Three 31


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Finish This #40

IT’S WEEK 40 OF FINISH THIS … I can’t believe this pea-size idea I had a year ago is thriving and transforming into a legitimate blog series. Thank YOU for making it that way! If this is your first time here, welcome. If you’re a repeat participant, thanks for playing along and joining the shenanigans. Your co-hosts are LISA (COASTLINED), JEN (The Arizona Russums), BECKY (The Java Mama) and NICOLE (Three 31) and the instructions are simple: answer the prompts on your blog and add the post to the link up. Next week, we’ll do it all over again with a new set of prompts (located at the bottom of this post). Let’s get started!

FINISHTHIS.linkupbutton

CHALLENGE FOR YOU … visit at least three (3) blogs and comment on their “Finish This” post. Even if you don’t know the person, introduce yourself and leave a genuine comment. If you know a blogger who would like to participate in this link up, invite them to join us. Blogging is about building communities!

1. I can change the world by
raising a son who is kind, compassionate, generous, respectful, trustworthy, educated, and a faithful follower of Jesus Christ. I can change the world by teaching my son to pray and believing that Jesus is more than a storybook character, He is alive and our closest friend. Every day I pray for Kamden, our family and friends, and one woman in particular: Kamden’s wife. Yes, I’m praying for my future daughter-in-law! I don’t know who she is (yet!), maybe she hasn’t been born, but I keep her in my daily prayers. Possibly even more world-changing, I hope her mother, Kamden’s future mother-in-law, is praying the same prayers for him too.

2.  The best career advice I ever received was
No matter how entry-level or low on the totem pole you are, arrive to work early and dress professionally. More importantly, be nice to people. When I had a professional career in corporate marketing and business development, I was always the first to arrive and the last to leave. Mostly because my workload was so demanding, but I honestly believe I have a damn good work ethic. It was the same when I worked in education as a middle school teacher too. When I have a job to do, I do it right. I also believe relationships and open, honest dialogue are important in the workplace. I’m not talking about inappropriate relationships, obviously, or gossip hour in front of the water cooler either. When the people I work with know I’m listening and value their input, all of our jobs are easier. I don’t put a lot of effort into keeping my friends close and my enemies closer. Honestly, I’d prefer not to have enemies at all. If there are negative people in my life, I purposefully try to stay away from them! There will always be folks you work with who are difficult, but stay calm and remember what your mama taught you, “Be nice and kill’em with kindness!” While some bridges are worth burning, specifically my ties with a former company and one ‘toxic’ person in particular, I stay connected with one of my former bosses and several co-workers. In fact, Lisa, a co-host of this link up, is one of those jewels! We used to work for the same company, though in different offices, and she is one reason I kept my sanity in the high-stress environment. Now, instead of our conversations being about client databases, market research, and RFP deadlines, we talk about our real passions in life: family, friends, food, blogging, puppies, and travel. You want to know what’s even more unique about us? Lisa and I have never met in person. How crazy is that?! One of these days, though, we will.

3. I first fell in love
I feel love, on a daily basis, from Husband and my family and close friends, but I didn’t know love until Kamden was born.

Invite your blogging friends and come back next Wednesday for another round of Finish This where we’ll answer another set of prompts!

Prompt for WEEK 41– October 15
I feel like a bad-ass when
One thing that always cheers me up
The quote I live by


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Process of Elimination (a food experiment)

I meant to share this post last week but here’s the deal: it wasn’t close to being finished and I wasn’t prepared to begin the challenge on October 1 as originally thought. Beginning an elimination diet of this magnitude takes a lot of preparation and, well, I’ve been a little busy as a wife, mother, gym member, Bible study participant, Family Feud watcher, and overall awesome person. I have priorities, you know, and blogging isn’t always one of them. What I am about to share is the compilation of lessons learned, medical and non-medical advice, theories, and, most important, the willingness to try something new. Bear with me as I embark on a journey, and forgive me if I say something mean because I’m hungry and detoxing my body from wheat, gluten, and other JUNK living in my gut. I love bread, pasta, rice, oatmeal, granola, cookies, cake, pie, flour tortillas, and soy sauce, but I’m afraid these items are making me sick. Here’s why:

THE BACKGROUND

If you’ve been following my blog, or ever eaten a meal with me, you know that I was diagnosed with a severe dairy (cow’s milk) allergy in 2003. I eliminated all forms of dairy from my diet, including, but not limited to: milk, cheese, butter, cream cheese, sour cream, ice cream, pudding, Ranch dressing, cheesecake, yogurt, milkshakes, and a host of other culinary delights. Fortunately, there are alternative products and ingredients, particularly soy, that make my life a little easier and I’m able to enjoy similar tastes without the threat of an allergic reaction. But life (and my body) likes to keep me on my toes. For many years, I’ve lived with symptoms and health conditions that I haphazardly ignored, didn’t want to address, or attributed to having mono as a child and, as a result, a weaker immune system. Honestly, I didn’t pay much attention to the recurring symptoms until recently.

THE SYMPTOMS

It’s no secret I have weight issues. In fact, I’ve rarely met a food I didn’t like. I know I have a problem with portion control and eating after I feel full, but I have seen no significant difference in my weight since Kamden was born last December, despite a dramatic increase in physical activity and exercise on an almost daily basis. Granted, I made positive life changes during my pregnancy and lost 35 pounds by eliminating fried foods, sugar and caffeine, and exercising regularly, but something else has to be ‘wrong’ with me. I’m exercising harder and longer now than I did while pregnant! On any given day of the week, when I step on a scale, the number fluctuates three to eight pounds – talk about a roller coaster of emotions! Some of the weight gain/loss can be attributed to water retention and breast milk (I drink 150-200 ounces of water and produce 50-60 ounces of milk every day) but I have to wonder if it’s linked to the food I eat.

Right after Husband and I got married and I began wearing my wedding band, I developed a red, itchy, irritated rash around my left ring finger. It wasn’t too severe, but definitely noticeable and, at times, uncomfortable. If I didn’t wear the ring for several days, the redness and irritation would go away. I coughed it up to be a sensitivity to nickel, a metal commonly used in white gold jewelry. No big deal, I told myself, I’ll save wearing my ring for special occasions.

