The Silent Struggle

This past Sunday, I was driving to church with my two babies riding peacefully in the back seat. I looked back at them: one asleep, one looking out the window, and felt so grateful. I am so, so thankful for the two babies that God has given me, especially because, at one point, I truly thought I was never going to get to have a baby. During this time of feeling so grateful and having one of those moments where I think, “Wow, I’m really a mom”, I also felt a pang of sadness for the baby I never got to meet, and then for all the women that haven’t gotten that chance, either.

Also, a disclaimer: While I’m not sure we can really compare levels of difficulty/grief, I realize that my infertility journey was shorter lived and much less painful than some women have to endure. It took a year of Clomid and Femara to get pregnant the first time, then the waiting and healing from miscarrying, and then about six more months of ovulation meds and waiting to get pregnant with Hudson. I am fully aware that some women struggle much, much longer than that and with much more intervention than just ovulation meds. If you’re in the trenches of your infertility journey, I hope you know how strong you are.

Having a miscarriage is easily the most traumatic and unsettling thing that’s ever happened to me. I was pregnant, and then I wasn’t. I waited weeks for my body to realize that I wasn’t pregnant anymore, and then finally miscarried at home. I truly do not wish the experience of a miscarriage on anyone, but I know it is far too common and so many women suffer silently, which is why I talk about my experience that much more candidly. I wrote about my whole experience here.

I didn’t know that I would still think about a tiny, barely formed baby three years later. I especially didn’t know that I would still think about this baby when I had two babies Earth side with me. This has been the most surprising thing about the struggle with infertility and having a miscarriage for me; the fact that it’s stayed with me. Although it’s really not talked about very openly, I imagine this is the case for many, many women.

My heart still hurts in an indescribable way when I hear about someone else who is struggling to get pregnant. I still feel combative when I hear someone complaining about pregnancy pains when there are women who would do anything to have that pain. I still feel jealous of people who have no difficulty at all getting pregnant, even though I have two babies of my own now. The infertility struggle is long-lasting and confusing, and I definitely didn’t expect it to be.

I am an outspoken person, and I don’t shy away from discussing infertility or miscarriage, even though I realize it makes people uncomfortable sometimes. To me, it feels like the only way I can truly honor the baby I didn’t get to meet is by discussing all that I know about it. I know that my honesty has helped someone, and that’s the reason that I keep being candid about my experience.

I also really hate the word “struggle” that is associated with infertility. It doesn’t really fit. It’s hard to describe something that can consume your entire life; your thoughts, your emotions, your body, your marriage as just a “struggle”; the same word someone might use to describe the difficulty they had getting out of bed that morning. If you’ve ever been through any version of infertility, you know that babies and talk of babies is everywhere. On one hand, it’s amazing that this is the reality because babies are miracles. On the other hand, it makes it extremely difficult to stay positive and hopeful when all you want is to have a miracle of your own.

If you’re “struggling”, just know that there is hope for you. It may not be on your timeline or the way you pictured it, but there is a better plan than you have for yourself in the works. You’ll come out stronger. I firmly believe that the “struggle” sets you up for taking in every ache and pain of pregnancy and every sleepless newborn night and seeing it as the blessing it is. I’m praying for you, and you are so much stronger than you think you are.

DIY Wire Shelf Update

Are you one of the lucky ones who has a set of wire shelves in your home? Do they drive you nuts, or is it just me? Nothing sits straight, things fall through the gaps between the wires… they’re just the worst. There’s good news! There’s a super simple way to update them!

What you need:
Foam board
Packing tape
Tape measure
Xacto knife
Contact paper (optional)

Step One
Measure your shelves. You need to know how long and wide the shelves are so you can decide how much foam board you’ll need to buy. For the smaller (linen closet) shelves, I could use one board to make two shelves. For my pantry, (that has really long and wide shelves) I needed two boards for one shelf.

