Celebrating the End of the Whole30 with All Day Day Drinkin

Ah ha! Here we are in MAY which means that our Whole30 Diet is done – mostly. There is this reintroduction phase that is supposed to last a while, but we don’t got time for that.

Did we make it you ask? Yes, but each with one notable cheat. Chester’s started with an innocent kickball game and ended with 2 shotgunned beers. Mine was much more shameful and started with an innocent pancake lunch for the girls and ended in me eating a somewhat burnt, plain pancake in a corner of the kitchen.

After thinking about nothing but not eating sugar for the past month I honestly didn’t feel much like writing about it on my time off. But here is what we learned:

The food is good! I mean food is good so as long as there was sugar free food around and the ‘bad’ food was out of sight we were pretty happy.

Meal prep is a full time job. Well it became my full time job.

The way to Chester’s heart is a warm meal. I mean I knew this already but never has he been more appreciative than when he gets 3 hot prepared meals for him with a fork on the plate.

There is such thing as too much zucchini and beds of lettuce greens. This was true for Chester at least.

You do lose weight. Though not the real point of the Whole30, I think I would have given up if I didn’t see results. Chester is down about 20 lbs and I am down about 10 (lucky men).

You feel better. This may also be because of my more regular work out routine. But my back doesn’t ache when I get up and I go to sleep easier. I may even yell at the kids less … but I have no proof of that.

You could live on eggs and avocado. I believe that the avocado overload may have added to a stopped up system. I probably had on average a half an avocado and one egg per day on this diet.

I am not good at taking pictures of food or waiting to eat food so I can take a picture or plating pretty plates before I eat them. I tried, but this is all I got in the 30 days. Most of it just looks like piled up food on top of lettuce.

If you want to do it. I would do a practice 2 weeks where you stock up on veggies and meat and also get rid of all the bad things in your house. Then meal plan a meat and veggie dish once a day if you can and eat off it for leftovers for your other meals. Is really the simplest that I can put it.


Things that Happened This Week (past 2 weeks really) … LOTS! 

Chester made us a picnic table.

Chester filled my planter box that he made with dirt and compost.

Chester planned a surprise birthday party day for me which included brunch at La Bonne Bouchee, girls winery trip at Chandler Hill, dinner at Sen Thai, crazy adventure at the Escape Room and night cap drinks at the Four Seasons Roof. All with people that I love the most in this world including MY SISTER that came from Lawrence to surprise me after I have been complaining that I haven’t seen her in so long.

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Basically Chester has killin it in the husband department the last few weeks.


Grandma Lori was our first over night visitor and our yard is shaping up for summer entertaining.

The girls also celebrated a birthday with G-Pa with ice cream of course.

And finally we got to celebrate the newest member of the family’s baptism and Brody turning 6. The kids had an awesome time playing with their cousins.

Easter 2016 – Are We Lying to Our Kids?

Vivienne is at the age where every other sentence from her mouth is a question. And if she doesn’t like or understand your answer she just repeats the question (this may be hereditary). Nothing brings more questions than the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus. I mean a bunny that comes around to every house and hides the eggs that you dyed days before and also comes with his own eggs filled with surprises ….And a jolly old man that flies around in a sleigh pulled by reindeer, comes down your chimney and puts presents under the tree? Who wouldn’t have questions? And we haven’t even touched on the Tooth Fairy yet. The question she asked over and over is “Where IS the Easter Bunny?” Like she wants a visual of him either underground in a den or does he live in a house? The point is that we can no longer gloss over these big characters with out some explanations and answers.

Easter at our Gym – Korte Rec Center which is kind of like my lifeline, childcare, only prospect for adult social interaction I get in a day.

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Since Chester and I are not really religious these holidays become more about the traditions and spending time with family than a Christian meaning. Neither of us had traumatizing childhood memories of knowing “the truth.” But Chester is pretty black and white about the fact that we are lying to the kids when we talk about the Easter Bunny and Santa. I am pretty sure he wants to tell the kids “the truth” asap.