I began having pretty severe joint pain, especially in my hips, a year ago … but I was also pregnant. Doesn’t every pregnant woman experience hip pain at some point? I’m nine months post-partum and the pain still exists, also in my knees, feet, shoulders, and back. But I’m also exercising and lifting weights on a regular basis too. Did I lift too much? Did I forget to stretch before or after my workout?

Acne. Ugh. This one is a no-brainer too. I’ve dealt with oily skin and pimples since I was a teenager. No face wash, cream, or spot treatment seems to help but when I’m feeding my body crappy food, I look and feel crappy too. Coincidence? I think not.

The day Kamden was born, another patch of red, itchy, irritated bumps and rash appeared on my left wrist. I showed my doctor and nurses, even the anesthesiologist who performed my epidural came to look at it, and they agreed it was probably a reaction to the strong soap I used to wash my hands. Husband, being the kind and caring man he is, went to Walgreens and bought me a bottle of antibacterial hand soap for sensitive skin. The rash and bumps didn’t go away. They come and go much like the rash around my finger and are irritated with hot, soapy water and lotions or creams. At my six week post-partum appointment with my OB, she looked at my left hand and wrist and suggested I see a dermatologist. In May, I was officially diagnosed with eczema and prescribed a steroid ointment. She also diagnosed me with adult acne, but I didn’t need to spend $20 on a co-pay for her to tell me I have zits on my face. Months later, the ointment doesn’t work on my eczema and I still have pimples.

Other symptoms I’ve experienced but ignored for one reason or another: mouth sores, breast tenderness, acid reflux, bloating, constipation, hemorrhoids, muscle cramps, dandruff, nosebleeds, sinus pressure, sleeplessness / insomnia, and fatigue. Again, doesn’t every body experience some of these at least once in their life? I’m a new mom, I’m not supposed to sleep! I attach myself to a machine multiple times a day to extract ‘liquid gold’ from my boobs, aren’t they supposed to be tender? I live in Texas where the weather is warm, the humidity is high, and pollen is in the air constantly. It’s normal to be congestion or feel sinus pressure, right? I exercise on a regular basis with trainers who don’t know the meaning of easy, of course my muscles are going to ache and I’m going to feel tired. I need to suck it up and put on my big girl panties. Or do I?

THE “WHAT WAS I THINKING?” MISHAP

Two weeks ago, while my mom and aunt were visiting, I invited friends over for dinner. My aunt decided to make her favorite dessert (pee-can pie) and she explicitly told me the pre-made crust had milk in it. No big deal, because I am not a fan of pecans. After dinner and while I was gathering dessert plates and slicing the pie, for some unexplainable reason I cut a small piece of pecan pie for myself and ate it. What was I thinking?! Honestly, I didn’t think about the pie or, even more startling, the crust made with milk until the next day. Surprisingly, I had no symptoms or allergic reaction like I normally would ingesting a milk product. Can a person diagnosed with an allergy as an adult outgrow it later? Is that even possible? It’s been 10 years since I was diagnosed with a severe cow’s milk allergy, maybe I should see an allergy doctor and have blood drawn for another test. At this point, it wouldn’t hurt to try!

THE DAY I TESTED MY THEORY

Last Wednesday, the first of October, I decided to unofficially begin an elimination diet. At the time, my left wrist and ring ringer were relatively clear. This was the day I was going to avoid the eight most common food allergens – dairy (check!), soy (whoa, wait a minute!), wheat (but I love my carbs!), eggs, shellfish (but I love shrimp, crab, and lobster too!), citrus fruit, corn (not good for a country girl who loves corn-on-the-cob), and peanuts – but I wasn’t ready to make a commitment. On that particular day, while running errands, I also craved sushi. After enjoying a California roll and shrimp tempura, I didn’t see any difference on my wrist or finger so I felt confident my reaction was not related to soy or shellfish. I continued to avoid wheat and gluten most of the next day (Thursday), until dinner that night. I promised Husband I would try a recipe for homemade pizza crust and it was actually much easier to make than I anticipated. When making homemade pizzas, I always prepare two – one for Husband (meat and cheese only) and one for me with Manchego (sheep’s milk) cheese and toppings like mushrooms, olives, spinach, tomatoes, and red pepper flakes. I considered skipping out on the tasty creation, but decided to test my wheat/gluten theory. I ate two slices of my homemade pizza and within an hour my left hand was bright red. My finger and wrist were very itchy and irritated. Say it isn’t so, but I think I’m really on to something here!

gluten

THE ELIMINATION EXPERIMENT // Week One: no wheat + gluten

In theory, gluten-free eating is pretty simple: eat whole, unprocessed foods and avoid wheat, barley, rye and all their derivatives. Avoiding a particular food or food group is hard enough, but when there are “derivatives” involved you reach a whole new level of complicated. This is nothing new to me because there are MANY hidden, tricky, unsuspecting places for dairy (cow’s milk) products to hide too, including, but not limited to, whey , ghee, lactose, and casein. Until I can wrap my mind around all of the food that I contains gluten, I’m going to limit myself to whole foods for one week. In other words, if Mother Nature creates it, I’ll eat it. Think about it another way: the human body was never meant to ingest processed and refined foods. I’m taking small steps for two reasons: 1) elimination diets are hard and 2) wheat and gluten are everywhere these days (i.e. modified food starch, imitation crab, soy sauce, dry spice mixes, etc.) But a gluten-free diet has many health benefits and I’m hopeful that one (or more) of my recurring symptoms will disappear, particularly the eczema.

WHAT CAN I EAT?

I really love carbs, so no bread and pasta is going to be difficult. I am also going to TRY to limit soy-based products, including soy milk, soy butter, and soy sauce. But instead of focusing on what I CANNOT eat, here’s a quick run down of what I CAN:

Eggs
Lean Meats – beef, chicken, and pork (preferably grass-fed and without sugar, MSG, sulfites, and carrageenans)
Fish – tilapia, salmon, tuna
Fruits
Vegetables
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

I CAN DO THIS!

