Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Holding myself accountable again. Let the fitness begin!

Like most of the world, I've decided to refocus on my fitness goals again. Winter break is over and it's the beginning of the year so here we go least until I fall off the wagon again. Hoping not too this time, but I'm human and life happens. I'm not normally a scale checker because it's really hard for me to gain weight and I only tend to fluctuate between 2 pounds, but I was pleasantly surprised that even I gained weight during the holidays. This really only happens when I'm pregnant and no I'm not pregnant. 

The problem with these few new pounds which I'm still excited about still is that they aren't muscle. I've been eating like crap for the past month. I mean I guess my eating wasn't too bad and the kids have well balanced meals, but I've consumed a lot of sugar over the holidays and lately my stomach has been sensitive to a lot of things. I'm getting bloated constantly! The extra weight has traveled to my stomach and lower half as it tends to do. Now I'm not really complaining, I know how lucky I am that I've birthed 4 babies, can eat whatever I want and still not gain weight. However I'm still a woman who wants to feel good in her skin, have the energy to run after her kids, and live a long healthy life...and I wouldn't mind the stomach pooch going away again.

 What I found that works for me now in my mid 30's is exercising 30 minutes 5-6 days a week. 30 minutes also works with the kids. This way I'm not taking up much of their time. I usually put some dance music on Pandora and they have a little dance party next to me. I also hate gyms. I'm fully aware though that workouts at home are not going to get me all the way to my goals without the proper equipment. When the time comes--when I'll want to add in more weights, then I guess I'll reluctantly drag my ass to the gym. Until then you'll catch me at home with my resistance bands and homemade weights.

The 30 minute workouts really do work. I started this regimen late 2016 and I had the beginning of abs after 8 weeks and my backside was tighter. I will say that it doesn't take me long to get back into shape. I'm not sure if it's genetics or muscle memory because I've been in sports since I was 7 years old. Most of the time I played soccer, but I also did volleyball, track, cross country and taekwondo. I haven't been on a team since Serena my oldest was 5 years old though. I am always on my feet though and stay active.

Here is a before those 8 weeks and 11 months postpartum with baby #4

I have specific exercises that I do that work for me that I got either from Youtube or Instagram. I'll share more on those in another post. A really popular program right now is Kayla Itsines BBG (Bikini body guide) program. From my understanding it's a 12 week program consisting of 28 minute workouts. I think she sells a ebook and there's an app you can use, but you can probably find all of the info you need for free online. I just started yesterday and this morning my abs and lower half is sore. That's a good thing and it will wear off once I've been doing my regimen for a few more days.

After my workout I drank a high fiber meal replacement with almond and coconut milk. I don't always drink this after a workout, but a few times a week. I don't use it as a meal replacement since it only has 250 calories anyways, but instead for the protein and extra calories. I have a very fast metabolism which is another reason I try to stay away from too much cardio. I'll be updating more along the way over the next few months. Also I recently got to test out a new Home DNA collection kit that is said to unlock the secret to achieving a healthy weight using insights from your own genetic code.

I should be getting my personalized report back in about 4 weeks where it will tell me how my protein, fat, and carbohydrates are utilized, exercise and strength training for my body type, and much more! I tried Home DNA's skin care analysis a few months ago and it was spot on! You can read my thoughts on it here. I've been very impressed with their products so far.

Have a great Tuesday!

Saturday, January 6, 2018

When your toddler still doesn't sleep through the night.

The kids are asleep so I fired up the rocket ship aka my laptop to finally get around to writing an update on Ava's sleep or lack of. Before I delve into that, you might be wondering why I call my laptop a rocket ship. It's so loud. I made the mistake mid last year of leaving a full glass of water next to my laptop while Ava was around. 

Never trust a 2 year old with a glass of water. Never. 

She climbed up on my chair when my back was turned because I had gotten up to put something away, and she just casually decides that she's going to take that glass of water and just dump it right into the keys of my laptop! I had just turned around as it was happening and I launched into a slow motion NNNOOoooooooooo........

