Motherhood, Miscarriage, & Secondary Infertility: Part 2 – Our Solutions

This is Part 2 of 2 of Motherhood, Miscarriage, & Secondary Infertility. To learn our story that lead us to seek these solutions, read Motherhood, Miscarriage, & Secondary Infertility: Part 1 – Our Story.

Our Solutions

Within that same week of being told it could take 5-7 years to become pregnant again on our own, but deciding that we were going to take a step back and give this to God, I believe that God sent three people to point things out, that in my opinion, changed everything and lead to my becoming pregnant after having been diagnosed with Secondary Infertility just two months earlier.

*This post contains affiliate links.

Solution Part 1: Cutting Out Gluten

First, my good friend Paula told me that she had read about gluten intolerance causing hormonal imbalances and leading to infertility in some women. At this point, I was desperate to try anything, and even though bread is my favorite food <3 I decided to give it up. You’d think this would be hard, but when you want something as badly as I wanted another baby, you’re willing to make whatever sacrifices it takes! I ended up buying the Whole 30 Cookbook, and tried a lot of great recipes from there that helped me realize I could eat gluten-free without losing all of the flavor in life. πŸ™‚ I actually feel that I became a much better cook because of that book! I ended up losing almost 20 pounds within 2 months of going gluten-free. Weight loss can play a large role in hormone imbalances, so this started to kick my body into a more regular balance.

Solution Part 2: Raspberry Leaf Tea

Second, my good friend Holly brought up Raspberry Leaf Tea, and how she had read that it can really help with reproductive health. I remembered that I had actually been drinking this when I became pregnant with my daughter 3 years before that, and Holly had some on hand that she gave me, then I ended up ordering a bulk supply on Amazon that next day. I started drinking 2-4 cups per day to improve my reproductive health and help to balance out my hormones and cycles.

Solution Part 3: High-Quality Vitamins

Third, my friend Sarah recommended that I try Shaklee Vitamins since she herself had pretty negative experiences with the normal pre-natals from the drugstore. I started taking the Vita-lea, and the OmegaGuard every day. When I switched to taking these as pre-natals I actually stopped getting so many headaches and stopped experiencing the amount of fatigue that I had experienced before.

Side Note: I ended up loving their all-natural and thoroughly tested products so much over the past two years that I’m now a distributor for them, check out my Shaklee Page on my blog for more info!

Solution Part 4: Metformin

At this point, I was also still on the Metformin that my doctor had suggested, which had started to help my cycles become more regular. They were still between 4-6 weeks apart but were not as heavy or irregular as before when they could be anywhere from 10 days apart to 8 weeks apart. I had taken the Metformin for 6 months already, so I don’t know that this had as much of an immediate impact as the previous three things, but it really was a combination of everything in my mind!

Pregnancy #3: Miracle Baby Boy

So, after only TWO MONTHS of being gluten-free, drinking Raspberry Leaf Tea three times a day, taking Shaklee Vitamins, and taking the metformin, I woke up in the morning 5 weeks after the start of my last period and thought, “I might as well try it, I can’t give up hope yet.” AND IT WAS POSITIVE! Again, this was terrifying to me, but I was also overjoyed, and really could not believe my eyes. I probably took 4 tests to double check. (Again, it was nice to have bulk pregnancy tests!)

I called my doctor right away, went in and took blood tests to confirm, my HCG levels were normal for 5 weeks, and we did an ultrasound to make sure everything looked alright. The other thing that I am thankful my doctor checked were my Progesterone levels. Since my levels had been low several times since the miscarriage, it was possible that my body did miscarry before because of super low progesterone levels, which need to be maintained and need to rise during early pregnancy in order to support the growing baby. (When I miscarried I was also breastfeeding full-time, and breastfeeding can keep your progesterone levels low, so it could have been that my body really was just not ready to carry another baby. Really you never know, these are just my observations based on my experience). I have talked to other women though that experienced multiple miscarriages until they started taking progesterone supplements during the first Trimester to support their low levels.

So again, thankfully, my doctor ordered the tests, found out my level was still low (Mine was at 6, the normal is 9-47) so he put me on progesterone supplements morning and night to maintain those levels and allow my pregnancy to progress. I also continued taking the Metformin because the risks to the baby were not very high, and it would have been riskier to stop taking it and throw my insulin and hormone levels back off.

So praise God, within two months of taking a step back, trusting in Him, and finally being able to figure out a few things that were able to put my hormones back in balance, we were on our way through a second healthy pregnancy. Looking back on it now, with my son turning 14 months old this past week, I am still in awe that everything came together the way it did. There were just so many pieces to the puzzle and everything came into alignment and we now have this miracle blessing of a healthy baby boy.

Side Note: Once my son was born, I discovered that you can actually take Raspberry Leaf Tea in pill form, twice a day, instead of drinking 3-4 cups of tea each day. I’m not a tea person so I started ordering these supplements instead. (I will do another post soon talking about how Raspberry Leaf Tea continued to be a blessing at the end of my pregnancy with delivery & recovery time – it really is a miracle tea in my opinion!)

Here is a link to the Raspberry Leaf Tea Pills I take twice a day since giving birth to my son:

Another Side Note: Since giving birth to my son I did experience some more irregular bleeding which we found to be linked to very low Vitamin D levels. I now take the Shaklee Vitamin D Supplements as well, and it has helped bring my cycles back to normal again, with no more irregular or heavy bleeding.

Pregnancy #4: Another Unexpected Blessing!