Seven days. I can do this! If you see me in public, or follow me on social media, ask how I’m doing. Besides positive reinforcement and support, I need the extra accountability. If you see me in the pasta aisle in the grocery store, report me to the Food Police. If I’m ill-tempered, please show me (and my detoxing body) grace and forgiveness. If you see Husband and Kamden, be nice to them too. Remember, they have to live with me during this elimination phase!

Do you have advice for me? Have you tried an elimination diet? Do you suffer with similar symptoms? Any other suggestions for me? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences.

P.S. I’ll be sure to post an update next week too!


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Resolution Update // September 2014

Confession: I’m not doing a very good job of accomplishing my resolutions (goals) in 2014. A part of me is sad about this fact, but another part of me is excited because it means new opportunities and adventures are presenting themselves. Nonetheless, I’m still making memories. And breast milk. Basically, I am Kamden’s personal chauffeur and living, breathing, walking grocery store. It’s all about perspective, right?!

BLOG RELATED
co-host a weekly link-up called “Finish This” This link-up is thriving!
attend the Texas Women Bloggers’ fashion show and silent auction Farm-to-Table event
write a guest post for someone Sharing my human milk donor story on Lexy’s blog.
write a monthly update for Kamden

January
February
March
April
May
June
July
August
September

be featured on The Wise Baby
develop relations with more bloggers Thanks to Twitter, I’m surviving pump sessions in the wee hours of the night with these new mamas — Samantha, Catalyn, Cait, and Carly.
reach 500 followers on Twitter
*BLOG-RELATED NEWS*
I applied, and was accepted, to the writing team of MOMquery, a website dedicated to providing encouragement, answering questions, introducing products and gears, and being a reliable, authentic, and REAL resource for moms written by moms! My first published article, “I Exclusively Breast Pump” can be found HERE. I’m really excited about this new endeavor, an exciting opportunity to work with some amazing women/mom/bloggers, and share my experiences along this journey called motherhood. Stay tuned for more! :)

PHOTOGRAPHY RELATED
have professional newborn photos taken of Kamden photos taken Dec 30, 2013 by Jennifer Wynne Photography
learn Lightroom On-going process, but coming along nicely. LR is so much easier, less overwhelming than Photoshop. I’m glad I made the investment and switched!
acquire this lens
take lessons with a professional
have professional family portraits taken for our 2014 Christmas card

FOOD & DRINK
bake homemade bread in my Le Creuset loaf pan I baked Honey Butter Beer Bread and gave it to the Zachry family since I’m refraining from all alcohol while lactating. They approved of my creation. 
eat at a celebrity chef’s restaurant
prepare Kamden’s baby food purees SUCCESS! Kamden had his first bite of pureed food on May 18. I peeled, sliced, and cooked two apples then pureed with breast milk until smooth. I divided the mixture into an ice cube tray, put the tray in the freezer, and several hours later put the “cubes” into a Ziploc bag. I did the same thing with a ripe banana and avocado. Kamden loves both and I’m excited to continue exploring new foods with him. His next food introduction will be sweet potatoes. Mmmm!!!!
JUNE UPDATE: In the freezer, there are now several Ziploc bags of pureed cubes … applesauce, avocado + banana, sweet potatoes, peach + banana, kale + spinach + avocado, and blueberry + peach
JULY UPDATE: Kamden is mostly interested in the bottle of breast milk. He’s just not that in to the pureed stuff. One or two licks of the spoon and he’s done. No biggie, really, we’ll keep trying.
AUGUST UPDATE: Nothing new to report, really. Kamden’s only truly interested in breast milk and pushes away spoons with pureed solids. I made a batch of homemade teething cookie bars that he likes to hold in his chubby fingers and lick, especially since I keep them in the freezer and they’re cold.

create a monthly meal plan
host a dinner party Success! Hosted the Zachry family while my mom and aunt were visiting from Kentucky. I roasted a pork loin and, if I don’t say so myself, it was damn awesome.
prepare a dish with curry
eat Neopolitan pizza at Cavalli Pizzeria in Irving
try a new food
JANUARY: I’ve spent more than $100 on specialty lactation products said to increase breast milk supply. I have organic rolled oats and flax seeds, essential oils, and granola mix. If milk isn’t squirting out of my nipples every time I sneeze, I’ll be disappointed.
FEBRUARY:
I found the perfect recipe for LACTATION COOKIES.

PEOPLE & PLACES TO VISIT
Thompson family reunion in Louisville, KY SUCCESS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Kamden rode on an airplane for the first time; met his maternal great-grandmother and more aunts, uncles, cousins, and family than he knows what to do with; and, overall, travelled like a champion.
Perot Science Museum in Dallas, TX