Step Two
Buy the foam board and contact paper if you want it. There are so many styles of contact paper and you can find it almost anywhere! You’ll probably only need one roll.

Step Three
Decide how wide you want the front ledge of your shelves to be. Mine were a little over two inches. Cut the long piece of foam board, including the extra amount for the front ledge. I would only cut enough to make one shelf at first, just so you can be sure that you’re measuring correctly and it fits nicely on the shelf.

Step Four
Measure the amount of ledge you wanted and use your Xacto knife to make enough of a cut that you can bend the foam board and create a “ledge”. It doesn’t have to stay folded and shouldn’t be cut enough to come completely off. If you do cut it all the way off, don’t panic, just attach it back with packing tape.

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Step Five

Measure out how much contact paper you need. Lay the foam piece on the contact paper and cut around it.

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Step Six

Add the contact paper carefully and slowly. This is the hardest part; take your time! Start at one end and smooth it out nicely with a ruler or a leftover piece of foam to ensure that you get all of the bubbles out as you go. Make sure contact paper is smooth and attached to all edges.

Step Seven

Find where you cut for the ledge. Gently, fold the foam piece so it creates a 90 degree angle. It should be kind of hard to bend, but it doesn’t need to bend far, as you’ll connect it to the actual shelf in the next step.

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Step Eight

Put the foam into your closet! Start at the bottom. Usually, the wire shelving lifts up, so you can start at the bottom shelf and get the others out of the way as you work your way up. Your foam should lay perfectly on the wire shelving.

Step Nine

Depending on how easily your “ledge” folded, you may not need this step. To make the shelves looked cleaner and all had the same ledges, I used a little packing tape to secure the front of the ledge to the underneath of the wire shelf. This helped to hold the foam board in place and keep the “ledges” consistent.

You may also need some packing tape to secure the sides down to the wire shelving, as the foam board may be a little too stiff to sit flat. You can’t see the packing tape at all once it’s finished, so use as much as you need!

You did it! Enjoy your new closet space.

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DIY Shiplap Wall

I knew I wanted to dress up a wall of the new baby’s nursery, but wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do. I went back and forth between DIY shiplap and wallpaper. I loved the idea and look of a wallpaper wall, but the new peel-and-stick options got expensive quickly ($300+ for a wall is what I was looking at). So, I went for the DIY Shiplap.

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Full disclosure: this project cost $44. The plywood underlayment boards were $13 a piece and I already had nails and a sander on hand. It is really very simple. There are tools that would make it faster and easier, but they aren’t necessary.

Once we got all the supplies gathered and home, it probably took us about three hours to complete the wall. The most time is spent cutting and sanding, but it can easily be done in an afternoon!

Tools that would be nice to have, but aren’t necessary:

  • Power saw to cut down pieces and make holes for outlets
  • Nail gun
    • All of the tutorials I read called for a nail gun. I was going to buy one, then realized they are pretty expensive. I was going to rent one, and then realized that most nail guns also require an air compressor, so it was going to be at least $100 just to rent the supplies for one day.
    • Finally, I decided to just use a good old fashioned hammer and nails, and it worked totally fine.
  • A sander
    • I’ve had my Black + Decker mouse sander for years now and it’s the best. It’s also cheap.
    • Regular sandpaper would suffice for this project, though.

Tools/supplies you must have:

  • Hammer
  • Nails
  • Level
  • Hand saw
  • Tape Measure
  • 1/4” plywood underlayment
  • Sandpaper
  • Two quarters

…that’s it. That’s all it takes.

Here are the steps:

Step One:

Go to Home Depot or Lowe’s (or another place that will cut wood down for you) and get as many sheets of 1/4” plywood underlayment as you need. My wall was roughly 8 feet by 10 feet and I needed three sheets.

Step Two:

Get the boards cut in the store down to the thickness that you like. I like the thicker shiplap look, so I had mine cut to 8 inch strips.

