A New Year

Photo credit: Pixabay and Creative Commons

Today is August first. Today is August first. Today is August first. Even though I say it over and over, it doesn’t seem real. And yes, I know all teachers go through this at the beginning of the year, and I know it’s ridiculously cliche, but HOW ON EARTH IS IT ALREADY AUGUST?

School starts two weeks from today. That’s also scary. This will be my sixth year of teaching, and at the beginning of every year, I’m always nervous. If you’re a teacher, despite your years of experience, do you get nervous too? I think part of being a good teacher is being a little nervous, experiencing those beginning of the year jitters. I have no idea what’s coming. I’ll have different students from last year. I’m not going to be cocky and act like I’m not nervous.

But I love how a school year evolves. August is always a month of getting-to-know . . . everything. I’m getting to know my students, they’re getting to know me, and we’re adjusting to being back in school after a summer away. When the middle of September hits, though, we fall into the normal school-year swing.

I wanted to blog before school started, and I thought, Is there a better day to blog about school than the first day of August? In some way, shape, or form, I always have my students write out their goals for the school year. 10th graders, especially, usually don’t sit down and think about their goals, so this is a good exercise for them. This made me think about my goals, especially as the school year begins.

Goal #1: I want to love my students.

For those who aren’t teachers, this may seem like a no-brainer, or it might seem weird, to love my students. But when you’re a teacher, you think of your students as your kids. And just like I have a child, I want to love my students as if they’re my children. This can sometimes be extremely difficult, though. When my “children” mumble under their breath about not wanting to complete an assignment, or when they argue with me, or you know, whatever high school students do that makes it hard to love them; all of this makes my flesh want to do anything but love them. It’s a tough love. It has to be. I’m not a doormat. Don’t think of it in that way. But it’s a love that will hold students accountable, allow them to learn, and prepare them for society.

I want to love all my students, the good, the bad, the ugly. I want to start fresh every day, even when that’s hard. I want to pray for patience every day, even though I know that means God will give me opportunities to be patient. Psalm 103:8 always comes to me when I think of how I want to love my students: “The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (ESV). This is so hard. In the moment when students are disrespectful, this is hard. And I will fail. But this is my goal for my loving my kiddos.

Goal #2: I want to love my co-workers.

Again, this may seem like a silly goal, but as teachers, we’re trained to work with students. Yes, we have teacher meetings and we collaborate, but the majority of our school hours are spent with students. Sometimes it’s hard to love all the people you work with. (If you work in the real world, and this isn’t true for you, please let me know.) However, this doesn’t mean I can’t love all the adults I work with. This includes teachers, administration, custodians, the food service staff, the parents, and any other person who walks through the doors of our building.

At the end of the day, teachers and all the other people in the building have one goal, or should have one goal: seeing our students succeed, by any means possible. I want to encourage my fellow teachers. I want us to be a support system for each other. I want to help foster a climate of unity within our staff.

I want to listen intently when someone speaks with me, even if it’s taking up my plan time. I want to speak well of everyone, even if others aren’t. I want to respect everyone who works in our building, regardless of their position. I want to love my co-workers, and love them well.

Goal #3: I want to love my family.

Duh, right? But for real. When school starts, my teacher brain tends to take over and make me forget about my mom and wife brains. At the end of the day, I’m a wife first, and then I’m a mom. Last year, going back to school was hard because we had a four-month old and any free time I got at school was spent pumping. (Yay for being done with that!) So at the end of the day, I was pooped.

But this year will be different. Sophie is a high-functioning fifteen-month-old who will want to play and spend time with us at the end of a long school day. And I want to spend that intentional time with her. I want to put away school work, put away my phone, and simply be with her.

I also want to spend that intentional time with Paul. I couldn’t be more thankful that Paul is a teacher. Swapping school stories is one my favorite things. We understand what the other does, and it’s great. But I also want to make sure we put school away and talk about us, our family, our lives. It’s so easy for me to let school take over, because I love teaching. But I love my family more.

Last year, I did a really good job of getting most of my work done at school, so unless it was grading papers, I really didn’t have to take a lot of work home. I hope to continue this habit. I want to try to leave school at school. Doesn’t mean I don’t care about school. Just that I want to put my family first. I want to love them well.

So there you go. My three goals. I know at times these goals might be hard to reach. But I feel like these goals can sustain me through the school year. Teachers everywhere, what are your goals as school starts this year? (Maybe yours are a little more classroom-focused. Ha!) Let me know!