I immediately tried to mop up the water with towels and I could hear the fan of the laptop get really loud and slowly start dying. I thought I had lost so many memories and business documents because I hadn't backed up in awhile, but miraculously it ended up working a few days later--minus the keyboard anyways. I have to use a cordless keyboard and mouse to use my laptop, but I'm just happy it works. H has his own and we have an old school computer as well so worse comes to worse I have a backup plan when this old thing goes kaput.

I digress, back to Ava. So she's currently 28 months old and she's still waking up every single night. I never imagined I'd still be sleep deprived 2 years later with one of my children. By far the worst sleeper of them all. The approach we took with Ava was just doing whatever it takes to get her and us back to sleep as quickly as possible. This back fired in the worst possible way. As with most breastfed babies, they tend to wake up more than formula fed babies. I nursed my other babies and I intended to nurse Ava well into 2 years old like I did baby #3. The problem was Ava was waking up 3-4 times a night. By 16 months I couldn't do it anymore. I needed sleep. I decided to cut out nursing and I was so afraid the night I decided to do it that I was going to be up constantly. It was surprisingly easy. I gave her a bottle of almond milk and she was out within 15 minutes. Shoot. I should have done it sooner. Right away her sleeping improved. A few days of waking up just twice and then down to once a night. The problem with that she's still waking up that "once a night" and she's over 2 years old. My next tactic was to move her out of our room and into Layla and Mariam's room. I did that in August I believe and it hasn't helped. She wakes up between 12:30 and 2:00 and starts crying for me. I get up quickly to get her as to not wake the other girls and then I bring her into our bed. For awhile we tried putting an air mattress in her room so H could help me out, and he could go get her and keep her in the room so I could sleep, but it didn't do much good. I would still hear her and she would want me. 

I was this close to paying $500 for a sleep trainer to come to my home, evaluate it and give me a detailed plan along with help along the way--minus her actually sleeping at my house, but my pediatrician told me to save my money and said "here's what you need to do". The problem is of course it involves some crying it out and H and I just aren't the crying it out type. Now that she's this big, it would have been harder anyways and would have taken longer. My biggest fear is that I'll put her through a week of torture and the rest of the family and it still won't work. She's stubborn this one and I'm convinced she hates sleep. Almost all of her naps (when she takes one) still consist of her waking up and crying. Like she's mad she actually fell asleep!

I'm sort of out of options here, but I've got one more tactic I can try. A friend mentioned not bringing her to my bed anymore when she wakes up. Like I know this but I haven't caught up on any sleep to try this. She mentioned getting a chair and when she wakes up, not pick her up and just pat her back down to sleep from my chair, not laying next to her. I didn't mention that when I put her to sleep the beginning of the night, I lay next to her--in her crib. Yep. It's bad. Well let me tell you how that one started. So yes I was doing whatever I could do to get her to go to sleep. As a newborn she started off in her bassinet and pack and play, but it somehow morphed into her co-sleeping in the middle of us. I wasn't comfortable with that since that's not what we did with the other girls, and I missed snuggling up to my husband. I started to put her in the crib, climb in there with her and nurse her to sleep. Basically getting her to sleep better was like taking one step forward and two steps back. 

The biggest problem here is I never trained her to put herself to sleep on her own. I missed the boat. If you're expecting heed my advice. Don't miss that boat. While I'm tired every day, my body has grown accustomed in some ways. One thing that doesn't adjust much is your mindset though. Being sleep deprived means I have to keep my moods in check. While I still do a lot, everything including regulating emotions is 5x harder when you are tired. I keep waiting for the day where I'll get a small break where she'll sleep through the night and I'll wake up not feeling tired. She has only slept through the night 6 times in her whole life. I used to google ways to get her to sleep when she was a baby, but haven't looked up much about toddlers that don't sleep through the night. I've never been in these shoes before! So I guess I've got some homework to do and I need to try some new things. If nothing else works well I hope when she's around 3, I can implement some sort of reward chart that entails staying in her room and not waking up mommy and daddy. 