So today, with a 4-year-old daughter and a 14-month-old son, I am actually expecting ANOTHER baby! After all that we went through trying to conceive with our son, and since I was breastfeeding full time, we decided to not use any birth control methods after my son was born. I honestly thought that we would need to really plan and try, and eat gluten-free, possibly get on metformin again, etc. in order to have another child.

BUT, literally the week I stopped breastfeeding my son, when he turned 1 year old, we conceived a third child! This honestly seems like another miracle to me, and I am in shock but so grateful that I have not had to go through everything I described in my Part 1 Post another time. (Still obviously praying that I won’t.)

For over a year, I imagined my beautiful and outgoing daughter who loves other kids being an only child forever and just feeling my dreams of having a big family slipping away from me. At this point, I know that God was with me through all of it, but that is SO HARD to see in the midst of it. And now, it has been amazing to watch my daughter love and care for her younger brother, and she is beyond excited to have a “baby sister” coming (she tells us that she already has a brother so this one is obviously a baby sister in her mind).

I really believe that the two main things that have turned my hormone imbalances around have been taking pure and all-natural vitamins (Vita-Lea and OmegaGuard), and consistently taking Raspberry Leaf Tea supplements!

Side Note: Now that I am pregnant, I am not taking the Raspberry Leaf Tea Supplements, as they can cause uterine contractions, I do plan to take them during the last couple of weeks of pregnancy again to help my body prepare for childbirth.

For this pregnancy, they tested my progesterone and it was 11, which is in the normal range (even though I had just stopped breastfeeding!), but they are on the low end of normal, so I’m still taking the progesterone supplements as a precaution. It is possible that the Metformin & the gluten-free diet made a strong positive impact on becoming pregnant with my son, but I wasn’t actually doing those two things when I became pregnant this time. (I do try to limit the amount of gluten I eat compared to before, but I definitely eat it, and I stopped taking Metformin after I gave birth to my son.)

Honestly, I still think about the baby that I lost every day. I still think about the frustration and heartbreak of trying to become pregnant month after month, endless tests, procedures, appointments, depression, anxieties, and just a constant heartache. There are moments when it hurts more, like when I went to get my first ultrasound done for my current pregnancy and the nurse asked us how many pregnancies this is for me, and my husband answered 3 and I answered 4, and we both looked at each other and he realized what she meant.

Those moments make me fearful, honestly, that we will have to go through that again. But at this point my hope and trust are in God, I know that he loves me and takes care of me in the pain, and in the joy. I feel strong now, and more mature. I know that I am more understanding of other women and their own journeys with pregnancy, infertility, motherhood, miscarriage, and child loss. There will always be a part of me that aches a little bit, knowing there should have been one more, but I won’t let that pain and fear overtake my life again. Succumbing to that did nothing for me before, and it won’t do anything for me now. I am so grateful for my children that are with me here and now, and the one growing inside of me.

Now I know that whatever I face, I can survive it and find joy on the other side. And if you are reading this and experiencing any of the things that I did, you can too, girl! I was WEAK mentally, emotionally, physically, and God carried me through it to strength and joy. There is no way for me to know if you will experience the same results I did in the end, because we live in a broken world, and many times life sucks. But I’m going to keep hoping and keep living for those beautiful moments when life brings joy, and I pray that you can find joy and trust God in this difficult journey as well. <3

With love,

Alyssa Joy

Just as a resource if you want to try some of the things that I believe helped me in my journey, here are links to the products:
Raspberry Leaf Tea
Raspberry Leaf Tea Pills
Whole 30 Cookbook
Bulk Pregnancy Tests
Shaklee Vita-lea
Shaklee OmegaGuard

Motherhood, Miscarriage, & Secondary Infertility: Part 1 – Our Story

Over the past 5 years, I have experienced a healthy pregnancy, new motherhood, post-partum anxiety, miscarriage, post-partum depression, secondary infertility, many of the tests and procedures and medicine trials that go along with those things, and a second healthy pregnancy & delivery! It has been quite a rollercoaster of a journey, and I have decided to share about all of it this week in honor of Infertility Awareness Week. My hope is that this could be a light for another woman out there who could be going through some of these things as well, so if you’re that woman, then this one is for you. <3

I am really nervous to write these two posts because it is sharing a lot of personal details and requires a lot of vulnerability, but I am also excited to share it because, as I mentioned above, I think that it could potentially help other women out there that are experiencing similar situations as to what I experienced over the past 5 years. In Part 2, I want to share the solutions that worked for us, but I also don’t want to give anyone a false sense of hope because I know what it is like to see a negative pregnancy test month after month for over a year, and the heartbreak and frustration that it brings. I know what it is like to miscarry, to lose a child that you’ve never met, and to want to be pregnant again as soon as possible, but to also be terrified of pregnancy because you don’t want to experience pregnancy loss ever again, because you’re not sure if you can take it.

Obviously there are many women who have gone through both infertility and miscarriage and child loss to a much longer and deeper extent than I have, so I also don’t want this to be an “I feel sorry for myself” post, I really just wanted to share my experience if any part of it might help another woman.

In this post, and in my Part 2 post, I am going to recommend some products that helped me, but this is also not a fix-it for everyone type post because every woman’s body is different. If you are experiencing infertility, I don’t know what your diagnosis is, or why it is happening to you, but I thought it might be worth it to SOMEONE out there whose body could possibly be responding to things the same way mine was, and for whom this two-part post and information could be helpful!

Side Note: I do describe some of the events of my miscarriage, and the procedures I went through in some detail, so this may not be suitable for younger readers.

*This post contains affiliate links.

