First Birthday Smash Cake: A Healthy Alternative + Recipe

As many of you know, Kinsley’s first birthday party was last weekend, June 17. Tons of preparation and thought went into the whole thing, but one area in particular that needed a lot of special attention was what to do about the traditional “smash cake”.

Because Kinsley was born with a congenital defect involving her windpipe and esophagus, she had to undergo corrective surgery the day after she was born, and has been in feeding therapy with feeding troubles ever since. It was especially important for us to make sure that what she would be smashing her hands into and putting in her mouth was not only good for her, but safe for her.

Others whose babies do not have feeding difficulties may be more concerned with the nutrition aspect of the smash cake. Most babies are unintentionally introduced to white flour and sugar on their first birthday as a result of poor nutritional advice. While many parents see nothing wrong with this, the truth of the matter is that babies digestive systems cannot processes grains at such a young age. In order to properly digest grains our bodies must produce the enzyme Amylase, but even babies who are healthy cannot produce the enzyme in large enough quantities to break down the grains. This can result in irritation of the lining in the digestive tract, and has effects on the balance of good and bad bacterias in the gut, which can, in the long run, cause food allergies and other issues. Feeding your child grains with little to no nutritional value (toast, pasta, cheerios etc.) leaves less room in their diet for nutritious foods that aid in good health and positive growth.

That being said, introducing these things at such a young age is highly unnecessary and even unhealthy, and may warrant a slight alteration to the smash cake tradition by using a healthier alternative recipe.

So, whether it’s for safety purposes or a healthy introduction to new foods, I’ve got you covered. Here is a step by step guide to the recipe I came up with for my daughter’s smash cake- free from gluten, refined sugars, butter, and white flour/grains.

Ingredients:

4 large, ripe bananas
4 large brown, cage free eggs
1/4 cup coconut oil
3/4 cup coconut flour
1/2 cup organic applesauce
1/4 cup real maple syrup
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda

Pour batter into three 4 inch cake pans (each half full), bake for 43 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Frosting:

8oz softened cream cheese
one container plain greek yogurt
4 tbsp whole milk strawberry yogurt

Blend with mixer on medium speed for 2-3 minutes or until frosting is thick and fluffy.

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  1. First you’re going to peel your ripe bananas and place them into a bowl.

2. Use a wisk to completely smash the bananas, much like you would if you were making banana bread. Some chunks are okay.

3. Add eggs, maple syrup, applesauce, and coconut oil to the bananas and mix until combined.

4. Finally, add coconut flour, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon. Stir until combined.

5. It is important to let the mixture sit for 5-10 minutes so the coconut flour can absorb. It will probably rise a little and ‘fluff up’.

6. Pour the batter into three greased 4 inch pans and place in the oven for 43 minutes each.

7. Let the cakes cool completely before taking them out of their pans. Mix the cream cheese, greek yogurt, and whole milk yogurt together in a bowl on medium speed until thick and fluffy. When the cakes are completely cooled, dollop frosting between the layers and spread carefully.

8. Decorate as desired.

9. SMASH!

Raising children is important work.

“Children are not a distraction from more important work. They are the most important work.” -C.S. Lewis

I have to remind myself of this often. Especially when many of my close friends are on very different paths, ones that involve successes without children.

As a stay at home mom who didn’t plan to be a stay at home parent, but ended up doing so because of health issues with my child, I sometimes fall trap to the comparison game. I look around seeing others happy at work, using their skills and ambition to fulfill their career goals, gaining experience and experiencing financial gain…

It’s tough as an ambitious person with goals, skills, drive to have to shut off areas of your own growth in order to foster your child’s growth.

I’ve found how important it is though, while you feel all this creative energy spilling over as a result of untapped potential due to your current circumstance, that you remember what you’re doing is as equally important as your friends’ work: the one who is getting his master’s, the one who just accepted her big girl job, the one who graduated with a bachelor’s degree a year ago and has secured an amazing position at a well known hospital, the one who keeps getting promoted, the one who is self employed and living her dream, the one who is deployed and growing daily on her military journey…

Raising your child is just as important a job, and doing so is not keeping you from more important work. So, while sometimes this message may get lost in the mundane daily tasks that include feedings and diaper changes and baths and providing love and every care to another person, you must remember at the end of the day when you’re feeling drained from giving, and unfulfilled from putting your own personal goals aside, that their growth into a person who will change the future is the most important work you will ever do. Someday, when they don’t need you anymore, you will look back and be grateful that you had the opportunity to put your goals aside and help them develop theirs.