Until next time,









Whole30 June: Our Experience

We finished our first round of Whole30 yesterday, and all the angels sang, “Hallelujah!” Y’all, I’m not going to lie and say I loved going without bread and dark chocolate. However, while we have already eaten some non-compliant items today, we haven’t gone crazy. We didn’t wake up and have cinnamon rolls and pancakes for breakfast. I still had my eggs and sausage with a bowl of fruit, but instead of that tasteless almond milk, I was able to go back to cranberry juice. It was like a warm hug from an old friend.

What We Liked

Over the course of 30 days, we’ve definitely learned some positive things. The biggest thing I learned, that goes hand-in-hand with avoiding snacking, is to eat more at meals, especially more protein. Not to pig out at meals, but to eat enough protein that I’m not snacking in between meals. This program has also made us really question if we’re hungry when we’re eating. Are we eating out of boredom or because our stomachs are growling? Makes you think.

Our favorite dish from Whole30: loaded chili sweet potato fries. They’re the bomb!

We’ve also gone without that awful bloated, “food baby” feeling that you get when you overdo it on carbs or eat too much in general. When you’re eating clean food, you just aren’t bloated. So that’s a nice feeling.

We also have more energy. Finding time for us to actually workout in a gym is hard, but we’re getting there. We can walk every day, though, so we do. We live in a neighborhood with stupid-steep hills, so we pack Sophie into the stroller and do our thing. I definitely have more energy to move, and I think Paul would agree he does too.

The biggest thing Paul and I have taken away from this is knowing we don’t need to snack at night. We just don’t. I mentioned this in an earlier blog post, and it has proven true to the end of our Whole30. So if I need to eat a little more at dinner to avoid snacking later in the evening, then that’s what I’ll do.

Whole30’s big claim to fame is listing #nonscalevictories at the end of the Whole30. I’m going to list both. Both of us lost weight. Paul lost 13 pounds (woot woot!), and I lost 3, but I also lost 7 inches, so that’s exciting! More than these weight or inch victories, we have #nonscalevictories too. Both of us are able to wear anything in our closet; Paul’s blood sugar numbers have been really low, and we’ve come to realize how many delicious dishes we can make and how to modify what we were eating before our Whole30 experience.

What We Did Not Like

Time. The time commitment of planning, shopping, and prepping for these meals was sometimes overwhelming. The types of meals are very different from how we usually cook, so figuring out how to prep in an efficient way was challenging. This is specific for our experience, but we have a 14-month old, and I would rather spend my afternoons and free time playing with her and reading to her than chopping onions, sweet potatoes, and peppers in the kitchen. A couple of times I joked with Paul that my exercise during the Whole30 was prepping for the Whole30.

While I know this time spent was good, it left me exhausted. The Whole30 program does admit that it takes time and a lot of preparation. We did this on a month when neither of us worked too. I can’t imagine doing this during the school year, when we’re both actively working and Paul’s coaching. We would never have time to do anything but meal prep. However, over the past two weeks, we learned how to take what we used to eat and modify it, by either adding more veggies, changing how we cooked the meat, or playing with spices. This helped remove the pressure of meal prepping.

This leads to another thing that I found annoying: planning for lunch. Breakfast didn’t annoy me too much because we either had a casserole, egg muffins, or just eggs and sausage with fruit and veggies. It makes sense to plan for dinner because we’ve always done that. But planning for lunch was annoying. I’m a turkey sandwich girl. I have been since third grade. I love a good turkey sandwich, so when I suddenly had to start planning food more complicated than a turkey sandwich, yuck, this frustrated me. Needless to say, I’m having a turkey sandwich for lunch today.

Cost. We didn’t care for how expensive some of the specialty ingredients are. A tub of ghee is like $8, and that’s Walmart’s price. Coconut aminos, which is the substitute for soy sauce, was $18 for two containers, smaller than your normal soy sauce container. I was able to find good deals on coconut oil, which we will continue to use, but our grocery trips for a week’s worth of food were higher than we normally like to spend. Were we scraping the barrel at the end of the month? No, but it still made us cringe at the checkout counter.

Also, living in a small town of approximately 4,700 people makes it hard to find a lot of the specialty items that the Whole30 requires. Walmart and King Cash Saver just don’t have a lot of the required ingredients. If we couldn’t find it here, I could normally find it online through Amazon, or we’d get it in Springfield or Joplin. But when you go to those health food stores, the price again increases.

So it’s a question of what do we want to pay for? Increased grocery costs or health insurance. Both of us have really good health insurance with our jobs, which is pretty much free, so I’m not sure we’re ready to completely overhaul our lifestyle. If we decide to, I’ll let you know.

