When Food Is Fuel

I used to be a totally different person when it came to exercise. Always NEEDING to workout because I ate this thing or that over the weekend. Feeling joy when I ate something super indulgent immediately followed by dread thinking about how many miles I’d have to run to burn off what I had just eaten. Dragging myself to the gym and hating every minute because I felt obligated to be there. And then one day I made a choice that changed my life. One day something clicked in my mind that has made the biggest difference in every single way that I look at working out and how I eat, and even boosted my self-confidence.

That one change was this: food is fuel. Let that sink in. The main purpose of food is to propel you forward, to give you strength and endurance, to feed your muscles and cells, to give you energy to make it through the day. Food is not your enemy, it’s the complete opposite. I think that so many people work against themselves with food instead of using it to their advantage! I know I definitely did. I think the change began when I started getting more involved at my gym. I was more committed than ever to regain my lost strength due to having 4 babies in 3 years. My back and core were the weakest they had ever been and I had aches and pains in my knees and lower back from crazy weight gain (60 lbs with Eva, 70 lbs with the twins and 50 lbs with Esme!). Once It dawned on me that hey, I’m important too and I should want to take care of myself and not just the kids all the time, I made a commitment to myself that I’d go to the gym just to feel like me again. During that process I fell in love with taking care of me.

I had picked up tips on how to eat properly while staying active 4-5 days a week from a friend who is a personal trainer and loves fitness even more than I do. But I also did a lot of research for myself. I loved learning about how your body absorbs certain nutrients and in what situation your body calls on those nutrients to perform a certain task. It was just so interesting to me to learn that food isn’t just something we eat to feel good, it had a purpose. I began looking at food in a different light and with much more appreciation.

Food for me has always been a comfort thing. Not to mention I have a Culinary Arts degree and I just WANT to cook all the things and experiment with any and all ingredients. I had to learn early on in our marriage that not every meal needed to be a 4 course sit-down extravaganza. I had to reel it in when I felt pressure to put a protein, starch, vegetable, salad and dessert on the table every night. I was working against myself in many ways, I wan’t feeding my body what it needed to feel it’s best. I used to be sluggish and tired. NEWS FLASH: if you eat crap you’re going to feel like crap, plain and simple. I’m sorry to put it so bluntly but it’s the truth! If you put nutritious and wholesome foods in your body it will respond positively. You will be able to see a difference, I guarantee it.

Listen, this doesn’t mean we can’t indulge every now and then. This doesn’t mean I don’t eat everything I want. I have a raging sweet tooth that doesn’t know how to quit, I’ve been trying to years to tone it down but it’s impossible. So I give myself grace and margin. I allow sugar in my diet but I limit it to a bite or two. I don’t have to bake the entire batch of cookie dough just because it’s there, make a few cookies and freeze the rest of the dough for another time. Starting with small changes and really learning how to eat to get the most out of your food. I eat anything I want within reason. I align my diet with my goals and don’t let temptation and sugar rule my life. I don’t give in to every single indulgent food video I see pop up on my Facebook feed. I remind myself what’s important to me and how looking at food in this new light has literally given me life.

I used to get so down on myself when I ate too much sugar or something really ‘fatty’ or, heaven forbid, something fried. I made myself feel like a failure, like one meal was going to ruin all my progress with working out or I was going to gain back all the weight I had lost. THIS IS NOT WHAT WILL HAPPEN. Your weight changes every single day! That’s one of the reasons weighing yourself daily is pointless. You become obsessed with something that is inconsistent and you expect it to give you confidence. I recently weighed myself because I had a stomach flu in November but before that I hadn’t weighed myself since April! I don’t care what the scale says anymore. I care about what my body is telling me, do I need more protein? More water?  Am I putting myself first in fitness and nutrition? If you put yourself first you will see changes, it’s a process and you need to embrace it. There is no magic pill, only consistency and patience and grace.

I know this is probably old news to many people but I wanted to share it because it’s part of my story and it’s important. Maybe this will strike a chord with someone today and it will encourage them to make a change in their life and the way they look at food. There’s freedom in this, friends. I love food and I no longer have a love/hate relationship with it. I don’t punish myself for eating, I use it to my advantage and it’s exciting!

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Goals and Ramblings

So today I was entering a giveaway where you had to comment with one of your goals for 2018 and GUESS WHAT? I couldn’t think of one. I mean, I have goals for myself but nothing that I can just write down and BAM it be an attainable goal. All of my goals are like goals within goals within goals, anyone else feel that way? I hope I’m not the only one.