THINGS TO DO
meet with a lawyer and create our wills
open a savings account for Kamden
have my gallbladder removed and tubes tied I had surgery March 4 and the pain was worse than childbirth, especially in my shoulder from the CO2 gas used to “expand” my abdomen during the procedure. Four weeks post-op, my shoulder is tender but doctors assure me the discomfort will subside. I’m so thankful my mom was here with Husband to take care of Kamden while I recovered. I had to “pump and dump” for 24 hours but, thanks to the milk stash in the freezer, Kamden had plenty to eat.
have my DSLR professionally cleaned DONE! Probably the best 75-bucks I’ve spent in a VERY long time. I highly recommend Fort Worth Camera for their camera cleaning services. I won’t wait five years to have my camera cleaned again!
renew my gym membership DONE! Renewed my gym membership on March 31.
hire a personal trainer
wear a size 12
get fitted for a bra
plan a weekend getaway with Husband
plan an overnight girls trip
go hog hunting
compete in a shooting tournament
compete in a golf tournament Played in the Glen Lake Golf Classic on Friday, April 11 with three men from church, we shot a respectable 9-under par. We had  a lot of fun and I played much better than anticipated!
go to the eye doctor
see a dermatologist DONE! On April 10, I received a full body skin analysis and the ‘mole’ that I was most concerned about is not even a mole but rather scar tissue and poses no cancer risk. The mysterious rash that appeared the day Kamden was born is eczema and is now gone thanks to prescription steroid ointment. I was diagnosed with adult acne — not a big shock — and using a new cleanser (morning and night) and applying a prescription solution before moisturizing at night. I’ve seen improvements and will share details in a separate blog post later.
watch Jerusalem, the IMAX film
sell my car
buy a used SUV
attend a bridal shower
attend a wedding
attend a baby shower
attend a non-Christian religious event or ceremony
go to a concert
go to a musical or play
go to a college sporting event
go to a professional sporting event
take pictures for someone I have re-energized my blog and photography page — please like Three 31 Photography & Blog on Facebook — and begun taking pictures again. I took pictures for a group of high school students going to PROM, as well as family portraits of the Zachry’s. I have a few more appointments this summer scheduled too.
donate to a worthy cause
MARCH 27 — I donated my wedding dress to the NICU Helping Hands Foundation for the Angel Gowns project. You can read about my experience HERE.
APRIL 30 — I donated 367 ounces of breast milk to the Mother’s Milk Bank of North Texas.
MAY 22 — Donated 367 ounces of breast milk to MMBNT and toured the processing facility.
JULY 1 — Donated 619 ounces.
JULY 28 — Took my Mom to the milk bank to see the processing facility and meet the ladies, plus I donated 431 ounces.
SEPTEMBER 23 — Delivered 625 ounces of breast milk to MMBNT.
clean out my closet DONE! Took six LARGE garbage bags full of clothes, shoes, and unwanted household items to Goodwill on April 12.
write a letter

WISH TO HAVE
MacBook Pro
Lightroom 5 purchased April 24
square-toe cowboy boots
Warby Parker glasses

BOOKS I WANT TO READ
Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child This was an impulse purchase at 3:00am when I was trying to soothe a fussy newborn who would NOT go to sleep.
The Twelve Tribes of Hattie
Inferno
All Is Grace Rev. L suggested this right before she left for another trip to Jerusalem, which I’m pea green with envy about since she’ll be floating in the Dead Sea and eating shawarma without me. It’s a book I would have never found on my own but one I enjoyed. The author, Brennan Manning, a recovering alcoholic and former Franciscan priest, shares tales of his spiritual journey and how he has experienced God’s grace in a variety of ways in the strangest of places. ‘Tis a good read.
The Signature of All Things
Happier At Home

MONTHLY GOALS
January:
mail Kamden’s birth announcements FAIL but let me explain: we received Kamden’s birth day photos and I ordered the announcement cards last week. Hopefully, they ship soon so I can address envelopes and mail them before Valentine’s Day. Which brings me to next month’s goals……

February: Create a photo project for Valentine’s Day and send to the grandparents. DONE. Photo albums were mailed to the grandparents and two great-grandmothers on February 13. Address and mail Kamden’s birth announcements. DONE. Birth announcements were mailed to 65 friends and family on February 13. Schedule surgery to remove gallbladder and dismantle baby-making machinery. DONE. Surgery is scheduled March 4. Have 100 ounces of breast milk in the freezer by the end of the month. DONE. There are 52 bags, each containing six ounces, and, if my math is correct, that’s 312 ounces of breast milk collected in just ONE month —  I’m a machine!

March: Visit Lara in Salado. SUCCESS — Mom, Kamden, and I visited Salado United Methodist Church on March 9. Lara even used Kamden as an impromptu sermon illustration about letting go of control and having child-like faith. Her husband, Travis, prepared a delicious lunch for all of us and we spent most of the afternoon in their home visiting and talking and laughing and having a wonderful time. I miss my Rev. L, so any time I can get with her is a blessing. Send more photos of Kamden to the grandparents and great-grandmothers. DONE! Write more blog posts. Along with Kamden’s monthly updates and the weekly #FinishThis link up I co-host, I posted an anniversary tribute to Husband, a list of motherhood essentials for the first three months with baby, and some random thoughts from my Lenten journey. Instead of giving something up for 40 days, I decided to take something on and read the New Testament with #MargaretFeinberg. Celebrate our seventh anniversary with dinner and a movie. PARTIALLY SUCCESSFUL! We treated ourselves to a barbeque dinner Sunday night, the day before our anniversary, but there was no movie involved. There are movies coming out soon that I want to see though, I’ll ask Husband for a rain check!

April: Read a book to Kamden every day. FAIL. We play and interact all the time, but I don’t always read a book to him. Nominating myself for bad parent award. Purchase an outfit for Easter. I wore this dress from Old Navy. Visit a dermatologist for the rash (eczema?) on my left wrist. DONE. Visit an ophthalmologist for an eye exam. FAIL. Exercise at least 30 minutes a day, every day (#1800MinuteChallenge). Partial success – I exercised 950 minutes and went to the gym almost every week day.

May: Visit an ophthalmologist for an eye exam. FAIL, but it’s on my to-do list in June. Complete the #1800minutechallenge. Major Success — not only did I complete the 1,800 minute challenge, but I exceeded it by exercising 2,160 minutes in 60 days. Not bad, huh!? Attend Mayfest at Trinity Park in Fort Worth. Fail. Host a girls’ dinner party. Semi-success because I had dinner with a friend and her daughter, plus two of her friends, but I’ve rescheduled the girls’ night I had planned originally. Donate more breast milk. Success — I’m a pumping machine! Celebrate my first Mother’s Day. Success — Husband and Kamden made my first Mother’s Day truly special with a sweet/funny card and took me out for dinner. Complete an online tutorial for Lightroom. Success — thank goodness for Pinterest, YouTube, and photographers’ blogs with video and text tutorials! Take pictures and edit them using Lightroom. Success.

