Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Doc McElle

So, I know I've been missing for a few days. E and I are fighting Mommy-Daughter colds/viruses. It's been quite an adventure spending two straight days inside with a cranky two-year-old who both wants me and hates me at the same time. My Facebook post from this morning sums up our current sick status:

3:30am sinus explosion, and my voice is gone (I'm certain you needed to know this), but I'm ((happy)) because I can actually breathe again.

E has slept all night (so far), so maybe we're reaching a turning point!!!

Doctor says this is a nasty virus that's going around. We're clear for bronchitis and ear infections and other nasties. So that's good!

And as exhausting as it was taking my precocious toddler to the doctor's office yesterday, nothing makes me happier than watching her storm in there with her toy Doc McStuffins doctor bag and tell the nurses and doctors how to do their jobs.

"Hey, it's my turn!" "You need to check my ears now."

I can't believe this is my child!! On Saturday we were in line at the cafe, and she told an eager woman behind us to "wait her turn." I said all the things I was supposed to say per my parenting rule book (eye roll), but I giggled all the way through my lesson, because she was absolutely right. Wait your turn, Lady!

ALSO, if you've been missing us, tune in to the bvtmomsblog Instagram page (here)! E and I have taken it over for the day so that you can get a glimpse into a "day in the life" of the Strange family!

The pic above is my favorite so far. Happy E, while I draw funny pics of Daddy eating Rice "Krippies" out of a monstrous bowl.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Sea Glass and Sass

Today, my sassy toddler and I used some sea- and river-glass from my friend to make some mosaics. She gave us a bag full of pottery and glass she had found on the banks of the Atlantic Ocean in New Hampshire and the Winooski River in Vermont.

We started working on pieces of plywood, but I wanted the translucent pieces of glass to glow, so we grabbed some old glass out of frames to glue on. I really like how these turned out! I did one with a beer-glass heart, and E did the one with white sea glass.

We just used non-toxic tacky glue (which promises to dry clear, though I have my doubts, may need to try a different glue), and I put the glass from the frame on a piece of plywood so that E wouldn't bump into it and cut herself -- it was a little sharp. She picked where she wanted the rocks to go and helped me squeeze the glue bottle.

When they dry, I'm going to glue the glass back into the frame and somehow add a hook to hang these in the window. Without the backing on the frame, I'm missing that hardware to hang it.

Still, a super-cheap and fun activity! It kept E busy for two hours, and I'm sure she'd love going to the river to look for our own pieces next time. I'm also going to pick up some more cheap frames at the Dollar Tree or Christmas Tree Shops.

Altogether, about a $3 project including the glue!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Mommy Marble

We put in a particularly rough morning today. E cried and screamed over every little thing. Each time, I calmed her down, and got her to speak to me without whining and with big-girl words.

Before she left, she begged me to just cradle her in my arms and rock her. She hasn't done that in months. I held her close and cooed to her about how she would have a good day, that after day care I would pick her up, and we'd do something special like go to the park or blow bubbles.

I reminded her that tomorrow we're planning to go on the ferry boat, across the lake to see Grammie and Great-Grammie for a visit in Plattsburgh. That made her happy, but she still begged me to hold her before she left.

I pull out every creative idea on mornings like this. I give her a special "toy" to take in the car with her -- a few playing cards, or a stuffed animal she hasn't seen in awhile. I make him talk to her in a funny voice and ask if she'll please take him with her to day care. That usually works, but not today.

Finally, I grabbed a red marble from a dish on the kitchen counter. It had been hanging out there for weeks -- left over from a random, "let's just spend $1 to make her happy and make it home in peace and quiet" shopping trip from the Sugar House.

I tucked it in her hand, held her close, and said, "This is, um... uh... a Mommy Marble! If you keep it in your pocket, I'll be with you always." I waited for her reaction.

She got a huge smile on her face, reached in her pocket to hold the marble, asked for one more hug and kiss, and ran out the door happily.

Then I prayed like crazy for God to keep her safe, to bless that marble, to keep my spirit with her -- my voice of reason, my calmness when she gets upset.

I sat on the floor concentrating long after she and Mark left. Then it occurred to me:

I just gave my two-year-old a marble. She knows not to put them in her mouth. She's really good about it and pretty much completely past that stage of putting things in her mouth. I let her play with a lot more smaller toys now and haven't had any problems. Still. She'd be in the back seat. Unsupervised.

I tried to put trust in my two-year-old, got ready, and came to work, but as soon as I got a little break, I shot Mark a quick text (right). My reaction: "Oh, thank God."

Thursday, April 24, 2014

YMIS Podcast 3

Check out our 3rd Podcast! Mark and I reminisce about our childhoods growing up with technology, our family's technology policy, and Mark's history of hair-cutting adventures in Vermont. It's a mishmash.

Still, Mark has decided that we need to either go goofy or go serious... one or the other.

So, we agreed it'd be best to go goofy. To do that, we've found a random topic generator and next week will have it pick a topic for us to talk about on our podcast. I'm also giving us a 15-minute time limit. A focus without too much preparation. There's our balance! Can't wait to try that next week! Stay tuned!

Thanks for listening!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Smash Post

Download the FREE Printable PDF Here!
Okay, so let's get all caught up with this week's happenings:

    1  The winner of the Extraordinary Print Giveaway was Danada! Thanks for entering!

    And stay tuned for some other amazing giveaways this summer!

    2  This giveaway helped raise money for the Bret Zeno fundraiser (more info at right). Bret's sister-in-law is hosting an incredible raffle over at her site, here. Check it out! The prizes are amazing, and you get to see some beautiful photos of Bret's family and the infamous baby bump! Go Zeno family!