Changes and Take-Aways

After 30 days, we’ve decided on specific things we are changing. One, we’re never buying vegetable oil or margarine again. Both are terrible for you, so we’re ditching those forever. We’ll stick to EVOO, coconut oil, and butter (gasp), yes butter, for the foreseeable future.

Before Whole30, I was eating an English muffin for breakfast and my good ole turkey sandwich every day. So there’s two helpings of grains right there. And then if we added pasta for dinner, I’d have another serving of grains. So my goal from here on out is to limit myself to one helping of grains a day: probably my turkey sandwich. I’m not giving up bread forever, y’all. It just isn’t happening.

We both agree to eating bigger breakfasts. It’s the most important meal of the day, and we’ve definitely seen an increase in energy when we start the day with a nutritious breakfast.

We’re also limiting our snacks. Unless we’re just really hungry, we’re going to try to forgo snacking in between meals. This includes late in the evening.

Are we going to live a completely Paleo or “clean eating” lifestyle? Probably not. Will we definitely incorporate these Whole30 recipes into our dinners and lunches? Yes. Are we already more active than we were before this month? Yes. Will we buy less processed foods and still reach for healthier options all-around? Yes.

But you better believe that I’m not going to stop baking or making little sweet treats every now and then. It’s part of how I was raised and something I love to do. Will I make them every week? No. It’s about balance.

Paul and I had this discussion in the car the other day. The phrase, “You only live once,” when it comes to eating can be interpreted in two ways. “You only live once” so eat as best you can to take care of your one body in this lifetime, or “you only live once” so eat whatever you want because you only have once chance to enjoy. But what if there’s a way to find a balance between the two? Eat as best we can to take care of our one body in this lifetime, while enjoying maybe less healthy things every once-in-a-while.

Will we be more health-conscious and health-proactive? Yes.

Am I still going to bake cookies? Yes.

Balance, baby.


Whole30 June: Week 2

I’m a couple of days late for the end of week 2, but we’re officially more than halfway through our first round of Whole30. I think, and my husband would agree, I probably went a little overboard on the meals last week. For this week, week 3, we’re keeping things pretty simple.

Some take-aways from week 2

The cravings. I had more cravings during week 2 than I did in week 1. I just wanted little pieces of chocolate here or there, or just out of habit I’d reach for something non-compliant. However, toward the end of week 2 those cravings subsided.

Late night snacking. My husband and I have done a really good job of not having any snacks after dinner. We’re trying to eat more at dinner so that we’re less hungry before bed. We both agree this is something we’re going to keep post-Whole30. We’re less active in the evenings, especially after 8 or 9, so we don’t need to be eating then.

The time. Food prep takes forever. I’m not a fan of that. We decided to plan easier meals this week, and I’m glad. I’ve spent less time in the kitchen and more time with my family doing other fun “summer” things. I never want food prep to be an obsession or take over my life, and for the majority of weeks 1 and 2, that’s kind of what it felt like. So we’re figuring out that balance.

Physical positives. Last night, we headed to Springfield for an impromptu family outing, and I just threw on some clothes last minute. I told Paul as we left that I do like being able to go into the closet and not worry about clothes not fitting. All my clothes fit. Paul said he feels the same way. So I guess you could say that’s a non-scale victory? Maybe.

Food victories. In the course of two days, I’ve turned down two baskets full of butter-smothered rolls, with additional containers of what I can only imagine were honey butter and/or cinnamon butter. For anyone who knows me well, giving up bread and butter is a huge deal. Telling a waiter we’ll do without the rolls is a HUGE DEAL. But we did it. And today, I stared down a pile of chocolate at a teacher meeting and didn’t give in. I do like that about Whole30. By sharing with others what we’re doing and by knowing it’s only 30 days, I’m more accountable to staying on track.

We also went to the lake last Saturday and stayed compliant on that day. We brought our food, snacks, and just did our thing. I was proud of us. And it made me realize how much I probably would have snacked if we hadn’t been doing Whole30, just because the snacks were there, which isn’t a good reason. (See chocolate stare-down above.)

Overall, we’re feeling good physically. I feel light and have more motivation and energy to be physically active. One of Paul’s positive victories is that his blood sugar has been consistently lower than usual for the past two weeks, which is great for him, as he is a type 2 diabetic.

We still have two weeks to go, but it hasn’t been as bad as I first thought it might be. I’m learning the difference between eating because I’m hungry and eating because I’m bored or upset or fill in the blank.

We’ll have more to share at the end of week 3. Thanks for reading and happy eating!