I think the reason it’s so hard for me to write down a goal for myself is because I feel like I can’t have my goal handed to me like a cup of coffee.. which by the way I make my own coffee so no one hands that to me. Oh, the irony. Can I be real for a minute? I’m tired. I’m tired of taking care of little people today because my husband has been out of town for 7 straight days, so today I’m tired. I don’t feel like this every day, or even every time he’s out of town (that’s almost every week btw), but today I do and I think that is making my goals feel like a far reach. Last week I was on a roll with taking steps to reaching a goal or two but then life just decided to fall on me and I’m finding myself so unmotivated. Everything I want in my life, professionally and personally, is going to take work, investments even.

How do you stay motivated in life? What do you do consciously every day to make it through to the next step, heck, even the next day? One of my motivators these days is the scary realization that I have to enroll the twins in pre-school for the next school-year. And you know what that means? Esme will be off to school in no time and then I’m going to be left with zero babies at home and with nothing to do. Well, not nothing but that’s the scariness going on in my head right now. What should I do? Do I go back to school? Do I pay to get my nutrition certification activated? Do I start a business of my own? There are so many questions in my brain that I can’t clearly hear what I should do. And I know exactly what I should do…

Psalms 46:10 “..be still and know I am God..”

Um. Easier said than done. I guess this post is more of a way to get my thoughts down, the year is ending and something new is on the horizon. A new year with new possibilities. New mercies and new motivation. I hope a year from now I can look back at this post and smile with joy in my heart at what God has done with me.

Philippians 1:6 “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus”

Open-Faced Mexican Pizza

I used to eat at Taco Bell. Like a lot. There I said it. My poison : the Mexican pizza. I don’t know why but man, those things just called to me. I haven’t had Taco Bell in years but I make up for it by making delicious Mexican pizzas at home! I used to eat them back in high school, that’s forgivable right? Anyway, I didn’t really ever crave Taco Bell after I began cooking for myself. UNTIL I was pregnant with Esme. I tend to gravitate to Tex-Mex flavors in general but my cravings were on another level during that pregnancy. Hot sauce and cumin on everything.

Normally Mexican pizzas at Taco Bell are made with a tortilla on the bottom, some sort of meat/bean filling and then topped with another tortilla, enchilada sauce, cheese, fresh chopped tomato and green onion. I’ve made them this way also but have found that there’s a large gap for error, the tortillas get soggy really easily and let’s face it, that’s just about the worst thing ever. The recipe I have for you today only uses one tortilla per pizza and I add the enchilada sauce into the meat mixture while it’s cooking to avoid a soggy tortilla! Oh and less carbs per pizza so you can eat more, right? WIN.

Open-Faced Mexican Pizza
makes 8

Ingredients for meat filling
1 lb ground beef** (or chicken!)
1/4 cup onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp salt
2 tsp ground smoked paprika
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup enchilada sauce

Ingredients for seasoned refried beans
1 can vegetarian refried beans
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp salt

To build
8 6-inch flour tortillas
1 cup shredded Mexican blend cheese

Method
1. preheat the oven to 350F. When the oven is ready place your tortillas directly on the rack to toast up. When they’re golden brown take them out of the oven and set them aside, about 8-10 minutes.
2. While the tortillas toast start your beans. Add the beans and seasonings to a skillet over medium heat. Your goal here is to just warm them up and make sure the seasoning is incorporated all the way through. Remove the beans from the heat and set aside.


3. Next add the ground beef to a skillet over medium high heat, breaking it up as it browns. When it’s completely cooked through drain any fat that it may have rendered. Return to heat and add the remaining ingredients. Stir until fully incorporated and most of the liquid evaporates leaving a thickened mixture.

Assembly
Spread a layer of the seasoned beans on the tortilla followed by the meat mixture and some cheese. Line the loaded pizzas on to a baking sheet and put back in the oven for 5 minutes or so, until the cheese is melted.

Top with your favorites! Toppings pretty much include anything you love on tacos like avocados, onions (I used pickled red onion!), fresh cilantro, sour cream, hot sauce, extra CHEESE?

Do it.

(I feel like I need to apologize for these AWFUL photos. I wasn’t planning on turning this into a recipe for the blog before I started cooking but man, they’re so good! So just pretend these are the best photos you’ve ever seen. Also, how about that paper plate? kbye.)

Our Learning Tools

I thought I’d write a little post about how I encourage learning with the twins. In my last post I talked a little about how I incorporate teaching basic pre-school subjects (ABCs, numbers, shapes and colors) while we’re out of the house. I do this for a few different reasons. First, none of us thrive while learning sitting down at a table and monotonously repeating letters and numbers. I get frustrated, they get frustrated, it’s just not fun and the only thing 3 year olds care about is having fun. Secondly, we’re usually out of the house between 7:30am – 11am. I’ve learned that that’s kind of the best time for them to absorb information. After that we’ve got a one track mind on lunch and I’m mentally prepping myself for waiting an hour in the carline to pick Eva up.