    3  It was a beautiful Easter weekend, and we were blessed with warm weather, outdoor fun, and some quality family time! After Mark and I spent most of Saturday watching Diggers on the National Geographic channel (Oh, I had forgotten how glorious it is to have cable!), Mark and my dad spent most of Sunday with Dad's metal detector searching their new property for treasure. They found: an old bed spring, a button, an old can of Bud, and some fence posts. No get-rich-quick items, but it was some good, old-fashioned, country-livin' fun!

    And, it was super fun on Sunday to have all the girls together -- 4 cousins, all girls, under one roof! Mark and my dad were more than outnumbered. They were all on their best behavior, though! I even got some play time with our newest family member -- Baby Sarah. I showed her around my parents' new house -- mirrors, lights, and silly little songs to sing. I got lots of smiles and giggles out of her -- an aunt's dream! Haha!

    I also got to hear my father tell E some of my favorite childhood stories. Mark got a beautiful video of it, here.

    4  Now we're home, and I'm trying to jump back into Round 2 of my 21-Day Fix. I'm eating better already. I went to bed early last night, so I had time to get up this morning and get my apartment in order. I still have some picking up to do, but Mark did my dishes, and I'm feeling in control, which is just what I needed on this Tuesday morning.

    5  I even have my planner all updated, so I know about the BVT Moms Twitter Party tonight (9pm our time)! Read more about it, here -- hope to see you there! AND I'm picking up some bookshelves tonight from my friend who is moving. Busy, exciting day ahead!

    My least favorite thing about this planner, though, is the calendar page. I like to see a full-month calendar, so I put together this quick little monthly page that you can cut out and paste in your Moleskine bullet journal. You can download the PDF for free, here, and I made a second version with Sunday at the beginning of the week here! Print, cut-out, paste it in, and fill in your month info! I love it!

    6  Check out my latest blog post over at BVT Moms Blog (here)! I reminisce about games from my childhood and talk about alternatives to technology (and why I love it so much). Ha!

    7  Tonight, Mark and I will post our 3rd podcast. Yes, this time, we have planned it... (yawn). We're talking about technology -- growing up with it, our favorite video games, and how we're introducing it to our daughter -- healthy habits, etc.!

    Friday, April 18, 2014

    Getting Organized. Again.

    You know how I love new projects, right? Yesterday, BVT Moms Blog writer and Super Mom, Emily, posted on the BVT Moms Blog about how she's using a Bullet Journal to get organized (Read about it here!).

    I know that I just created my planner (here) and am loving it, but I just had to try the Bullet Journal.

    And what better Moleskine to use than a bright purple one I found at Staples!

    And... I have to say that I love how much easier it is to fit a little Moleskine in my bag versus a 1"-binder (even though it was a mini binder).

    I'm going to give it a shot and let you know how it goes!!

    Thursday, April 17, 2014

    Things My Husband Doesn't Care About

    For all the things my husband loves passionately... for all the times he's glanced at me so lovingly when our daughter does something cute or he sees something that makes him think of our relationship sweetly, there is an ongoing list of things running through my head of the things my husband doesn't care about... for better or worse:

    He absolutely does not care or mind that:

    • The trash is piling up and making my kitchen stinky
    • The recyclables pile is getting so large it doubles as a security system for our front door
    • There's a donut, with the frosting eaten off, in the passenger door of our car
    • The toilet paper roll is empty
    • His dress shirts are sometimes wrinkly
    • The toilet doesn't flush properly any more
    • The sink is full of dishes
    • He needs a hair cut
    • The dining room table has something sticky on it
    • I cleaned our entire home ("Oh, I thought something looked different...")
    • Our wedding cake (from 8 years ago) is still in the freezer
    • A sour cream dip from 3 weeks ago is still in our fridge
    • My driving is sometimes erratic -- he just closes his eyes in the car... and falls asleep
    • I sometimes give myself a complete, jaw-dropping makeover ("Oh, you look pretty," he says nonchalantly.)
    • I sometimes run around in a t-shirt and underwear with food all over me and stickers on my back ("You look cute, today," he says with a flirty smile.)
    • I steal his socks... and PJ pants, and dress shirts to wear to bed
    • My boobs are droopy after breast-feeding a mammoth baby for 5 months ("Lookin' good to me!" he says and raises his eyebrows.)
    • I cut my hair short, then grow it long, then short... long again
    • I'm not as pretty as I was when we met
    • I let myself go, then got in shape, then let myself go again, then tried to get back in shape
    • I experiment and make weird meals in our kitchen
    • I don't shower as often as I used to
    • He has to fight two women for the bathroom every morning, one of which cries a lot and screams that it's her turn to use the potty. Spoiler alert: That's me.
    • Yesterday, our toddler's gender confusion was revealed, as she announced loudly in public, "My daddy is a woman!"
    • A cranky two-year-old demands his constant attention from the time he gets home from work until she goes to bed
    • She wants to play dollhouse with him for 2 straight hours
    • He has to change diapers
    • I make him check on a screaming toddler at 2am because she's "scared of the smoke alarm"
    Though sometimes I wish he showed a little more interest or took more notice amidst the chaos that is our lives, I think I have it pretty damn good around here.

    Yesterday, I told my counselor that my relationship was "perfect," or as perfect as it could be, or as she calls it, "healthy."

    My only complaint was that I missed the beginning of our relationship, the excitement, the stolen kisses, the anticipation of seeing him each day. She said, "No relationship can meet all your needs all the time," and she suggested ways to bring back those feelings.

    She listed other needs that relationships often don't fulfill -- security, financial stability, comfort, physical contact, trust, communication.

    I found myself checking off each item in my mind and realizing the gaps that I don't fill in for our own relationship like, um... financial stability (cough, cough). "Another Coke, please!" And all the items listed above that I also don't make a priority.