Step Three:

Get the boards home and sand them. Depending on how sharp the blade was that was used to cut your boards at the store, your boards may need some serious sanding or just a little. Mine were pretty good, but still much smoother after being sanded.

Step Four:

Be sure that the wall color is a color that you’re okay seeing through the spaces between the boards. My wall was gray, like the rest of the room, and I was okay with that showing through. If you’re going to paint your boards once they’re up, you may want to paint the wall to keep everything the same. The quarter spacing makes the gap very small, but a bit of the wall color does still pop through.

Step Five:

Check out the very top of your wall. I read that most ceilings aren’t level, but I got pretty lucky and mine almost was. The very first board is the most important, so take your level up to the wall and determine where you need to position the first boards it to make it straight and make the rest of your project really simple.

Step Six:

Mark your studs. Find the studs in the wall and make lines down the wall so you’ll know where to hammer as you’re working. I just used a pencil; they’ll get covered up by the boards.

Step Seven:

Take the first long board and get it level on the wall according to your markings. Hammer the board into the wall.

Step Eight:

Measure to determine what size piece you’ll need to cut. Mine came to 80cm. It’ll be the same all the way down, so you can cut each round or you could cut them all at once.

Step Nine:

Sand the edges of the board you cut.

Step Ten:

Hammer that board to the wall.

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Yay!

You completed the first strip, which is the hardest and most important. Follow those same steps all the way down the wall.

Put the long board on the opposite side of where you started so your board lines are staggered. Use quarters to maintain a consistent space between boards as you’re working down the wall.

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Put up board, hammer it to the wall, cut/position second board, place quarters, continue down wall.

Just so you know…

This is much easier with two people, but it is possible with one. If you take your time on the very top, the project goes very smoothly.

We cut around the outlets when we got to them. We had to cut out of two boards because of the way it fell. I attached the outlet covers on top of the boards when they were finished.

Many people also add trim to the edges of the shiplap wall, so don’t worry if you get a little uneven on your cuts on the edges; you can cover it up if you need to. Ours, surprisingly, worked out very smoothly and I think we’re going to leave it as is!

If you know you want your shiplap wall to be painted, I would suggest painting before putting the boards on the wall. We were very pleasantly surprised at the clean look of the plain boards and left ours that way.

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Prepping for a Whole 30

You think you’re ready to commit to a Whole 30, but you don’t know where to begin? Maybe you’re even feeling overwhelmed with all the new foods you’ll be cooking. Don’t worry; there are lots of ways to make your Whole 30 experience a great one without spending hours in the kitchen everyday. I talk about my Whole 30 experiences and progress here.

start with the literature

It Starts With Food gives you the how and why behind the Whole 30. If you’re a skeptic, I recommend you start with this book. This book will help you understand the process and prepare along with giving you lots of great recipes. This book is a new favorite for me with easy and quick Whole 30 meals. I got the Whole 30 Day by Day for my second round, but wish I would have had it for the first. It’s helpful to let you know whatever you’re working through at the time is normal and helps you reflect each day on the highs and lows. Lastly, the Whole 30 Cookbook, obviously, has 150 recipes for your Whole 30.

daily habits

First up: your morning coffee. What do you normally add to it? If it has any type of sugar or dairy, cut it out and let’s find a replacement. If you can go straight to black coffee, more power to you! Nutpods are by far the most popular option for coffee creamer while on a Whole 30. I prefer Califia Farms Better Half. You can also use plain almond milk, just be sure that it’s one of the compliant versions and doesn’t have hidden sugar!

breakfast

What do you normally eat for breakfast? If it involves grains or dairy, you’ll need to rethink that. Eggs are the most popular breakfast option on a Whole 30. If you’re not an egg lover, you’ll need to be creative. Paleo Bailey’s version of egg bake is great and easy if you need a little more than plain eggs for breakfast. Remember that you can have hash browns (check the bag – sugar is sneaked into potatoes, too!); add some onion and peppers to give them some more flavor! Find compliant bacon or compliant breakfast sausage to add to your eggs as well.

snacks?

