on my instagram story a few weeks ago, and I'm pretty proud of myself for getting it up in a decent amount of time. (*fingers crossed this actually goes up today*)

As many of you know, Josh works in agriculture and construction as part of a family-run business, so as the good wife that I am learning to be, I do my best to help us live as cost-effectively as we can in our daily lives - which then in turn enables us to take fun trips and splurge on new and exciting things as money and work and time allows.

We are by no-means a true "crunchy" family, but we care about what we put into our bodies, we care about where our food comes from, and since Josh spends his days working his heart out outside in the fields or on the job, and I've spent most of our marriage growing tiny humans, our diet and our nutrition, and bodily and mental health are very important to us.

I do most of my grocery shopping at Aldi - a great low-price grocery store that is based out of Germany but has stores all over the United States. Another similar store would be Lidl (we have one of those too, but since Aldi has everything I need I rarely go there), and if you're really good at hunting around and have the patience to hit multiple stores in one run, you can actually find similar deals on produce at places like Ingles, Kroger, or even Wal-Mart. So if you don't have an Aldi, I'm sorry....*hehe* BUT. It's not impossible to feed your family in a healthy manner on a budget that can't handle a weekly Whole Foods run.

I've found in this season, especially with morning sickness (so glad that's over with for now!) and lack of energy in the evenings in particular, that meal-planning and my crock pot are my best friends. I am NOT a naturally organized person, and not a planner by any definition, but I *am* emotional and easily discouraged by what I feel like I can't do, and by sitting down and making a list of meals for each day and keeping to a schedule and a grocery list every week I've saved myself a lot of anxiety and I get the double satisfaction of eating food that tastes good AND that's good for my little family.

I didn't really keep track of prices of any of this food, unfortunately (once again - NOT ORGANIZED) and I threw out my receipts already, but you keep the following numbers in your head as you scroll through my meal plan, it'll help you guesstimate:

Weekly Aldi Run: $50-$60 (produce, dairy products, snacks, etc.)
Monthly Aldi Stock-Up: $60-75 (regular groceries plus meat for freezer meals and re-stock on items I don't run out of every week)

Monthly Grocery Budget: $200-$250 (give or take...seriously y'all, I'm so bad with numbers)

These numbers have actually been going down since I started sticking more faithfully to the meal plan, which I'm thrilled about! Each week a little give or take, since we do eat mostly fresh produce so that runs out or goes bad quickly, but this weekly/monthly budget also includes dish soap, paper products, etc. so I'm pretty pleased with how we've been able to stick to it.

Okay! So on to the actual meal plan!

We've stuck with this same plan for almost a month now, and it's been wildly successful for us, so I don't really deviate from it much.

this whiteboard has saved my skin - SO MUCH LOVE.

So here is my meal plan. It's basic, it's simple, but it makes sure we get all the right food we need, and in decent quantities, both for me and Baby and for Josh. It's all food we love, and each recipe allows for variations if I so choose, or they work plenty well on their own.

I'm going to go through each meal/day real quick so you can see how I do it, how much prep these take, and links to the recipes I use.


First of all -


Not listed on the meal plan, but we do eat breakfast! (mostly - oops *sheepish grin*) We ALWAYS have several dozen eggs, usually a tub of granola, milk, yogurt, a package of sausage or bacon, and bagels and cream cheese on hand every week, so Josh just grabs what he wants early early before he goes to work, and I'll make whatever Baby is in the mood for when I get up later. We usually have pancakes or waffles from scratch on the weekends, with natural maple syrup and peanut butter - so mostly healthy *wink*

Josh is also a master smoothie maker, so he usually makes a smoothie every morning as well. For those, we always have bananas, frozen fruit, spinach, peanut butter, and yogurt on hand. The frozen fruit I don't have to buy but every two weeks or so, peanut butter about the same.

Okay. Now starting on the meal plan:

lunch: crockpot BBQ and rice
Y'ALL. I found this amazing lady's blog who has literally dozens and dozens of meal plans for crock-pot freezer meals. More meal plans than I can process without feeling overwhelmed. I actually used her meal plans for a few weeks when I had terrible morning sickness, and was so blessed by how straightforward and practical they were!

Here's the link to the meal-plan sessions: 31 Freezer Prep Sessions
And these are the meals we've loved most - 8 Healthy Crockpot Freezer Meals

Her recipes feed a family a bit larger than ours, so I adjust the recipes as needed. Josh and I will eat about a pound and a half of meat (chicken or beef) for a crockpot meal, so that's what I adjust them to. I always have two BBQ chicken and two chicken fajita crock pot meals in the freezer at any given time, and I usually stock up on the meat that I need during my once-a-month Aldi run, or if I see meat is on sale at Ingles.

supper: leftovers
obviously this looks like the beginning of the meal plan, so why leftovers? because inevitably there's food left over from the previous week, and it's nice to get a fresh start on Monday, so we try to eat out of the fridge on Sundays as much as we can. Often we'll have rice leftover from the previous week, and our favorite leftover meal is fried rice with eggs, veggies, any leftover meats - served on tortillas or by itself or with a salad.

lunch: leftovers
NOTE: "lunch" usually refers to Josh's lunch, which he has to take with him to work, so on Monday he'll take any leftovers still leftover, OR I'll make him a panini - deli meat, cheese, lettuce, tomato, etc. with a salad. The man eats salad like it's going out of style, and he will literally put ANYTHING on it...easy enough for me, ha...

supper: salmon, broccoli, and corn
This is an "eat out of the freezer" meal - since Mondays can be a little hectic, and Tuesday is often my grocery shopping day so sometimes we are low on produce by Monday evening.