So give yourself some credit, and take a breather.

There will be time for that book you want to write.
There will be time for that business you want to start.
There will be time for that degree you want to get.
There will be time for that career you’ve been dreaming of.

But right now, someone is depending on you to help them take the world in their hands and do with it all the things you’re dreaming of. And when you watch them do just that, you will have never felt so fulfilled and you’ll wonder why you ever felt like all you were doing was laundry and dishes and wiping up poop and snot and baby food.

Keep going momma, you’re changing the world one diaper at a time.

 

 

Quarter One Review

Some people don’t believe in new year resolutions. The end of the year will roll around and they’ll start sharing that one meme…

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I get it. It’s the pessimistic view point that anyone who really says they’re going to change isn’t actually going to, which is probably true depending on the type of resolutions a person makes for themselves.

Personally, I don’t believe in the kind of resolutions that start with “I want to stop…” or “I’m going to lose…” or “I won’t ___ anymore.” (sort of because those never work but) mainly because I believe in improvement and making yourself more, instead of tearing yourself down and making yourself less.

So while some share their meme and remain the same asshole they’ve always been, and others pledge to hate their body every day that they haven’t lost the 50 pounds, I just make a list of things I want to start, do more of, improve, or finish.

This is what my list for 2018 looked like on the last day of 2017:

—-I wanted to start:
+learning to read music
+practicing another language
+my 2018 bullet journal
+etsy page/art show planning

—-I wanted to do more:
+meditating
+reading
+yoga
+blogging

—-I wanted to improve:
+cooking
+home finance/budgeting
+saving account balance
+study habits

—-I wanted to finish:
+Kinsley’s scrapbook
+sorting/organizing the apartment
+my invisalign
+paperwork for health insurance

*(there are a few things missing from my master list, but I’ve narrowed it down to the four biggest things for each category that I decided I wanted to do this year)

Now it’s the end of March, 3 whole months in- that means we’re one fourth of the way done with 2018 already. It’s hard to believe it, but here we are. So, around this time of year I like to reevaluate my new year resolution list so that I can either stay on track, get back on track, or start improving more (depending on my assessment of the list). As I go through, if I’ve completed something, I remove the item from the list and add a new one in its place (because I’m an over achiever and I like improving myself).

That being said, I’m just going to jump right in.

I said I wanted to start 

+learning to read music
So far I have only learned to read three notes. Oops.

+practicing another language
I haven’t been as focused on language as I would like to be. Working hard to enter the nursing program has been kicking my butt and taking up all my time.

+my 2018 bullet journal
I did start a bullet journal and I’ve been using it as a habit tracker and for therapeutic purposes. I even uploaded one of my templates onto the bullet journal subreddit page and it reached over 7,000 people, got a couple thousand upvotes, and near one hundred comments.

+an etsy page/art show planning
As for my etsy page, I just quit my part time job two weeks ago, so I’m planning to really focus on this the next couple of months. I also bought some canvases and went through my painting/craft supplies so I know where I’m at with materials. Soon I plan to boot up a website for my store.

I said I wanted to do more  

+meditating
I’ve downloaded a meditation app called Headspace and I really like it. It took me a while to find one I liked because I couldn’t get into a few of them due to the voice of the person narrating the sessions, the price, or a variation of those and other reasons. But Headspace is actually fairly inexpensive, and its really great. I recommend it.

+reading
I haven’t spent much time reading- at least not the rest of Game of Thrones like I want to. Instead, I’ve been reading a lot of A&P for school and SO many news articles, because I’m obsessed with politics.

+blogging
I do spend some time blogging, if not here, on instagram for sure. I recently started a new feed on instagram called @mothertokinsley and I’ve been following a lot of other mommy blogs there. It’s been a lot of fun for me as well a creative outlet.

+yoga
I recently got a yoga journal, wheel, and new mat which has been really great for me. I’ve promised myself that after 30 home sessions of practice I will allow myself to spend the money on a few classes in town.

I said I wanted to improve
This is the area where I’ve really focused the first quarter.

+cooking
We’ve tried quite a few recipes this year so far (air fryer ravioli, sausage stuffed manicotti, chicken bacon ranch pinwheels to name a few). In fact, we’ve been meal planning every week using the Yummly app and this cool board I put up in the dining room.

+home finance/budgeting
 I made a budget spreadsheet and we identified areas where we can cut down on some spending, and we found some bills that can be reduced as well.