I am on the other side where I believe that facilitating and even encouraging the magic of these holidays is something that parents do out of love. But I am conscious that the kids get spoiled by their grandparents … all of them … and so at home I want to have a few meaningful traditions then all the presents and candy can come from the Easter Bunny who has conspired with their grandparents. 

Easter at G-Ma & G-Pa Walton’s

I am sure that I am not the first parent who has come to a crossroads where I want to have these stories in the kids lives but don’t want to push it down their throats and also not feel guilty about lying to them. There are how-to articles to broach subject and also this one that came up in my feed recently about a mom that now regrets telling her 4 year old “the truth” about Santa and the Easter Bunny.

I have decided to try to keep Chester’s desire for the truth at bay for now and see what questions come from Vivi and Ellen. Vivi isn’t obsessed about any fictitious character yet, so I am not too concerned. Don’t get me wrong, we love Easter. I just want to do a good job keeping a balance between this huge chocolate holiday and their expectations. I think of it as retelling a story and instead of pages they are real events in their lives. Fear not, for now their little heads are filled with the Easter bunny and I think that’s how it should be.  

Easter at Great Grandma and Great Grandpa Koeller’s

Bonus that I got to meet and hold this little snuggler, my newest nephew Zeke. He loves me obviously.

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Our First Real Family Vacation

I’m not sure why this one was kind of hard for me to get through. Maybe because I was deciding how much to whine and complain as we are making these magical memories with the girls. Or how much should be about Vivienne’s third birthday when it was only a small part of the trip. Or probably the main reason which is because we have been watching “House of Cards” while putting off real life adult responsibilities while eating a bonus size box of Snickers ice cream bars, it has been glorious. Anyway …

While we have been places with the kids, when we have traveled overnight it has always been either with family or going to visit family. Since I quit my job at the end of February and Chester doesn’t start his job until mid-March we have this sweet sweet time together that we probably won’t have for a while without burning vacation. And the time is sweet don’t get me wrong, but when you have spent all days with your family it can be teeth grinding trying to savor all this time together.

So with a bit of tax return monies, two kiddos and a packed mini van we headed down to the Gulf Shores of Alabama. It also just so happened to be Vivienne’s third birthday.

From our house this is an 11 hour drive. With a 2 and 3 year old this is a 17 hour drive. We woke up at 3:30am to finish packing the car and left about 4:45am with the kids in jammies. The ride was rain the whole way down which meant that Chester drove the it all … and the alternative of being on child duty in the passenger’s seat catering to every dropped stuffed animal or sticky hand to the condo about 9:30pm. The first thing Vivi said when she got out of the car with a distasteful look on her face is “where is the beach.” She was not on the beautiful sandy beaches that we promised, instead a windy cold parking lot is where we took her and she was none the too happy.

We did a pretty good job packing for the kids. With a bin of toys, books, and tablet holders. We also meal planned with some frozen casseroles and some groceries for easy lunches and spaghetti. We did have to go to the store for some staples but didn’t have to do a huge trip and worry about not finding sand toys. The van was full but I wouldn’t say we overpacked. You just need a lot more stuff traveling with kids than without.

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It was pretty chilly with the warmest it hit was about 70 degrees, but it really didn’t rain at all during the day. On most days we did two beach trips. The beach is the perfect family trip when you don’t have a huge budget to go other places and when the kids are so young that doing excursions can be more of a pain than what they are worth. We went to one restaurant there called Lulu’s where there was a big sand pit that the girls played in before and after we ate. We also got them on a boat for a dolphin sight seeing ride. They weren’t that active but we did see a few. The girls did okay on this 1.5 hour ride, with the help of some emergency candy. Vivi got a happy birthday from a boat full of strangers and we saw 3 dolphins, which one passenger pointed out was for Vivi’s three years being alive. Chester always tries to find the most child friendly hike. We did a short boardwalk hike at the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge and assured to Vivienne that there probably wouldn’t be a crocodile, but maybe ….