I buy salmon frozen, and I always get wild-caught. I don't worry terribly much about organic or all-natural labels for fish, but I stay away from tilapia and other farmed fish and stick with ones that are overall more healthy. Broccoli I've found frozen and organic, which is great, it never goes bad *hehe* sometimes I'll switch out broccoli for asparagus.

The corn we have overflowing out of our freezer is from our very own farm - I'll either prepare it with salt and pepper and garlic, or add a block of cream cheese and make creamed corn. Yummy!

Tuesdays are arguably one of our busier days each week, since I usually have bible study in the mornings and then go grocery shopping, so it's nice to have simple meals today.

lunch: sandwiches 
sandwiches for Josh, and sandwiches for Liza! My favorite is an open face with avocado, tomato, and hummus spread on whole wheat or sourdough toast - yum, yum, yum!

supper: beans & rice
self-explanatory....and cheap. We eat a lot of beans, lentils, and brown rice now. I either prepare it in the crockpot, or do it on the stove, but if you're cooking beans you HAVE TO REMEMBER TO SOAK THEM THE NIGHT BEFORE (or morning of) otherwise you'll have a lovely shock when you go to make supper and realize you have to make something else, hehe. Thinking ahead isn't my strong suit, but I make sure to check the meal plan before bed each night in case I need to pull something out of the freezer or soak something for the next day.

I cook about a cup of rice, a cup (or a little more) of pinto beans, or a cup of lentils per person - that's a tad too much for me, close to enough for Josh, and give us leftovers. If I'm doing it in the crockpot, I'll do whatever the recipe calls for (usually for a family of 4-6) so we definitely have leftovers for the next day.

Liza's Pinto Beans:
1. soak beans overnight
2. cook beans according to bag directions, usually simmering for a couple hours till tender.
3. while simmering, add
                  1 onion, diced
                  4-6 slices of uncooked bacon, optional (chopped with scissors)
                  1/2 to 1 lb. ground beef or turkey, optional (cooked to the side in a skillet, then added)
                  salt, pepper, fresh garlic and chili powder to taste

that's it! and it's so crazy good....FAVORITE.

Oh, and once again, we eat a salad on the side. Mixed greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, dressing, etc. OR, if we want to make it more interesting, we turn it into taco night, pull out tortillas, salsa, plain yogurt (instead of sour cream), chips, cheese, hot sauce, etc. and doctor up the beans and rice that way. Or we make taco bowls. It doesn't have to be boring!

lunch: bean & rice, or pasta
depending on the leftovers situation from Tuesday night, Josh will take cold beans and rice to work (they can't heat anything up - good thing it's good cold!) or if it's in the crockpot he can take it in the thermos hot - win, win. IF we don't have leftovers, he'll do a sandwich and salad. And he probably does a salad no matter what, anyways.

Wednesdays I'll either make pasta for me, depending on how hungry I am (I'm eating a lot more these days, and sometimes carbs help fill me up if I didn't have a big breakfast or Baby hit a growth spurt or whatever) or I'll have another open face sandwich, or even scrambled eggs. I'm kind of sporadic...which is why it's helpful for me to have options on hand, and some sort of plan to stick to, so I don't NOT eat 'cause I can't think of anything. (which happens. *sigh*)

supper: sweet potato soup
this was a favorite of the Morali growing up, and I love it just as much now as I did then. Sometimes I have chicken to put in, sometimes I don't, but here's the basic recipe.

PSA: Seriously y'all, if you've ever watched Liza's Cooking Show on Instagram, you know I have NO IDEA how I actually cook - I just throw stuff in and it turns out good 90% of the time, so if you want a more specific recipe, go to Pinterest.
Crockpot Sweet Potato Soup
1. peel (or don't) 3-4 medium sweet potatoes, maybe around 2lb total or so (more if they're tiny, like the ones I had to buy today, or two if they're the GIGANTIC ones I just finished using up from Josh's mom's garden) Chop them into bite size pieces, then go ahead and put them in the crockpot with about three or four cups of water or chicken or vegetables stock. They shouldn't be swimming in it, but you want them to have enough to soften them up.
2. saute an onion and a handful of minced garlic cloves, then add that to the crockpot
3. add 2-3 diced tomatoes, or a can of diced tomatoes if you want.
4. add two cooked chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces, if youhave them. If not, it'll be vegetarian, which is totally great.
5. add 1/2-3/4 cup peanut butter - if it won't stir in, just let it warm up and check on it in a couple hours and stir it some more...it'll dissolve eventually.
6. season with whatever spices you like best - I use salt, pepper, a little cumin, and a little ginger.
7. Cook until the potatoes are cooked - I've found that low for about 8 hours does it, so I start it around 10am and it'll be ready when Josh is ready to eat.