    And it occurred to me that our marriage is just one big project, that requires far less work thanks to my husband's easy-going nature, kindness, and patience.

    And I remembered that every project we've ever worked on together, from school projects to raising a human being has been fun. Hilariously, crazily, wildly fun. We got this.

    Wednesday, April 16, 2014

    3 Cupcakes and a Selfie

    Tomorrow is (officially) the last day of my 21-Day Challenge. I stuck to the eating plan almost exactly except for a few nights where I ate out. I lost 7lbs. really quickly then hovered at 8lbs. Hanging out at 197 as of today.

    Last night, E and I made some healthified cupcakes, but I still ate 3 of them. That's what I love about this plan, though. I ate healthy all day yesterday and have my meal plan all set for today. So, I'll leave the cupcakes for my family who have stronger will power than I do!

    Anyway, I'm happy with my progress and how I'm feeling, and I'm continuing the eating plan and exercising as often as I can. Today will be a DVD day, because it is SNOWING outside. Yeah, I can't believe it either.

    My optimistic side says that it isn't too cold, and that at least it looks beautiful... but the side of me that just enjoyed an 80-degree day outside in the park with my daughter 2 days ago says, "WTF."

    Anyway, more Spring fun to come and some new art projects too! Today, E wanted crayons and a notebook to take in the car on the way to day care. So cute!

    Hope you're all having a great week as we approach Easter. We're heading to New York this weekend, so stay tuned for some family fun and photos via Instagram! E is super excited to take the "big ferry boat" across the lake!

    Tuesday, April 15, 2014

    iPhone Photography

    Sorry it's taken awhile for me to get to posting this! I know a few of you have asked about my process for taking and editing iPhone photos! I'm forever looking for new photo apps that I like, but these are the ones I'm really into right now.

    Taking Photos
    I really love photos that have a certain composition. When photographing people, I like closeups, but I often crop my photos after I take them. As long as they aren't taken from too far away, you can crop using the Edit tool right in the Photos app on your iPhone and not lose too much quality in your photos. I like to take my photos from a medium distance, with some background elements, then crop the photo to my liking after. It gives me more control over what I keep in the photo. Sometimes a lone tree branch or some mountains can add to the story of your photo.

    To get clear and bright photos with my iPhone, I do the following: with the camera app open, while I'm taking the photo, I tap the screen on the subject I'm photographing. A little yellow box will appear and focus on the person or item, making them clearer and brighter. Even if the subject is standing in front of a bright light or is backlit by the sun, you can often tap the subject or a darker part of the image, and the camera will readjust for those darker values. This can actually create some neat, glowing effects when the subject is backlit.

    Photos taken outside and with bright natural light will, obviously, have the best quality when using the iPhone camera.

    When the lighting isn't quite bright enough, even after using these tricks, I use the Afterlight app to brighten them. I use this on almost all my photos unless they're taken in bright sunlight.

    I am head-over-heels in love with this app!

    For almost every one of my photos, I use the slider adjustments. This is my routine for most photos:

    Clarify -- will lighten the darker parts of your image and darken the lighter parts of your image. I do this even on photos of people. At first, it might make the shadows of your images too dark. For example, in the image at right, the tree gets so dark that it almost looks like a black blob. I try to increase the Clarify option until the detail is almost gone. I do this, because I'm going to Brighten the image next.

    Brightness -- This lightens the image overall, but (thanks to the Clarify tool) keeps the detail and dark parts of the image clear. The Brightness tool will also wash out parts of your image and reduce the Contrast a bit.

    Contrast -- So, then I use Contrast to bring those values back up and create almost an HDR effect -- a dreamy glow around the mountains. As you'll see, at right, the lighter values (the steam and snow) close to the top of the moutain are much brighter, but the top of the mountain stays dark. The clouds are almost washed out but create nice contrast against the dark mountains.

    Personally, I like my skies almost completely washed out. It's just an effect I think is somewhat whimsical in certain photos. My college Photography professor sometimes frowned on this (if there was too much cloud loss), but I think it's worth losing a few clouds over, especially if the rest of the photo has nice contrast and especially if this is just for fun, and we're not making print-quality pics!

    Sharpening -- If you have a photo that's slightly blurry or just not as crisp due to the fact that it's a digital image, a small amount of Sharpening will really bring out the details.

    I wrote a silly post awhile ago (here), detailing how I used Facetune to essentially airbrush myself and fix all my face "mistakes."

    I still occasionally turn to it if I want to smooth some pores or bring out my eyes on a selfie, but I've actually gotten more use out of the Patch tool lately.

    I never mind a messy face or a God-given freckle, but the other day I got the sweetest pic of E looking up at me over a bike rack with big, retro sunglasses, and a beautiful smile. Unfortunately, she had a piece of food on her right tooth. I left the gooey food stickiness on her nose and chin, but I really wanted that piece of food gone!

    I brought the photo into Facetune, zoomed in, and used the Patch tool to quickly cover it with color values from the other, clean tooth! (See final photo at left below.)

    I've also used the Patch tool to remove logos and pieces of lint from clothing, to draw more focus to the photo itself and not some misplaced text or big piece of white fuzz on a black sweater.

    All of the collages for this post were made with Diptic. It's my favorite, easy-to-use collage app. It provides some basic editing features for any last-minute touch-ups to the image and allows you to create unique collages, edit the aspect ratio, and adjust border size. I've tried a few other collage apps, but this one is still my favorite.

    I use this app only occasionally to make longer or wider photos (and panoramic photos) square, with a black or white border, so that I can post them on Instagram and not crop any of the image.