June: Visit an ophthalmologist for an eye exam. FAIL, but it’s on my to-do list in July. Introduce Kamden to the swimming pool. SUCCESS … the water was a little chilly (we went at 10:30am) but he got used to it and enjoyed it. He was more aggravated by the hat I put on him more than the water. With more visits, and warmer temperatures, he’ll enjoy it! Lose 10 pounds. Losing weight is hard work. Like most people, I pay quite a bit attention to the number on the scale and, as a result, I get disappointed when the number increases after a week of relentless exercise, fitness classes, weight circuit training, and better food choices. According to my weekly measurements in the ‘Biggest Transformation’ competition at the gym, I am losing inches. Bad news: the scale number has not changed. Good news: I’m building muscle and that weighs more than fat. Attend an “ALPHA” group exercise class at the fitness center. SUCCESS … and I lived to tell about it. Seriously, the most intense workout but totally worth the sweat. Eat clean for an entire month — no white bread, white flour, sugar, or processed foods. Semi-Success. I eliminated all white bread except for one ham sandwich when we were out of wheat bread and I also had a hamburger bun. I avoid refined sugar like the plague but I’m addicted to Nature Valley ‘Oats N Honey’ granola bars and I’m pretty sure those are considered processed since they do not grow naturally in the world. Bummer. Celebrate Husband’s first Father’s Day. SUCCESS … Husband asked for pictures of Kamden for his desk at work and I happily obliged. I also created a collage using the letters D-A-D, similar to the collage I created for myself on Mother’s Day and spelled M-O-M. Husband loved them all. How could he not when our child is so adorable and delicious?! Create layout design for a gallery wall in the living room. FAIL, but there are LOTS of new pins on my Pinterest board … does that count?! I need to go through the photos and frames I already have and start from there. A gallery wall is overwhelming but I love the look, it’s going to happen soon.

July: Visit an ophthalmologist for an eye exam. FAIL … I really, really need new contacts and glasses. This MUST get done in the near future. Prepare a special dinner for Husband’s birthday. I don’t remember exactly what I fixed for Husband’s birthday dinner, but I’m sure it was special and, of course, homemade. Lose five pounds. FAIL … but I’m losing inches. Does that count for anything besides making me extremely frustrated?! Limit myself to one granola bar a day. FAIL … yeah right, like I have self-control to eat just one! Get a copy of Kamden’s birth certificate and call Southwest Airlines to get details on flying with an infant as a lap-child. DONE! Flying Southwest with a child has to be the BEST airline choice and Kamden’s first trip away from home was a huge success. He’s such a great baby and excellent traveler. And I’m not saying that because he’s mine, he really is an amazing child! Have lunch/dinner with a friend. DONE AND DONE … Lunch with the Zachry ladies and dinner with Heather, I’d say I’m pretty blessed with friends who like to eat. Start an editorial calendar for my blog. SEMI-SUCCESS … I have the calendar. I have some ideas for scheduled blog posts. I do not have said posts written or edited. I really need to work on writing more often, especially with the incredible opportunity I’ve been given with a major website. Eeek, excited to share more, later!

August: Visit an ophthalmologist for an eye exam. For real, this month. Nope, failed again. I’m such a loser. Exercise five consecutive days, at least an hour each day. Major failure. Publish two (additional) blog posts each week. Fail. Clear out Kamden’s wardrobe of clothes that no longer fit or he doesn’t wear anymore and post them online to sell. Fail.

September: Visit an ophthalmologist for an eye exam. Fail. This is bordering on ridiculous. I’ve got one pair of contacts left, so it’s just a matter of time before I’m walking around blind as a bat or looking like a nerd in my glasses. Complete and exceed the #1500in30 exercise challenge (1500 minutes in 30 days) and lose 10lbs. Fail on both accounts — time at the gym and the weight loss. Start outlining a book study I’m creating. Fail, didn’t even open the book I’m supposed to be outlining. Begin The Story Bible study at church. SUCCESS! Began this study on Wednesday, September 24 and really enjoyed the first session. Let’s hope my enthusiasm and enjoyment lasts another 31 weeks. Participate in the American Heart Association Heart Walk. SUCCESS! Despite the weather, it was a lot of fun to walk around the Fort Worth Stockyards for a great cause. Eat (relatively) clean for 30 days, eliminating processed foods, sugars, and carbohydrates. MAJOR FAIL. That’s all I’m going to say about that. Read The Bible Storybook to Kamden every day, for at least 30 minutes. Semi-success. We’ve been reading every day but not The Storybook because Kamden likes to grab pages and I’m afraid he’ll tear pages out. Schedule at least one additional mini-session for Three 31 Photography. Semi-Success. Another friend got engaged and we’re trying to figure out a good date for pictures. But it’s going to happen! Write three articles for MOMquery. Two complete, one on the way. Run the vacuum once a week for a month. Success. I’ve also been mopping the floors on a regular basis. And “maintaining” better. But I’m still not ready for an impromptu “white glove” test. Purchase a new mattress set for our master bedroom. Fail.

October: Visit an ophthalmologist for an eye exam. Go to the gym at least four days every week. Complete two “photography projects” at church. Complete a 30-day elimination diet.


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Finish This #39

IT’S WEEK 39 OF FINISH THIS … if this is your first time here, welcome! If you’re a repeat customer, thanks for playing along again. Your co-hosts are LISA (COASTLINED), JEN (The Arizona Russums), BECKY (The Java Mama) and NICOLE (Three 31) and the instructions are simple: answer the prompts on your blog and add the post to the link up. Next week, we’ll do it all over again with a new set of prompts (located at the bottom of this post). Let’s get started!

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CHALLENGE FOR YOU … visit at least three (3) blogs and comment on their “Finish This” post. Even if you don’t know the person, introduce yourself and leave a genuine comment. If you know a blogger who would like to participate in this link up, invite them to join us. Blogging is about building communities!