Note - a lot of sweet potato soup recipes call for it to be blended up. Yuck. No thanks. I like to have all my flavors individually, so the way we make it is way more of a "sweet potato stew" than a soup. It's thick, it's not runny, and you could almost eat it with a fork.

Surprise, surprise, we usually eat this with salad, or garlic bread, or both. Or by itself, if I wasn't with it enough to pull something else together, which happens.

lunch: sweet potato soup.
we literally always have leftovers of this. for days. and days. because I always make a ton on accident. (side effect of never measuring anything)

supper: lentils and rice
this has become my favorite meal of the week. I found this amazing crockpot recipe that I actually FOLLOWED (*round of applause*) and it's so delicious....here's the link: Slow Cooker Brown Rice and Lentils.
Okay I lied. I didn't put parsley or sherry in cause I don't have any. But other than that, I followed the recipe, so you can still be proud. *wink*

lunch: sandwiches or leftovers
nothing new here :)

supper: crockpot fajitas (freezer meal)
Friday evenings are busy for us, since we both work at our local youth center that night, so crockpot is required. I have whole wheat tortillas on hand always, and we'll use plain yogurt for sour cream, and we'll pull out the greens and anything else we like to fill them up. Easy enough, and it's comforting to have something hearty and warm to come home to if it's late.

Saturdays are our ONE sleep in morning each week. So we spend ALL morning either sleeping or hanging out in bed, drinking coffee and being lazy. So breakfast turns into brunch, and we usually only eat two big meals on Saturdays. So breakfast for lunch it is, and it's always the bomb-diggity 'cause we're TOGETHER!

supper: grill out/bake chicken or burgers, roasted potatoes, or pasta
Pasta is also one of our go-to Saturday evening meals if I didn't buy meat to bake or grill. Our favorite is either alfredo (if we're feeling indulgent...it's easy on a cheap meal plan to eat too many carbs so we try to stay balanced, hehe) OR doing a fresh pasta with olive oil, tomatoes, olives and garlic - my personal favorite. Once again, good cold or hot, perfect for leftovers for Sunday afternoon or Josh's lunch on Monday.


That's the whole week, y'all!

I will add, despite my best efforts, inevitably plans change, we'll eat scrambled eggs for supper, and move on. No big deal. Or something doesn't cook right, or Josh gets home crazy late, or crazy early, or meetings come up with church and we grab a bite to eat in town - it just depends. But having a bare-bones list like this helps me stay on track SO SO much, and helps make sure we're getting everything we need each day to stay healthy and fit.

Our main snacks around the house are chips and salsa and hummus, and dried fruit and peanuts or almonds or both.

We also make our own salad dressings to avoid the unnecessary sugars and preservatives in store bought. I've found some amazing, easy recipes all over Pinterest and I'm always trying new ones!

We also ALWAYS have fresh, frozen, and dried fruit on hand for yogurt, smoothies, lunch fillers and snacks - the more you can train your body to crave what's good for you when you're hungry, the better you'll feel! Being pregnant, I'm always looking for healthy or healthIER fats and carbs, and avocados, bananas, dried fruits, nuts, etc. or granola bars with those ingredients have helped me stay gaining weight in a healthy way and feeling energized instead of sluggish.

Once again, we eat a salad with almost every meal, we eat eggs basically every day for breakfast, and some kind of super-ingredient-packed smoothie. Both of us have trained ourselves to drink a lot of water (I drink about 94-100oz per day), and we don't have soft drinks or anything but hot tea and coffee in the house. (except for the occasional La Croix). Drinking water and staying away from processed sugar helps a whole lot in maintaining a basic healthy lifestyle, and we stay pretty illness-free, and other than being pregnant and all that entails, I've never been in better health :) It's worth it to pay attention, to eat as naturally as possible, and to avoid fast food and processed food as much as you can!

I hope this was helpful for y'all - a glimpse into a our crazy kitchen, my unorganized life and our balancing act of budget and healthy living. Let me know if you have any questions about anything, and if you have any suggestions for easy, healthy meals, or ways you doctor up/variate the meals I shared above, feel free to leave a comment! I love getting ideas from other people.

Until next time!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

happy heaven day, jeremiah.

these are the complete versions of the instagram captions I've been sharing each day leading up to today.

|| January 8, 2017 - Day One || the day, one year ago...we woke up, went to church as usual...came home...I changed, got ready for lunch...went to the restroom...and came out shaking and crying uncontrollably, adrenaline racing through my body. it would be almost four days before we’d learn the truth, but I knew in that instant my baby was gone...I’d never been so shocked, so afraid, so unsure. Josh just held me, we cried, then tried to figure out what to do next. I didn't even have a doctor yet, so my sister-in-law called her midwife, who ended up being a gift straight from heaven and was always on call for me throughout the week, and called in an ultrasound for us for the next day.

|| January 9, 2017 - Day Two || the day we tearfully went up for an ultrasound in Spartanburg in the afternoon...I was starting to feel worse and worse, and more and more in shock...we spent an eternity waiting, then had one (of what would become close to a half dozen in the next year) very invasive ultrasound that left me shaken and emotional...with no answers. The tech was supposed to call my midwife, who was supposed to call us, by the end of the day. But no call came...gratefully. That one final evening of Hope allowed us to spend time with family and friends watching the best college football game of all time, with a peaceful heart. I could NOT have gotten through those days without our precious family and community here - the fact that I even wanted to be around people in the midst of it all shows how much I love and trust these families, how precious they are to us....