+saving account
Our saving account contains almost half of our tax return and we have paid off the debt that we owed to friends and family following Kinsley’s birth.

+health
I finally got my insurance updated and I’ve seen the dentist twice and scheduled doctor appointments for mental and physical health.

+study habits
I passed my TEAS test with a great score, and I’ve got an A in anatomy and physiology! There’s almost no chance that I won’t get into the nursing program.

I said I wanted to finish:

+Kinsley’s scrapbook 
Kinsley’s scrapbook needs a lot of work. It’s something I want to complete before her first birthday, so I still have a few months. So far I’ve gotten a lot of the materials and I’ve printed half the photos.

+sorting/organizing the apartment
I have successfully sorted and organized almost every area in the apartment. We’ve gone through almost everything and donated so much stuff. I’m super proud of the space I’ve made. I even bought some frames and put photos in them for the wall.

+my invisalign
My invisalign is underway- I have a few more dentist appointments to go to and then we’ll start back up. I’m aiming for end of May.

+paperwork for health insurance
My health insurance is finished! I got it all taken care of the first of March.

Lately I’ve been so preoccupied with doing more, more, more that I’ve forgotten to step back and breathe, and realize I’ve already done a ton this year. I’m really proud of the improvements I’ve made just in these three months, especially that I finished my obnoxious to-do list that I’ve been adding to since before Kinsley was born. I’m excited to keep moving forward and tackle a few more big obstacles.

For the second quarter (April/May/June) I’m going to focus on the following:
[+ old   ////   ++ new]

+etsy page/art show planning
+yoga
+Kinsley’s Scrapbook
+blogging
+dental plan/invisalign
++Kinsley’s FIRST birthday party
++entering Nursing Program/student loan
++green living/reduced trash

++spend more time being present

More updates to come as we cruise through the second quarter!

11 ways to boost motivation

Lately I’ve been overwhelmed with life in general.

Sometimes I wake up in the morning and my head is just swimming with things I need to do, stuff that has to be taken care of, and ways I need to start taking control. All that ruckus can be too much to process sometimes, and as a result my day can turn out to be unproductive, mostly because I don’t know where to start.

Maybe you’re like me, and day after day your to-do list keeps growing but you feel like a stick in the mud because you’re too overwhelmed to start.

I decided to help us get un-stuck, by creating this list of eleven ways to beat the brain overload and find motivation in the unlikeliest of places.

    1. seek out a piece of good news

I’m guilty of checking my phone first thing in the morning, and since I’m subscribed to a lot of news publications (I’m into politics), overnight I’ll get several notifications about what’s going on in the political world. I didn’t realize it before, but checking my phone first thing in the morning often means waking up to bad news, which only puts me in a crappy mood (at best) and is definitely not a good way to ramp up for a busy day.

I’ve found that if I seek out a piece of good news, or read one positive affirmation, it tends to do wonders for my attitude, putting me in a happier mood- one where I feel like I can do anything. Instead of reading Trump’s daily dose of BS, I’ve instead subscribed to an email list from tut.com that’s called “letters from the universe” and I receive from them a daily reminder of my power and the magic of life. If that doesn’t do the trick, I try to look places I know I’ll find good news. Some ideas: OptimistWorld, Good News Network, Gimundo, or OdeWire. (note: this does not mean that I don’t pay attention at all to the negative current events happening in the world, it just means that I don’t start my day with negative stories anymore)

    2. go for a walk

Sometimes the best thing to do for yourself to get your mindset in the right place is to go for a walk. Maybe you need to clear your head. Maybe you need some space. Maybe you need a break, or some fresh air. Maybe you need to wake up a bit. Maybe you need to get your blood circulating. All of these things can result from stepping outside for a quick walk.

In the mornings when I’m feeling sluggish I’ll take the dog out (if you don’t have a dog, take the trash out or shovel your porch) and usually the cool air or occasional slice of winter sunshine helps me feel fresh at the start of the day.

    3. make the bed

There is some research out there that suggests that making the bed in the morning can lead to higher productivity. According to an article by Elite, which sites sources from Psychology Today, a survey by Hunch.com, and Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter Charles Duhigg, people who make their bed in the morning are happier and more productive, and doing such a trivial task prepares one to do things they don’t want to do: if you don’t want to make your bed, by doing so, you are mentally preparing yourself and getting in the habit of doing tasks you may not want to do but have to do.