    Over Gram
    This app is my favorite for adding text, mainly because I love the fonts it has (used for the "original" and "edited" text on the image below).

    Line Camera
    This app gives you a little more freedom with adding text (can be rotated, etc.). It has a lot of fonts, but not very many stylized ones. They're similar to the fonts you would find on your computer.

    This app also has "Stamps" and some other editing features like drawing tools. I use it to mark up a photo or add hearts, stars, and speech bubbles.

    Sunday, April 13, 2014


    So, this is my solution for coming up with topics for our Podcast -- research common themes that parents argue about and discuss how we have mastered them.

    Instead, we argued for almost 25 minutes about our plan for recording Podcasts and about our morning routines...

    But considering the fact that we had 105 hits on our last Podcast, I'm hoping that you'll enjoy this one! So, I decided to post it anyway.

    Correction: The Dungaroo is a waterless, odorless toilet for anywhere that water is not an option. Dungarees are blue jeans or overalls.


    You Are My Bee

    Hanging out in front of the microphone tonight! E wanted to record a song... More to come later!

    Thursday, April 10, 2014

    Back on Track

    Me & Mark, College Graduation - 2005
    So, yesterday was an all-around crazy, worrisome day. There was a lot of praying, meditating, and long phone calls to family at our house!

    I ate well -- just meaning that I didn't have time to snack but got in my fruits and Shakeology in the morning and a reasonable dinner, which was fine.

    Focusing on this eating plan and exercise has somehow made housework fall to the wayside... the way, wayside... the dark side (cringes).

    Mark, who has been supporting me on this journey to household and bodily harmony, actually insisted that we go to bed early -- at 10:30. I finished up my freelance work, left the dishes and messy counters, skipped my workout, and just crashed.

    Mark rubbed my back as I worried out loud about anything and everything, and sometime in between my long speech, I just fell asleep.

    I think it was for the best, because I woke up to a sunny, beautiful Thursday, and I feel more rested than I have in a long time.

    As of today, I've been doing the Challenge pack almost religiously for 2 weeks. I haven't been great about posting pics, and I did miss 2 workouts, but I'm doing it to the best of my ability with a busy schedule and a wild 2-year-old. I'm giving myself a break and starting fresh today.

    So, as of this moment I'm going to take everything I have learned over the last month about eating right, housekeeping, and exercise, and put it to use, starting a mini schedule/daily-guide for the next week and challenging myself more to get my apartment and life back in order (at least a little bit).

    Step 1 is to forgive myself for not always being able to give 100% and to praise myself for all I have done. As of today I've lost 8lbs. 197! More to come!

    And here's my plan for today:
    7:00-8:00 - Get E out the door!
    8:00 - Social Media/Blog, Get Myself Ready!
    8:30 - Day Job
    1:00 - Get E!
    1:30 - Grocery Shopping!
    2:30 - Dishes & Kitchen
    3:30 - Exercise
    4:00 - Play Time!
    4:30 - Dinner Prep
    5:00 - Dinner, Dishes
    6:00 - Bathtime
    6:30 - Bedtime
    7:00 - Pickup Living Room
    7:30 - Freelance Work
    9:30 - Laundry, Pick Out Clothes, Meal Prep
    10:30 - Bed

    Yeah, I'm tired just looking at this plan... early to bed again tonight, and TG tomorrow IF!!

    Wednesday, April 9, 2014

    It's Just Poop

    Repeat after me... "It's just poop." I'm just going to close my eyes for a few minutes and chant to myself...

    Mark is still a little squeamish when it comes to toddler poop, but I think I've finally come to terms with it and the fact that it's just a very natural and real part of life with a baby and growing toddler who is not quiet yet potty-trained.

    On Monday, I picked up E from day care, and it was beautiful outside. It was a little overcast, and 46 degrees was feeling like 60 after this long winter! I decided to take her for a walk straight from day care, around the outskirts of town, over the covered bridge. I ran what I could and walked the rest. E was happy for a stroller ride and some walking on her own.

    When we got back into town, about a half mile from the car, she said, "I'm hungry! I get a 'nack?"

    Hmm, my mommy radar knew it was bowel-movement time, but I figured that we'd still have time to get back to the car and get home. She wouldn't have to sit too long in a poopy diaper. I let her get a little cookie at the local cafe, and we browsed the local bookstore.

    Worried that poop-time was fast approaching, I told her that it was time to go, but she wanted to look in one more shop. I hadn't noticed any suspicious smells yet, so I let her continue to browse.

    The next shop she picked had a photo booth in it, complete with curtain. E stepped inside, closed the curtain, pushed the buttons on the photo machine, giggled, then got unusually quiet. I stood outside the booth, contemplating the wonders of the universe, patiently waiting for her.

    Finally, she threw back the curtain, jumped out, and said, "Hi, Mama!"

    The smell hit me right in the face.

    "Whoa, there! Let's get you back to the stroller," I said. This began a 10-minute mommy-and-toddler chase that ended with me picking her up crying and bringing her outside to her stroller. I got her settled, but the guilt set in. I couldn't let her ride in a bumpy stroller and poopy diaper all the way back to the car. There was a public restroom close by, but I had no diapers or wipes.

    It's moments like these when I become some kind of mommy-survivalist. I don't know if I like the challenge or want to torture myself. I pushed the stroller into the restroom.

    As usual, the diaper-changing station (at least they had one) had no liners. I took off my sweatshirt and put it down for her. Then I prepped for surgery.

    I rolled up my sleeves and grabbed about 5 handfuls of toilet paper. "Here we go," I thought, as I turned around to see E trying to purposely roll herself off the changing table, just for fun. I reached out and caught her legs just before she got enough momentum to fall off. I wiped my brow and tried to stop my heart from racing.