|| January 10, 2017 - Day Three || Around nine or nine thirty in the morning, we were still laying in bed, resting, praying, hoping, crying, aching - and we got the phone call confirming our worst nightmare, our baby’s heart had stopped. My midwife told me what to expect...and I blindly thanked her...hung up...turned to Josh and just cried. We didn’t do much else that day...just rested, cried, prayed...my Courtney came and prayed with us...the day was such a blur. By 10pm or so, labor was in full swing. No one really prepared me for how challenging physically it would be - but I’m grateful for Josh, his patience, and unceasing care of his little family during that long night. I won't get graphic, for everyone's sake, and I know everyone has different stories and not every loss is the same, but my labor with Jeremiah was just that  - it was labor. I started noticing a pattern to the pain, realized it was legitimate contractions, and they came exactly three minutes apart for hours. It was excruciating, and emotionally exhausting, since my body had switched into "lets get this baby born" mode during contractions, and then I would be crying uncontrollably during my "breaks" because my heart knew this meant I never WOULD meet this baby. I had no idea how long this would last - would it be short? long? take one night? take three days? I had no clue. I kept trying to lay down and sleep, but eventually, by late evening, I knew I had to stay awake and finish this out, whatever it took.
There was sweet healing and closure today, a year later...right about the exact time we got the phone call telling us Jeremiah was gone last year, I was in my midwife’s office this morning, hearing our little Rainbow’s heartbeat thumping away. And I’ve never been more grateful for that sound than I am right now 💛 Jeremiah’s sonogram picture by my bed greets me every morning, reminding me of my precious first pregnancy, and how his story keeps on, and the ways he keeps blessing us.

|| January 11, 2017 - Day Four || all through the night, we sat on the bathroom floor while I labored for our little one. during those hours, I realized this was the last act I would do with my body for my child, and even though it wasn't the right time, or the way I would choose, I was determined to be brave and spend my strength for this baby I loved. Josh put on quiet music, just like we planned to when our baby was due, and we cried and prayed...I sang the songs through gritted teeth to help with pain, and it's crazy to say, but I look back at those hours as some of the most intense, most peaceful, of my entire life. it was absolutely beautiful - even in the grief and pain. isn't that just like Jesus, though?
at two am, after an entire day of pain and four-ish hours of labor, my little one was born. Josh and I both knew the instant it was over, within thirty minutes, I was ready to go back to bed. it was finished. we were both so exhausted it didn't really sink in till the morning that our Jeremiah was no longer inside of me, no longer with us, and we had to begin the process of moving forward - not forgetting, but learning to live with our new reality.

So, today, January 11, 2018, is the first anniversary of Jeremiah's Heaven Day. I remember wondering how I would feel a year later, if I would still be struggling with depression, if I would even have hope... and I'm so grateful that even though my heart feels tired remembering all these moments, and realizing it was just a short year ago, I'm grateful we have learned to Hope. that we are learning to overcome Fear. and that we know Jesus in such a deeper way than ever before.

We have a little angel watching over us, a little one we whispered goodbye to twelve months ago today, who we should be whispering good morning to as an almost five month old this morning. But we treasure his memory, we call him by name, and no matter how many children we have, he will always be our first positive test, our first child we dreamed of, our first baby we named, and our first family heartbreak.

We love you, Jeremiah. Happy Heaven Day!

// written by his wonderful Aunt Kate in Germany  for his Heaven Day //

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

pregnancy after loss - a guide to staying sane.

By the time this gets published, I'll be fifteen weeks pregnant with our miraculous "rainbow baby." This has been quite the year, quite the pregnancy, and I'm so overwhelmed with gratefulness for every single day I get to keep this child warm and safe in my womb. I've spent eight months of my marriage pregnant, and have yet to hold a baby in my arms, so the fact that I've made it this far is something I wake up daily thankful for.

Pregnancy after loss is no joke, and I've gone through it twice in the past twelve months.

When I was pregnant with my precious Daniella, I was still carrying some regret for worrying so much with my first pregnancy, so I jumped into her life hook, line and sinker. I loved every bit of it. Rejoiced through every milestone, every second. Celebrated the life I had in my womb with every fiber of my Mama Bear heart. I bought an outfit for her, we told family quickly and it never really crossed my mind that I'd go from being in the 25% of women who have had miscarriages, to the 1% who have two in a row. The day I started bleeding, I went into denial. I couldn't process this was happening again, almost a full month further along in pregnancy than my first....in the three days that followed, the confusion, the mis-diagnosis, the emergency ER visit where my baby was ultimately delivered, I firmly believed she was going to be just fine, and that it was "just a scare". Leaving the hospital with an empty womb was the most heartbreaking thing I've ever done.

Ten weeks later, I found out I was pregnant again. So fast. Right on the heels of a still gaping wound. I wasn't excited. It was our anniversary, I'd had some faint positives for a day or two, didn't really think much of it, then finally told Josh we should get a "real test"...and when it that BLARING, bright  second line showed up, I cried - more out of fear than anything else.