1st Pregnancy: New Motherhood

With my daughter (Now 4) I stopped taking birth control pills in August of 2013, and did not have a period before I became pregnant! It did take 5 months after stopping birth control to get pregnant, but at that point, I just blamed it on my body readjusting to not being on birth control. A friend recommended drinking Raspberry Leaf Tea (I’ll talk more about this in my post Motherhood, Miscarriage, & Secondary Infertility Part 2: Our Solutions) to help rebalance my hormones after birth control so I tried it for that last month, which is when I conceived! I had a healthy and fairly easy pregnancy & delivery, which lead me to believe that everything worked perfectly fine as far as my reproductive system went, and I had no worries about future pregnancies not being just as easy as the first.

However, I did experience post-partum anxiety and some post-partum depression after my daughter was born. When I hit a point where I was driving my car to work and I thought to myself “if I crash my car into a ditch on purpose, I’ll probably end up in the hospital for a few days and that will let me have time to be alone and sleep” I knew that this was a real problem. I started taking a low dose of Sertraline (Generic Zoloft), and it really helped my mind start to distinguish between the rational & irrational thoughts that would enter my mind every day. It really dulled that sense of anxiety enough that I could begin working through my thoughts, anxieties, and fears on my own instead of having to always talk them through with my husband and say “This is what I’m thinking right now, is that crazy or normal?” I still did this fairly often, but I was able to get better at it! (I’m planning to write another post on Post-partum emotional and mental states, so I won’t talk much about that here).

2nd Pregnancy: Experiencing Loss

By the time my daughter was 10 months old, I was pregnant again. This time, however, I was NOT drinking the Raspberry Leaf Tea (We had not been specifically trying, just not doing anything to prevent pregnancy). I was also still taking a low dose of Sertraline. During this pregnancy, I did not have much morning sickness as I did at the beginning with my 1st pregnancy, so I thought, “It must be a boy” or “Every baby is different” which is possible, but around 6.5 weeks pregnant, I started having weird, fast, and sharp pains. At first, I assumed it was maybe just my uterus or the muscles down there adjusting to prepare for another pregnancy, but when they started happening while I was teaching my high school class, and I had to stop talking in the middle of a sentence to wince, I knew something could be wrong.

We went back to the doctor, and they performed a Quantitative HCG test to check the actual HCG levels. The first time they had just done a Qualitative HCG test for pregnant or not since I had not experienced pregnancy loss in the past, there was no reason to worry at my first appointment. My HCG level at 7 weeks pregnant was only 267, which is not very high, they would normally be over 1,000. We then tested 2 days later to see if they were rising or falling, but wouldn’t get the results back until Monday. The doctor warned me of what might happen over the weekend, but honestly, I didn’t really process most of it, I just hoped for the best, and naively told myself they were probably wrong, my first pregnancy was healthy, so why would this be any different?

That weekend at 7.5 weeks pregnant, I started bleeding slightly, so Monday morning we went back into the doctor again so that he could check things, and talk to us about the results of the second HCG test. My level from the last test was down below 200, which meant that the pregnancy was not progressing. He again talked me through everything, but again, I did not really understand, because who does at that point?

The next morning, I woke up not feeling very well, my husband went to work, and I went back to bed because my daughter was still sleeping. I then woke up a little while later thinking that I was dying. I had cramps worse than anything I had ever experienced, I felt extremely nauseous, and when I went to the bathroom I was basically hemorrhaging blood. I called my husband and my mom, and my mom rushed over to my house to help me since my daughter was waking up, and my husband arrived shortly as well. All I really remember is the pain, nausea, and a lot of blood, but my husband said when he got there my face was totally pale and tinted green. We called the doctor and he said to just rest as much as possible, and let my body try to take care of the process of miscarrying naturally.

We ended up going back in a week later (still bleeding) to check on things and to make sure that my HCG levels were back at 0, which was a result that was incredibly painful to read, and we were expected to go on living our normal lives. This lead to a very difficult time for me mentally and emotionally as I began to experience Post-partum Depression (this can obviously happen even when you don’t have a new baby) and just to really struggle with this loss, which like I mentioned earlier, I will talk about in another post that focuses more on post-partum mental and emotional states.

After this loss, I felt this urgent need to be pregnant again, but at the same time, like I mentioned earlier, this intense fear of ever being pregnant again because of the horrifying and heartbreaking experience of losing my baby that I never was able to meet. The doctor recommended waiting 6 months to start trying again, but pretty much as soon as my body was healed, I wanted to start trying. I also had a deep sense of guilt because I had been taking the anti-depression/anxiety meds, and I felt like that somehow could have contributed to the miscarriage (not likely – based on further discoveries about my body it was most likely very low progesterone levels), so I told my doctor that I wanted to start weaning off of them as soon as possible. He told me that he did not think that would a good idea since I had just experienced something traumatic and it could trigger further issues with anxiety and depression, so I agreed to wait.

Secondary Infertility: Waiting Impatiently

About two months after the miscarriage, I felt like my body was healed enough (it was probably not, but again, I felt this urgent need to be pregnant) to start trying to get pregnant again. I started the process of weaning off of my medicine because I felt that the anxiety of being pregnant and on the medicine and miscarrying again was worse than the anxiety I was dealing with at the time. It ended up taking me about two months to completely wean off of the Sertraline. At that point, I felt that I was able to continue my practice of distinguishing between rational and irrational thoughts, and it really helped me to speak them out loud to a trusted friend or my husband. I also was able at this point to start to trust God with my thoughts and begin turning my fears and anxieties over to Him.

After another 4 months of trying to become pregnant again, I was having irregular heavy periods and cramping, and no success with becoming pregnant. Because of the irregularity and cramping, my doctor decided that we should do a hysteroscopy, in which you are put under anesthesia, and your doctor puts a scope through your vagina and cervix to look into your uterus, to make sure that there was nothing left in the uterus from the miscarriage, which could be causing the bleeding and pain. This was an in-and-out procedure but still caused more cramping and bleeding for a couple of days afterward. It was also just another addition to the heartbreak and the pain that I was still feeling from losing a pregnancy in the first place.This procedure took place in the month of my original due date from the baby we lost, so it was just a tough month in which to have a surgery with more bleeding and cramping.

After the hysteroscopy we found out that there was nothing “leftover” from the miscarriage in my uterus, I did have a small uterine polyp that they removed, which could have been causing some of the heavy bleeding, but shouldn’t have been causing issues with conception. So we just carried on with our lives, over the next 9 months we continued trying, with negative test after negative test, feeling heartbroken and just this urgency to have another baby.

Something that is helpful if you are in this situation of taking tests month after month is to order pregnancy tests in bulk from Amazon. I probably took about 4-6 tests per month because of the irregularity of my cycles. That really adds up if you’re paying normal store prices for tests. Here are the ones that I ordered, these cost me about 40 cents per test instead of $2.50-$15.00 per test at the stores:

During this time of trying, I had many friends who became pregnant with their second children, and while I was excited for them, it was also so heartbreaking to watch my daughter interact with their kids and think “she should have a sibling too, why did this happen?” If you have not experienced infertility, miscarriage, or child loss, this probably sounds mean or weird, but it can be painful depending on your emotional and mental state, to see pregnancy announcements, or new babies, or other siblings interacting with one another, and to know that this should have been you too with a new baby, it should have been your kid too, that had a new sibling. It is just a really difficult time, and it is so hard to process all of those emotions and thoughts.

At around 2 months after the hysteroscopy, I was still having irregular cycles & bleeding, so my doctor suggested that I take progesterone to tell my body when to have a period basically, and get it back on track. We had found by doing blood tests that my progesterone levels were very low (one time they were .72 which the normal level for a middle aged man!) Although it did help bring my progesterone levels up a bit, this did not really work for regulating my cycles for some reason, so at around 5 months after we had been trying post-hysteroscopy, (1 year post-miscarriage) my doctor tested my insulin levels, and decided to try putting me on Metformin to help balance out my insulin levels, and balance out my hormone levels as well, hopefully kicking my cycles back on track.

A couple of months later, and we were back in with irregularities and still no positive pregnancy tests, so I was officially diagnosed with “Secondary Infertility” which is when you’ve successfully become pregnant in the past, but you are unable to conceive after trying for one year without birth control. This again, was just heartbreaking because we did not really have any explanation as to why this was happening. We were referred to a fertility specialist, so we set up an appointment. Our first appointment with the fertility doctor was 14 months after my miscarriage.
When we went to the fertility doctor, they had my husband do some “testing” only to find that everything on his end was “impressively strong and healthy”, so it was obviously me that was the issue. Again, after feeling that I had failed to keep my last baby alive, this was just another heartbreak for me that I was causing the “issue” but we didn’t know how to fix it. Unfortunately, after testing me, we were told that I probably had Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or PCOS, which is when the ovaries produce higher levels of male hormones than female hormones, and this can prevent ovulation.

However, they were unsure, so they wanted to do a Hysterosalpingography, a test to check my fallopian tubes to make sure they were not blocked. This test uses x-rays to take pictures of the inside of the uterus, and dye is put into the uterus while it is being x-rayed to see if the dye goes through the fallopian tubes into the ovaries. They also put a metal device through my vagina and cervix and into my uterus and cut a small piece of the uterine lining off to check for endometriosis. This was another procedure that was an in-and-out procedure, except for they did not put me under! They just said to take some ibuprofen. It was pretty uncomfortable, there was a definite pinch when they cut off a piece of the uterine lining, and I had cramping for the rest of the day. During the procedure, the doctor (not my regular OBGYN) said: “would you like to watch on the x-ray screen?” I’m like um no, please can I just pretend this is NOT happening right now!? Ugh.

So anyway, after this procedure, again everything looked fine, we were just told it was probably PCOS, and that we could pay a bunch of money for them to do ultrasounds to track my ovulation, take my husband’s sperm and put it into me at the right time, etc. They told us that most couples in our situation could take another 5-7 years of trying on their own without assistance to become pregnant. (Which seemed weird to us since they couldn’t officially tell us what was wrong.) Honestly, at this point, we were just so tired of testing and spending money that my husband and I decided we were just going to give this over to God, keep praying and trying, and trust Him with this.

I am not saying that we are against Fertility Procedures because I’ve seen a lot of miracle babies born because of them, and obviously, if there would have been specific issues that they said they could fix, we might have considered it, but for us at this point, taking a step back seemed like the right decision. By now it was 16 months post-miscarriage, two invasive tests for me not including intravaginal ultrasounds, trying different medicines, irregular bleeding, and cramping, etc. etc. and I was just so tired of it! At this point also, the baby we lost would have been close to turning 1 year old, which was just another heartbreak for me. I should have been planning a first birthday party, but instead, I was having procedures done, and crying myself to sleep from frustration.

Honestly, things felt pretty hopeless after all that we had tried, and I assumed that I was just not meant to have another baby, at least not anytime soon. However, God had different plans, and we were coming close to finding a solution! I talk about Pregnancy #3 & The Solutions that worked for us in my next post: Motherhood, Miscarriage, & Secondary Infertility: Part 2 – Our Solutions.

Resources from this post:
Bulk Pregnancy Tests
Raspberry Leaf Tea

Let me know in the comments if you’ve experienced any of these things, and what has helped you through it so far! And make sure to check out Part 2 because there is hope on the horizon. <3

With love,

Alyssa Joy

My Favorite Meal to Take to a Friend in Need

My Favorite Meal to Take to a Friend in Need

I’ve had the opportunity to take meals to a lot of different friends and family members over the past couple of years. As I discussed in my post Ten Tips for Taking a Meal, meal-taking is a ministry for me! As a stay at home mom, it is often difficult to get out of the house to serve others, but I have found that making meals for people fits easily into my day, and is an act of love that really is uplifting to people in need! I take most of my meals to families with new babies at home, but I’ve also been able to take meals to those who are grieving the loss of a family member, women who have suffered a miscarriage, those who are taking care of loved ones in the hospital, and to those who are recovering from a debilitating illness or injury.

So, needless to say, I have tried out many different meals as my “go-to” for meal-taking. I have found that when you take a lot of meals to people, it is best to have a set meal that you take every time because you can throw it together quickly, you are able to memorize the necessary ingredients so that you can easily add them to your grocery list, and you know exactly what you need in order to get it “packaged and delivered”. (Sizes of pans, types of containers, etc.)
These meal plans do not take allergies into consideration, I plan to write an allergy-sensitive meal-plan sometime soon, I’ll add a link to it here when it is done!

Also, as a reference, when I say “a lot of meals” my goal is AT LEAST one per month, and NO MORE THAN one per week. I had to put this limit on myself because I’m not very good at saying no, but it isn’t that hard when you’re signing up for meal schedules to coordinate & organize yourself so that you’re taking only one each week. Most meal schedules will include 3-6 weeks of meal-taking opportunities, so you can space yourself out. This also makes it so that I can stick to my grocery budget each week. Making 2-3 meals a week for other people would definitely add to your grocery bill! (Which is great if you have that extra money to give, but my husband prefers that I space it out) πŸ˜‰ And if once a month seems like a lot to you, or you think you don’t know that many people who need it, look around! I promise there is someone out there who could use it! Maybe even a neighbor you don’t know well yet, a family member that you know is really stressed, anyone with children at home…people in need of a meal are out there, I promise.

Like I said, I’ve tried quite a few different meals to take, but here are two other meals that I’ve stuck with for awhile in the past because they worked well:

Meal 1: Shredded BBQ Chicken Sandwiches, Baked Cheesy Potatoes, Fruit, Lazy Cake Cookies, Lemonade
Meal 2: Chicken Parmigian Casserole, Garlic Bread, Caesar Salad Kit, Lazy Cake Cookies, Wine

Both of those are easy to make, and people generally like them! I liked doing fruit, but I found that it is not as versatile/easy to grab, prep, & send as a Salad Kit! The two staples that I still use are Garlic Bread & of course, Lazy Cake Cookies, a recipe I found on Pinterest, and that everyone asks for! Literally, everyone. They’re easy & amazing & only 4 ingredients! Anyways, I’ll get to those later. So, here is the meal that I’ve ended up using consistently based on the number of ingredients, ease of prep, and feedback from people who’ve received the meals! (Since I like taking meals I usually ask for honest feedback so I can adjust as needed):

My Favorite Meal to Take: Amish Country “Comfort” Casserole, Garlic Bread, Caesar Salad Kit, Lazy Cake Cookies, Lemonade or Wine, Cinnamon Rolls (for Breakfast)

Entree: Amish Country “Comfort” Casserole:

SO, the Amish Country “Comfort” Casserole has literally been one of my favorite meals that I’ve found on Pinterest! It works super well for meal taking because it does not have a lot of ingredients, it takes very little time to prep, it freezes well, it has a short bake time, and it is kid friendly! I’ve had 4 different people tell me that their kids loved it! It also uses egg noodles which I feel like are just extra comforting for some reason. <3 ALSO, (sorry so many great things) it is a beef recipe instead of chicken. Don’t get me wrong I LOVE chicken casseroles, but I do feel like when you are in a situation where people bring you meals you end up with a lot of different chicken recipes & casseroles, so I like doing a ground beef meal that isn’t lasagna. I found this recipe through Pinterest on Plain Chicken’s site. I LOVE her recipes and most of my favorites I’ve used over the years I have found on her site! She does quick & easy recipes which are exactly what I need as a mom with young kids. Anyways, here is her recipe that I use several times a month: Amish Country Casserole by Plain Chicken

Some pictures I took while making Amish Country Casserole recently! Yum!

 

Side #1: Garlic Bread

Garlic Bread is just a staple for comfort food in my opinion if you are serving any type of noodle casserole. But, I’m also obsessed with garlic bread, so this might just be a personal preference. πŸ™‚ My favorite garlic bread is shown below from Aldi, (which you can order and have delivered to your door with Instacart! What?!?! Yup.) It is super simple to make, it takes 5-7 minutes at 425 degrees in the oven. It can be stored on the counter, in the fridge, or in the freezer. Super versatile, quick, and easy which makes it great for meal-taking! You can also buy any frozen garlic bread to take. I like to use the fresh Aldi garlic bread if they will be eating the meal that night, and a frozen type of garlic bread if you are taking them a meal to freeze for later.

Side #2: Caesar Salad Kit or Frozen Veggies

Something I did not even know that existed until I had my second child and people brought me meals was a Caesar Salad Kit! I do like salad, I do NOT like salad prep. So a package that contains everything I need to make my salad is a no-brainer for me. For meal-taking purposes, this goes great with a noodle dish & garlic bread, it is easy to take because the person can just make it quickly in their own salad bowl at home, and it can be stored in the fridge until they are ready to eat it! If you are taking a meal that you know will be frozen for at least several days, send frozen vegetables instead (I usually go with green beans).

Breakfast (Optional):

I don’t find that people often bring breakfast for the next morning, but when you’ve been up with a baby all night, or up in pain all night, or are just grieving and don’t want to get out of bed, it is nice to have something for breakfast that will taste good and be comforting, but is also quick and easy. I usually just grab a canister of cinnamon rolls which are quick and easy for them in the morning, but also comforting!

Fresh & Frozen Side Options, plus Cinnamon Rolls for Breakfast!

Dessert: Lazy Cake Cookies!

Okay, so I was not kidding, almost every person that I take Lazy Cake Cookies to has asked me for the recipe. The great thing is that they are SO EASY! They are great for meal-taking because you can make them in a 9×13 pan, they only use four ingredients, and everyone loves them. This is obviously another of my favorite go-to recipes that I found on Pinterest. She mentions that mini chocolate chips can be hard to find, but I always find mine at Aldi! Here is the recipe: Lazy Cake Cookies by I’m a Lazy Mom

These literally take me under 5 minutes now to prep!

Drink: Lemonade or Wine

This is kind of an extra thing that is not really necessary, but I think it is a nice touch. Depending on whether or not the family I’m taking food to drinks wine, I will either take wine or lemonade. Lemonade is nice if they have kids because its an extra fun thing. My family pretty much drinks water or milk, so anything else is a fun surprise. πŸ™‚

Okay! That is it! Whew! Thank you for sticking with me through all of that! πŸ™‚ Here are what the two different “packaged and ready to deliver” meals would look like (frozen option & fresh option). One tip – Always write instructions on anything that needs to be baked! I actually write on anything that is wrapped in aluminum. I put what it contains, if it is already baked, and if not, how to thaw & bake it!

Option 1: Fresh Meal!

Option 2: Frozen Meal!

One more thing – Just a reminder, that having your groceries delivered, or picking them up are both great ways to save time and make it easier on yourself long-term to continue making meals for people. I have tried both of the following and highly recommend them. Whichever you try, you & I both get $10 off if you try it! πŸ™‚

Instacart Grocery Delivery:

It’s crazy and super convenient. You can pay for year-long free delivery for around $150, or you can pay per time and I think it is around $5-6 per order. You can also tip your driver on top of that. For me, with two little kids at home, it is worth an extra $10 to not have to go to the store with my kids, plus I stick to my grocery list and my budget and don’t overspend by grabbing random things off of the shelves! If you’re interested in trying out Instacart (and seeing if they deliver in your area-they do other stores besides Aldi too) then click my link, and you get free delivery on your first time! You can also sign up for a 14 day free trial of free delivery, but make sure you cancel it before the end of the two weeks or you will automatically get charged $150 for free delivery all year. (Which really at $12.50 a month isn’t bad, but would be a shock on your bank statement if you weren’t expecting it!)

Here is my Instacart link for Free Delivery & $10 Off Your First Order if you want to check it out!

Wal-Mart Grocery Pick-Up:

Tried Walmart Grocery pick-up today just to compare to Aldi’s Instacart, and I actually really loved it. The produce they selected looked great, the prices are the same as in-store prices where Instacart can charge you slightly more, and the customer service experience was great. There is also no service fee or delivery charge or tipping which adds an extra $10-15 to my Aldi orders thru Instacart. I even got a freebie welcome bag for using Wal-Mart Grocery Pick-up! If you haven’t tried it yet, and you use my link you get $10 off and I get $10 too πŸ™Œ Also here’s a picture of what was in my Welcome Bag:

Wal-Mart Grocery Pick-Up $10 off link: http://r.wmt.co/irX8P

Okay, that is everything! I hope you found some helpful ideas for taking meals to the people in need in your community! Also, don’t forget to check out my post Ten Tips for Taking a Meal so that you make receiving a meal the best experience possible for the people you are taking the time to care for!

Let me know what your favorite meals are to take to people!

With Joy,

Alyssa

 

10 Tips for Taking a Meal

As a stay at home mom, it has been difficult to “get out there” and serve people because I have two little people in my home that need constant attention and care! One way that I’ve been able to continue to take care of and serve those around me (besides my own family) is by taking meals to people in need of them! “People in need” could really include anyone, because, honestly, most days if someone showed up at my door with a hot & ready to eat, meal or a freezer meal, I might just kiss them, and I’d definitely eat the food! Most of the people I know are so grateful to have a break from cooking dinner for the night!

My most common opportunity for meal-taking is for new moms because as a young mom I know a lot of other young & new moms. However, I’ve also had the opportunity to take meals to those who are grieving the loss of a family member, taking care of a family member in the hospital, or recovering from an injury or illness that is debilitating. I think that cooking for others and feeding their family is such a simple but loving way to share Christ’s love with others. Isaiah 58:10 says “Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.” Wow! Something this simple gives you the opportunity to minister to the tired, recovering, grieving, and hurting people around you, and definitely shines a light in their life. I hope you consider taking a meal to someone around you!

*This post contains affiliate links.

Here are my 10 Tips for Taking a Meal!