Whole30 June: Week 1

In my last blog post, I gave some insight into why we are delving into the world of Whole30. So far, even though it’s only been a week, we’re doing pretty good. I’m going to try to break this post down into some kind of organizational pattern. We’ll start with recipes.


Since I knew we were going to start a Whole30 before school ended, I spent some of my last days of school (when all my other work was done), scrolling through pins on Pinterest, finding scads of recipes. I’ve also followed several awesome people on Instagram who provide recipes as well. First, though, I want to share some of our favorite recipes from the past week.

Breakfast: Sausage Pizza Egg Muffins


I’m not a newbie to egg muffins. We had made these before, although with cheese, so we left out the cheese and just followed this recipe, adding the (compliant) sun-dried tomatoes and the extra spices, which I hadn’t added before. We also had half a red pepper in the crisper, so I diced that up and threw that into the mix as well.

What I love about this recipe is that we used it for breakfast for at least three days, and I think we might have even had leftovers on a fourth day. That’s crazy. These are so filling and go great with fresh fruit as well. Credit for this recipe goes to The Paleo Running Momma. If you are currently on a Whole30 and haven’t visited her website, don’t hesitate. Many of my favorites have come from her site.

Lunch: BBQ Chicken Salad and Taco Salad


So my husband and I each have two favorites for the best lunch recipe. First, the BBQ chicken salad. I wasn’t sure how this would taste, but once we made it, WOW! The recipe says you can use romaine lettuce to substitute as a wrap, but honestly, I really liked the romaine lettuce chopped up in the salad. I also added cubed avocado and halved cherry tomatoes to mine every day, and I never got tired of it. I think we had at least two days worth of lunch from this recipe.


The other lunch recipe we really like is this taco salad. When I first saw the pin for a Whole30 taco salad, I thought, Yeah right. No shell, no cheese, no beans? That’s not a taco salad. Well, we made this salad today, and y’all, it’s awesome. The freshness of the cilantro and the lime make this salad. Don’t skip out on the fresh limes either. I had cooked a whole chicken last week, and we needed to eat the leftovers before they went bad, so we added probably about a cup of cooked, shredded chicken to the deer meat that we used. We’ll be eating leftovers of this tomorrow as well.

Dinner: Loaded Chili Sweet Potato Fries


This recipe also comes from The Paleo Running Momma. (She’s a goddess when it comes to these recipes.) We made this recipe today, and again, we both agreed this would be a recipe we’d keep post-Whole30. I’ve always loved sweet potatoes, and I think since we’ve been together, my husband has grown to like them more. That made this recipe a no-brainer.

I’ve made sweet potato fries loads of times, (get it? ha ha).  But of course I’d never thought of adding chili, ranch, avocado, and a fried egg on top of them. But we did. And it was amazing. We also kind of adapted this recipe a bit: added more of the leftover chicken, didn’t use bacon because finding compliant bacon in a small town is hard, and made a hard egg for my husband who doesn’t love soft eggs. We also doubled the meat recipe, and I’m glad because, yep, we’ll have leftovers tomorrow.

One last point for this recipe: when we started making the chili meat, it looked a little dry so we added 1/3 cup of tomato sauce. This made the chili look and taste more like chili. 

Planning, prepping, and foods we miss

I knew if we decided to do a Whole30 that planning and prepping would take up the most time. This past week has proven that true and then some. However, I think now that we’ve completed the first week, we will be braver in making some of our recipes based on what foods we know work together well.

A planning tool I use are simple printed off calendars for the month of June. I printed off three, one for each meal, and then I just pencil in a meal every other day or two, depending on what we make and how much food I think we’ll have leftover. This has worked fairly well so far. This method also helps with planning the grocery lists. I have a lot of recipes printed off, so I can easily flip through those to find ingredients we’ll need for the week.

I have found that taking the time to actually chop vegetables and other ingredients pays off in the long run. I don’t always do it, but when I do, it saves so much time. Prepping for every meal isn’t always conducive with a 13-month-old running around, but we do what we can.

Today was the first day I have really missed anything starchy. Like a cracker. It’s sad; it’s just a cracker with no nutritional value, but for some reason, my taste buds just wanted something salty with a crunch. So I gave them cashews instead. My husband really misses milk. He’s always been a milk drinker, and for him to forgo milk is huge. He’s told me he may try almond milk. We’ll see.