October 16, 2017 - our 1st wedding anniversary 
A positive test no longer equalled a baby to me anymore.

The first couple weeks, I was in frequent pain, stretching cramps all over that kept me from resting and kept my heart from unwinding. It felt like weeks and weeks of holding my breath. I felt guilty for not even caring to know this baby - I just wanted them to stay alive. No joy, no excitement over their purpose, no speculating on who they might grow up to be...just daily fear that today would be the day I'd lose them. I went to the bathroom on average five times a day (including at night) - every single time, my adrenaline would kick in, my heart rate would sky rocket, and I'd be shaking...trying to get in and out as fast as humanly possible, praying the whole time I wouldn't be bleeding. Five times a day. Or more. Not just for one week. Not just for seven. Not for ten. But TWELVE weeks, that was my routine. Five times seven times twelve. That's roughly 420 bathroom visits in pure fear. NOT FUN AT ALL.

Even though miscarriage yes, is relatively common, and yes, your body does recover, sometimes faster than others...that doesn't mean that emotionally healing comes quickly at all, and anyone who has lost a child in utero can attest that their memory sticks with you forever, and your life is permanently altered the minute you realize your precious baby preceded you to heaven.

There have been so many things over the past eight months that helped me with both of my pregnancies after loss, and that I still draw on as I carry this little Miracle in my womb. I want to share them, in the hope and prayer that if you're walking a similar road, it could be an encouragement that you're not the only one.

These are pretty specific to the First Trimester of pregnancy, since that's basically all I've ever done, and also since both of my losses occurred in the first trimester, so that's been the most stressful part of pregnancy for me thus far.

For each of these's DON'Ts, I have a DO - to help you proactively set yourself up to succeed emotionally and mentally as you carry your rainbow baby.

Please try not to, for your sake and your spouse's! This being my third pregnancy, I've pretty much googled all I could for my first two babies anyway, so I didn't really feel like I needed to...but still...the struggle was intense. Remember that MOST people who feel the need to share their every symptom on a social media forum are the Worst Case Scenario people - women who have had ten miscarriages in a row, or had horrific hematomas and scary bleeding, etc. I'm not negating their stories AT ALL, I can't even imagine the pain and the fear...but remember that they are in a very low percentage of the general population, and unless you've been diagnosed with one of those conditions by your midwife or doctor, your baby is probably just fine.

- instead -

I created a Pinterest board for Jeremiah when we said goodbye last January...and then added Daniella's name after her Heaven Day in July - and I've used that space to collect words and pictures and ideas that put a voice to my grief, my pain, and my healing as I've processed their deaths over the past year. When I was still pregnant with Daniella, I created my "rainbow baby" board - and started collecting affirmations of hope and strength and joy to keep me grounded while I carried her. And even though she left us too early as well, I was grateful that my mind had stayed centered on hope and I had something tangible to show for it. This pregnancy has been SO MUCH HARDER to stay focused on Hope and Joy and to really celebrate, but I've faithfully added to that Baby Rainbow board, continued to search for affirmations of pregnancy, birth, recovery, and poems, Scripture verses, songs, even just artwork to help my heart and my mind reflect the life I want to live.

Also, if I absolutely HAD to read something, some kind of article or story, I stayed in my pregnancy apps (love The Bump and Ovia!) and read all their articles for each day of my baby's development - all the exciting things going on inside of me, and dwelling on that, instead of reading about miscarriage stats and what else could possibly go wrong.

A verse that comes to mind:
"What is TRUE, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is LOVELY, whatever is admirable, THINK ABOUT SUCH THINGS." - Philippians 4:8
Keep your mind filled with what your heart desires, keep your eyes on the things above, and even if your emotions are still lagging behind, it's amazing how much more uplifted and encouraged you'll feel if you spend your time reading and looking at hopeful content, instead of fear-instilling words.

For me, I went into my second pregnancy full force. I worked out during all ten weeks, was on top of my heath and my social life, just did the whole shebang. And yeah, I felt pretty good...but then crashed hard when I lost my baby.

When I got pregnant with Baby3 (affectionately dubbed "Wall-E" around here), I had no motivation whatsoever, other than a panicky, fear driven desire to keep them alive. I went straight to my midwife, started on progesterone, and then quit doing everything. Everything. I mean, I also had crippling morning sickness, but I didn't work out, didn't do much outside the house, barely was able to get meals up for Josh, went shopping only once a week...just kinda shut down for a while. I spent a lot of time sleeping, a lot of time just sitting and watching movies or reading or organizing little things...a whole lot of nothing. And you know what, I'm okay. I'm still healthy. My nausea is fading and my energy is returning and I did start working out again this week, but I didn't push myself to just  "be okay" all of a sudden simply because I was pregnant again. I knew my heart and my body needed time to keep recovering from my losses, and that spending a month or two laying low would be best for me and my little family in the long run. Don't feel like you have to be superwoman right away if you're dealing with fear...sometimes being busy distracts us, sometimes it causes unnecessary worry that you're doing too much. If you don't feel like it, DON'T. You'll have PLENTY of time once you start feeling better and gaining confidence to work out and get back on top of meal plans and house work and such.