She's so lovable though. As tired as I am, there are some nights I welcome feeling her fluffy curls next to my face and having her pick at my nails as she likes to do while drifting off to sleep. I know only too well just how fast they grow up. As tired as I am, I know I'll look back on these days and miss them. 

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Hello 2018....Goodbye 2017!

I really should be in bed already because we all know Ava is going to wake up in a few hours and disrupt my sleep as she does night, after night, but my mind is still feeling pretty active right now. I'd probably be working, or just be laying in my bed watching season 2 of Crown right now, so now is a good time to get some thoughts out.

This year I've decided not to make any resolutions. Last year I said I was going to relax more and let things go and here's what happened. I went the complete opposite of that. I was the opposite of zen. Zen was nowhere to be found. I was in fact worse than ever. I over scheduled and over committed myself. I took on my hardest DIY projects yet. I became even more OCD about keeping the house clean and company ready. Everything had to be handmade and homemade and while I love doing all this stuff, I truly do, I was becoming fanatic about it sometimes. When you're dealing with children, you can't always control them like you think you can, or get them to do things your way. They're these loud, lovable things that have minds of their own. My nature normally gravitates towards peace and quiet but I also have a type A personality. So crafting or cleaning, or making things beautiful is me being able to control things again. 

So while I'm not making any firm resolutions this year in my personal life, I have already made some changes. I'm remembering to just take deep breaths again. I am relaxing more. I don't want my girls to feel like they have to be perfect and do all things perfect. That's not what life is about. They don't now anyways because they are still little (minus Serena) but I don't want them later on down the road to be so hard on themselves like I am on myself. There's so much more to my story that makes me who I am, and has shaped me into being capable of all that I do, but there's things in my past I'm just not comfortable sharing on the internet. It is what it is, but what's awesome about life is that it keeps going and you never know just what's around the corner. Each day you wake up is a chance to do better and be better. Aside from being manic mommy at times, 2017 was really good. I'm excited about what 2018 is going to bring. There are new goals I've set for my business and I'm excited about seeing the plans come to action.

So if you've been a reader for the past few years--thanks for sticking around. I've shared a lot of pictures in the past, but there's not been a whole lot of personal posts. I want to write more about what goes on in my head and share more things about the beauty and the hardship of struggling to be your own person and be a mother to several children. 

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Disney trip Part 2! Magic Kingdom

I'm going to be completely honest here, I've been dragging my feet writing this second post because I let so much time go by already! I haven't even been posting about Christmas festivities because I felt like I had to write about our trip to Magic Kingdom next because I said I would. Haha! I'm going to try to keep this brief so I can move onto other things I want to talk about at this point. So if you're new, I'd refer to my last post here about our first trip to Disney World and some info on how we survived the trip with 4 kids, 3 under 6. I'm still laughing at myself thinking they were going to be the best behaved kids because it's Disney World. 

Ha. Joke was on me. 

Anyhow here are some pictures. I have to say I was in major awe of Cinderella's castle. It's even more beautiful in person than just the pictures. I had also never seen it lit up for the holidays so that was a real treat. 

Why yes. Yes that is my kid throwing a tantrum in Cinderella's castle...


The rides were great and again like Epcot, we didn't have to wait more than 15 minutes for a ride because we got there as soon as it opened. My two year old really loved small world. It was so cute! We still have more tickets we need to use and want to visit the other parks, but want to go when it's slow. We're thinking late January or early February to visit the other parks.

I hope everyone had a great Christmas and if I don't post before then, Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Our first trip to Disney World! Serena sings at Epcot!

A few months ago Serena informed us that her and her church choir were invited to sing at Epcot's candlelight processional. We had no plans this year to go to Disney World with 3 small children under 6. In fact the mere thought of waiting in long lines in the Florida heat sounded a lot like torture to me. However there was no way I was going to miss my big girl singing at Disney World! No way no how! Not to mention the event was going to be in late November so the weather was going to be nice in Orlando. H and I decided that we were just going to have to go this year, and that is what we did on November 25th. We woke up at the crack of dawn that day and made the almost 3 hour drive with the little ones thinking we were going to Naples. We surprised them just as we were approaching the sign. It was sooo foggy that they couldn't see anything so the enthusiasm was a bit anti-climatic, but oh well. They were happy once they were there. 