So this has been trial and error for us. I know that not every person, or child for that matter, is the same and it really does take some time to figure out and get in your groove. But you feel so much freedom once you’ve got it, it’s worth the growing pains. Also, I take a lot of help from outside sources. I use devices and the internet, it’s really okay. If you’re careful and you monitor the usage and what they’re actually learning it can be such a great tool. Our favorite free apps are: Starfall, Quick Math Jr., Letter School, Todo Math, ABC Mouse, A-Z Music Videos (a favorite!), Flash Cards (Spanish learning). We don’t use devices every day but I have to tell you that it’s amazing to watch Esme, who just turned two, correctly match shapes, letters and numbers in some of these apps. They take the stress out for me a little bit and it’s a fun alternative for them.

And here’s what we do on a daily, if not weekly basis!

  1. We sing this song every.single.day. Sometimes more than once a day, and yes it gets old but you know what? It works and they know their letter sounds like total pros. We don’t sing the into, just the letter sounds portion, and after each letter we all take turns saying a word that starts with that sound. Olivia would get frustrated in the beginning with choosing a word that began with the letter because she didn’t understand the correlation between letter sounds and words, she’s more of a hands-on learner and that just meant that I had to help ease her frustration by giving her hints for words (for “S” I would ask her what was the big yellow circle in the sky that made us warm?) and then reiterate the specific sounds “SSSS SUN. SSSS SUN.” We always sing this in the car and it helps keep them awake which in a win in my book.
  2. Another car game! We start by every child choosing a color and then counting how many cars in that color we find. So this one is a combination of colors and numbers, sometimes it works out great and other times not, like when Olivia chooses pink or purple as her color and doesn’t get a single find that car ride. Or like the time Eva chose black and she was up to 64 cars by the time we got home!
  3. We love looking for shapes when we’re out! We talk about the name, the color and how many sides it has.
  4. Whenever we go to a place of business or even just at the gym we talk about the letters we see on their sign and the sounds they make.
  5. I bought a white board at Walmart! After the back-to-school craziness died down I took the kids to Walmart and we got a great deal on a small white board and dry-erase markers. This is a great tool for writing practice! It’s easy for them to hold the markers because they’re slightly thicker than a pencil but not as thick as traditional markers and they have built-in easers so when they mess up they can quickly erase and try again. To be honest we don’t use the white board as often as I’d like to but every time we do it’s a huge hit. They feel like they’re playing and they really learn a lot by putting their letter knowledge to practice. Also a huge bonus to this one is not having to waste a million and a half sheets of paper, which I don’t know about you but that drives me bonkers.

Some of these seem too easy to even talk about but that’s what we do around here to help the basics stick. I mostly do these things with the twins but Esme is always around of course and she already knows many letter sounds, shapes and colors, without me even really trying to teach her specifically. The great thing about kids is that their brains are truly like little sponges and it doesn’t take much for them to retain information. I’ve mentioned before that I felt like I really dropped the ball with teaching them but they’ve thrived in the short months since we’ve intentionally begun at-home learning. I’m by no means equipped to homeschool, nor do I think I ever will be, but I do like knowing my kids have the basics down before starting pre-school. I’m confident that it was a smooth transition for Eva because she went in understanding the basics and it was a stress-free school beginning for her. I can’t believe the twins will start next school year! I’m really looking forward to how they do!

And before you start thinking I’m such a “good mom” for being on top of my kids education.. I’ll have you know that my kids can recite entire Daniel Tiger episodes. Bless you, Netflix.

Priorities and Mom Guilt

It’s no secret that I like to be in the gym every morning. I wake up thinking about what routine I’m doing that day and what workout clothes to choose based on my plan of attack. My breakfast is based around how intense I plan on being in the spin room or on if I’m upping my weights that day on the floor. I leave my house at a certain time so I can be at the gym by 8:30am so I can have those precious two hours when they watch my kids fit around my schedule. This is a priority for me, it’s what drives me in the mornings and it’s what makes me a better mother.

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I think the only downside to priorities is that when something gets bumped up to a higher slot on the list, something has to be bumped down, that’s just how it works. For the longest time I was the last thing on my own priority list. I have so many little people that rely on me and I try to provide a loving, homey atmosphere for my family, I just wasn’t as important to myself as I should have been. There’s nothing wrong with pouring yourself into your family but I do think that not taking care of yourself is a big mistake. I got to a place where I didn’t even feel like a person anymore, just a shell, I got lost in the routine of taking care of babies and other people that I forgot to stop and think about what really made me happy.