I've been blessed with an amazing community of friends and a wonderful family who have been there for me 100% during all three of my pregnancies. I don't know where I'd be without their love and support and care for Josh and I, and the way my friends ask me how I'm doing and tell me that they love and miss Jeremiah and Daniella and are so excited for Wall-E warms my soul. Giving myself space didn't mean shutting people out, but it did mean a break from social media, from outside-the-house obligations, and even from housework. We told our friends and family right away that we were pregnant, and it's been so good for my heart to be free to share with them how I'm feeling, ask for prayer when it's hard, and celebrate when we're excited, but to stay in our little community bubble for those first three months until I was more confident. Also, we've had some *uhhhhmaaaazing* prophecies and words of life spoken over this child by dear friends and people we didn't even know - and as a mama dealing with fear, to be able to sit back and let others speak into my child's life (literally speaking TO my belly - looking at you K, haha!) when I didn't have the words was so incredibly grounding and healing. These past three months have been painfully beautiful as I wrestled fear and anxiety and also was overwhelmed by the love and confidence and faith of Josh and others.

I also took time to just drive, enjoy nature, spend days in peace and quiet, and soak up LIFE. All good things....all healing, low-key things.

I wasn't excited when I found out about Wall-E. I wasn't. And ohhh did I feel guilty. In fact, my worry over Jeremiah led to six months of regret because I felt like I hadn't rejoiced over him the way I should, and I so didn't want to have that happen again, even though emotionally I was struggling to be happy. But my dear friend Courtney reminded me that even if I wasn't quite excited yet, we had faith that this baby would be our Rainbow, and that means I'll have all the time in the world to celebrate my little one. So if you're not really excited yet, don't worry - just keep on keeping on, fill your mind with words of hope, and pray for Jesus to bring the excitement and joy when it's time.


Even if you don't feel like it. Because it's worth it.

This may seem like a contradiction to what I just said above, haha, but REALLY. Once again, you'll never regret celebrating like you'll regret fear and worry. In those early weeks of carrying Wall-E, because I knew I would feel better if I did, I loaded myself up in the car early one morning, got my Chick-fil-A hash brown bowl, and hit our amazing local thrift store and found our baby a little outfit. I think it's technically a little girl onesie, and we aren't planning on finding out gender at all this pregnancy, but it didn't matter. It was an act of faith for my trembling heart, and it made the world of difference. I've not had many words to journal this time around, but one night I stayed up late and just copied out affirmations and verses into my journal for this baby...emotionally it was challenging, but it helped my heart. And when I officially hit 13 weeks, and said au reviour to that horribly challenging first trimester (!!!) I walked into the BABY DEPARTMENT of J.C. Penney and bought my very first, brand new, outfit JUST for this child - just like any other mom, and I almost cried for joy. And now, looking back, I'm so grateful I forced myself to celebrate, even if I didn't feel happy, because it's helped my healing process so much.

happy 2nd trimester to Baby Wall-E and me!

Along those lines as well, I've used these month of healing to go back and celebrate my other two children even more, by completing their shadow boxes, creating a memory box of all the beautiful cards and letters and gifts sent by their loving grandparents, aunts and uncles, and friends, and even the precious members from Samaritan Ministries who helped cover my emergency ultrasounds and ER bill, to commemorate their lives. On their due dates, we celebrate, on their Heaven Days, I have things planned to celebrate, and we hold them close in our hearts. I have necklaces and print outs that are specifically theirs, and I plan to share their stories with Wall-E when he/she's old enough - since their lives play into his in such a deep and crucial way. I've even had custom artwork made for them - little things add up and pour gold in the cracks of a broken heart.

(and yes, for those of y'all who have sharp eyes, Daniella's Heaven Day is actually different on this graphic - the 28th is the day I actually went to the ER and delivered her, but I started miscarrying on the 26th, so back in August and September I was still using both dates interchangeably, although now we officially call her Heaven Day the 28th)

So even if your heart is tired, find something small to celebrate about the New Life in your womb. How ever simple it is, you WILL find confidence and healing in it.

Thanksgiving Day 2017 - eight weeks pregnant with Wall-E, but tearfully missing my would-be three month old and my should-be six month baby bump.

To wrap up, here are a few other practical things I've done with this pregnancy to help me stay centered and hopeful even in the roller-coaster of emotions and the ongoing grief from our losses:

- Ask for an early ultrasound. Not every clinic does them, but it doesn't hurt to ask. My new midwife actually does them routinely, so that was easy for us. It does cost more, but if you have insurance or do medical sharing it should cover it...and honestly you can't put a price on seeing your wiggly little bean on that sonogram and hear their beating heart as early as 7 or 8 weeks along. The day we "met" Wall-E for the first time was a magical day for this tired, soul-weary mama.