1. I am most comfortable
in the driver’s seat. Even in a new city or place I’ve never been before. I prefer to drive, unless I’m with Husband – I don’t mind his driving. If I don’t know you, I won’t get in the car with you. I won’t sit in the backseat of a vehicle unless I know you REALLY well. But I’d still rather drive myself.

driverseat

2. Diamonds are
ordinary rocks that handle stress and pressure extraordinarily well. And shiny. Diamonds are shiny.

3. I wish I could be more
forgiving of myself and set realistic expectations. I’m not saying I don’t have lofty goals I want to accomplish, but I’m really hard on myself with some things that just aren’t worth the extra effort and energy I put towards unrealistic perfection. Does that make sense? A lot of it has to do with my “people pleaser” personality but I am (slowly) learning that concept is worthless and a waste of time. I’m also learning that I cannot be friends with every body. And that some people didn’t listen to their Mamas (or Sunday School teacher) about the Golden Rule. I treat people like I want to be treated, but some folks missed school (church) the day that lesson was taught. Some folks need Jesus. :)

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Invite your blogging friends and come back next Wednesday for another round of Finish This where we’ll answer another set of prompts!

Prompt for WEEK 40– October 8
I can change the world by
The best career advice I ever received
I first fell in love


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Finish This #38

IT’S WEEK 38 OF FINISH THIS … if this is your first time here, welcome! If you’re a repeat customer, thanks for playing along again. Your co-hosts are LISA (COASTLINED), JEN (The Arizona Russums), BECKY (The Java Mama) and NICOLE (Three 31) and the instructions are simple: answer the prompts on your blog and add the post to the link up. Next week, we’ll do it all over again with a new set of prompts (located at the bottom of this post). Let’s get started!

FINISHTHIS.linkupbutton

CHALLENGE FOR YOU … visit at least three (3) blogs and comment on their “Finish This” post. Even if you don’t know the person, introduce yourself and leave a genuine comment. If you know a blogger who would like to participate in this link up, invite them to join us. Blogging is about building communities!

1. My relationships thrive because
I give 110% of myself. I wear my heart of my sleeve. I see the best in humanity. I’m an optimist. I give second chances over and over. However, I have my limits too. When I’m done, I’m done.

2. My favorite piece of advice
is “never date someone you wouldn’t marry.” It’s quite simple and straightforward, much like the woman who said it: my great-grandmother, Nannie Edwards. Set your standards high, never compromise on the big “Tee” truths, and follow your heart. I followed mine from small-town Kentucky to Fort Worth, Texas. Whodathunkit?! Actually, when I was in the sixth grade, I wrote an essay about my dreams and future plans. At the tender age of 12, I wrote about living in Texas, marrying a cowboy, owning horses, and being a mother. If someone tells you dreams don’t come true, ignore them.

3. My worst habit
is picking my feet. I hate my feet. They’re dry and callused and gross and disgusting but I will sit on the couch and pick the dead skin off or trim my toenails. I’m grossed just reading my response. YUCK!

Invite your blogging friends and come back next Wednesday for another round of Finish This where we’ll answer another set of prompts!

Prompt for WEEK 39 — October 1
I am most comfortable
Diamonds are
I wish I could be more


26 Comments

Gallery Walls

Despite my elaborate Pinterest boards for home décor and design, our home is anything but picture perfect. We’ve lived in this house eight years and I wouldn’t win any design awards. Heck, I wouldn’t even be nominated! There are bare walls, paint drips on the carpet, mismatched drawer pulls and handles in the kitchen, and paint color samples adorning a wall in the utility room.

Lately, I’ve been obsessed with gallery walls. I really want to create a unique focal point with a gallery wall somewhere in our home, maybe in multiple locations. One thing that really annoys me about our home’s current décor is the over-abundance of straight lines. Every where you look, there is a square or rectangle … the couch, picture frames, kitchen cabinets, ceiling and floor trim, dining room table, tile floors, and even the lamp shades are all square or have straight lines! To combat this, I found Cut It Out, an affordable website for unfinished decorative frames. I’ve looked at specialty frames like this in home goods stores and craft shops, but they are super-duper expensive. I don’t like expensive, so I’m excited to buy unfinished frames and paint to my liking. I’m currently working on props for an upcoming photo sessions and cheap frames are always great to use as props and to display the final images! I’ve also been introduced to Craft Cuts, a site specializing in wood letters in a variety of materials, fonts, and customizable colors. In other words, Husband should be worried because I’m getting my design on!

I know I gripe about straight lines, and there are way too many in our house, but some gallery walls are way too “busy” for my taste. I love frames with unique edge designs mixed with more traditional ones (square, rectangle, round, or oval) for contrast. As dark as our house is, light-colored frames would be eye-catching, especially with color photos. The layout below would be great in the front entry hallway. Instead of a table, I already have a bench that I might consider painting a bright, bold color. I love the quote and “H” initial too.

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Speaking of “H” initials, how about this gallery wall? Simply put, I love it. This would be perfect either on the opposite wall from the front door or in the living room. Our house’s walls are so empty, the possibilities are endless! I like the ribbon for hanging too, that’s a great idea.

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Our living room is very oddly shaped. It’s a long, narrow rectangle with three large windows at one end and a floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace that’s haphazardly placed between the living room and dining/kitchen areas with a guest bedroom and main bath nearby. As much as I love the MASSIVE kitchen, the space is quite awkward. In the living room, near the windows, there is a large wall but it can’t be seen unless you’re coming from our master suite or Kamden’s bedroom. The wall is in desperate need of attention. On a separate but related not, I wish I had this L-shape sofa too.

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Before I start hammering nails in the wall, a gallery wall needs to be carefully planned out. And because I’m a little (okay, a lot) OCD about pictures being straight, using craft or wrapping paper to sketch the layout beforehand is pure genius.

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Besides our main living space, I also want to create a fun gallery wall in Kamden’s bedroom and add a reading nook. He has built-in shelves inside his closet, but I want books, mementos, his own artwork, and framed portraits on the walls. I am in LOVE with this design, not necessarily the striped walls or cardboard-looking deer antlers (that’s a little weird, even for this country girl) but the framed art, comfy chair, and shelf ledges are amazing. I can see this idea becoming a reality in his room someday.