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Vivienne’s birthday consisted of 1 blue princess dress (which was actually from Halloween but we decided to keep it from her so she would be an explorer for Halloween, which was a wash anyway because both girls were sick), 1 very pink cake, candles in every meal, sprinkles in every meal, a tea party on the beach complete with an Olaf tea pot, souvenir presents – a fancy shell and flower bracelet. She is an amazing 3 year old

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Overall it was a complete success — we all made it out alive and we can now talk to Vivienne about the beach and she totally knows what it is. Now it is back to real life. Chester will start working (thank God) and I will be getting used to full time with the girls and planning what is next for me as a person … because I really have no idea.

Things that Happened This Week

  • Ellen went a tiny pee pee in the potty.
  • Ellen did a big poo poo in the bathtub.
  • Vivi called daddy a “penis monster” he was not too happy about this.
  • Ellen’s favorite books right now “Cookie’s Week” “Goodnight Moon”
  • Vivi’s favorite books right now NOT “Cookie’s Week.” It’s probably “Where the Side Walk Ends”

Amazon Purchases
We moved and found an exorbitant amount of change everywhere! As a child I remember that we used to help roll my dad’s change and it was so fun and also our first introduction to counting money. I wish that I had the old counters that we used, but these were the closest that I could find.

2015 Christmas Craze – Bows, Giggles, Throw-up, Car Naps & All Things Christmas!

Whew the holidays have flown by. Partly because we were also focused on Chester’s Graduation and partly because we have 2 crazy girls to run after. I said to Chester it literally (he hates that word) takes 2 adults working full time, non stop to make anything happen around Christmas. I now fully understand the tired mom that I remember on Christmas morning. The holidays are so busy for everyone, this year it felt so fun and we love most all moments with the girls. We are also in pretty good moods since Chester has been done with school and its fun to talk about our future … where ever it may take us.

Christmas #.5 – Lori & Karen Christmas
This one happened back in October when Grandma Lori and Grandma Karen came over. They brought these amazing pillow pads and also their ever famous box of cookies came in December complete with fudge and Christmas jammies for the kids.

Christmas #1 – Friends Christmas
This is the first year in maybe 3 years that we have not hosted a Christmas for all of our friends. We were so happy that our friends Tom & Jay decided to host a white elephant in Shaw. They do it up right complete with pomegranate sparkly goodness. This is an important Christmas for Chester and I to do Christmas away from the kids and have our own fun.

Christmas #2 – Nay Christmas
We do Christmas with Chester’s parents and brothers and sisters the Saturday before Christmas. We actually added another grandbaby, Zeke who was born in December, however we missed Katie’s family for Zeke to spend his first Christmas safely at home. Zeke evens out the grandkids with 5 girls and 5 boys now.

The kids did a secret santa for the first time because there are TEN of them! So that made things go a little faster. We also did a super white elephant for our exchange this year which included a horse head (this actually made an appearance at our first white elephant also), Kate Spade bag, 2 sleeping bags, an old fishing box, may survival supplies and of course a can of squid (did I mention that the theme was nighttime?). Next year our theme is accessory/ies. We got a Ninja from Blake and Robin which Chester was under-thrilled about but we brought it home and he/we LOVE it. The kids I don’t think have eaten that many veggies in one serving ever. Drinkable Kale? Yes please.

The night ended with the most delicious beef tenderloin. Our kids are just barely old enough that they can be okay walking around by themselves so they would stop by for pieces of roll and then run off again.

Christmas #3 – Koeller Christmas Eve
This is our fancy Christmas at Chester’s Grandma and Grandpa Koeller house in Quincy. The girls wear tights* and dresses and there are Christmas ties. Also this is the best place for wine tasting, shrimp cocktail (which I love), oysters (which I hate), and clam chowder (which I love). Even though we don’t see this side of the family often I really think its important that we see them so the kids know they have this awesome extended family that loves them and are really interested and invested in their future and happiness.

