30

I turned 30 a few weeks ago. Not that I expected anything over the top in terms of celebration, but I must say the day was a pretty big let-down. I spent my birthday sick in bed! Boo! Thankfully, my loving husband did give me the gift of rest that I so desperately needed while he took on the task of caring for 2 toddlers who also weren’t feeling well (while Bryan wasn’t even feeling well either!) Basically, it was a sad day all around. But alas, it happened, and I feel the need (now that I’m healthy and thinking clearly again) to think about entering my 30’s and what that means for me, as well as look back a bit and see where I’ve been and what brought me to this place I’m in now.

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This picture is from this year, pretty close to my 30th birthday.
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I don’t think I ever could have imagined my life now, as I turn 30. I don’t think I ever could have imagined that I would have 2 beautiful children, pretty close in age, a boy and a girl. I couldn’t have imagined that we would have left Young Life and moved to the suburbs while Bryan works in the city. I would NEVER have dreamed that I would be in the best shape of my life. And who could have foreseen the fact that I am a health and fitness coach?!

But here we are! And I am so incredibly thankful. Even as I type all of those things, I realize it still feels so fresh, so new, so scary and exciting. Being a mom – yikes. How am I qualified to care for these two tiny humans? Living here, near family for the first time since college, finding our place in church and the community – it is exciting and new and uncertain. My health and my job as a coach is an ever-evolving transformation that fascinates me and terrifies me at the same time!

I think, though, when looking at the big picture, and when looking into my heart and soul as I process these changes, I realize that every one of these experiences has been a lesson in faith. A lesson in giving control over to the Lord, and in trusting him to use my life for his glory. My old thoughts believed that I was too selfish to be a wife and mom, too shy to be a part of community, too afraid of failure to take control of my health, and not confident enough to be a coach. But look at the ways the Lord is able to transform! In my weakness, he is strong, and in my unbelief, he creates faith. Even though I placed my faith in Jesus long ago, I feel like in this past year, I have truly become a new creation.

The past year has looked nothing like the rest of my life – I have grown and changed in physical, mental, and spiritual ways that I never could have dreamed of before. Thanks be to God! From the looks of it, my 30s may just end up being the best years of my life so far!!!

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!  – 2 Corinthians 5:17

12 Months

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Well, I’m only a month late in updating that our baby girl officially turned ONE year old! There aren’t enough words to describe how much joy this little lady has brought to our family over the past year. Her energy, her spirit, her laughter, her funny faces – she has blessed us every single day. She has been the perfect addition to our family, the perfect little sister for James, and certainly carries an incredibly important role in our family!!

Neely is brave and adventurous! She isn’t afraid of getting messy, in fact, if she’s presented with dirt or mud or leaves she prefers to touch as much as possible, and even get little tastes in here and there. Once she started walking there was no stopping her, and she tends to speed-walk from place to place now! She doesn’t want to be left out of ANY excitement so she has learned that to keep up with big brother, she needs to move quick!

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Speaking of her brother, Neely is so in love with James. But in true second-child fashion, she loves to pick on him 🙂 She pulls his hair and takes his toys and pinches and bites – but I’m sure it’s all done in love! Wherever James is and whatever he is playing with, she wants to be right there too!

Neely got a new play kitchen for her birthday and she loves playing with all the foods and silverware and cups! She is constantly chewing on something so all the kitchen supplies work well for that. She also decided recently that she likes to suck on a pacifier… I never knew a child could decide at age 1 that they want a paci but hey, we don’t mind so much! She doesn’t depend on it for sleep, but she does depend on her taggy blanket! She has to have it to sleep so she can suck on the tags!

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Neely isn’t really saying any real words yet but she certainly can talk! She babbles all the time and it is especially cute to see her grab a book, flip through the pages, and babble and “read” the whole time.

She’s still enjoying her fruits and vegetables and is developing certain tastes and distastes. She doesn’t love bread as much as the rest of us, but she loves fruit and really loves cheese! She also handled the transition from formula to milk beautifully and she LOVES drinking milk from her sippy cup! Such a big girl.

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I love going to get Neely up from her afternoon naps. She is content to hang out in her crib for awhile after she wakes up, but when she’s standing up in the corner, I know she’s ready to get up. Every day I walk in and she gets a huge smile on her face, then collapses back down into her crib giggling. Its like she wants me to try to catch her as she runs away! But she can’t get very far… so I tickle her and let her get back up and when I come toward her she collapses back down again and crawls away, giggling the whole time. It is a really fun game we like to play 🙂

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We celebrated Neely’s birthday with a party of family and it was so fun for her to be surrounded by so many who love her, and all of her fun cousins! She had a lot of fun being celebrated and I think her favorite part was the birthday cupcake! She was NOT afraid to dig in and get messy, much to the dismay of her brother who does’t like to get messy!

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It has been just amazing watching this little girl’s personality blossom and we can’t wait to see what the next year brings. She is so loved and cherished – Neely our lives wouldn’t be the same without you! Thank you for coming into our family and showing us how our love can grow bigger than we ever dreamed imaginable. Thank you for being such a light in our lives. We are blessed to get to watch you grow into the beautiful girl, young lady, and woman you were created to be!