Do you normally snack a lot throughout the day? By the end of your Whole 30, you’ll likely have stopped this habit, but this could be a tricky part for you in the beginning. It’s better to be prepared than to regret a decision later on. Make sure to have LaraBars, RX bars, or jerky on hand just in case. Technically, the Whole 30 plan is designed for you to eat three meals throughout the day. The Whole 30 Day by Day book, though, reiterates that it’s more important to stay compliant than it is to stick to only three meals. Get yourself to the end however you have to do it.

sneaky condiments

Think about prepping for the week for your lunches so you’ll be prepared with compliant meals. This is a good time to check your fridge specifically looking at your condiments; prepare to be surprised! Primal Kitchen makes a Whole 30 kit to help with these replacements. You can make your own mayo if you’d like! Please, please, don’t do a Whole 30 without Dump Ranch. It is THE BEST. Check your seasonings, too! If you need to ditch and switch, here’s a good alternative.

Thrive Market

During my first Whole 30, I discovered Thrive Market. It’s the best. Get all the Whole 30 things for wholesale prices. Plus, you’ll get 20% off your first three orders using my link below. I always get Ghee from Thrive Market (I use ghee for everything now). They have an entire Whole 30 section that you can shop from. I also get coconut oil from Thrive Market; what a steal! You’ll need lots of coconut milk and coconut aminos will become your new bff.


Thrive Market sells your favorite organic and non-gmo brands for up to 50% off retail.

kitchen gadgets

As you’re eating real food for a month, you’ll obviously be prepping real food for a month. This means a lot of dishes. It also means that good knives, cutting boards, and bowls are necessary.

Get yourself an immersion blender if you don’t have one. A meat thermometer is also a must.

dinner’s served

Hopefully, as you work through your Whole 30, you will begin to love cooking dinner and not see it as a chore. If it is a chore for you currently, prep accordingly. Buy pre-cut veggies and prep and plan on the weekends. Here are some of my go-to recipes:

 

My last recommendation is to either complete a Whole 30 with a friend/spouse or, at least, reach out to someone for accountability. There will be some tough days and having an accountability partner will help you get through it.

You can do it! You won’t regret this lifestyle change.

Why Whole 30?

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“You can’t have cheese? Or milk? Wait. No bread?”

Those are good examples of the responses I’ve gotten after people have heard I’ve been following the Whole 30 plan. These questions are usually followed with a “you’re crazy” or “I couldn’t live without cheese!”

Well, yes, you really can. You just have to decide that you WANT to.

I posted this picture on Instagram last week, and had so many people comment or text me telling me I looked good and asking what I’d been doing. First of all, how kind! I was so shocked because I didn’t even notice myself in the picture; I’m just obsessed with my kid and think he’s so cute when we stand in front of a mirror. I also feel like I’ve looked the same for a few months now, so it was surprising to me that other people saw me differently. I was so thankful for all of the positive responses, and thankful again for The Whole 30.

The back story

I  had my gallbladder removed in 2012. That’s when I started to realize that some fatty foods and dairy just really didn’t agree with my body, and I tried to be aware of that.

I had my first baby on June 22, 2017. I gained about 30 pounds with him, and didn’t really struggle to lose that baby weight. I think that was thanks to having him in the summer and being able to go on walks all the time with him. The hard part was getting rid of the weight I’d gained while trying to get pregnant for the two years prior. I’d like to blame it all on fertility meds, but I know I was really just eating poorly. I don’t really regret eating the way I did; my husband and I were in a season of going out to eat when we felt like it because we could (just us two!) and eating whatever we wanted. Fat and happy, one might say.

So, by September, I was back down to my pre-pregnancy weight, but not at a weight where I felt confident or happy in my skin. In comes The Whole 30.