Christmas #4 – Family Christmas Morning
On Christmas Eve Eve Chester and I stayed up until about 2 am making bread (well Chester does that) and I had gotten this doll house furniture that is actually a 3D puzzle. I should have done it weeks ago when it came in, but of course I thought it would only take a few hours. Inbetween bread making Chester peaked over and said “no” I am not doing that, but then after about 20 minutes it comes over and works with me on this for maybe 3 hours putting it all together for me while I painted.

When we got back from Qunicy the house was a mess of course. So we did a pick up, oh and I ran out to get a few last minute items for my family. I just barely avoided the news crew setting up to do their bit about last minute holiday shoppers in Target.

But of course it was worth it when we got everything ready and the kids woke up happy. I continued the tradition of giving them a book first thing like my mom did. We aren’t necessarily against Santa, but we aren’t all about making Christmas about Santa. And we are definitely not Elf on the Shelf people, nothing against the people that do it, but I can’t get excited about it right now. I will never say never, but I don’t want to. We feel the same way about Santa that we do about Disney Princess — not our most favorite, but if the girls love it we are encouraging and let them do their thing.

Christmas #5 – Walton Christmas Day
This is a fun day for me because it brings back all the memories of my own childhood Christmases. Probably because we come back to my childhood house and with the kids now my mom has brought back all those traditions that come flooding back when I see her do them with Vivienne and Ellen. Mom must buy one present everyday during the year. And ever year she said she is cutting back, but I don’t think its possible for her.

The girls love their G-Ma.

AND MORE CHRISTMAS because we love it!

Christmas’ with Babies! 

AND Last but Not Least, SANTA

2015 Holiday Season is Here!

The holidays are here and we are a pretty happy bunch! While October was our sickest month in the history of our little family, these days we are all breathing easy.

What an amazing holiday Thanksgiving is, centered around family and food, what could be better? We spent the day with the Koeller side in New Canton, IL. It was a beautiful day (like 70 degrees) and we enjoyed the ride.

Friday we did our Walton Thanksgiving and Aunt Miranda spent the night. I look forward to my mom’s spread each year. She has it down to a science and it got me thinking about asking for a Thanksgiving dinner for my birthday.

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And for the first year ever we got out Christmas tree the weekend after Thanksgiving and it is here! We opted for Bayers down the street instead of an all day excursion to a farm since rain was in the forecast. I think we can handle the cold but cold and wet with the babies, no thank you. So next year I think. The girls had a great time in their new boots especially Ellen who love trouncing through the puddles.

Vivi kept asking about the ornaments on the tree after we put it up, so while we were going to wait to put them on when they went to bed, we did it after dinner with them. I am glad that we did. Vivi kept asking if they were toys and while she couldn’t quite hang them on the tree, she did a good job handing them to us. We have about a million “Baby’s First Christmas” ornaments, which I love. As a kids I didn’t like getting ornaments and didn’t understand why my mom and Grandma Em kept giving them to us, but not as we have our own tree I totally get it. And love that we have so many from both our sides of the family. Each one is like a little piece of history or personality that we get to rediscover each year.

With the holidays sometimes I am in a rush to start family traditions and I have to remind myself to slow down and enjoy the girls as they are just coming into their own little people. I think we can all get caught up in a perfect picture that we have in our head then are disappointed when it doesn’t end up the way we planned, which it rarely does. So the Christmas tree farm will wait another year.

Chester’s graduation is just around the corner and we are getting excited to have him home mostly. Also school related, Vivi got into Wilkinson Early Childhood Center, a magnet school in the SLPS district for the 2016/2017 school year. It was our second choice in the lottery but free preschool? YES sign us up!