    The bathroom was unusually hot and reeked of cigarettes and musky perfume. I gagged a little bit as I prepared to introduce a new scent to the humidity.

    I won't get into all the gory details, but it was a blow-out diaper of epic proportions. I had to go back for more toilet paper, but I eventually got her clean.

    Then I noticed a huge poop smudge on my sweatshirt. I got E dressed, with no diaper (saying a silent prayer to the patron saint of toddler-bladder-control), set her on her feet, and got some wet paper towels to scrub my sweatshirt. Then I tucked it away neatly in the stroller basket.

    I threw out all the nasties and washed my hands really, really well while cringing a little bit. E was now busy running into each restroom stall, trying to slap each public toilet, playing some little toddler racing game. I scooped her up and got her to wash her hands.

    I got her back in the stroller, bundled with hat and blanket for her legs, and pushed her out into the chilly Spring air. And, it was then that I remembered why I had originally put on my sweatshirt in the wee hours of the morning, as I rushed out the door.

    1. It was a little chilly out.
    2. I was wearing an Old Navy striped shirt, and the middle stripe of the shirt, the one right across my boobs was see-through. And I was wearing a lacy, red bra.

    "Oh no," I thought, as I glanced down, then up at a passing tourist who gave me a too-happy smile. I quickly reached for my sweatshirt... "Ugh... to wear the still-stinky, poopy sweatshirt and save some of my dignity, or go free and get a reputation as the skankiest mom in town..."

    Eh, I've never cared much about my reputation anyway. I proceeded along, pushing the stroller, letting it all hang out, only feeling slightly uncomfortable as drivers passed me and almost went off the road. Halfway to the car, though, it got cold enough that I had to don the poopy sweatshirt.

    We made it to the car, then home with no accidents, changed our clothes, and (surprise!) we both survived another poop-tastrophe.

    Tuesday, April 8, 2014

    Little Late Night Song

    The refrigerator kicked on while we were trying to record a script for one of Mark's work projects. We decided to take a music break.

    Signing off over here... goodnight!

    Yay for Free Cone Day!

    Every few weeks or so, I end up having to stop at the gas station in the town where E has day care. When I do, it's been mine and E's little secret to get a donut at the gas station. Money is tight this week (and I'm eating healthy!), so I confessed to Mark, and he said "no more."

    Yesterday, my gas light came on after I picked her up, so E and I stopped to get gas. I waited for her to ask...

    "Mama! We go in and get a donut?"
    "Um, actually, Daddy said that we shouldn't spend money on donuts right now."
    "What are you talking about?"
    "Daddy says we need to spend our money on groceries, and he's right."
    "Why would Daddy *say* that?"

    I tried to explain best I could. Then I told her we would buy some flour at the grocery store to make cookies at home. She was perfectly content with that, so we baked cookies in the afternoon.

    Today when I was driving home from day care, she told me she just "wanted to drive around a little bit" before going home, so I took the long way home past her favorite farms with horses. But when I pulled in our driveway, she had a meltdown.

    "I just want to go to the donut place."
    "I don't have money for donuts."
    "Yes. You do!" she said sternly.
    "E! I really don't. I'm done talking about this."

    "I need to call Daddy!!" she cried. "Oh, he'll love this," I thought. I dialed his number and put the phone on speaker. He answered.

    "Daddy, I just want to get some donuts at the donut place, and Mommy says we can't because we don't have any money and I want to go."
    "Mommy is right. We can't get donuts right now."
    "But I just want them!"
    "I know. I'm sorry."

    Then she got quiet, so he asked if she was still there.

    She said, "I'm here. I'm eating my boogers, because we can't go get donuts."

    Monday, April 7, 2014

    Life-Changing Eating and Exercise

    Last week a few of you emailed me to ask about the eating/exercise plan I’m doing -- how it was working, how much it was, and do I like it. Let me try to give you the basics of what I’m doing and what a typical day on this plan looks like! And YES! I LOVE it!

    If you want to know how I got started with the eating plan, you can read my first post, here and see my Before pic, here. But, just a disclaimer, as with most things, I changed this plan a bit to suit my lifestyle and needs. And you should too!

    I’m doing the Beach Body Challenge: 21-Day Fix (more here).

    Essentially, it comes down to what most exercise plans are about: eating smaller portions/healthier foods and exercising every day. The difference is that the Beach Body community and this program offer a lot of support to keep you on track, and you get the Shakeology mix, which is the best meal-replacement shake I’ve tried. You can read more about Shakeology here.

    Okay, so here is how I “cheat,” or twist this plan to my lifestyle, as a super-busy mom.

    The plan has different containers, and per your calorie-requirement (which you calculate at the beginning per the booklet you receive with the plan), you are allowed to eat a certain number of containers (fruits, veggies, starches, fats, etc.) each day.

    You’re supposed to eat every two hours. Once I figured out my requirements, I planned my breakfast, morning snack, and lunch to bring to work. I do most of my prep in the morning, and it takes about 20 minutes.

    Breakfast (8am) – Shakeology, English muffin with almond butter, fruit goes in the Shakeology
    Morning Snack (10am) – Yogurt, almond butter, veggie, fruit
    Lunch (12pm) – Cabbage salad with almonds, homemade fat-free dressing, protein (ham, turkey, or leftover meat from dinner).

    Then, all hell breaks loose and I deviate a bit from the plan. After lunch, I go get E. Sometimes I have to run errands, and I miss my 2pm snack which should be more fruits and veggies. I try to have a banana in my bag or some other quick fruit or veggie. Then, when I get home, I snack on fruits/veggies until dinner if I get hungry.