Just look at this fog! 

Before going, trying to figure out Disney seemed challenging and overwhelming at first. I kept hearing about fast passes. Do we pay for fast passes? How do fast passes work? Were we going to have to wait 1 to 2 hours in lines just to ride a few rides? How the heck are we going to keep our kids entertained for that long? Is it going to be hot? Is it going to be cold? Do I bring one stroller, two strollers, or a double stroller? Can I bring food in? I had a lot of questions!

Luckily my planner husband informed me of the my Disney app and scheduled the fast passes and I joined a Disney mom Facebook group that I was able to read here and there before our trip. Let me back up and explain the candlelight processional first. It's a holiday event held at Epcot every year that tells the story of Christmas by a celebrity narrator, and accompanied by a 50 piece orchestra and massed choir. You do not need a special event ticket to attend, but you can enjoy guaranteed seating by purchasing a candlelight dining package. We ended up booking a candlelight dining package at restaurant Marrakesh in Morocco just to be on the safe side. 

Next year if Serena plans on singing again we probably won't book a dining package so we could sample more foods and desserts from the different worlds instead. The dining package was pretty expensive but the food was really really good complete with music and belly dancing. Mariam even got up to dance at one point. She loves to dance in public this kid. We made our reservation early so we'd have plenty of time to walk to the gardens theater. We showed up just as the line was getting long but only waited about 15 minutes before they started letting us in for the 5pm show. We had really good seats up front right before the reserved seating. I really enjoyed the show and Serena really loved being a part of it though she said it was really hot in the robes and the stage lights shining on her. The music was fantastic and we can't wait to do it again. I'm going to back up now and answer some of the questions and concerns I had in case you're reading this and you have small children, and if you're reading this--you probably do have small children because it's mainly a mommy blog haha!

 Do you pay for fast passes and how do they work? No you don't pay for them. You can schedule 3 at a time. We figured out a really good system that worked for us. We went during a busy time (the weekend after Thanksgiving) but still never waited in line for more than 15-20 minutes. Most of our wait times were only about 10 minutes. What you want to do is get there as soon as it opens. If you're not a morning person. I'm sorry but get your butt up anyways or you're going to miss out on a bunch of good rides. We accomplished a lot before noon. So what we did is if one of the lines for rides we had fast passes on was short then we would cancel the fast pass and book something else. It's really pretty simple. Get the app. Use the app. Makes your life easier. I thought it was really cool that each ride lists the wait times for standby and fast passes.

Do you have to wait 1 to 2 hours in lines just to get on a ride? No, but it's possible you might....if you enjoy waiting in long lines for a ride. In the words of that famous meme: "Ain't nobody got time for dat!" I'm sorry but I'm not waiting hours in line for a 10 minute ride, much less with several children in tow. No thanks! I'd much rather miss out and do something else. 

How the heck do you keep your kids entertained in a long line? Again, we didn't have to wait more than 10-15 minutes, but that one 20 minute line was a bit challenging. I had actually stopped at Dollar Tree a few days before to buy them a few coloring books and projects but of course I forgot to bring them. When my toddler or 5 year old weren't trying to run away they were entertained by what was around them. A lot of the lines have interactive things along the way and there is much for their small eyes to take in.

Is it going to be hot? Is it going to be cold? We went November 25th on a Saturday and it was really cold in the morning. Bring a heavy sweater or light weight jacket. Basically dress in layers because around 1 pm that day I was sweating! When that suns hits you watch out. As the sun goes down during this time it gets cold again. I'll tell you what, during the afternoon when the sun was the hottest, I really thought about the die hard Disney fans that come out in summer. Holy bajeebus, how do they not roast! I imagine it gets wicked hot.

Do I bring one stroller, two strollers, or a double stroller? We brought 2 strollers. One for my 2 year old and one for my 4 year old. I know how my 4 year old gets having to take long walks so she needed one for sure. She used it every chance she got too lemme tell you. I pushed one and H pushed another. It worked out great. A double stroller can get pretty hard to navigate among the large crowds. 