Enter Whole 30

I’d read the book (It Starts With Food) previously, but needed a refresher. I planned and pinned and read a million blogs and was ready to go. I went to a wedding and tailgating and out to eat during this round, and guess what? I survived! I lost 15 pounds.

I stayed pretty consistently Paleo through November (and continued losing), but struggled to stay on track during December. We had a Christmas celebration every weekend and that always brings pretty unhealthy food along with it. I gained back a few pounds, and started by second Whole 30 on January 2nd.

I just finished this round and I lost 11 more pounds. Since September 2nd, I’ve lost 30 pounds. Besides when I was running daily in college, I’ve never lost weight and kept it off. The Whole 30 works.

What was very different about things since September, for me, was that I was totally committed. My husband told me I was crazy about 100 times and thought I should “live a little” instead of following a plan like this for 30 days. I knew that I couldn’t just “live a little” or I’d get right back to where I was. I think this has been the biggest change for me; once I decided this was what I was going to do, I committed, and I started seeing results. Even without the weight loss, though, my skin is clearer, I have more energy, I sleep well, and I’m overall just a happier person.

What’s it like?

It’s 30 days for a reason and it’s restrictive for a reason. The book (The Whole30) explains everything so well and really gets you thinking about how food is affecting your mood, sleep, and overall health.

We eat a lot of meat, veggies, and potatoes. Like, pretty much every night. It sounds boring, but once you rid your body of the fake stuff, the processed stuff, and the sugar, you’ll see that you start using food as fuel and your body craves the real, good stuff.

I used to hate sweet potatoes. They’re my favorite now. I used to crave candy while at school and would never be able to give the kids candy without eating a piece myself, but Jolly Ranchers truly don’t even sound good anymore. I certainly can’t say that I’ll never have one again, but I don’t feel that I HAVE to have one (or anything else, really). I feel in charge of what I’m eating, I know how it’ll affect my body, and I make choices accordingly. That’s the second phase of The Whole 30 — Food Freedom.

If you’re ready to make a change in your health, I highly, highly recommend The Whole 30. My next post will highlight all my favorite resources, gadgets, and foods for a successful Whole 30!

For now, if you need a good book to start with, try one of these!

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Pregnancy Must Haves

I know there are a million resources for what you need while pregnant, in the nursery, when baby comes, in your hospital bag, and everything in between. I LOVED being pregnant and also loved finding clothes and other things that made pregnancy the most comfortable while still being stylish.

First of all, sleep is SO important while you’re pregnant. As your belly grows, though, it becomes a little more uncomfortable to sleep than you’re used to. A pregnancy pillow to the rescue! You won’t regret this purchase.

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While your pants still fit, you just need a belly band to hold them up without zipping your zipper all the way.

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Next, when your pants don’t fit anymore, it doesn’t mean you have to give up being fashionable! Get a few pairs of full panel jeans that will last you throughout the pregnancy. These were my favorite.

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Pregnancy fashion, for me, meant mixing and matching for work and weekend outfits. These tops are easy to dress up or wear on the weekends. They’re SO comfortable and grow right along with you.

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If you aren’t one of the lucky ones that gets to wear jeans daily to work, you’ll need several pairs of pants. I loved full-panel pants, and these held up great throughout my pregnancy.

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Get yourself a couple of maternity dresses, especially for your baby shower! Pink Blush Maternity is the best.

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Make sure your underwear grows with you as well! These are nice and comfortable and sit below your bump.
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Not clothing related – Red Raspberry Leaf Tea helps tone your uterus. It’s also been found to lessen pain during labor and after giving birth. It’s nice to have at night before bed.

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I discovered essential oils while I was pregnant, and they were my skin’s saving grace. No face wash I tried worked at all to clean up my skin (one of the reasons I was sure Hudson was a girl), but oils did! I also used oils to help with the very frequent headaches I was getting. My favorite oils for pregnancy are frankincense, tea tree, lavender, PanAway, and peppermint. PS: All of these oils come in the Premium Starter Kit from Young Living, which you can get here (and I would love to tell you more about it and get you hooked up into our awesome oil-education groups!).