- Don't be embarrassed to borrow or buy a home doppler. I know there's hesitation to do this, I never thought I'd be "that mom", but borrowing my friend's Doppler for this pregnancy has been just about the best thing in the world. Of course, every midwife and nurse ever is going to beat me over the head for recommending getting one - simply because a Doppler can cause unnecessary anxiety or fear if you *can't* find a heartbeat...but if you're like me, and you just want the weekly or bi-weekly reassurance of hearing your little one, and you know that if you think or feel that something is wrong you CALL YOUR MIDWIFE before you freak out, then I say, there's no harm in it and go ahead. And as long as you're not doing five times a day, there shouldn't be any reason to think it'll harm your baby at all. For real...being able to hear Wall-E on days when I so needed to has been the sweetest gift.

Take your prenatal and DRINK WATER. Take responsibility for your health as much as you're able. I couldn't keep down much food at all until recently, but I always took my prenatal and my vitamin D, and when I could eat, I tried to make sure I ate as healthily as I could...in between hamburger cravings, ha! I also drink about 95-100 ounces of water a day...it helps with EVERYTHING. Just do your best, and by taking control of little things, it helps chip away at the anxiety overall.

- Take your medicine. I hate medication. I'm allergic to waaaay too many antibiotics to be comfortable taking one without a REALLY good reason. But when I got a very mild UTI a couple weeks ago, I went right into my midwife, and took my six days of antibiotics without complaining. Apparently infections of that sort can be the leading cause of pre-term labor, or late miscarriages (who knew)...and I'm not taking chances. I also did my research between my losses, and pretty much self-diagnosed myself with hormone imbalances, and started taking supplements (which I firmly believe led to me conceiving Wall-E so quickly after Daniella), and I asked to be on progesterone, which both of my midwives recommended anyway. Even though my blood work came back perfect, my progesterone wasn't even all that low, we went ahead and put me on it, and I've taken it from 5 weeks until now, with two weeks left. Is that why this baby is okay? I don't know. I also believe in the healing power and miraculous work of Jesus, so who's to say, but I know that swallowing my all-natural crunchy pride and taking my medicine actually has built my confidence and calmed my anxiety since I knew I was doing everything I could for this little one based on the facts we had.

- Make a playlist. Music is my love language, and I have playlist for every season I've walked - a musical testimony of my mountains and valleys for all of my teenage and adult life. When my brain gets cloudy with fears or lies or anxiety, I turn on songs that articulate where I want my soul to be. The Spirit can "interpret our groaning", and so much of this goes back to what I said earlier about filling your mind with good, true and lovely things. I'm a little eclectic in my taste, but here's my "Baby Wall-E" playlist, to give you an idea of what I mean:

Well, that turned into a MUCH longer post than I anticipated, but hey, I have a lot of words now...and so much more I want to share. I really want to write a post about TTC after loss (trying to conceive) because that was the source of so much of my pain this past year, aside from our actual losses, and I know I'm not the only one, but all in due time!

15 WEEKS with Wall-E

Much love to you all, and thank you to each and every one of you who has loved us, rejoiced with us, wept with us, and stood with our little family throughout the past fourteen months. We cherish you.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

on Hope and the Adventures of the Year Twenty-Two.

Well, technically twenty three. Since I'm starting my twenty-fourth year tomorrow. (*cue shriek of panic because I'm sooo not ready for that*) But that's CONFUSING even though it's accurate, so for the sake of simplicity, since I am for real TURNING 23 tomorrow, we'll call this the year of 22.

This has been a year for the books. In every conceivable way.

And I have struggled - majorly - in the past couple days to even get excited about my birthday. Because even though this year was amazing, and we've come so far and done so much since my birthday last year when we were just freshly married honeymooners in the backwoods of Vermont, this year was disappointing, painful, heartbreaking and tough. And for some reason, I want to do twenty-two again and fix all the hurting places, instead of letting it go, celebrating the beautiful, and starting fresh. But I'll get there, I will. Keep in mind that writing this post is my therapy, so it should get progressively cheerful-er by the end. *wink*

photo by Jess Lapp Photography

We've been on 10+ legitimate overnight trips this year. We are crazy. And somehow we are not broke. In all, I want to say it's been twenty-three states and two countries (three if you count the USA, ha) - which is completely insane.




“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.” – Mark Twain




“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.” – Anonymous


photo by Tony Nisly
“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste it, to experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” – Eleanor Roosevelt



It's been an incredible year of loving every second of life beside my best friend, of wandering through other places, eating amazing food and collecting memories we'll always treasure. 

We also set up our first home - lived in the midst of multiple renovations to make it feel like a home - and had a blast being "adults" and making a "space" our place. My little homemaker heart has been in heaven - even though meal planning is SOOO not as easy as I was hoping it would be, blah, but grocery shopping is really fun YAY because of ALDI Y'ALL. (and although I always remember my quarter, I always forget my bags. can't win 'em all.)

And our little home has also seen it's fair share of tears and heartache.

And this year I've said heart-wrenching goodbyes to two precious babies that grew in my tummy for too short a time - my firstborn, Jeremiah, should be two months old right now, and my precious rainbow baby, Daniella, should be almost halfway cooked, due six weeks into the New Year. 

My body failed me, and something I sort of assumed would come easily, has turned into the biggest challenge of my life. I never understood depression, self-hatred, and how much grief can change your life so drastically. There's something profoundly broken about coming to terms with your own weakness, your own lack. 