This could really help when looking for someplace to start on a long list of things you probably would prefer not to do. Sometimes we don’t start our to do list because every task on it feels to large. By picking a task that requires little effort like making the bed, we can start small and gain some momentum, which can be useful in propelling us toward other (larger) unappealing tasks.

    4. tidy up

I once (twice actually) read a book called The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. In it, she talks about a method she uses at night where she takes five minutes to tidy up before bed. I’ve found this to be extremely beneficial if I do it first thing in the morning. Anything that’s been left out, or can be quickly put away, I spend five minutes doing so. (I usually pick up Kinsley’s toys, hang up my jacket in the coat closet downstairs, and fix the throw pillows on the couch.)

The idea is to take care of little things that might distract you from productivity, and (if you’re like me) by tidying up your work/living space you may feel more at ease, and able to focus on the tasks at hand because the dishwasher isn’t begging to be loaded and you won’t keep staring at your cluttered coffee table.

    5. make a list

This one never fails for me, as long as I follow this rule: brain dump onto paper, use that to make a list, and commit to a specific number of tasks- not the whole list. If I wake up and my head is full of stuff I should probably do, it doesn’t help me to continue on with that beehive swarming all day long. Instead, I like to brain dump onto paper and then make one or more lists.

Depending on how productive I’m feeling, I’ll make a list based on my highest priorities, or tasks I can knock out quickly. If I’m feeling super ambitious, I’ll take care of the worst to-do’s first, and if I’m having a slow start, I’ll start with small tasks and build momentum to try and accomplish bigger things later in the day after I’m ‘warmed up’ so-to-speak. The most important thing is that you acknowledge a goal, and that goal doesn’t have to be completing everything on the list- that way you don’t accidentally bite off more than you can chew, and quit before you start.

    6. take a shower/get ready

If you’re not a mom, this one might sound dumb. However, if you are a mom, (especially a stay at home mom) you understand that sometimes taking a shower/putting on actual clothes (not just sweats and a tshirt) isn’t always your first priority and might not happen unless you have to leave the house (even then, still isn’t always a priority). Making time for a 10 minute shower and actually putting pants on can sometimes help you feel more prepared to take on a busy day; this is also true for a busy day off- it might be counter intuitive to stay in your PJ’s all day when you’ve got errands to run.

If you’re anything like me, hanging out in leggings and a sweater all day can make you feel like a bum, where all you want to do, or feel like you can do, is sit on the couch (and cuddle with the baby)- not super productive. If I take a shower and actually get dressed, I usually feel better and get a boost of confidence, which is like a secret weapon when it comes to finding motivation to get shit done.

    7. listen to music

A lot of people say that listening to music helps them get a boost of motivation when they’re running low. I find this to be true most of the time. My personal faves are Taylor Swift (Red), Shawn Mendes (Illuminate), Charlie Puth (9 Track Mind), Maroon 5 (Hands All Over), Jack Johnson (In Between Dreams) and John Mayer (Battle Studies).

    8. work out

Still too stressed to tackle your to-do list? Go to the gym. Fun fact: Exercise reduces stress because it creates a production boost of endorphins, which are neurotransmitters in your brain that act as natural anti-depressants.

A more obvious reason to work out is that exercise can make you more alert and provide energy. When you exercise, you are increasing blood flow to the brain, which can help sharpen your awareness and increase your energy to make you more awake and prepared to tackle your next big project. If you don’t have time for a full workout, try some stretches, they’ll achieve the same results.

    9. take some time for yourself

I know a few successful women who light an intention candle every morning and start their day by spending a chunk of uninterrupted time just on reflection/meditation/centering themselves before starting their most important tasks.

If spending a half hour alone in the dark at 5:30am doesn’t sound like it would help you, try reading something interesting to get those neurons firing, or find some scripture or a daily affirmation to get your gears turning. You could also try writing a few things you’re grateful for, start a 5 minute journal, look up your horoscope, or watch an inspiring ted talk or educational video. For some people this is too much stimulation too early in the morning, in which case, these would be good ways to take a break or regroup when you’ve been going for a long time and need to find some extra motivation to keep going.

  10. have a cup or three of coffee

A typical 8oz cup of coffee has about 95mg of caffeine in it. Quick science lesson for you- basically, caffeine increases the release of catecholamines (like adrenaline) through the sympathetic nervous system, which can make your heart beat faster, send more blood to your muscles and tell your liver to release sugar into the bloodstream thus providing you with energy!