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See Neely Grow:

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A Year of Change

I’ve been so enjoying the beautiful weather we’ve been having lately! Fall is my absolute favorite time of the year – the cool weather, the colors, the anticipation of the holiday season, the return of routine following summer (yes, I enjoy routine and predictability!) – it really is, in my opinion, the best season 😉 The fact that both my anniversary and my daughter’s birthday fall in September make it even better, and have caused me more than ever to pause and reflect on all the changes that have happened in my life since this time last year.

Last September, I was a new mommy of 2 with big transition ahead. We had decided at that point to leave young life staff with no plans for where to go from there. I was tired, lonely, incredibly in love with my family but terrified of the uncertainty of what was ahead for us. I was also angry at the scale because week after week after having Neely, the numbers weren’t dropping as quickly as I would have liked, and I didn’t really know how to change that.

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I was feeling uncertain about myself (and had been for a long time, even without realizing it) and was wondering where I belonged, what was my place, what role did I fit perfectly into? You know, the familiar “What is my purpose? Why am I here?” question that I think we all ask at some time or another. For the first time, the road ahead was unclear, and it was scary. All we knew was where we had been and that it felt right to move forward… wherever that would lead.

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Fast forward to January and things were starting to fall into place. We had moved into a new house, Bryan had started his new job, and we were getting to know Neely a bit better. One thing that still wasn’t changing was my body, and as much as I had accepted the fact that I was still dealing with a postpartum body, it was frustrating to me to stand at my closet and try on clothes that had fit me at one point in my life, but no longer zipped or buttoned. I think for any woman, to feel like you don’t recognize your own body is a scary place to be in. But to combine that with the new surroundings and new life we were beginning, I didn’t really recognize much of anything anymore! I needed help, and thank goodness, a friend reached out to me about joining her health and fitness challenge group. I had no idea what that even was, but because I loved my friend and I needed something to do, I said yes.

Within days I was changing, both inside and out. As I fueled my body with the proper nutrition, I felt strong and healthy in a way I had never experienced before. I struggled through the workouts every day, but hey, I was working out every day and that felt amazing. I was committed to 30 days, which terrified me, because what if I failed? What if I didn’t see any results? What if I couldn’t finish? But the community that surrounded me in that group helped me see that I would NOT fail. Even if I messed up this day or that day, that wasn’t the end. I could, and would, keep going.

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My mind and heart were being transformed alongside my body. I began to believe in myself. I began to think much more positively. I got more brave – I wasn’t afraid to share a “sweaty selfie” in our group because when I did, people celebrated with me! I was being lifted up, supported, encouraged. I had people who believed in me, so I believed in myself. What a beautiful thing community is for a lonely, insecure, unsure young mom. I will be forever grateful.

As these transformations continued it brings me to today. I have lost over 25 pounds and gone from a size 10 to a size 4. I am more toned and more in shape than I ever have been, even in high school. But the real victories are in the inner transformations. A goal of mine when I started my weight loss was to feel like myself again. Well, I don’t feel like myself “again,” I feel more like me and more alive than I ever have before in my life! I feel like the BEST version of ME that has ever lived and I believe with my whole heart that this is only the beginning.

If you are in need of a community like the one I described above, I would LOVE for you to join me in my next challenge group where we can love and support YOU as you transform your life inside and out!

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Back To School (lunches!)

Well, the time has come. My kids have started preschool and I will be completely honest – I am SOOO excited about that! I just know that it is so good for them to get out of the house twice a week and interact with other children and other loving adults. And it is good for me to have some time for myself for work, errand running, or maybe even… holy moly… some relaxation time!! Ha!

So in the excitement of back to school I’ve been trying to think creatively about packing lunches for the kids! Right now, Neely is the only one who eats lunch at school. James will start in January. So I’m trying to pack her food that can be easily packed, that she can feed mostly herself, and that has a good variety of food groups and is healthy!! So far, here is what I have come up with:

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So, I’m seriously lacking in the protein department. Unfortunately, neither of my kids really love meat, so its hard for me to know what to try. But I need to try something!!

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These muffins were a real winner! I found the recipe on Pinterest a loooong time ago and just finally got around to making them. They aren’t 100% clean and healthy, they do contain sugar, but after a few other failed attempts at super-clean kid snacks, I’m meeting in the middle and am very satisfied with these! They have pumpkin, carrots, bananas, and applesauce, and they really do taste great. They made a TON so next time I will probably half the recipe. Also, I omitted the nutmeg just because I didn’t have it already.

Click here to see the original recipe!

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11 Months

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Our baby girl just won’t stop growing! I can’t even believe that we are in her last month until her first birthday. Something happened this month and she just got so OLD! Maybe its because she’s taking some steps all by herself. Or maybe because her hair can go into a ponytail. Or maybe because she started wearing big girl pajamas. I don’t know but it is hard to handle!!

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Our biggest highlight of the past month was our beach trip. Neely had such a blast and was so fun! She loved the wide open spaces of the sand and crawled SO fast to explore every inch of the beach. I think she also loved being surrounded by her family and cousins all week. She got plenty of love and attention!