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It’s hard when you’re a new mom because you’re just in survival mode in the beginning, feedings and sleepless nights, its just a vicious cycle for the first few months. Once I was able to let go a little bit and not be so focused on my kids I noticed that I didn’t know what to do with myself. This was after 5 years of being pregnant and having babies and being on-call 24/7 for almost that entire amount of time.

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I found the gym just in time to help me come up for air. It relived my stress, it got me out of the house, it helped me let go of my kids a little bit more (they watch them for 2 hours at a time!), it got me around other women, some moms and some not, it forced me to make friends and helped me remember how much I love meeting new people. It gave me a purpose more than just being a mom. I don’t have to tell you that I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being a mom, but I needed more and I think we can all agree that we can be more than just one thing. I’m able to instill in my kids determination and drive with each new goal I set for myself. I even have friends now! I cannot tell you how long I prayed for friends. I felt like every time I made a friend it was time to move away and with the exception of my life-long best friend (HI ASHLEY!) I really didn’t feel like I had any friends. Internet friends, yes! Lots! But I was missing the personal friendships and I feel like I have that now.

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Okay, so guilt. Oh man do I have it. Let’s rewind for a minute back to when Eva was an only child. The amount of time I had to share with that kid was crazy! We did everything from ABCs to numbers, to shapes, colors and patterns, you name it and we went over it on a daily basis. She was ready for Kindergarten by 3 years old, she could even write her name before she turned 3. BUT the twins are turning 4 in March and they’re JUST NOW learning to write their names. Don’t look at me like that. I mean you have more than one person who needs your constant attention, it’s normal for younger siblings to not get the same amount of attention. I know this, I’m a full supporter in giving yourself some slack because, HEY YOU’RE BUSY. But the guilt was eating me up. I felt like I was failing my kids.

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Isn’t human nature a funny thing? If we gave in to every single desire and want we’d be in serious trouble, that’s why priorities exist, to give us balance. I know for a fact that I am a better mother because I take time for myself every single day. I’ve tested it, I stay home from the gym and I’m a total monster. No, really. I yell, my temper is shorter, I feel like I can’t get enough food in my body because I’m bored and just want to eat but then I feel bad about that and that just makes me even more mad. And since I don’t have a job outside of my home I have no real reason to leave the house.. as much as I wish Target was a necessity, it’s just not. And don’t even suggest to me that I should workout at home, I know you’re thinking it but it’s not the same! I tried that for a while and it works for many people but it’s just not for me.

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So we do what works best for our family and we compromise. I teach them their ABCs and numbers and shapes in different environments like on the way to and from the gym and in return they understand that when they wake up in the morning they need to get ready for the gym and be out the door at a certain time so we can be there by 8:30am. And guess what? They know how to write their names now. They’re little brains soaked in the information in a matter of weeks and now they’re total pros. They know their numbers from 1 – 20, they know their colors and shapes. I was worried for nothing really. Just because I wanted to incorporate something new into our lives (my life affects their life) didn’t mean I had totally ruined their lives forever, even though sometimes it felt like that.

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So, on this Friday I’m urging you to do something for yourself. Prioritize yourself in the mix with your family, it’s possible to do both! And it doesn’t have to be the gym for you, it can be anything that makes you feel joy on the inside. When I know I’ve gotten a work out in I know that I’m furthering my life by I’m staying healthy for my kids, I feel strong and capable, I feel empowered to take on the rest of the day. Do something for yourself that will cause the light inside of you to shine on to others.

Life Lately

Hi! Remember me? Man, it’s been a while… 5 months to be exact! How did that happen? Since I last posted A LOT has happened, lets get started.

WE BOUGHT A HOUSE. Yep, we’re homeowners now. It still seems surreal because it’s been a dream of mine since we got married 10 years ago to have a place to call mine. Many years of renting and packing and moving and new states and repeat are all finally over. For now. I mean, we’re so totally content and in awe of how God made this place possible for us but we also know it’s not our forever home. The kids will eventually outgrow the home and that’s okay, this is the perfect place for our lives right now. Pierre and I went on a quick weekend getaway without the kids and when we returned and walked into the house I got that warm, fuzzy Home Sweet Home feeling. I had been waiting for that moment almost all of my life it felt like and to finally experience it was just the best thing ever.