FYI: according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, it takes about 30 to 60 minutes for caffeine to reach its peak level in the blood (one study found increased alertness can begin in as few as 10 minutes). So, if you need a boost of energy and motivation, down a cup of coffee and in 10 minutes you’ll be ready to go (or if coffee isn’t your thing, try black tea, which has the highest caffeine content).

    11. make and eat breakfast

So, maybe caffeine isn’t your thing. That’s okay, because breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and if you choose not to skip it, you can probably get as much or more energy than you would from those cups of coffee. Here’s why: when you wake up, the blood sugar your body needs to make your muscles and brain work their best is usually low, and eating breakfast helps replenish it.

Plus, remember when we talked about trivial tasks like making your bed? Well making yourself breakfast can be considered one of those, and now that you’ve read some good news, taken the trash out, made your bed, tidied up, written a list, showered and dressed, listened to some music while you stretched out, took a few minutes to yourself with a cup of coffee AND handled breakfast, you’ve got some momentum going and might be ready to tackle that list.

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born a girl.

A year and two days ago my ultrasound tech took a photo with my baby’s gender and placed it in an envelope for my mom.

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Prior to this appointment, at a 14 week checkup to monitor the subchorionic hematoma that developed just under my placenta, the tech had mentioned that she was fairly certain it was a girl.

On my 23rd birthday, we announced publicly that the word ‘girl’ was, in fact, written on the black and white photo inside that envelope.

Since that day I have been praying. I want to be able to equip her with everything she will need to navigate this world as a girl.

In four days Kinsley will be 7 months old. She isn’t old enough to know yet, but as soon as she is, it will be my number one priority to make sure she understands that her being female is something we celebrated. I will make sure she knows that we love her no less because she was born a daughter.

I will make it a point to tell her that, even in a world where women and our opportunities and rights are interrupted and shushed by men’s hands over our mouths and around our necks every day- even under these circumstances, her voice can be as loud,  her message just as important, and her will even stronger than any man’s.

I pray that I can help her recognize when something isn’t okay, and to decide that she will take what is rightfully hers.
I pray that I can teach her to be brave, and to plant her feet on the ground firmly as she stands up to fight for what she believes in.
I pray that I can show her how to make her voice heard and to speak out against things that are unjust.

I want her to do these things like so many great others have done before her and are still doing today.

Kinsley was born a daughter, and I’m glad for it. When she grows up, I will make sure I have raised her to be one more strong woman in the crowd, marching, fighting, standing, and making a case for respect, equal pay, the right to control her body, a livable planet, the end of violence against women, health care for all, public education, the constitution, and the bill of rights.

Kinsley was born a girl, and nothing will stop her. Someday she will stand among daughters who pledge not to be silent, not to be interrupted, not to be sidelined, not to be stopped, and not to be afraid.

I hope you will teach your daughters the same.

 

 

 

 

 

Growth in 2017

The last two years were hard.
But hard is good, because it causes people to evolve.

In 2016 I learned to be brave.
I learned to find inner strength to push through, and I realized that bravery goes hand in hand with strenght. The strength & bravery I found in 2016 carried me through 2017.

In 2017 I learned to grow.
I learned that life can change drastically and when it does, there will be things you cannot control. As a result, I had to embrace the changes and learn to grow through what I go through. Using strength and bravery, I embraced hardships to make me better, not bitter. The growth I experienced in 2017 is going to help shape my 2018.

Let’s have a look at the highlights (and low lights) of 2017 before I reveal what my mantra for 2018 is going to be.

JANUARY

Because we were pregnant since late October, I wanted to formally announce the pregnancy after the first of the year, so late December of 2016 I sent out pregnancy announcements to all of my family with a Christmas card.

January 3rd I announced on social media that we were expecting a baby in late June/early July.

Following the pregnancy announcement, I began moving to Petoskey.

We officially picked two names.

Late January I had my anatomy scan and found out the gender of our baby.

FEBRUARY

After the move was well underway I began some work in transforming the spare bedroom into a nursery.

Mid February I had a maternity shoot.

February 19th I left behind 22’s wishes and welcomed 23’s with a big celebration…

That celebration was our gender reveal party. We shared with family and friends that we would be having a girl via a cake that my mom made for the party.

MARCH

Due to some issues with the gender party, and many people showing their true colors, I realized it was time to begin a social media cleanse to start removing the toxicity from my life.

It took a few months, mostly because I was pregnant and it was winter, but I finally finished moving to Petoskey and let my lease in Conway go.

On March 17th we brought Merlin, our border collie, home from an Amish farm near Grand Rapids.