Getting real: I've gained eighteen pounds this year. I'm not saying that for you to tell me I don't "look it" or that I'm beautiful or anything - it's not a plea for sympathy. I'm being honest. But for the first time, numbers on a scale began to mean something, began to scream at me. The weight that went on to nourish my babies, stayed on to remind me daily that I lost them. The outfits that got tight, that got me excited that they may never fit again because I was going to be a mama, now leave me crying on the closet floor because no one tells you how grief sneaks into something as stupid as caring about a clothing size. I've tried working out, I've tried eating healthier than ever before, trying to regain control of what I felt I had lost. It's been a nightmare. I've written about it some, instagram has been an outlet and a journal, but my own journals have been empty, my blog quiet, even some relationships have been pushed the back burner as I've had to come to terms with this new identity that comes from loss. Sometimes you have to admit that something hurts, that it's hard, in order to even begin to heal. I've thrown my phone across the room because of someone's pregnancy announcement on Facebook, wept over baby pictures of a child due the same week as mine was supposed to be. But I've also had moments of pure joy playing with my nieces and nephews and rejoicing over other's new little ones on the way...okay, pause, as I'm writing this I'm realizing....can we just have a moment of silence for all women dealing with jacked up hormones? They are real, they can be wonderful, but they are also bipolar and psychotic and GOOD NIGHT. *mic drop* Back to story.

I'm not here to complain. Or even to make you feel sorry for me. Or even to vent.

I'm here, and I'm writing this, because Jesus is turning this into a TESTIMONY. This is part of my story, and I don't want to forget it. 

There is a thread of hope that's been running underneath of this entire year.

It's this crazy idea that we have a purpose, a name, a place that goes deeper than anything we see in our physical lives. It has nothing to do with we can or can't do, or what we look like, or even our story. And it has everything to do Love. A love that compelled the Hands that gave us life to reach into our pain and our brokenness and tell us we are cherished, we are valuable, and we were created for something BIGGER than just ourselves.

I had never actually looked my faith square in the eye and said, "I BELIEVE." Because belief only counts when you don't have anything left to give. When everything inherently going for you falls away. It's easy to believe when life is going well. It's when you CAN'T see what's going on, or what's happening next, that FAITH matters.
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. - Hebrews 11 
(go read the whole chapter. it's worth it.)

And lo and behold, we aren't just in this life to be "happy", or to get what we want. If you ask me what I want the most for YOU in life, I would NOT tell you I want you to be happy. That's fake, cheap, and doesn't mean anything in the long run. I would tell you I want you to know you are LOVED BY JESUS. That's it. Because if you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that you are loved by Jesus, you WILL be able to overcome the brokenness and pain that this hurting world tosses at you. I'm learning that JOY doesn't mean laughing and happy all the time - it means rest and security and knowing who we are, why we're here, and Who is holding us in His hand. It goes beyond miscarriage, beyond depression, beyond grief, beyond weight, beyond relationships. *deep breath* And if we have our eyes open to see what Jesus is up to in everything, He can show us how He is lifting us above our circumstances and into His peace.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. - Philippians 4
We just spent the weekend celebrating our anniversary in Savannah and Charleston. We slept, and we slept, (we don't sleep enough at home) and we talked, and we were quiet, and I drank water (cause I'm bad at remembering to do that, and Josh was around 24/7 to remind me) and it was a retreat from the crazy and it was beautiful.

We got sucked into This Is Us (no regrets!) and in those very first episodes, as I watched Jack and Rebecca grieve the baby they lost, even as they celebrated the lives they were given, so many broken pieces healed in my mind. I want to share more about that someday - there's a lot more to that story.

We capped it off by worshiping with Bethel Music for almost an entire day - and Jesus sealed it with His reminder that we are seen, we are loved, and He is with us, no matter what.

This year has been RAW. Real and raw. But aren't they all? I'm finding that out. And in just an short hour, I'll be starting another one. I have so much hope right now that unfulfilled dreams will come true, that healing is coming (has already started), and that beauty will rise from what feel like ashes.

But I'm also learning, as this year closes, that HOPE makes everything, even our pain, beautiful. And I'm about to spend the last little bit of being twenty two snuggling with the patient man who works his butt off everything single day to put food on our table and gas in our car - the man who has held me while I labored with both of our children, wept with me in our loss, and made me laugh harder than anyone I've ever known. I told him today, when he apologized that we're barely going to see each other tomorrow, that he's the greatest gift I've ever been given in this life. And he has always always always pointed me upwards and outwards when my eyes felt glued on myself. He's given me hope, he lives by Hope, and he's showing me how too.

So, tonight I'll go to sleep (late) 22, and wake up (early) 23, and Josh will be waking up (before me) beside me and Jesus is still on the Throne and twenty-three maybe maaaaayyyybe won't be quite so hard as twenty-two, even though I'm fully expecting it to be a doozy of a year in its own right, because they always are and being an adult is totally unicorns and butterflies. (right?).

Happy birthday to me...and are there any songs about being 23, 'cause let's be real, I'm gonna miss feeling 22...

*realizes forgot to take off makeup and decides to stay up all night because whyyyy who wants to use a remover wipe when you're already ready for bed. blah.* #hashtagSTILLAKIDYALL