The house we bought is only 3 years old so there wasn’t much that needed tinkering but we did do a few things like paint a few rooms (me) and power wash the back patio (him). I don’t think it’s totally done or just how I want it but that’s okay, too, a little bit at a time works just fine for me. I think the next big thing I want to do is paint the main floor plan. I cannot stand the color on the walls, I don’t know if it’s orange, brown, taupe or a mix of all three to be honest, but it has to go. So far I’ve painted one of the bedrooms and an accent wall in the kitchen that used to be pokemyeyesout red and it’s now a nice cool grey. We did change some fixtures and bought tons of furniture, so far so good! We love it here.

Eva started KINDERGARTEN and I still tear up when I drop her off in the mornings. She originally got into a science and math charter school but after the move it was going to be a 30 mile commute each way and I had to say no way to that. They didn’t offer transportation either so it just wasn’t going to work out. Thankfully our new house is 3 miles from the neighborhood elementary school and it’s an A+ school. There is a bus but umm I’m crazy so she can’t ride it until she knows our address, phone numbers, license plate numbers, social security numbers and blood types so.. fat chance. Did I mention I’m insane? She loves her school, she love her teacher, she loves her friends, what more could her momma want?

Esme turned two and I’m so in denial that I’m considering strapping bricks to her head so she stops growing. Okay, not bricks.. maybe just a brick. Seriously though I can’t believe she’s two. She talks so much and she reasons with me and you can see her brain working when she’s putting sentences together and it’s beautiful. I know you’re not supposed to have favorite children but what can I say, the stage she’s in now is just awesome.

The twins are just as twinny as ever. But so very much girl and boy in their differences, Olivia professes her love and loyalty to her brother almost every day and Pierre just wants to be left alone and not kissed. They’re so sweet to watch when they’re not hitting, biting and kicking each other, its really really lovely. Just today Pierre was talking about how he was scared (spoiler: he’s afraid of literally everything. His shadow included) of flying jets immediately after declaring he would fly jets as a grown up, I don’t get it either, and Olivia said, “Don’t worry Pierre, I’ll grow up and take care of you! You don’t have to be afraid!” to which Pierre replied nothing. CRICKETS. I mean, how sweet is she? He’s a total male its crazy.

I’ve been doing great! Still at the gym almost every day, when I’m not forced to stay home because of a sick child, the twins had the flu three weeks ago and that was just awful. I’m loving the gym more and more every day, lifting on the floor more and trying new things. I’ve started trying the monkey bars and I’m not bad! I thought for sure I wouldn’t be able to hold myself up but I did almost the entire way. I still haven’t been able to get a pull up but it’s coming! Maybe I’ll post some before and after photos soon, I’ve been taking progress photos since last January so a year transformation post is on the horizon!

I hope you’ve had a awesome day and if it hasn’t been that awesome remember it’s not over until your head hits the pillow and you close your eyes. You still have time to do something that brings you happiness and joy!

Another Week

Sometimes they just run together. Weeks come and go, we follow our little routine and then I check the calendar and suddenly we’re almost halfway through JUNE. But this week has crawled by, I mean craaawwwled. I think because I’m anxiously awaiting next week to be here. Pierre is working from home for 5 whole days and that’s like Christmas for us! We miss him a whole lot and getting home for more then 2 consecutive days is so nice, especially for the kids.

This week has been so hard. Eva was sick over the weekend and passed it on to little Pierre and Esme. Pierre has barely eaten anything in two days and his fever comes and goes, too. Esme’s fever is teething related I’m pretty sure, she has two more incisors cutting through. Having sick kids and with this crazy rain we’ve been having makes for a serious case of cabin fever. It’s been pouring for 4 days straight so Florida is basically under water now. I think the cabin fever is getting to my head because I willingly cleaned our leather couch at 8am this morning. I don’t even know myself anymore.

I made turkey egg cups for the first time!

I haven’t eaten all that great this week either. My meals have been overall healthy but I’ve had more sugar than I normally eat. I made these delicious monster cookie bars with coconut oil instead of butter and with white sugar instead of brown sugar. Also, I didn’t have chocolate chips so we just added a bunch of sprinkles. If you saw my Instagram video about them then you know I’ve had those red white and blue M&Ms since last July! I bought them in hopes that they would help me bribe the twins with potty training and we still have a ton! It was a massive bag from BJ’s. Anyway, I only had one cookie square! I’m going to force feed my kids cookie bars through the weekend to save myself and they better like it.


We don’t have any weekend plans, mostly smothering daddy when he gets home and church on Sunday. I hope the rain stops long enough so we can take the kids to the beach. They’ve been begging to go since March when it warmed up but there’s no way I can take them alone during the week. What are your weekend plans?