Can I bring food in? Yes! I was happy to hear this because my girls like to snack. We brought small halo mandarins, apples, ritz crackers, wheat thins and water. They really came in handy!

Our experience at Epcot was pretty great. Due to having to drop Serena off to her group at a certain time and then meeting back up with H and a couple of the girl's, I didn't get to see all of the park, but what I did see was pretty amazing. Even though I had read up on the park. Seeing it in person is so much different than I imagined. I really enjoyed the different worlds and wish I could have seen all of them. I would love to go back and explore the shops and just eat and drink--preferably with no kids in tow. Speaking of kids. Let me just warn you now since nobody warned me. Disney World is wonderful, dreamy, basically all that and a bag of chips, but don't expect your children to behave any different then they normally do anywhere else. Boy was I in for a rude surprise because I walked in with the expectation that they were going to be little angels because it's the happiest place on earth and they were going to be so happy! Ha! Mariam tried to run away like 4 times. Ava tried to squirm out of the lines several times. A few little tantrums were thrown in for good measure. Taking several small children under 6 to Disney can be overwhelming but despite the stress at times, it's still worth it!

The rides were fun for the whole family and it was neat to find out that Epcot is also sustainable. They have several large greenhouses (2.5 million sq ft) which not only produce much of the food for Epcot inhabitants, but has been forefront of experiments with high tech and high yield indoor plant growing techniques. The living with the land ride takes you through some of this. 

We didn't get to ride a ton of rides due to our dining plans and Serena's performance, but I'd have to say my favorite was Spaceship earth. It's a great one for the whole family and even though Ava was a bit nervous of rides that spent some time in the dark, she actually loved this one! Layla and Mariam also really enjoyed the gran fiesta tour and they really enjoyed meeting the characters. We stayed till closing and the next day went to Magic Kingdom. I can't wait to share some of those pictures. Cinderella's castle was so beautiful and they enjoyed meeting the princesses. Now my little ones are obsessed with all things Disney! Next thing you know they are going to ask me to transform their room into a magical kingdom. A good place to start for furniture for that transformation would be here at Stay tuned for my next post on our day at Magic Kingdom.

Have a great day!

Friday, December 1, 2017

Holiday cards made easy with Minted!

If  you've ever been on the hunt for invitations, I'm sure you've heard of Minted. They are the 
crème de la crème of personalized invitations and stationery. Aside from that they also have home decor, art, gifts, and more!

I recently had the opportunity to try for the first time and I am impressed! It's been several years since we've sent out Holiday photo cards and I didn't want to miss that boat again this year. We normally take our own family pictures, but this year we had our family pictures taken by the vary talented fine art portraiture photographer Caitlyn Bom. We had our pictures taken by the beach earlier this year and have a few of the shots hanging in our house. We absolutely wanted to share a photo with our close friends and family so holiday cards are going out for sure. has really just thought about everything in the ordering process. Not only is it easy to filter the cards based on your photos, price, or printing, there is also a wide variety of customization once you select the card. From suggestions to adding postage to complimenting your design or adding recipient addressing, they've thought of it all! Having numerous birthday parties year round with 4 children, I've used a few different photo card services and I have to say is by far the easiest and most user friendly experience I've ever had. The ordering process was so fast and simple. The part that took the longest was just picking a card. It was really hard to choose because they are all so beautiful!

The cards came with free envelopes and you can choose from several color accompanying linings such as gold, glitter gold, silver foil at an additional cost. You can also easily move your personalized text around and pick different fonts. I'm just really impressed by Minted. They were kind enough to offer me a chance to shop around and one of the things I selected were holiday cards. I went with a simple holiday foil pressed card.

I'm completely addicted to foil gold, shiny gold. Anything gold!

I debated between uploading a picture of just the girls, or all of us. I settled on just the girls. Our families would have loved either one for sure, but there's something so sweet about just seeing children on cards. It really is the secret ingredient in holiday cards. Getting your children to pose for a family picture is not always that simple. In fact sometimes they act completely silly and you just have to roll with it. Check out Minted's article for a creating a great funny kid holiday card here.