    At dinner, I pretty much eat the same things I always ate. I make sure to have a protein, a starch, a veggie, and I’m allowed a fat! I make the same things for my family I always have. My meatloaf is made with the leanest meat I can find, ketchup, and bread crumbs (small amount of fat/starch). I make chicken meals with fat-free BBQ sauce or fat-free curried honey-mustard. I usually make these dressings by mixing the simplest of ingredients – literally, honey, Dijon-mustard, and curry powder.

    The 21-day fix eating plan has great dressing recipes too! If my dinner includes some extra fat (cooking in oil, etc.), I eliminate it somewhere else in my plan. If I make mashed potatoes, I make them with fat-free Greek yogurt and salt, instead of butter. I always have a steamed veggie with each dinner.

    At dinner, I keep my containers handy just to eyeball about how much I should have of each portion, and I stick to one plate of food. If I’ve had my Shakeology in the morning and eaten all my snacks throughout the day, I’m NOT hungry after dinner and can turn down late-night snacks, even after eating a smaller-portioned dinner.

    So, the take-away for me, with eating, has been – don’t freak out over the containers. Focus on your morning and lunch, then do your best to get through the most chaotic part of your day. Try to eat every 2 hours, and if it’s too busy to count containers, just grab an easy-to-prep fruit or veggie for your snack. Bananas are disappearing like we have monkeys in the house! Also, I buy ready-to-eat shredded cabbage for salads (doesn’t get mushy in dressing in your lunch box), ready-to-eat carrot sticks, grapes – all easy-to-grab!
    Apple peeler, and cardio exercise! Haha!

    I also bought a $20 apple peeler/slicer (on Amazon here, or I got mine at the local Cider Mill)! Anything to make eating healthier easier is worth the money! We use our apple peeler almost every day. It makes the perfect size slices for E, too!

    This is where the lifestyle change is really coming into play for me. On this plan, I eat more (but healthier) – pretty easy. But exercise is the hardest thing for me to work into my day, though I admit that it’s usually because of my lack of motivation.

    I absolutely love the DVDs that come with this 21-Day Fix challenge. I’ve only done Cardio and Yoga so far, but those two workouts alone are worth buying the pack.

    The idea is that you work out every day on this plan (for only 30 minutes).

    BUT, I honestly don’t always have 30 minutes to do a workout in front of the TV. I work mornings then have E from 1pm-6:30pm, when she goes to bed, and then I do freelance work in the evening usually until 11:30pm or midnight. When I don’t have freelance work, I like to work on my blog and prints/cards to sell, etc.

    I also HATE working out at night. I love to do it first thing in the morning, but the reality is that (especially if I go to bed at midnight), I’m not giving up an extra half hour of sleep in the morning.

    So, my advice in terms of working out is to not think of it as working out. Think about how you want to be more active, both on your own and as a family. Then, let the workouts on this DVD complement that lifestyle change.

    I knew last year that I wanted to spend more time outside with my daughter. If you just take your kids outside or to the park, you’re going to get a workout. You’re going to lift them into a swing, push the swing, chase them, play. Offer to spin them, fly them, give them piggy-back rides. If they’re happy to play on their own, walk or jog around the park while they play.

    Bike ride, go for hikes, explore. Once a week, go to the local pool or kids' gym. Play, play, play! That’s how we stayed fit when we were kids, not by working out on a treadmill or in the gym, but by having fun. The other day E asked me over and over (and over) again to give her horsey rides around the living room. I thought I was going to die, but I did it for 20 straight minutes, broke out in a sweat, and called it Cardio. It counts! And, the soundtrack of that workout was my kid laughing hysterically. How sweet is that?

    Then, on days when I don’t get outside, or we have a lot of errands to run, I turn to my DVDs. I do them with E in the afternoon, or I push myself to do them after she’s in bed, and I get in a great workout that makes me feel good and gives me energy.

    Autumn’s 21-Day Fix has workouts that are tough, but I can do them! She also shows you modifications, easier positions, that help you get the same results even if you can’t do every exercise she can do.

    At first I was a little disappointed in myself for not being able to follow this plan exactly, 100% by the book and DVDs, but I’ve lost 7lbs so far, and I’m about half-way through the program. I’m down to 198lbs (from 205), and I feel so ready to start my summer, steadily heading toward my goal weight of 175, while spending MORE time with my kid and having more energy to be active with her!

    And, changing the plan to suit my needs and lifestyle means that I can continue this plan long after the 21 days are done, because it fits into my life, and I’m motivated because I’m exercising how I want to. I can splurge a bit when I do eat out and always know how to get right back on track by grabbing my containers and popping in a DVD.

    Honestly, the pricing was a little expensive for our budget right now. I saved up, because I just wanted to try the product. I got the coach discount which meant that I got Shakeology for $130 for the first month and will be able to get it for less each month going forward at the coach’s rate. Still, considering that this replaces a meal and has replaced the cost (and improved the nutrition) of grabbing a quick bagel at the local cafĂ© on mornings when I used to forget my breakfast, it really is a great deal and will actually save us money.

    The workout plan was about $50 and completely worth it. It's a one-time cost eating and exercise plan, that is a great guide for living healthy long after your 21-Day Challenge is complete.

    What worked best for me was getting the complete package – challenge pack with Shakeology and continuing to get the monthly shipment of Shakeology. I’m hooked on this product and will continue to use it for as long as I can.

    If you’re interested in trying out this plan, just shoot me an email (on Facebook or, and I’ll help you get set up!

    Sunday, April 6, 2014

    Extraordinary Print Giveaway

    Hi, friends!

    I've been wanting to make this print for awhile now! It's all about transforming the "ordinary" into the "extraordinary" for your kids -- which we moms do every day in little and big ways!

    Over the next 2 weeks, you can enter your name daily into this raffle to win this 8 x 10 print, a $20 value!