Other random thoughts

Throughout the week, I’ve had several thoughts about this program and the foods we’ve eaten. I don’t know how to organize them, so here they are:

  • I love zucchini. I’ve always loved zucchini, but this past week has reaffirmed my love of zucchini.
  • So I bought a spiralizer and made zucchini noodles (zoodles). If you haven’t, you should.
  • Frank’s Hot Sauce is the bomb. I don’t usually love hot/spicy foods, but Frank’s adds so much depth and flavor to various foods.
  • Healthy food is expensive.
  • Amazon is my friend in ordering some ingredients that are hard to find in a small town.
  • Make your own mayo. It’s healthy, and I think it tastes better than the store-bought.
  • Sweet potatoes are a staple for Whole30. Thank goodness we like them.
  • I miss chocolate.
  • Sometimes cashiers give us mean looks when we come through the line with a lot of produce. Sorry? Not sorry.
  • I think we’ve ran the dishwasher four times in one week. That’s a record.
  • We’ve also taken out the trash . . . a lot.
  • I have a new appreciation for strawberries. I’ve always liked them, but you know, with a little sugar sprinkled on top. I’m now learning to like for what they are, no sugar added.
  • My husband and I have both commented several times how good some of these meals would taste with cheese added. So we just imagine. Ha!
  • We took some homemade ranch to a restaurant last night, and it wasn’t all that weird. No one looked at us like we were crazy. So there’s that.
  • We both weighed ourselves before our Whole30 started, and after that, I put the scale in the closet. It’s funny how often, just out of habit, I’ve gone to weigh myself. While we are interested to see how much weight we’ll lose, I’m coming to understand more how numbers on a scale shouldn’t define me.
  • I’m thankful for eggs. When I first heard that Whole30 didn’t allow dairy, I was scared that included eggs. Thank goodness it doesn’t. And I love that I can eat three eggs and not feel bad about it.
  • Bring on those peppers. My taste buds have definitely changed so much since my younger years. I never would eat peppers or onions, but I’ve learned to love them.

Thanks for reading our thoughts about our first Whole30 week. Next week, I’ll share more thoughts on how we’re feeling physically. I’m hoping to blog at the end of each week, so stay tuned for further updates. Happy eating!



Whole30: June

Starting June 1, my husband, my mom, and I will start a Whole30. To see that sentence written so plainly shocks me. I first heard of this diet two summers ago. One of my professors for my summer college class was following this diet, and I scoffed at the rules. No dairy, legumes, or grains? No sugar? Yeah, right, I thought. Since that summer, I’ve heard of many people sticking to this diet for 30 days and coming out with great results. I just never thought I would be one to try it.

Growing up to early college

My relationship with food has never been truly healthy-and I hate to admit that. My family always ate wholesome, traditional meals. I did have issues with portions sometimes, but my greatest battle was with snacking. I love my sweets! I love my chocolate, my ice cream, and any kind of baked good. I also struggled with snacking in secret. Anytime I was left at home or in a situation where I was alone and food was involved, I snacked, eating way more than I should have. Looking back now, I think I liked the picture of snacking, what it looked like and felt like to curl up with a bowl of ice cream and watch a movie.

When I got to college, my weight ballooned. I struggled with anxiety my first two years of college, and I ate my feelings. I remember seeing the scale at 199 lbs and seeing my jean size at a 15/16. I wondered what had happened. I saw a counselor the whole of my sophomore year of college, and she helped me see how to love my body the way it was. Which was good, but it didn’t solve the underlying problem: my unhealthy relationship with food.

As I entered my junior year of college, my mentality became, “I look good regardless of my size,” and I proceeded to eat whatever I wanted. I was good with this mentality, for a while.

The summer after my junior year, I worked for Fuge, a youth camp birthed from LifeWay.  I continued to struggle with my weight and eating. One night during camp, another staff member and I were talking about guys and getting married. I was still under the impression that a guy should like me regardless of my size, which is true. Size should not matter, except I was not happy with my size. This fellow staffer told me that it’s okay to want to look good. It’s okay to want to attract a member of the opposite sex. I had never thought of it this way before. (*As a caveat, I don’t always believe this is true. I still believe that a woman’s body is attractive at any size, but for me, I wasn’t happy with how my body looked, and I wasn’t healthy. And I had to figure out how to get happy with my appearance, even though I didn’t realize at this point that being healthy was so much more important than how I looked.)

This changed my mindset. When I returned to college for my senior year, I took up Zumba. Our fitness center had offered Zumba in years prior, but I never knew how FUN it was. I started going, a lot. And the weight soon began to drop. Little by little. And I began to run, well jog, to be exact. But I started moving. I started liking my body more. My relationship with food continued to get better, but I saw what exercise can do for my body and I felt good doing it.