And… if you’ve made it to the end, here is a longish video from tonight that is full of little girl laughter that is the best thing in the world. Ellen also sings you a book :)

You Win Some, You Lose Some, On Halloween We Lost

The three words that I would use to describe our Halloween would be:

1) crying
2) snot
3) anguish

Halloween Day
We knew Ellen wasn’t going to make it out trick-or-treating. We didn’t go to the kids fall festival the night before. She had been running a fever and was pretty miserable all day on Halloween. But Vivi was bouncing around, running errands with dad, saying she was sick just to get a taste of medicine and getting excited about seeing her cousins. For the past few weeks we have really been trying to play up her costume as a bug catcher. Since its not the princess that she would say she wants to be. It does help that she likes Dora the Explorer so we say that she is going to be kind of like her. We were winning! She was telling people happily that she was going to be a bug catcher like Dora.

Preparation
Ok so we start the process of getting ready for the night that means new diaper, going potty, getting outfits and shoes and socks on, packing jammies and a plethora of other things that all parents know to well about what it takes for everyone to get out the door with everything they need and want. Vivi actually put on her explorer boots that I had strategically put high up so she could see them but not reach them making them more desirable than a pair of boys brown boots otherwise would be. And it worked, Still Winning she put them on and seemed to love them. We only had to use one sucker to get her out the door happy (we also consider that a win at this point in the day).

The Car Ride to Nana’s 
Ok so here is where things begin to take a turn. Ellen falls asleep right away, WIN! Vivi is jabbering away which soon turns into a whining … so car songs! Which then makes her yell “NO! Not that one” and “Stop singing that” in general “NOOO nnooo NO! No! nononooooo.” But this can be usual car behavior for a 2 year old. Put her in a room full of cousins and food and doating grandparents, which was our plan, and she can surly turn it around. Well not this time.

HALLOWEEN
For some reason it seems like its my kids that are the most crying and terrible of all the kids of the family. It may just feel like that but recently I thinks its been true that one of my kids seems not happy when we visit the family. This time was no different they were both clingy and sickish and not happy. And when candy bribing didn’t work, tv shows didn’t work, other cousins being happy didn’t work, the promise of all the candy in the world didn’t work we knew that we were in for it. Vivi also was saying that her ear hurt, but later when we got home said that it magically felt better … which didn’t help. They were both pretty pitiful and as Chester and I ate stuffed our face between cries it was apparent that the situation was not getting better.

Decision Time
At this point we could have tried to force Vivienne in her costume for the awful crying picture and then see if she would actually go out the door to trick-or-treat with the other kids. We could have put her in a room by herself to see if she would calm down or we could do what we did which was stuff all our things in our bag, give “I hope you understand” looks (especially to my mom who made a ton of food, did bags for all the kids, then I left her and my dad after seeing them for about a half an hour with Chester’s family) and goodbye hugs to the family, and back in the car and home we went.

Car Ride Home
Well Vivi fell asleep right away (aftermath Win, maybe) … but Ellen basically cried the whole way home and got herself so worked up that she threw up as we were blocks away from our house. We did bath for both girls, gave them each a dose of Tylenol and into bed they went for awhile at least ….

Night Time/Next Day
Well its all a little fuzzy but I believe that Ellen came out of her room to sleep with one of us on the couch around midnight maybe? Then somehow Vivi woke up at around 3 am and decide that it was morning. She was bothering Chester on the couch to dress her, which was waking up Ellen which is when I woke up to call her into the bedroom where I helped her get dressed. We don’t have an alarm clock (we did but it always gets unplugged from little hands) so I had no idea what time it was. I guess Chester figured it out the time, that brilliant man, and back to bed Vivi went — fully dressed. At that time I think is when Chester plopped into bed with me along with Ellen. And there we slept until 7 am and our day began. But that’s a whole 3 hours stretch (win?)