    This giveaway is a little different than my other giveaways, so I ask that you please abide by the following guidelines--

    This is a fundraising giveaway for Bret Zeno, my co-worker who is battling Hodgkin's Lymphoma B, Stage 2 and his wife, Carrie. They are expecting a baby this summer, too!


    You can enter this giveaway 4 different ways (each day), per the Rafflecopter widget below:

    First, you'll have to enter your email address (or Facebook login details), just so I know who you are. Only I will see those details in my raffle-entry list. Then, you'll have the options to:
    1. Tweet (or retweet) about the event, and you'll be entered once into the raffle!
    2. Share this post on Facebook, and you can enter once in the raffle (honor system).
    3. Donate $5 to the Bret Zeno Fundraiser using the link in the widget below, and you'll be entered 5 TIMES into the raffle!
    4. Donate $10 or more to the Fundraiser via the link, and you'll be entered 10 TIMES into the raffle!
    Please note that, we're doing this mainly based on the honor system, so I appreciate your honesty! I'll trust that if you entered using option #3 or #4, that you did actually donate to the fund. If you entered by mistake for option #3 or #4 and can't make a donation -- no problem, just shoot me an email at, and I'll fix the error.

    For more info about the Bret Zeno fundraiser, check out the GiveForward widget and link on the right side of my page.


    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    Saturday, April 5, 2014

    YMIS Podcast 1

    So, this is what happens when Mark and I decide to just "test out the microphone" to see if it "works well for singing."

    Presenting our first (and possibly only) LIVE (but previously recorded) PODCAST!! (PG-13 Rating)

    In this episode, we learn that Mark cannot harmonize with a song I've just made up that he's never heard before. How unprofessional. Also, I learn that "free-ballin'" doesn't mean what I thought it did (that it is in-fact the same thing as going commando, per the Urban Dictionary). Plus, it's "duly" noted NOT "dually" noted. I knew that, just testing Mark.

    Thanks for listening! If you would actually enjoy (more structured) weekly episodes, please do let me know via Facebook, comments, or email!

    Gretchin (and Mark)

    Friday, April 4, 2014

    Oh, Brother!

    Thursday was a sick day over here at YMIS. E spiked a fever of 103.7 in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

    She'd been a little congested off and on, but I checked her before bed, and she was fine. She woke up at 2am, shivering to the point that it looked like she was having convulsions. We called the after-hours number for the doctor, and he recommended bundling her, continuing to take her temperature, and bringing her to the ER if it spiked over 103. It hadn't yet. Later, when it did, we got it back down with a warm bath and happily avoided an ER trip. By morning, she was back to her normal self with no fever. Ours and the doctor's best guess was a "final farewell" from this congestion-inducing virus.

    While her fever hovered in the 101-range, I held her close to me, trying to will more warmth into her tiny, shaky body. I had Mark get me another blanket, and I wrapped it quickly around her. I tried to keep her talking, asking her how she was feeling. She mumbled to me about being cold. She asked what Daddy was doing in the kitchen. He had rattled some dishes.

    Then she said, "What's that little boy doing?"
    "What little boy?" I asked.
    "He's playing with my toys!" she insisted.
    "What does he look like?"
    "He has brown hair."

    She went on to say that she didn't always like it when he played with her toys. I thought maybe she was dreaming, half asleep, but she's talked about the little boy before. In fact, he's usually the reason that she won't play in her room by herself. He "makes lights" and "plays with toys," she says.

    The other day she told us that, before she was with me and Mark, she was a baby in my belly and that a little girl touched her and held her until I got to her.

    Maybe it's just an active imagination, but I still wonder about my first pregnancy. I was so sure it was a boy, even though I was only about 12-weeks along at the time. It got me thinking about the time I finally was brave enough to go to a medium. I looked up my old blog post about it and realized that it was exactly this time last year that I went. I'll post it here for you to read.

    Let me know what you think? Do your children have imaginary friends or mysterious visitors?


    I've been wanting to see a medium since I first saw John Edward's TV show, Crossing Over, about 10 years ago. As I've mentioned before, I've had my doubts about it but still can't deny how some mediums seem to know some very specific details about people's lives having never met them. I want so badly to believe, but I really needed to have my own experience.

    So, I scheduled an appointment with Psychic Medium, Michele Nappi, of Moonlight Gifts in Milton, Vermont. The price was reasonable ($35 for the first 15 minutes and $2/min. after). I planned on spending an hour with her, but she told me that readings rarely take longer than a half hour. I appreciated her honesty and felt that, for the price, it was worth it -- even if the only thing I took away was a final realization that I didn't entirely believe in the experience.

    When I walked into Michele's shop, she greeted me warmly. I got a very motherly feeling from her. I told her that I was a little early, and she said that was fine and led me to the back of the shop, where she had an open but cozy room for doing readings. She handed me a pen and piece of paper to take notes, and had me sit down

    Though I had an open-minded approach to this, the more skeptical side of me had made some deals with "the other side," as part of my own, private experiment. I'll share them with you, so you can experience it from my perspective:

    First, I wanted to hear from some specific people. My uncle, Harley, passed away when I was 14. His children, my cousins, were teenagers at the time too. It was a devastating death in our family, as he passed quickly and unexpectedly from a heart attack. I always had this feeling that he was "first." I wasn't sure why, but I felt that he would lead a reading.

    I also felt a recent connection with my great-grandmother on my mom's side, Pearl, who died while giving birth to my grandmother. I always thought it was so heartbreaking that she never got to hold her daughter, and I used to remind myself that I was blessed to hold my daughter, even on nights when she refused to sleep for hours at a time.