Meeting Paul

Halfway through my senior year, I began student teaching. The man I would end up marrying was a teacher at this school, and we began dating in April of the spring semester. I never really had a serious boyfriend before Paul, so all the newness of dating hit me hard. And made me really nervous, so nervous I couldn’t eat. So I lost weight from this as well. Not from a healthy reason though.

The following summer I worked camp again at a different location. We had steeper hills to walk, and the food was terrible, so I lost more weight at camp.

When I returned home, Paul and I got engaged, so then, I was getting in shape for the wedding.

(Do you see a pattern here? Losing weight, but not trying to be healthy.)

When Paul and I got married, we did a good job of eating healthy and working out. We were able to work out two to three times a week, and we took a lot of walks. I also tried to prep healthy meals, especially since Paul is a diabetic. I love to bake, though, so I would make brownies, cookies, and other sweets just to have around the house as snacks. From this point on, I thought I was doing good. I kept my weight at a “good” number. Then, we found out we were going to have a baby.


Before I got pregnant, I had always feared the worst about gaining weight during pregnancy. I had fears of gaining so much weight, especially in my legs and butt, and then not being able to lose the weight. So I took this into account when we learned I was pregnant.

About four weeks into my pregnancy, Paul and I decided we would go work out. We got to the gym, and as I began lifting, I felt dizzy and nauseous. I couldn’t do it; I just didn’t have the energy. The problem: I didn’t try to lift again, at all, during my pregnancy. That was it. We went on a lot of walks, but that was the extent of my physical activity, (except for running stairs at 40 weeks and 3 days, trying to get baby to come). Some might say, “Oh, you don’t have to worry about exercise during pregnancy.” Well, I wish I would have spend a little more time worrying about it. I lost what little muscle tone I had and simply got out of the habit of exercising. I will say, though, that I did eat decently healthy during my pregnancy. My mindset was never, “I’m eating for two.” I gained about 19 lbs during my pregnancy, and at least 9 lbs 7 oz of that was my daughter.

Then, we had the baby. Sweet, sweet baby. And I began breastfeeding. A week after we had Sophie I weighed three pounds more than my pre-pregnancy weight, and within a month, I was down below my pre-pregnancy weight, by 10 lbs, smaller than I had been since high school. I couldn’t believe the powers of breastfeeding. I also figured out that I could pretty much eat whatever I wanted since I was either nursing/pumping all day. That brings us to March of this year.


My husband and I decided we would give up sweets for Lent. All sweets. Candy, chocolate, baked goods, ice cream. It was hard. I love my sweets so much, and this was hard. The downfall of this was that I replaced my sweets with a lot of starchy, salty snacks. Still not healthy. At the end of Lent was our daughter’s first birthday party, so of course we had cake and other sweets. We also had a good deal of leftover cake that we kept. And we ate it. Granted, not all in one day, but we ate it over the course of the next week. Since then, I’ve just been eating sweets and snacking, making up for lost time, if you will.

Until about a week ago.


I wandered into the kitchen one night, looking for a snack. It was around 9. No one needs to be eating a snack that late at night, and I knew that, but I wanted one anyway. For some reason, though, I stopped and asked myself if I was really hungry. I wasn’t. This phrase popped into my head, “You can be healthy. You can make the choice to feel good and be healthy.” That resonated so deeply with me. I can make the choice. It’s my choice.

This changed something in me, my mindset about how I view food and my motivation to do something about it. By nature, I wanted to write about it. I had to write down my thoughts about how I was feeling. As I did I came up with these ten “health goals” as I call them.

  1. I want to move more.
  2. I want to make healthy eating choices.
  3. I want to enjoy things I want to eat in moderation (like sweets or other less healthy options).
  4. I want to take care of my body.
  5. I want to keep up with Sophie and future kiddos.
  6. I want to set a healthy example for my family.
  7. I want to plan healthy meals for my family.
  8. I want to talk positively about my body for Sophie and future kiddos.
  9. I want to look and feel good.
  10. I want to honor God with my body.

I realize now more than ever that I only have one body. This is the body God has given me to be a wife, to be a mom, to be a teacher, and I want to keep it in the best shape I can for as long as I can. I want to play on the floor with my daughter. I want to run around the backyard with her. I want to be able to walk and walk and walk and not get tired. (I will probably never be a runner. I hate running. But I will walk. I will always walk.) I want to get back into the habit of lifting and building muscle tone. I want to have a healthy relationship with food.

I will be honest and say part of this motivation comes from the fact that I’ve been able to maintain my post-pregnancy weight for the past year. But I also know if I continue my current eating habits once I stop breastfeeding, I will probably gain weight. And I don’t want to. I like how I look. So yes, whether that’s a good motivator or not, it is one.

As I began looking for healthier recipes, many of them I found were “Whole30” recipes. I told my husband I probably wouldn’t do the Whole30, but I just wanted to use the recipes because they were healthy. But then I really began reading about Whole30. I read through their website, and I loved what I saw. I love that they claim it’s a way of resetting your body. They also give various resources and recipes to help you through the 30 days. One thing that I most like is when Melissa Hartwig writes, “This is not hard. Don’t you dare tell us this is hard. . .  It’s only thirty days, and it’s for the most important health cause on earth—the only physical body you will ever have in this lifetime.”

Yes! This hit home with me. I can do this. I’ve never been so excited to do something. Will it be hard? Yes. Will meal planning be a pain sometimes? Yes. Will family and friends think I’m weird when I explain what I’m doing? Maybe, but who cares. I’m doing this for me. I’m doing this for my husband and our baby. I’m doing this, in hopes, that after 30 days my mindset about food is different. That at the end of 30 days, I have more respect for what I put in my body and how I treat my body.

The other day Paul asked me when we’d get to eat pasta again. I told him after the 30 days. I told him I’d make him zoodles (zucchini noodles) during the Whole30, and he didn’t seem impressed. But maybe it’s changes like this, little changes, that have a bigger impact on our health than we think.

As precursor to this journey, I’ve been trying out some Whole30 recipes and getting my feet wet when it comes to prepping and planning. To be honest, some of the recipes are even easier without all the extra ingredients that aren’t good for us. And all of the recipes I’ve tried so far have been so yummy. It’s amazing how good whole food actually is.

I will use Instagram to document this food journey. To follow along, follow me @jana_parrigon. This once skeptic is taking the plunge. Will you join me?



So I am Loved

I know I married a wonderful man, and now that we have a baby and I get to see him as a husband and a dad, I notice how wonderful he is more and more.

This week, my school made up our snow day from a couple of weeks ago on a Monday (as our schedule is the 4-day school week), so by Wednesday, I was pooped. Paul finished basketball practice early that night, and when he got home commenced to make dinner: pork chops, butter noodles, and green beans. My man can cook.

We ate, him letting me get seconds before he did, because we were hungry, and then after dinner, he cleaned up. I told him I would clean up, but he said no. So while he cleaned up, I nursed Sophie. This was about 6:30. We both kind of fell asleep while I nursed her, but she woke up when we were done. I, however, did not. At 7 o’clock, I cashed out on the couch, until 8. Then, at 8, Paul gently woke me up, asking if I was okay, and he took Sophie back to her room to let her play, and me sleep, until 8:30. You know those nights where you can’t do anything because every fiber of your being is exhausted beyond words? Yeah, it was one of those nights.

I finally woke up at 8:30 with enough stamina to give Sophie a bath, nurse her, and lay her down. I promptly fell asleep after that at 9:25. And the child slept all night. Praise God.

Back to why my husband is amazing.

Throughout all of this, the cooking, the eating, the cleaning, the taking care of Sophie, he didn’t complain, he didn’t ask me to do anything, and he didn’t judge me for being tired. He put me first. I profusely thanked him later that night for all he’d done, and he acted like it was nothing. He said he liked doing it, and while I know that’s true, I also know that not having help in any of those activities could be frustrating or annoying. But he never showed those emotions.

Instead, he showed love.

“4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

img_0757Paul was patient, understanding my exhaustion; Paul was not rude, giving off an
attitude of “woe is me”; Paul was not resentful that I completely abandoned him on the couch, leaving him to take care of everything else. Paul showed me love.

And while I know that taking care of our baby is part of our role as parents, when we’re both at home, we try to share that role, giving the other a break just to be, if we need it. Don’t hear me say we don’t love our baby; we do. Sometimes we just need a break. Paul didn’t get a break that night; I took mine under an afghan on the couch.

Throughout our marriage, Paul shows me Christ’s love. Ephesians 5:25 says, “25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her . . . ” Obviously, Paul is not Christ. But I see a glimpse of Christ’s love through Paul. Paul did what he did Wednesday night because he loves me. Not because he was seeking some kind of award or trophy. Not because he was trying to get me to write a blog post about him. He did it because Christ first loved us, and then we show that love to others. And as Christ loved the Church, so I am loved.