That brings us to today, Sunday, the day after Halloween, and also day light savings. Vivi did pretty good today and very happy that there is so much juice around since we are giving Ellen any kind of fluid that she will drink. Ellen has been weepy eyed and still has a temperature the last time we checked. But we did manage to get into our costumes which didn’t happen at all yesterday and got a few pics. Ellen was a butterfly, Vivi the bug catcher, and mom and dad the flowers.

NOW :: 8 pm
Thank god Chester was here during the worst of it (hopefully) BUT he is now driving the almost 4 hour drive away from us to Danville, IL to a full nights sleep. I on the other hand write this while Ellen is waking up about every 20 minutes. Poor Ellen, poor me.

Happier Halloweens are definitely in our past and our future I think!

The Pilgrimage to Washington with Two Babies for the Second Time

Taking the girls to the grocery store sometimes seems like a marathon — by the end I am sweating and exhausted and wondering what I would do if Schnucks did not offer free cookies for kids. Well then taking them to Washington state from Missouri was an olympic event. We learned from our first trip out and were armed with an endless supply of lollipops, fruit snacks, milk, charged tablet/s but it was no match against a 1 and 2 year old at 12 am and a 10 hour night of traveling.

Being on a full airplane with 2 screaming kids is unlike any stress — you want to laugh at the worst case scenario coming to life right before you and melt down and cry along with the baby in your arms at the same time. But as Chester kept saying “there will be an end.”

It is times like these where I want to tell my coworker Bhairavi, that tells me to enjoy every minute of them being young because it goes by so fast … really? every minute?

I also don’t have as many pics to go along with this post because I left my camera phone (because that’s what it is, first a camera then a phone) in the car in St. Louis which took me a little bit of sulking to get over AND recently Chester’s phone ended up in the washer machine before pulling vacation pics from it. Luckily my mother-in-law got some good ones. I am finding it harder and harder to take pics of the girls anyway because I usually do not have a free hand to take them. With some bloggers who seem like they end up with a handful of magical photos from every meal and every place they go I wonder if they have a secret photographer that follows them around. Even when I have a free hand getting a pic of both of the girls that is not blurry seems impossible.

But we made it in to Yakima, WA in the wee hours of the morning. The girls were super gross from traveling — sticky and moist (yes I said it) and a little smelly but we just put them in bed because it was unfathomable to wake them to take a bath.

Yakima, Washington

Once we settled in really the girls couldn’t have done any better. They slept great they played well. Grandma Lori and Great Grandma Karen made sure they had everything they needed from the boots on their feet to balloons and a piano.

Because I was not raised in the city I never thought of myself as a city girl or my girls as city girls, but it was pretty apparent that they really are from the moment we arrived. I had just packed one pair of sandals and one pair of cute tennis shoes for each of them (I had about 4 pairs each until Chester and the zipper on the bag told me to downsize). But seeing them in the chicken coop and getting fussy on the farm — yep these girls are city girls. So when we got back Chester made a vow to take the girls on more hikes to get them used to walking all the time. Vivi does this like run in front of you and in circles around you until you pick her up. Ellen still does the arching back move so that you protect her head and have to hold her, stinker.

Coming Home — On Point

So the trip back home was infinitely better mostly due to the fact that our flights were during the day. Yes we had to wake up at 4:30 in the morning to leave, and keep the kids up until 11 am in Sea Tac but it was totally worth it. We had just a few small melt downs that I squashed with “Good Night Moon” for Ellen and loading more game apps on the tablet worked like a charm for Vivi.

Top free apps that my 2.5 year old loved– Doctor Kids and Toca Kitchen 2.

Right before we left Grandma Karen said to us that we were doing a good job raising the girls, that they were well behaved. Coming from her it felt like the biggest compliment and parenting win. So many times people comment on how cute the girls are or how well Vivi is talking, but telling someone they are a good parent through all the chaos and after spending a week with the kids felt amazing.

It seems like we are just getting back into our regular schedule with daddy at the Children’s ER, Ikea opening right near the kids school Childgarden and the weather is changing for fall. It feels like a lot of changes are coming for us …