APRIL

At 28 weeks pregnant I decided there was no better time to visit my BFF in Florida, so for the second time ever, I put some stuff in a bag, drove to Detroit, and caught a flight to Panama City for a week. It was literally the best time. We sat on the couch for almost the entire week playing a game we have both come to love called Stardew Valley.

Shortly after returning from Florida Nick and I had Easter with all of his family in Traverse City.

Just a few months from Kinsley’s birth I finally got around to ordering and building her crib and crafting a few unique pieces for her nursery.

MAY

After enough pregnancy troubles and a difficult decision I decided to leave my Home Decor Department Manager position at Lowe’s.

I got to see my step sister get married to the love of her life in Tecumseh, Michigan.

I finally got around to sending out baby shower invites.

Traded in LaFawnduh the Ford Fusion for Pearl, our new JEEP Cherokee. (Thanks to a fellow named Jim at Brown Motors, who was MOST helpful.)

JUNE

At 37 weeks, on June 11th, I had my baby shower at a beautiful church in Cheboygan with family and friends.

We found out the news that Kinsley had a one vessel cord, so the doctors ordered some extra tests, which included these lovely stress tests, all of which we passed.

Miss Kinsley Estelle June made her debut to the world on June 25th, 2017 at 7:37 pm at McClaren Hospital in Petoskey, MI. She was 6lbs, 11oz, and 19.5 inches long.

Minutes after Kinsley was born, it was determined that something wasn’t right with her anatomy. She was taken to the DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan where it was confirmed that she was born with a rare congenital defect called Tracheoesophageal Fistula (TEF) / Esophageal Atresia (EA).

We traveled to GR the next day after I was discharged from the hospital, where we received the most helpful support, humbling kindness, and amazing medical care for our daughter. DeVos is such a special place. I could not be more grateful that she ended up there. Every occupational therapist, social worker, nurse, nurse practitioner, neonatologist, ENT, surgeon, that had their hands in her care was simply the best. We are forever indebted to DeVos and their team, as well as the nurses at McClaren who saved Kinsley’s life.

JULY/AUGUST

As it turned out, Nick and I would end up spending a lot of time in Grand Rapids. 6.5 weeks, to be exact. Between our visits at the hospital with Kinsley and her doctors, Nick decided to help me experience the town while we were there, since it’s where he grew up. I kept track of a list of places we went (in no particular order) that I’d never been before.

FOOD

+Red Robin

+Omlette Shoppe
(my favorite restaurant in GR)

+Paleos Italian Restaurant

+Firehouse Subs
(umm their italian is to die for)

+Sonic

+Olive Garden
(a traverse city favorite)

+Twisted rooster

+Vitales at Comstock Park

+Panera Bread

+Cold Stone Creamery
(I got cake batter something or other)

COFFEE SHOPS

+Dunkin’ Donuts

+Bagel Beanery

+Tim Horton’s

FUN

+AMC Theater (saw The House)

+Celebration Cinema (saw Spider-Man)

+Barnes & Noble

LOCAL BREWERIES/PUBS

+Atwater Brewery

+City Flats

+7 Monks

+Founders

+Flat Lander’s Barstillery
(holy shit their fries!!)

OUTDOOR ATTRACTIONS

+SkyWalk

+Grand Rapids museum

+Downtown Grand Rapids

+Frederick Meijer Gardens

+John Ball Zoo

We traveled to Elk Rapids for Harbor Fest as well.

I also finally got to meet Nick’s sister Schae, who lives in Arizona but flew in for a few weeks to see us and attend to other family members in their time of need as well. (bless her heart)

We also came home for a minute to attend my mom’s and step dad Don’s wedding.

Finally on August 9th, Kinsley was discharged from the hospital.

We got to do some normal family things which felt so good after 47 long days in the hospital with her.

SEPTEMBER

In early September I started my final prerequisite for the nursing program: A&P.

Nick and I ventured over to Friske’s Orchard, this place he’s been raving about since we met.

Enjoyed a few last warm days in the remaining ‘summer’ sun.

And last but not least, we celebrated Nick, Chelsea and Schae’s birthdays with this awesome peanut butter chocolate cake I made.

OCTOBER

I started the month out swallowing some major frogs. We had to get the medical bills from Kinsley being at DeVos organized and taken care of. Even being home for 2 months at this point, I was still adjusting to the ‘new mom’ and ‘household secretary/appointment scheduler’ roles.

We had oddly warm temps this fall, which we took full advantage of. Nick and I took Kinsley to Pond Hill Farm for some family photos and fun.