My favorite pregnancy journal is easily from Promptly. I got a couple different versions before discovering Promptly, but this was my favorite because it follows the baby from pregnancy to 18 years old! I love that everything will be in one place for Hudson.

So many things become more important or scarier while you’re pregnant. For instance, inhaling all those nasty chemicals while you’re cleaning like you have for years now makes you think about harming your unborn baby! My favorite book that talks all things clean living and cleaning is called Simply Clean by Becky Rapinchuk (Clean Mama). Seriously, you need this book.

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There is a ton of literature on babies and pregnancy, but What To Expect trumped them all for me. This book had an answer for everything I was wondering and right when I was wondering it. The app is great, too.

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Speaking of apps, my favorite app for tracking pregnancy was Glow Nurture. I also used Sprout and continue to use that to log Hudson’s growth at his monthly appointments.

Wishing you a happy and healthy pregnancy!

Instant Pot Baby Food Recipes

Here are some of my go-to puree recipes! Remember that you’ll need to add more/less liquid based on what your baby likes and how old he or she is. Find everything you need to get started making these easy recipes on this post.

Instant Pot Sweet Potato Puree

A baby favorite!

  • 3 sweet sweet potatoes
  • 2 cup water/bone broth
  1. Wash potatoes thoroughly.
  2. Place trivet in Instant Pot.
  3. Add 2 cups of water or bone broth.
  4. Place sweet potatoes on trivet. No need to peel; peels will fall off after cooking!
  5. Close lid to sealing.
  6. Set to manual for 15 minutes.
  7. Quick pressure release and transfer potatoes to separate bowl to cool. When they’re not hot to the touch, peel them.
  8. Start to puree by adding 1 cup of the liquid from cooking. Add the other cup as needed, puree, and pour into individual servings.

Instant Pot Carrot Puree

  • 16 ounces carrots
  • 1 cup broth or water
  1. Please trivet in Instant Pot.
  2. Pour 1 cup of water or broth into Instant Pot.
  3. Layer carrots on top of trivet.
  4. Close lid to sealing.
  5. Set to manual for 5 minutes.
  6. Quick pressure release and transfer to separate bowl to cool.
  7. Start to puree with only 1/4 cup of the liquid from cooking. Add more as needed. Puree and pour into individual servings.

Instant Pot Apple Puree

  • 6 apples
  • 1 cup broth or water
  1. Peel and cut apples.
  2. Place trivet in instant pot.
  3. Add 1 cup of broth of water to instant pot.
  4. Place apples on top of trivet.
  5. Close lid to sealing.
  6. Set to manual for 3 minutes.
  7. Quick pressure release then transfer to separate bowl to cool.
  8. Don’t add any liquid. Puree and pour into individual servings.

Instant Pot Sweet Pea Puree

  • 32 ounces sweet peas (buy them frozen!)
  • 1 cup broth or water
  1. Place trivet in Instant Pot.
  2. Add 1 cup of water or broth.
  3. Pour peas on top of trivet.
  4. Close to sealing.
  5. Set to “steam” for 1 minute.
  6. Quick pressure release then transfer to separate bowl to cool.
  7. Do not add any liquid. Puree and pour into individual servings.

Instant Pot Blueberry Puree

An easy blueberry puree for little babies – steam the skin!

  • 2 pint blueberries
  1. Place trivet inside Instant Pot.
  2. Pour 1 cup of water or bone broth into Instant Pot.
  3. Pour blueberries onto trivet.
  4. Close lid to sealing.
  5. Set to “steam” for 1 minute.
  6. Quick pressure release when timer goes off. Let blueberries sit in separate bowl.
  7. Don’t add extra liquid. Puree and pour into individual servings.