1. Check if there is already a meal schedule set up for them

This is something that a lot of families, churches and women’s ministries or groups will do, so check with the person’s church or family and see if they have already started one! If no one has started one for them and you know them fairly well, you could take that extra step and set it up for them! (I would only recommend this if you know at least 5-10 of the same families as them. Otherwise, it is easier to just do it on your own, or ask a couple of friends if they would be willing to take some meals also to bless this family.) My favorite free website for meal scheduling is, takethemameal.com . You just register for a free account, create a meal schedule, and then you add information about the person’s situation (always ask what you can share!) then you can include their address, or for privacy just include their phone number and the people that sign up can text or call them for their address. You can then email the schedule or share it on social media with the people that you want to encourage to sign up as well! When people sign up they include their name, number, email, & what they’re bringing. The website will actually email you to remind you that you’re taking a meal that day which is nice!

 

2. Use disposable containers

Walmart has the cheapest ones that I’ve found, but most grocery stores should have 9×13 aluminum pans that the person doesn’t have to worry about washing & returning! If you like to shop in bulk online, you can get them on Amazon for like $1 a pan which is a good deal because a lot of times they’re at least $2 each or more in the store. (I realize this is not the most eco-friendly, so if you know the person well feel free to use your own dishes, or you could even ask to borrow their dish and cook their meal in it!) I only recommend disposable because you’re not giving them extra dishes to wash & return!


3. Take something “fresh”

I like to include either a container of washed & cut strawberries or a salad kit. A lot of times people in difficult situations will receive several meals, and it can be refreshing to have something a little more fresh thrown in with the casseroles. πŸ™‚ Other things I’ve taken have included cuties oranges, fruit salad, southwest chopped salad kit, etc.

4. Ask about food allergies

You don’t want to take someone a meal that they can’t eat! The most common things I’ve had people mention are gluten & nut allergies, but I’ve also taken people meals who were allergic to onions, tomatoes, fish, etc. you can never be too careful! (If you’re setting up a meal schedule make sure to ask the family about this and include it in your description!)

5. Make it kid-friendly/picky adult friendly πŸ™‚

You may be able to make a beautiful spinach-stuffed salmon (is that a thing?) but if their kids won’t even try it, they’re still stuck making something for dinner. Obviously, some people’s kids (and some people) are pickier than others and you can’t always accommodate this, but I try to make it something that I know my kids would at least try, and that doesn’t have a lot of unknown or out of the ordinary ingredients. (If you have a picky eater in YOUR family, check out my post 10 Meal-Time Rules for the Picky Eater and let me know what you think!)

6. Contact them ahead of time about drop-off & type of meal

Some people might eat dinner at 5 if a spouse or family member does night shift work, so you don’t want to show up with dinner at 6:30 when they’re leaving. Some people might not eat until 6:30 when a spouse or family member gets home so it’d be better to show up with hot food around 6:15 than at 5:00. Again, these are all preferences but I’ve found that they matter to people and it makes them feel even better-taken care of by you. <3 By type of meal I mean to ask if they want the meal ready to freeze or ready to eat. Again, people that are in need of meals might be getting them from other people also and might appreciate having a meal that they can throw in the freezer and use in a week when they run out of fresh meals that people have brought them.

7. Make a little more than you think they will eat

The times that I’ve thought (its just two people, I’ll make an 8×8 pan instead of 9×13) are the times that they’ve said “Oh my sister and her family are eating with us,” or “my mom is here for dinner too”! Luckily I always just went with the bigger size so it wasn’t an issue, but if I would’ve done the smaller size they wouldn’t have had enough! Even if they don’t have extra people there, it is always nice to have leftovers because then you actually made them two meals! If I know it is just two people eating, sometimes I will make two 8×8 pans instead of one 9×13 in case they want to throw one in the freezer and eat the other one that night.

8. Include dessert, a drink, and/or a quick breakfast

This is really just a personal preference because I love dessert, but it is again just that extra nice touch showing them you’re thinking of them and are even taking care of their sweet tooth. πŸ™‚ I always include a 9×13 pan of my favorite Lazy Cake Cookies! (Find that recipe link in this post: My Favorite Meal to take to a Friend)I also like to send a drink because again, it is just something extra! My family drinks water or milk with every meal, so having lemonade to drink would be a special treat. I like to send either lemonade or wine with my meals depending on the family. (If you’re not sure whether or not they drink alcohol, then don’t send it!) Finally, you can always send something for breakfast too! I like to toss in a container of cinnamon rolls for the next morning! People don’t bring breakfast that often, so it is another nice “extra”.

9. Be bold enough to take meals to people you don’t know very well

I’ve actually gotten to know several women better just because I reached out and took them a meal during a difficult time in their life. People remember when you take care of them, and this can provide an awesome opportunity to make new friends! If you are part of a church and the other person isn’t this can also be a great opportunity to invite them so that they can experience what it is like to be a part of a community that takes care of each other and shares Christ’s love. The women of my church have willingly helped me bless several families with multiple meals (some families as many as 15-20 meals) when they didn’t even know those people at all! <3

10. Make it as easy as possible on yourself

Okay, this one doesn’t sound very nice, BUT when you are making 4 meals a month for other people, it is a good idea to keep things simple for yourself so that you don’t get burnt out! In order to make things easier on myself, I take the same basic meal to everyone. I describe that meal in this post: My Favorite Meal to Take to a Friend. Doing this allows me to easily add the necessary groceries to my list because I have them memorized at this point! I also don’t need to look at recipes when I’m cooking, and I have my cooking rhythm down to get it made as quickly as possible! Again, I know this sounds bad to make being nice easy, but keeping things simple makes it so that you are willing and able to keep doing it long-term!