    My grandparents (my father's father and step-mother) passed away last spring, and I hoped to hear from one of them. Also, my other grandfather (my dad's step-father) passed away rather suddenly last month, and I was feeling a strong connection to him. I thought I felt his presence with me multiple times after his death.

    I was most curious about a pregnancy I lost before having my daughter. Though we never found out the sex, I always felt it was a boy. All we found out from the ultrasound was that his heart had either stopped beating or that it had never started beating. The biggest piece of evidence I asked for was from him. Before the reading, I proceeded to make a deal with my son. If all this was real, I wanted him to come forward and tell me something specific -- to mention the dream I had about him. It was a strange dream, because he looked older than I thought he would be, so I always doubted the validity of it. He was about 18-20 years old. He met me under an overpass. He was brought there by a round, grandmotherly-type woman (who I dream about frequently now). He gave me a big hug and told me, "You don't have to worry about me any more."

    That phrase meant so much to me. It wasn't just "Don't worry," or "I'm okay." I always felt that he was giving me permission to let go, after I held on for so long. I still feel him close to me sometimes, and I have such a hard time letting go of those moments.

    So, now I'm sitting in the chair, ready for my reading. I was open to hearing anything Michele was willing to tell me. She asked me to write down the time: 1:50. I did, then she asked me if I had any specific questions. I told her I wanted to focus on my family.

    She simply closed her eyes and said, "I see your uncle." She went on to describe a strong man, a leader, who was taking charge of the group and bringing people through to speak with me. She said he passed from a heart-attack and that his name had "Lee" in it. That would fit Harley. I responded briefly, with yes or no answers, and an occasional, "Yes, that makes sense," trying not to give away my surprise. Then she said that he had something with his front teeth. She pointed to her front tooth and mentioned that he had a fake tooth. I thought that was a definite miss, as Uncle Harley had a great smile and seemingly perfect teeth. (Later, when I got home and shared the experience with my father, he shocked me by saying that Harley had fake front teeth. Only close family would have known this, as even I didn't.)

    Ok, so I had to ask myself after the fact: Is it common for most women my age to have a connection to an uncle who has passed (I only have one), also one I expected to first hear from, one who was relatively young when he passed (39) yet still had fake teeth and passed from a heart attack? It felt so real to me. I could very clearly visualize what she was saying.

    She went on to mention a great-grandmother figure who would sit with her arms folded over her belly. My grandmother (Pearl's daughter) always sits that way. Though, possibly a typical grandmotherly trait, I had to wonder if this was Pearl who I connected with over my daughter, and if maybe the "belly" connection was a sign about the pregnancy.

    She then mentioned the name "Carol" in relation to a grandmother figure. That gave me chills. Carol just isn't a common name. I've never known another Carol in my life. This was my grandmother who passed last spring, my father's step-mother. Michele said that she had gotten a vision of Carol Burnett, and she was pulling on her ear, and she thought that it was also a sign of her sending love to us, as Carol Burnett would use that action as a sign to her mother that she was thinking about her/sending love to her.

    Michele closed her eyes again and said that Carol was talking about my daughter, that she said she has beautiful eyes, that she looks like me. Then she stopped and concentrated for a minute. She said, "I'm aware of the girl, but where's the boy? Did you lose a pregnancy before you had your daughter? I see Carol holding the baby." I said, "Yes," and she handed me a box of tissues. She said that he wasn't really a baby any more, that he was about 2 or 3 (that would make sense). She went on to describe him in detail. I got caught up in the moment. She said he had a lot of energy, that she saw him playing happily. She saw him winking, which she thought held some significance. She also told me that he had problems with his heart, that it wasn't formed correctly, and that I hadn't eaten anything that caused the miscarriage.

    Though this was a more general comment, it meant a lot to me. I wasn't drinking alcohol at all when we were trying to get pregnant. I didn't have any physical trauma that caused the loss of the pregnancy. The only thing I could blame myself for was eating something I shouldn't have. I got so upset about it that I developed an eating disorder during my second pregnancy -- not that I wouldn't eat, I just became overly obsessive about what I put in my body to the point that it was affecting my life in unhealthy ways by causing anxiety and obsessive-compulsive behavior. To hear that I hadn't eaten anything that hurt the baby was extremely validating to me.

    She hadn't mentioned my grandfather who recently passed, my dad's step-father. So, when she asked me if I had any questions, I asked about him. She said, "The one with the big belly?" I had to chuckle. That was a defining feature of his body type. She said that he had been around me, that I had felt him frequently, which is true. She said he had a funny sense of humor. That's one way to put it... He had the "grumpy old man" complex, but he did have a great sense of humor. She told me that his "counterpart" was still living, and spoke of a "P" name in another state. She thought the P was tied to Pennsylvania. I thought it might be my grandmother, but the information didn't fit perfectly.

    Again, she asked if I had any questions before we ended, and I went back to my son. I told her that I didn't want to let go of him, this feeling of a connection with him. She told me that, he frequently felt that -- me not wanting to let go, but that it was okay. She was just about to wrap up the session, then she stopped and said, "Wait, did you have a dream about him?" I had been writing furiously this entire time, even through my tears. I stopped, looked up at her, holding my breath. I nodded. She said, "He looked different than you expected, but he wants you to know that it was him." I started crying and said to her, "That's what I needed to hear..."

    She said, "Oh good, write it down."

    I said, "I don't need to. I will remember this moment for the rest of my life."

    I can't think of any better way to sum up my experience. I'll share all my notes from the reading soon, but everything Michele said (general and specific) rang true with me. Her approach was caring yet objective. It was just what I needed. I can't wait until the next opportunity to try one of her meditation sessions or development classes.

    For more information, about Michele Nappi's shop and services, visit her Facebook page at: