Thursday, October 19, 2017

What's new in our world?

My goal is to blog at least once a month with updates. I used to do it every few days when the kids were younger in order to document our life for them, in hopes they would one day go back and read everything and appreciate us capturing our lives for them to later enjoy. Funny thing is I think I had less free time then, and yet somehow I got it done. Most of my new North Carolina friends probably aren't aware that I have been doing this for the last 7 years (wow!).

Here is the status-quo on things. I'll do a separate update on myself next time.

Tyler's health has been nothing short of stellar. He is now down to one cardiologist appointment a year, and we really like the Pediatric Cardiology group he goes to, which is affiliated with Levine Children's hospital in Charlotte. Regardless of this current health, there is still that looming 'what if' for the future. That feeling is always in the back of my mind.
He's in Pre-K this year and loves school. Apparently he behaves and listens to the rules (Bahahahaaaa!). I really thought he would be THAT kid in school. So far, he hasn't been, with the exception of the toy hitting incident, which was isolated to one day. I talked to him and he promised not to do it again... If only! Next year will be the big test, when he enters Kindergarten. The good news is, he will be in the same school as Julianna and I know she will check in on him during the day. He keeps saying that he can't wait to be in the big school with sissy.
Tyler is really the epitome of a Mama's boy. This kid just adores his Mama and I love every minute of it. Everyone always told me how different boys are, and there couldn't be any truer statement. At night, he asks me to snuggle with him and puts his arm around me, and tells me he loves me. My heart almost bursts into a million pieces when he says that. Don't get me wrong, Julianna is the love of my life too, but she has a much more special relationship with Brian. She is definitely Daddy's girl.

School is treating Julianna good. She is happy in school, happy when she gets off the bus and loves all of her friends. Our school does not give out homework, however all kids do need to read for 20 minutes each night. Some nights are a struggle trying to get her to read. She would much rather be playing with her American dolls or Barbies, or with her neighborhood friends, or on the iPad (like most kids!).
She is making so many new friends, and hopefully some will remain life long friends. This is something I never really had as a child since we moved around often, and I switched schools very often bouncing between public & private until I was in 10th grade.
Me and the kids walk to school every day unless it's raining or unless it's too cold once Winter hits. The good things is, even during Winter, you don't get that long lasting frigid cold like we got in New Jersey, so we should still be able to walk some mornings during those few months.

We still own our house in NJ and rent it out. Right now we are in between renters and the house needed some cosmetic work, including interior paint and some other work (like dig up & cover/seed the firepit our renters thought it would be fine to put in the ground the backyard - WTH!). Brian went back to New Jersey a few weekends ago to do work on the house, along with my In Laws who helped him out as well. They did a lot of work in that little amount of time and the new listing is out there now. Crossing our fingers we get renters soon.
We also needed to part ways with our old Property Manager and hire a new one. The old property manager did not work out and we needed to go with someone new. Our new manager has been wonderful to work with and he is local to Hopatcong. We feel that he and the property management company will do a great job.

End of summer
Summer came to an end, and while we've had some abnormally hot weather, we are finally coming into some cooler days. It should start to feel more like fall any day now. The Macaulay pool closed up mid-September and with that, came the End of the Year "Dog pool party". Everyone brings their dogs and lets them loose to swim and run around. It's controlled doggy chaos, but lots of fun. We brought Pepper and she was a trooper... we put her in the water and then she ran for the gate!
When we were in NJ, the end of the summer meant it was time to winterize the boat, and put it on the trailer in the driveway for 6 long cold months. Not here. No winterizing. We will be going out on the lake as weather allows all fall/winter. One of the many perks of our beautiful North Carolina weather.

Adjusting to our new life in North Carolina
This is our forever home. After 2 years, I still have no hesitation in saying this. We love living here and have zero regrets about making the plunge to move out of New Jersey. I love our house, and I love our neighborhood. Not everyone gets lucky like we do with such terrific neighbors. I am never leaving our house. Not to mention, I am never moving again. This last move was taxing - I am not doing that again. As far as where we live, again I feel we really lucked out, this has turned out to be the best possible scenario for us as far as where we live and all the amenities & quality of life. It's fun to still explore all that this area has to offer. We can drive up to the Mountains for a day or go to a food truck festival in Charlotte or explore Lake Norman (which we will never get tired of).

I am still missing my friends from NJ - I don't think that ever goes away. There is a certain familiarity that comes with long time friends. It's that comfort level of just being able to send a text or calling any time of the day or night, and picking up where you left off, having that quick intimate conversation with your friend that only she can understand, because she knows EVERYTHING there is to know about you, and there's no judgements. It's that person who has a special place in your heart forever, even though you don't talk to them every day or even every week. It takes a long time to find people in your life like that again. This is a process still for me. I still feel like an outsider sometimes and miss those special friendships. For me, I would say this is still the hardest part about relocating and everyone who has done it says it takes a long time to get adjusted with that aspect of your life. Don't get me wrong, we have met some fabulous people and made some amazing new friends, but true deep down friendships take time to develop much like a marriage does.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Some tips (from my own experience) for keeping my family healthy

Several years ago, my family made the choice to eat healthier whole foods. Real food. Food without chemicals or fake sugar. Real ingredients. I didn't realize what an incredible life-long change this would actually become for us. My husband and I lost about 40 pounds and managed to keep most of it off. My kids actually eat healthier when given the choice (most of the time, unless french fries are in front of them). Unfortunately, due to my frail will power, my weight has always fluctuated, especially around the holidays. Homemade cookies are my downfall. And ice cream. It's a constant battle between eating and weight, and now more recently, exercise too.

Here are some things I have learned over the past few years:

  • Small changes - replace the unhealthy food items with healthy choices slowly - this takes time and patience as you are trying new things. Not everything you try will be a home run for you. 
  • Research ingredients and what you are feeding your family. For years, I was obsessed with calorie content, fat, carbs, etc... But now the most important thing to me is that ingredient list. Learn to read labels. Learn where your food comes from. If it contains chemicals, GMO's or is highly processed, it doesn't make into my shopping cart. I shoot for mostly organic when possible.
  • If you don't like what the store has to offer, make it yourself. One of the things I decided to make at home a couple years back is bread. I make all of our bread now from scratch weekly. It doesn't take long and I can control what ingredients are in it. I also make my own salad dressings and other items that are usually highly processed or loaded with chemicals in the store. I will occasionally buy bread (when crunched for time) from the Great Harvest Bread company, who makes the most delicious organic whole wheat, white and cinnamon bread (they post their ingredients online and in the store). 
  • Plan your week! I plan our meals out a week ahead of time, usually on a Thursday night, and do my shopping list (and online order) at the same time. Then it's done - no wondering what's for dinner every night. 
  • Where do I shop for food? I will start by saying I am not a 'couponing' type person - I just don't have that time. I break up my shopping between 2 or 3 stores mostly. I do my online food order (for pickup) from Harris Teeter, and buy my basics there - mostly organic basics and lunch essentials, paper goods, etc. Then, first thing on Saturday morning, I drive to Whole Foods for produce, meats, organics and other specialty items I can't buy elsewhere. I also love their bulk bins there.  This is my favorite food store in the entire world, hands down. The Whole Foods '365' brand, by the way, is extremely budget friendly. We will also go to the Farmers Market every so often as time permits. Sometimes I will hit Earthfare as well if they have good sales - Earthfare is sort of like a Whole Foods-Lite. (Both stores are within 2 miles of my house). I just recently started going to Aldi for some items - and while I just don't love Aldi like everyone else does, I still have found a few things there at a very good price like our sparkling water that we go through by the case, and the kids school snacks. I am cautious with Aldi because I am skeptical where some of the food actually comes from and they have a lot of processed packaged food which I do not buy anyway. I also recently tried some coupon apps like Ibotta and Favano... the jury is still out on those ... I will let you know how much I like them once I have had enough time to use them thoroughly, 
  • The easiest way to keep things in check is write down and record what you are eating daily. It's an eye opener to say the least.
  • You can, unfortunately, only control what's eaten under your roof. Not all situations are ideal. You can't control everything outside of your home when it comes to food or the choices that will be given to your children. This was one of the hardest things for me to accept is that I can't control every scenario. I feel like our lifestyle at home rubs off on my kids and I hope it will benefit them long term without them even knowing it.
  • Get the entire family involved with making food. Julianna loves to help me put recipes together and now Tyler loves to help as well, even if it's just pouring in the measured ingredients. When I get the stand mixer out, they ask "Oh are you making bread?". This is the stuff I hope will stay with them down the road. Learning to cook and the ability feed yourself (other than 'take out' food) is an important life skill and requirement for kids as they get older. 
  • Move. It doesn't matter what you do, but just make sure you move. Get off your butt and go! Go for a walk, jog, take a burn bootcamp class, go to the gym, walk on the treadmill, or dance around. Whatever works for you. It has taken me a couple years to finally realize that eating 'healthy' by itself will no longer keep the weight off or keep me as healthy as I should be. Up until a few months ago, I haven't done any sort of exercise in 10 years other than walking a few times a week. Just under 3 months ago, I started working out at home before the kids get up in the morning 5 days a week doing Beachbody on Demand. It's super awesome! I feel like I hit the ground running to start my day. In addition to my morning workout, I try to walk daily and lately have started jogging, which is something I have always wanted to do but was too scared to try. I manage to somehow squeeze it all in and I feel better than I have in years at 46 years old! I would love to run a 5k - maybe I will work up to that. I'm far from perfect but I'm learned to be happy in my own skin and I'm owning each day making the conscience choice to live fit & healthy.
  • Don't 'ram' the 'good food/bad food' down your kids throats. Lead by example. For instance, we use certain terms in the house like 'this is healthy for our bodies' and "I feel good when I eat this because it gives me energy", and phrases like that. Salad is good for your body! We don't ever say anything like "french fries will make you fat' because I feel it is not something the kids need to hear or put preconceived notions in their heads. We try to word it like ' lets try something different today other than french fries' or if they insist on them when we go out to eat, we will say "Let's have something healthy with it like fruit!" and they go for it... most times. Their favorite thing to eat before bedtime is strawberries while we read books. Don't tell them "If you eat that, you will get fat" and surely don't let them hear you saying how fat you are feeling today - save that for when you are out of earshot and go ahead and curse yourself out then! haha. And we do buy ice cream - I just buy the kind with real ingredients and without carrageenan and other nasty ingredients in it (Yuck!). 
  • Believe in what you practice. There is more than one right way to live a healthy lifestyle. Don't preach friends or family about how they should be doing things since it's a touchy subject. I talk to people about what we eat and our beliefs but I don't force it on anyone. Everyone else has their own way of doing things. You can only control your own. Do what you think is best for your family. Stand by your values. I pack my kids lunch every day before school, and I personally do not mind doing it because I do not care for the food served in school. But I play it up as mommy likes to pack lunches and surprise them daily - they love it too.
  • Find something that inspires you, no matter how little it may be. For me, I like to read the Fitbit Community posts on my Fitbit app - they motivate me because I see that I am not the only one out there struggling some times. Find your inspiration and let it motivate you. 
  • Does junk food make it into our house? You betchya! Once in a while it does. I would like to blame my husband but he's not always the culprit. My kids go to school and sometimes bring things home like candy given to them in school. Sometimes you just have to pick your battles and say we'll do better next time. 
  • Weight loss or being healthy is a journey. Don't beat yourself up. Everyone has bad days (OK, bad weeks even!) and good days. Sadly, I had 10 bad years! Ha! It's a journey and a marathon - not a 50 yard sprint. There is no miracle pill or magic diet. Being healthy takes thought, mindfulness, willpower, want, and longevity. You have to do it for yourself because no one is going to do it for you. I have learned to accept the fact (recently) that no matter how hard I try, I may only lose a half a pound every 2 weeks, or none at all. And I am finally OK with that. My goal is to wear a bikini by next summer... Let's see if I can make that happen! :) 

And finally, here are some pictures from this summer...

Tyler, me and Julianna gem mining by Chimney Rock, NC 

My husband, the captain

Tapas & Drinks in Charlotte  

Pepper doing what she does best 

Rock hopping 

Flying a kite on a windy day on an island in one of our favorite spots on Lake Norman

The kids playing in the water - they spend all summer in the water!

Morningstar marina - one of the most beautiful places to be during sunset - It's our happy place

Daddy - daughter walk 

Tyler loves to sit in Brian's lap while driving the boat

Loving our pool in the summer 

Visiting Chimney Rock in the mountains of NC - about 2 hours from our house. 

A rare moment this summer - the kids smiled and snuggled together 


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