Christ does the same thing for us. He paid the ultimate sacrifice by laying down his life for us on the cross. I didn’t deserve it. Nothing in my wheelhouse says I deserved his sacrifice. But he did it anyway. All he desires of me is that I know him and cultivate a relationship with him.

I feel this huge, overwhelming desire to do something to repay Paul for what he did, which I will just because he’s so great. But even if I didn’t, even if I didn’t bake him cookies or write him a note, it wouldn’t stop his love for me. The same principle applies with Christ. I can’t repay Christ for what he’s done for me. Nothing ever could. But I accept the gift of eternal life he offers, digging deeper into my relationship with him.

So gifts or no gifts, I will do the same with Paul, realizing this is what marriage is. Being there for the other when we’re too tired to move. Pitching in all night if we have to. Thank you, babe, for being the most amazing husband a girl could have. Thank you for serving me and blessing me daily.

Thank you for loving me as Christ does.


An Open Letter to the New Momma Returning to Work

Dear Momma,

You just had a baby, either six weeks ago or a few months ago, and now you’re headed back to work. It’s a scary, uncertain time. You’ve nurtured this sweet baby, rocked him, nursed her, and answered his every cry. But now, you know you have to return to work. It sucks. I know. I had to return to school after four months at home with my baby, and while you may think, “But you had four months at home, that’s a long time” you’re definitely right. But after being with your little one for four months, 24/7, it’s hard to give that up. I can’t imagine what it may feel like for you, if it’s six or eight weeks. Let’s just agree it’s hard no matter what.

I want to share some things that were helpful for me when I began teaching again. And, Momma, you do what works for you, but this is what worked for me.

  1. Sleep

You’re going to be tired, your significant other will be tired, and your baby will be tired. So sleep. Sleep in, go to bed when the baby does, and rest, rest, rest. If something can wait until tomorrow, let it. Those first couple of weeks are rough in the evenings. Snuggle that baby, hug your husband, and enjoy being home. But more importantly, get your rest so you can do what you need to. Happy dreams!

2.  Freezer Meals

So because you’re going to be dog tired, you’re not going to want to cook. Take a Saturday, find a bunch of crock pot/freezer meals on Pinterest, and make them. Freeze them. They will be a lifesaver. Use them for lunch or dinner. My husband and I use freezer meals when we know a busy time is going to hit, and this year, we knew the beginning of the school year would be so busy and we’d be so tired. So get to cookin’, just not on week nights.

3.  Build a Milk Stash

This applies to those mommas who are nursing. And if you’re not, good for you. You’re still providing for that little one. (And you probably have more time during your work day, but that’s for a different post.) One thing I wish I had done before I returned to school was build a bigger freezer stash of breast milk. While I had a small stash, it wasn’t enough to prevent me from worrying during the school day if I was keeping up with my baby girl. Eventually, I read enough information that explained pumping in the morning will help you get ahead for the day. However, I wished that I had pumped in the mornings more regularly before I returned to school. Building that milk stash allows you some grace days, especially if it’s a stressful day and you don’t produce as much as you’d like. It’s like insurance, only free.

4.  Know that the first couple of weeks will be tough

You’re leaving your tiny, precious, beloved baby with someone you may, or may not, know. For us, we didn’t know our babysitter. Now we do, and we love her, but at first we didn’t. It’s a scary feeling to leave your baby with someone who’s not you. That person doesn’t know the little ins and outs of your baby. That person doesn’t know that your baby likes her cheek stroked as she falls asleep. But eventually that person will figure those things out, and your baby will adjust, as will you. But yeah, leaving the house those first few weeks sucked, and sometimes they still do. And I know that in a few months, when I’ve left many mornings, I will still hate leaving. But like so many people have told me, it’s not easy, but it gets easier.

5.  You need Jesus

A lot, a lot, of Jesus. Leaving your baby is difficult. This Momma business is hard work. And the only way you can survive is through his grace. His grace is sufficient, always. When you miss your baby all day at work, his grace is sufficient. When you come home and you’re too tired to move, except to hold your baby, or maybe not even to hold your baby, his grace is sufficient. When you’re at work and look at her picture and tears form in your eyes, his grace is sufficient. Finding that time with the Lord will be hard because you’re so busy and tired, but make sure you take it. He wants that time with you, and you need it with Him. This one is hard to make happen. But if you ask Him, he will help you.

New Momma, I’m not an expert in any way, shape, or form. But these steps have helped me through these first six weeks back to work, and if they help you too, then great. If not, share what does help you. We can’t be mommas alone. We have to stick together. I wish you well. And remember, you can do it.