I can't wait to get my cards in! Once I do I'll be sure to share them in a separate post. Have a great weekend!

Thank you Minted for sponsoring this post. All wording, and opinions are my own.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Tuesday talk: Catching up edition

I never got around to sharing Mariam's 5th birthday pictures, Serena's 15th birthday pictures or Thanksgiving pictures--which thankfully too much time hasn't passed since then. There just isn't enough hours in the day! I'm going to need longer days around here. Instead of writing individual posts at this point, I'm just going to combine everything and catch ya'll up on the latest.

Mariam turned 5!

Our 3rd baby turned 5 on November 5th! Originally I was going to throw her a big party, but with big sister's birthday just one week later--who also wanted a party, it was just going to be too difficult for me to pull off. I can throw parties together successfully at the last minute, but I've been so exhausted lately and there was just too much going on in life. Serena convinced Mariam we should just do something low-key, just the family, and she was happy with the idea. For her pictures, I bought one single lilac balloon and cut some flowers from my lawn and attached them with tape. For the number 5, I first made a 5 out of floral wire and twisted the same type of flowers around the wire. I cut out small pieces of wire to serve as clips on some pieces of the flowers. Floral wire is a great thing to keep in your craft box year round. There are a lot of things you can make with it.

Serena turned 15!

I can't believe she's 15! Our girl is so big. We have been blessed with an amazing teenager and I'm just so thankful for her! We didn't really do a theme--since she's a big girl, but we did have a color scheme. She wanted white, caribbean blue and silver. The decorative highlight were the big 36 inch white balloons. Those were the first items purchased and I worked around that. I'll link the sources below. I originally had planned on having 8 balloons floating above the pool, but Party City forgot to blow one up and one popped on the way home. It was quite an adventure getting them home along with several small ones I purchased. I had to make 2 trips since I didn't want to crowd them in my SUV. 

Right before I was ready to get them in the pool, I attached silver foil tassels to them. I purchased the tassels on Etsy, but next time I'll just get them from Target. They had similar ones but more full and already assembled. Plus they were cheaper! You must be wondering what is holding them in the pool. Originally I had planned on buying balloon weights but I would have needed two each. Instead I cut 6 fabric squares out, made 4 holes and placed rocks inside. I had also cut 4 holes by each corner to tie the balloon string through. It worked like a charm! I had several other decor I had purchased but didn't get any good individual pictures of them. Serena had a great time at her pool party with her friends and I'm so glad she enjoyed herself. 

36 inch party balloons: Wrapping me up
Silver foil tissue tassel kit: Paper supply station
Silver foil "party" sign: Shop Celebration Lane

FHJ Baby turns 5!

Time sure does fly. Thankful for another year in business and getting to do what I love. It's not easy trying to juggle a family of 6 and run a business, but I've hung in there. The past two years have definitely been challenging with Ava still not sleeping through the night, but hopefully she will one day. I'm also so proud to announce that one of my products was featured in another magazine! Pregnancy & Newborn magazine featured one of the bibs in their November issue.

FHJ Baby bib: Charlotte white lace

Thanksgiving 2017!

Last week we celebrated Thanksgiving on our own again with no family. No relatives were in town and we thought we wouldn't put any pressure on ourselves by inviting any friends. With our family size, we really are our own party sometimes ha-ha! We did a traditional turkey with all the fixings and I'm happy to say we just threw out the last of our turkey last night. One can only eat turkey for so may days amiright?!

I made an apple pie as I always make every Thanksgiving, but this time I made a decorative lattice top. It was soooo much easier than I thought it was going to be and it turned out great!

H cooked 90% of Thanksgiving dinner including some delicious sourdough bread from scratch. Like the yeast starter and everything. He's gotten really good at breads now. 

I think I've covered the highlights in the past few months. We just wrapped up our first trip to Disney World this past weekend so I'll be writing about our trip this week.

Have a great Tuesday!