We were also able to make it to Uncle Frank’s Orchard.

And we took the opportunity to go to Tequamenon Falls before the colors were officially gone.

Kinsley was Raggedy Anne for her first Halloween.

We also cannot forget that my dear Sparky Berlin turned 2.

And I also started a part time job, one to two shifts per week at Marshal’s.

NOVEMBER

This was a month jam-packed with appointments in Grand Rapids.

I got the foundation to help us with one of the trips, and they were able to pay for a king suite hotel room with a Jacuzzi tub (best decision I ever made).

Kinsley had her second and last (so far) esophageal dilation.

Nick and I finally got to go to our local Beard’s Brewery, which is something we’ve been trying to do since before Kinsley was born.

Kinsley had her first Thanksgiving!

At her first Thanksgiving I for a 4 generation photo which means more to me than most things.

DECEMBER

My A&P class ended mid December so I took a weekend to get completely caught up in order to lock in a good grade.

When the grades were finally submitted I ended the class with an A (by .03%). Which is something I’m extremely proud of.

Kinsley finally made sufficient progress at feeding therapy and got her feeding tube removed and started using a special bottle. By the last week of December she was cleared to start baby food at feeding therapy.

December was full of celebration; Kinsley turned 6 months old on her first Christmas.

Nick decided it was time to get me a promise ring, which he gave me on Christmas Eve.

We started our own Christmas Eve tradition.

My three absolute best friends made it all to the same place at the same time to spend an afternoon of baby snuggling, cookie baking and visiting together.

And on the very last day of the year, we had a family dinner with my mom and step dad Don, and nick’s mom and step dad Jim. It was a perfect way to end a year full of family times.

Now, if you’re still along for the ride, or if you just skipped to this part, we’re dont recounting everything that happened in 2017, and we can move forward to 2018.

As I mentioned before we took a trip down memory lane, in 2017 I learned that life can change drastically and when it does, there will be things you cannot control. As a result, I had to embrace the changes and learn to grow through what I go through. Using strength and bravery, I embraced our hardships to make me better, not bitter. The growth I experienced in 2017 is going to help shape my 2018.

In 2018 I’m going to remember “I have the power to create change.”
And it’s going to be my mantra.

It only makes sense that my 2018 mantra would evolve from my 2017 year. We were stretched, tested, pushed, and put through so much. And from that we grew. And grew, and grew, and grew.

And now that that’s all finished, we have to keep that in mind with 2018 and continue to grow through what we go through, because while hardship and unexpected changes are inevitable in life, we also have to make sure that we realize another thing heading into 2018 which is that we have the power to create change.

We’re going through things now that stemmed from the uncontrolled, and we can only grow from things we can’t control, but some of the strain caused us to make bad habits, or fall into crappy circumstances, and now it’s time to recognize that those things have to change, and we are the ones with the power to do it.

With our experiences with Kinsley being born, and the resulting financial hardships we endured and the debt we adopted, we need to go into 2018 with a mindset that we have the power to create change, to squash the debt and do what needs to be done to prevent further financial hardship.

Last year I learned to grow through what I go through. This year I’m reminding myself that I have the power to create change. And I’m already on the right path with the to-do’s I’ve completed, the frogs I’ve swallowed, and the changes I committed to in the last week. All those specifics with have to wait for another blogpost coming soon.

YOU HAVE THE POWER TO CREATE CHANGE, FOLKS.

Grab 2018 by the balls and make it your bitch. I’m gonna.

Cheers to 2018!

Holiday Shit storm.

Well, we’ve officially made it to the part of December where we endure the weird five day limbo stage between holidays.

Personally I love it, because new years eve/day is my favorite holiday. I really enjoy the in-between where things slow down just enough for me to cross off the final things on my “end of year to-do” list and then prepare everything I need to start the new year out fresh.

I love making plans for the new year, and the five day limbo is just long enough for me to do that. I feel motivated and excited for a fresh, clean slate, but that’s not always the case for everyone. The holidays are a hard time of year.

Let’s be real. December is a crazy month because it’s all about making big plans and meeting expectations. I’m sure you’re one of many who gets to the last page on the calendar feeling a little sluggish from Thanksgiving and all the shenanigans that come along with that, and then you begin to worry about if you’ll be able to meet expectations and do enough in December.

“Have I cooked enough? Have I cleaned enough? Decorated enough, gifted enough, visited enough, celebrated enough, seen enough, rested enough”…the list goes on. Whatever it is, it’s been floating around in your head for the last 28 days, and right now, as December is a mere three days from coming to a close, you’re probably still feeling like shit about your ability to meet expectations and wear 5 million hats during the holiday season.