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To encourage a love of reading, and to unplug from technology, I want Kamden to have a place he can read, play, or simply chill. A cozy nook with books, toys, puzzles, flash cards, and comfortable seating will become a treasured sanctuary. I love so many things about this reading nook, from the bean bag chairs to the book shelves made from a wood pallet, and especially flash cards hung on fishing line with clothespins. This is definitely a room for inspiration. It’s also a kid-friendly design that Kamden can help make a reality when he’s older – he’s more likely to enjoy and use the space if he is part of the creative process too!

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When I was looking at nursery and children’s bedroom décor before Kamden was born, I fell in love with a particular theme that incorporated zoo animals and the alphabet. I wanted to create an alphabet wall but purchasing letters individually was going to cost a fortune, not including the time and money spent to paint them all. At Craft Cuts, they sell letters individually or an entire alphabet set. My heart is rejoicing! You pick the style, size, and color and viola! you’re done. Easy-peasy. This alphabet set is going on top of Kamden’s birthday and Christmas list. I love the look of different fonts and sizes.

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I’m not a very crafty DIY-er but I can paint and hang pictures. If the projects are easy and cheap, I’m even happier. What’s easier than hot-gluing clothespins to a frame and painting them a bright, festive color for an original art gallery? Even I can use a hot-glue gun and can of spray paint! Want to know another secret about the gallery wall below? The designer hot-glued the letters (P-L-A-Y) directly to the wall. OH MY CREATIVE, BALLSY STARS! Husband would freak …. but it’s a great idea and I might do it anyway. HA!

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While we’re discussing Kamden’s bedroom, I ADORE these corner shelves! They would be perfect for books, framed portraits, matchbox cars, boxed board games or puzzles behind his closet door to maximize space in that “empty” corner.

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Kamden’s room is the epitome of work in progress. Eventually, I want it to be a space that’s personal and functional for him to rest, relax, and enjoy. Right now, his name is in big letters above his crib and a set of four prints are above his dresser and changing table. The wall color is Stony Creek by Porter Paints and accurately depicted in the four prints photo, sorry for the terrible picture of his crib and letters! The letters were a baby shower gift from a friend in Kentucky who owns a wood-working shoppe. She even painted them to perfectly match the bedding and prints!

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This bedroom example incorporates a lot of what I want his room to have: name or initial (done!), bookshelves, and a ruler growth chart. I’m currently researching different types of DIY bookshelves and the growth chart is in the works as we speak. Don’t worry, I won’t be making a chevron striped wall, that would take way too much work!

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Ultimately, I want a gallery wall in the center of our home that highlights what is most important: faith and family. I want to include a large “H” in a great typography font and some of our best portraits and favorite quotes. We have wedding photos that are framed but stowed away in a closet and lots of pictures of Kamden, including his birth, that have never been printed or framed. There is just one thing on my birthday and Christmas wish list this year: a family photo session with Husband and Kamden. Not only do I want photos for our first Christmas card as a family of three, but I want photos to display in our home. As Kamden gets older, I can simply replace photos in the existing frames.

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To make some of my ideas a reality, I might have to bribe friends with wood-working skills with a home-cooked meal. (Hint, hint Billy and Brandon!)

Have you created a gallery wall in your home? Do you find home décor and design as challenging and overwhelming as I do? Do you have any tips or tricks to share? I’m all ears!


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Nine. { Kamden’s Monthly Update }

 

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Teeth, crawling, and growing – oh my! I swear I was nursing a newborn yesterday and, blink, here we are with an energetic, joy-filled, happy, mobile little man. As active as Kamden is and becoming, I’m really loving this new phase. He’s like an Indianapolis 500 racecar driver when he’s in his walker. I love playing on the floor with him because he’s crawling and climbing and using me to pull himself up and stand. Yes, our Mini Man Child is crawling and standing with assistance!

SOUND OFF // Kamden is quite the noisemaker. His sounds range from a balk, squeak, and cackle to a growl, scream, and holler. He yelps, yaps, squeals, and grunts. Sometimes, it sounds like he has a raspy cough, is trying to speak German, or roars like a baby dinosaur. It’s hilarious and scary, random and cute, and definitely entertaining. He’s such a social butterfly and it’s easy to make him smile, so the new noises are an added bonus to his already adorable nature. I’m so proud (grateful) to be his Mommy and my heart smiles when strangers comment how handsome, content, and well behaved he is.

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GROWING // All of those hiccups Kamden suffered as a newborn are finally coming to fruition, this kid is beefy. He weighs 24 (solid) pounds and is 28 inches tall. His hands are as big as saucers and he can pick up balls, blocks, and other large objects with ease. I keep saying I’m going to buy his next car seat but I really – really – need to get serious about this. Kamden fills up his infant carrier and, quite honestly, he’s getting too heavy to carry. When I’m out running errands, I no longer try finding parking spots close to the door. Instead, I park as close as I can to the corral of shopping carts. Most people think he’s a year old but a late bloomer since he doesn’t have any visible teeth or walking. #MiniManChild

TEETH // A few days ago, while changing his diaper, I noticed two white specks along the bottom of his gums. He’s had the typical teething signs and symptoms for many months, including a constant pool of drool, but never a sign of teeth until now. We’re anxiously awaiting for them to break through the gum!

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EATING // We’ve had an epiphany with Kamden and solid foods: he doesn’t like the baby spoon. Mini Man Child wants pieces of solid food, not the smooth (BORING!) purees. In addition to five or six bottles of breast milk (six ounces each) a day, he eats tiny pieces of banana, mandarin oranges, avocadoes, scrambled eggs, and smashed potatoes. If I’m eating yogurt (it’s vegan and made by WholeSoy), he’ll accept a bite from a regular spoon. He might turn his head away or shut his mouth tight like he doesn’t want what we offer, but if we act quick and shove it in, he realizes it’s tasty and opens his mouth for another bite. I’m hoping by increasing his solid food intake, he will resume his usual pattern of sleeping through the night. He gets frustrated by his growling belly when he’d rather be sleeping.