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Neely is proving to be brave, busy, and curious! She doesn’t really want to sit still and be held, she would rather be on the move and exploring! We saw it on the beach and we are really seeing it in our day-to-day lives as well. Whether its pulling down every book off the bookshelf or playing at the indoor playground (no fear, all she wanted was to crawl up the slide!), or even just riding in the cart at Target – every moment is a chance for a little adventure and mischief!

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As I mentioned, Neely started wearing big girl pajamas this month and there is nothing much cuter than that! Although the first morning after she wore her pjs, when I went in to get her out of her crib, she had pulled her pants off! Ha!

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Speaking of her crib, Neely has taken after her brother in developing quite a love for her taggie blanket. She doesn’t take a paci and she doesn’t suck her thumb – she actually sucks on the tags of her blanket! It is a little gross but also pretty cute 🙂

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Neely’s hair grows longer every day and I’ve been SO excited to start putting it into little ponytails and pig tails. If I can hold her still long enough, she forgets they are there and will keep them for a long time! She has 7 teeth and quite an appetite. We haven’t found many foods that our girl won’t eat which is wonderful! She loves to feed herself. Her favorite foods are probably blueberries and raisins! She officially took her first steps on August 6, but hasn’t taken more than 2 or 3 steps at a time.

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We love our girl!! First birthday is right around the corner!!

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Family Beach Trip

Phew! It’s been a crazy few weeks. I had such an incredible experience at Summit, but have hardly had time to really wrap my head around all that I learned since I went straight from there to the beach with my family. So I’ll focus on the beach week for now!

We had SUCH a great time together as a family. And we were lucky to have absolutely perfect weather too! My parents are so fantastic to rent a house where we can all be together and enjoy the beach, the pool, and each other. This has been the most fun year yet for my little family with the kids. James is at an age where he LOVED the water and felt very comfortable in his floaties swimming and jumping around. It definitely helped that his sweet cousin Ruthie Jeanne was there to act as his constant companion! Those two are so fun to watch – they are truly best friends!

And little Neely… ohhh my goodness. This girl LOVED the beach! At first I tried to keep her contained to the blanket but it became clear that the little adventurer wanted to be FREE! She crawled like lightning all over the sand and straight into the waves, giggling and blabbing the whole time. She would stop occasionally to pick up a shell or a clump of sand, squish it around in her fingers, then drop it and keep on moving. It was so fun to watch her!

One of the highlights of beach week is the FOOD! Yes, I’ve been living a healthy lifestyle and that didn’t change while I was at the beach, but it certainly became a little less strict 😉 Each couple takes turns planning, shopping, preparing, and serving dinner and it has become such a fun tradition for our family! We’ve got some seriously talented cooks in the family. I’m excited to share a bit more about one of my favorite meals and some words from the chefs themselves in another post 🙂 But for now, enjoy some of our fun pictures from the trip!

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10 Months

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What a fun month it has been with our girl! I’ve said since James that this age – the 9/10/11 month age – is my favorite baby age! It seems like this is when their personalities really seem to blossom, and with Neely that is proving to be true yet again. She is so FUNNY! I think she has such a fun little personality, and boy can she make some faces. She is so expressive! She makes it clear when she is not entertained by whatever you’re doing (she’s not an easy audience, she makes you work for her laughs!) Her face also clearly shows when she thinks she is being funny or sneaky, and she makes this super sweet, funny scrunched-nose face when she makes a new discovery. We just love her so much!

Neely is certainly on the move these days and is FAST! She makes a beeline for whatever she decides she wants, which is usually Penny’s food or the computer cords, or James’ cup or snack – pretty much whatever she knows is off limits. She is getting really sturdy on her feet too and will stand un-supported for multiple seconds at a time. We’re anticipating her first steps any day now! She has figured out how to walk while pushing her walker toy so I know she’ll be walking independently in no time. Oh and she also learned how to climb up the stairs – uh oh!

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Neely had some fun experiences this month. She had her first visit to the aquarium and she loved it! We seriously didn’t hear a peep out of her the whole time, she was so enamored by the fish. We took the kids to the dolphin show and while James was scared and whimpering the whole time, Neely couldn’t get enough!

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Neely has enough hair for clip-on hair bows and I think they are about the cutest things I’ve ever seen in my life! She usually doesn’t even know its there so for now, she’s not pulling it out every few seconds! I even managed to create her first little ponytail with her bow and I could barely handle the cuteness 🙂

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Of course we’ve spent much of this past month having fun as a family, celebrating Father’s Day and the Fourth of July. Our time at home consists of Neely trying new foods (and loving them all!), playing with her brother and watching his favorite movies over and over again (Cars and Planes, mainly), babbling and giggling (she’s starting to try to mimic us when we say “dada” or “mama”), getting more and more teeth (she has 7), and being adventurous (Neely doesn’t shy away from a dangerous situation. She is willing to crawl straight off her changing table or beds or stairs… I’ve caught her every time but you would think she would realize that’s not a good idea. Girl loves an adventure!)

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Neely continues to bring us so much joy!!!