Maybe you’re realizing you never used to feel this way, not up until the last few years.

I can explain that in two words: social media.

The holidays are already a difficult time, but they become increasing challenging when you’re staring, day in and day out, at everyone on your facebook and instagram pretending, not only that they are doing enough, but that their enough is easy and flawless.

I know you spent at least a few days looking at Suzy’s freshly published photo album on facebook, eyebrows furrowing at her immaculately decorated tree, pinterest-esqu living room, spotless dining set, and too-perfect family photos. With each swipe you feasted your eyes on another picture perfect photo and with every one the expectations grew and grew.

I know you did it. I did it too. And so did Suzy. Because we all fall victim to the comparison game, and that’s what social media is good for: making others jealous of their ability to pretend things are merrier than they actually are.

Here’s the thing though, for every perfect photo you see this holiday season, there is most definitely a disaster going on behind it.

I can promise you that Suzy’s cat probably knocked that immaculate tree down twice, and she had to sweep up the broken ornaments while her belligerent husband shouted and took swipes at the satisfied fuzzball. I’m almost positive that instead of hand crafting those living room decorations, she took out a small loan to fund her unnecessary show. And I can guarantee you that those family photos did not go as smoothly as all those rosy red cheeks would have you believe- minutes before the camera flashed, Suzy’s husband was probably bitching about how much he hates family photos, little johnny was wiping boogers on baby Madeline’s shirt as she screamed in horror and Suzy was sitting in her deodorant stained red sweater wondering why she wanted to go through with all this in the first place.

It’s not just her though. It was you too.

Uploading that photo of two wine glasses and a plate of cheese and crackers immediately following a huge fight with your boyfriend. Posting that status about how excited you were to see your parents when you were actually dreading being in their presence. Commenting on your mother in law’s post about family dinner explaining how delicious it was, when you actually placed your napkin over half the food you didn’t eat so no one would know you were throwing it away because the potatoes were lumpy, and you have never liked fruitcake. But it was all a show. Changing your profile picture to that angelic photo of your 11 month old who just shit all up her back 5 minutes ago and has begun regularly saying the word “shit”.

Don’t worry, it was me too.

I uploaded photos of the stockings I made when my mom was actually the one who bought the supplies because we’re too broke to afford dollar store materials. It was me when I posted photos of stuffed peppers that we made and only ate half of because I filled them too full and the beef wouldn’t cook through no matter how many extra minutes I put them in for. I added an album to facebook with photos of my tree that I purchased five days before Christmas from walmart for $20 with money I got from cans I returned from my dad’s canoe trip.

That’s right. Facebook saw the holiday card we sent out to family members, but they didn’t see the thank you note to the women’s resource center for paying my fall term tuition or the past due heat bill that went out with those holiday cards.

Yes, I admit it. I’m guilty too.

We’re all making sure our most highlighted moments make it to the facebook homepage face-tuned and photo-shopped because we’re trying to meet expectations set by others who are just as good or better at setting the bar for pretending.

Suzy, you, and me.

So before New Year’s eve, while we’re in this limbo thinking about our past year and making plans for the new year and/or just trying to stay afloat and keep swimming, let’s take some time to acknowledge this comparison game and take note of the shit storm that’s probably lurking behind every perfect photo we see.

Let’s assert that our life, too, is one wild moment after another- ripe, and beautiful and messy all wrapped in one, and that’s OKAY. We don’t need to be perfect all the time, and we shouldn’t feel like we have to make everyone think we’re perfect all the time. It’s perfectly okay to show the raw, unfiltered moments too.

All that being said, as you gear up for the last bit of the holiday season, whatever your major or minor struggle or unexpected circumstance: financial hardship, loss of a loved one, trouble with the law, mental illness, recent breakup, academic pressure, failed semester…whatever the case, keep it in the back of your mind and just be gentle.

Please remember that while it doesn’t always make the front headline, your friends and family are struggling, just like you. Commit to finishing the year out by going easy on yourself and on others.  Maybe take a break from social media. Maybe pledge to keep the last holiday of the year simple, and maybe follow that theme through 2018 to reduce the expectation/comparison game that had everyone chasing their tails in 2017.

Relax, give thanks, celebrate, count blessings, rest, enjoy, live (even if everything’s not perfect).

Merry everything and a Happy always from mine to yours.

xo