SLEEPING // This month has been quite the roller coaster. The good news: Kamden is reaching major development milestones. The bad news: Kamden’s routine sleeping habit of sleeping 10-12 consecutive hours has changed to 6-7 consecutive hours of sleep, awake for a diaper change and bottle, then sleeping another 4-6 hours. Kamden wants to sleep but his belly wakes him up needing to be refilled. Plus , having two teeth appear may be adding to his sleep disruptions, ya know? He has started to sleep on his tummy most of the night with his butt straight in the air, or slightly turned on his left side. He’s quite the mover in his sleep and makes at least one (sometimes two) circle around his crib during the night. The first time I woke up and didn’t see his face on the monitor I panicked, until I realized his feet were where his head was and he had rotated 180-degrees. By morning, he had rotated again and was near the same position as when I laid him in the crib. It was also cause for celebration when he greeted me one morning by STANDING UP in his crib, holding on to the top rail, with a giant grin on his face. He does the same thing in the Pack-N-Play, which we are using again as another independent (but safer than the hardwood floor) play area. It’s also great because I can easily move the PNP from the living room to the kitchen and when/if Kamden gets tired of playing, he’ll lay down and nap. Most days, Kamden naps 30-45 minutes before noon and at least an hour (sometimes two) in the afternoon. If one or both of these naps are cut short for whatever reason, or we’re busy running errands, he’ll sneak a third nap (less than 45 minutes) in the early evening. We’ve pushed his bath to 9:30 and he’s in bed, sound asleep, before 10:00.

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PLAYING + CRAWLING // While playing on the floor in his bedroom, Kamden suddenly started crawling. He and Husband were playing with several toys when Kamden saw a ball on the other side of the room, he got on all fours and moved across the floor like a champion. He stopped midway, looked at our stunned faces, then resumed his adventure until he reached his final destination. While playing on the floor, he’ll roll and scoot all over until he can reach something that’s tall enough for him to leverage his weight and stand up. He’ll stand, with assistance, for several seconds then PLOP! right on his padded diaper butt. Then he’s right back up again. And again. And again. And again. Husband and I have started a new routine of taking one of our laptops into his bedroom during the evening play time for an impromptu dance party. Kamden loves the music and laughs at us dancing like fools.

TABLE-TOP SHENANIGANS // Our dining room table has morphed into another play area. Husband and I sit at the table while Kamden sits ON the table. He loves touching, grabbing, tearing, and wrinkling pages from magazines and newspapers. The floor around the table is littered with paper shreds and toys that have been tossed overboard. I think Kamden drops his toys on the floor to see who retrieves it and how long they take to do so. The little stinker!

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WEARING // To give some perspective on how large Kamden really is, a friend of mine bought all of the 2T clothes Kamden had outgrown for her 3-year-old grandson. (What!) Kamden wears toddler-size (3T) tops and bottoms, except for the 24-month Carter’s onesies and Ralph Lauren Polo t-shirts that are generously sized. Kamden continues to wear size 3 diapers (Pampers Swaddlers) and his Baltic Amber teething necklace. Husband thinks I’m crazy, even calls it “voo doo” but if the necklace will help alleviate teething symptoms, I’ll give it a shot. I really got the stink eye when I purchased a Premium Starter Kit of essential oils from Young Living ($150) and began rubbing lavender oil on the bottoms of Kamden’s feet a night before bed. Again, I’m willing to try (almost) anything. If anything, the oils (which aren’t really oils but that’s for another time and post) smell amazing and I’m using them myself for a variety of reasons, including the eczema on my hand, wrist, and left ring finger. After just three days of application, the itching and redness are gone. The Wise Men were on to something with that frankincense and myrrh!

 

DADDY’S BOY // Husband and Kamden are two peas in a pod. Kamden has a huge grin on his face every night when Daddy gets home from work. These two spend lots of time together, especially on Husband’s off Fridays and weekends. Husband has spoiled me rotten on the weekends because he turns off my alarm and takes the monitor into the living room so I can sleep an extra hour or two. We also try to sleep when Kamden naps on the weekend. A few weeks ago, I ate sushi with a friend and when I returned home Husband and Kamden were sitting outside on the tailgate of the truck. I fell in love with both of them all over again. Being with Kamden the majority of the time, I know it’s important for him to have “boy time” with Daddy too. On cooler evenings, Husband takes Kamden to the barn to feed Blue and fill the water trough, which he loves. Kamden hasn’t been on the tractor yet, but it’s just a matter of time.

LOVING // Turning pages as Mommy reads a book, play time and watching Looney Tunes with Daddy, climbing on the pillow fort built on Mommy and Daddy’s king-size bed, frozen teething toys, animal noises, laughing at Daddy’s tickles, chewing on the handle of the pacifier, drinking water from a Camelbak sippy cup, watching Wheel of Fortune, splashing water all over the bath tub, playing with or intently watching other kids playing in the kids’ area at Mommy’s gym, and “singing” praise music at church!

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LOATHING // Being still (especially during a diaper change on the changing table), being pushed away from the dishwasher while Mommy and Daddy are unloading it, wearing funny hats, and being alone. It’s not that Kamden has separation anxiety because he likes to entertain himself and play independently, and he certainly does not want to be held all the time (Hallelujah!), but he wants to be within ear/eye sight of others. He hasn’t decided if he likes noises from household appliances such as the vacuum, stand mixer, or garbage disposal either – the verdict is still out on these!

FALL BUCKET LIST // Kamden and I had so much fun with our summer bucket list we decided to make one for Fall. We’re going to be busy!

  • Go to a high school football game.
  • Decorate a pumpkin.
  • Go trick or treating (trunk or treat).
  • Take pictures in pumpkin patch.
  • Donate to the food bank.
  • Wear a Halloween costume.
  • Pick apples at an orchard.
  • Invite friends over for chili and football.
  • Bake an apple pie.
  • Go on a hayride.
  • Visit the State Fair of Texas.
  • Go to a fall festival and/or craft fair.
  • Eat Thanksgiving dinner.
  • Picnic / Movie in the park.
  • Go to the Perot Museum.
  • Go to the Grapevine Aquarium.
  • Go to the zoo.
  • Make handprint turkeys.
  • Have a family portrait session.
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