The other thing I recently started doing is using Instacart to shop at Aldi! That way I get my groceries delivered straight to my door! What?!?! Yup. It’s crazy and super convenient. You can pay for year-long free delivery for around $150, or you can pay per time and I think it is around $5-6 per order. You can also tip your driver on top of that. For me, with two little kids at home, it is worth an extra $10 to not have to go to the store with my kids, plus I stick to my grocery list and my budget and don’t overspend by grabbing random things off of the shelves! If you’re interested in trying out Instacart (and seeing if they deliver in your area-they do other stores besides Aldi too) then click my link, and you get free delivery on your first time! You can also sign up for a 14 day free trial of free delivery, but make sure you cancel it before the end of the two weeks or you will automatically get charged $150 for free delivery all year. (Which really at $12.50 a month isn’t bad, but would be a shock on your bank statement if you weren’t expecting it!)

Here is my Instacart link for Free Delivery & $10 Off Your First Order if you want to check it out!

Bonus Tip: Don’t leave too quickly or stay too long!

Okay, I like to talk, so I usually throw something extra in here, but my bonus tip is to not drop the food and run without checking in with them, but also don’t stay too long if they don’t feel like talking or letting you see their house! Just read the situation well at drop-off & see what else they might need. Especially if you are delivering a meal to a new mom, look around and see how she is doing. If you know her and she trusts you, you could even offer to help with a couple of other things while there or to hold the baby while she takes a shower. Again – read the situation. Some new moms might just want you to leave the meal at the door and go! And that is just fine! Don’t be offended if the person you are taking a meal to does not want to talk for very long, depending on their situation they may be exhausted, sad, etc. If they seem lonely and like they want to talk, then stay a bit, but always ask.

You could say something like “You look really great, but you seem like you’re feeling ______ do you want to talk about it?” or IF YOU KNOW THEM WELL & THEY TRUST YOU (can’t stress that enough) πŸ™‚ “You look really great, but you seem really tired, would you want me to hold the baby for 5 minutes so you can shower?” (Notice I always start off by telling new moms that they look really great. <3)

Honestly being a new mom is SO HARD. Losing a loved one is SO HARD. Recovering from a debilitating illness or injury is SO HARD. Just keep in mind that the person you are taking food to may be hurting, and they may need a little extra care. My point is to just take that extra second to check in with them and make sure they are ok. If they don’t want to talk that is fine, just make sure you take the time to care! Since I struggled with post-partum anxiety & depression, I always ask new moms how they are feeling. I mention something like “Gosh, I was so anxious after my daughter was born, it was overwhelming” and a lot of times they will share how they’re feeling and you can offer encouragement, advice (if they want it), and/or pray with them. So in summary, stay long enough to be of help, but not so long that you cause more work or make the person use up extra energy! (For example, if the baby is sleeping, get out of there!) πŸ™‚

Okay, those are my tips! Let me know in the comments if you have any other ideas or things that have worked for you!

If you love the idea of taking someone a meal but aren’t sure where to start, don’t forget to check out My Favorite Meal to Take to a Friend in Need!

Have fun caring for and serving those around you!

With Joy,

Alyssa

“Wild One” Birthday Party!

Our second child is officially ONE! I cannot believe how quickly this first year with him flew by. He is such a sweet boy! In retrospect, this party theme probably does not fit him that well because he is super calm and not wild at all, but this theme was SO CUTE that I absolutely could not resist using it for his 1st birthday party! This was inspired by the classic story Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. Our son Levi was “King of all the Wild Things” are I am excited to share with you the super fun (but budget-friendly) party that we threw for him!

*This post contains affiliate links.

Invitations:

For invitations, I would normally use Amazon Prints because they’re super fast, shipping is free if you have Amazon Prime, and they have a lot of great options! However, I was actually planning several events in February and since we were sticking with just family & close friends I decided to just create a Facebook event (Maybe I’m not as great of a party-planner as I thought!) πŸ˜‰

Another option I found on Amazon (after the party of course) that is super cute are these Where the Wild Things Are Invitations

You just fill out your specific info and you buy a digital download of that image so that you can print as many copies as you’d like at home, or you can order prints as well. (Click on “Select Options”)

Decorations:

The party itself was hosted in the community room of our church which JUST fit the number of guests we had attending! Yikes! It worked out fine though. πŸ™‚ In order to decorate, I went to Amazon again because I honestly buy almost everything from Amazon. This is not a joke. (Which is why I became an Amazon affiliate so that I can recommend all of the products I use!)

ThisΒ Wild One Balloon Banner with Leaves was my favorite part of the decorations because I used the different pieces in several different ways throughout my decor. It comes with balloon letters that spell out WILD ONE, plus it comes with several white and several green balloons, a string to hang the letters on (no helium required) AND an easy-to-use air pump to pump everything up! It made our focal point super easy. I just kind of tossed the white & green balloons around the room and the kids had fun chasing them around. I’ll share how we used the leaves that came with it when I talk about centerpieces. Here is Amazon’s picture of the banner I used, plus one of my pictures (I added the pompon banner underneath it that I picked up from the Dollar Tree):

Amazon has a ton of other really cute Wild One Banners if you don’t care for the one I chose!

My second favorite part of the decor was the centerpieces <3 Besides the leaves that came with the Wild One Banner, I ended up getting everything at the Dollar Tree! I literally walked into the Dollar Tree thinking “find something green to put in the middle of the table” which of course became a little more complicated as anyone who loves planning parties knows! Here are the different elements I used for the centerpieces: floral moss, fake onion grass stems, fake spider plant stems, and glass hurricane vases. I found all of those things at the dollar store, but I think the greenery was only there because it is close to Easter so they had a lot of floral decor. I was checking if Amazon had anything similar and did find Floral Moss, Fake Onion Grass, Fake Spider Plant & Fern Stems, and Cylinder Vases, that all looked pretty similar to what I used if you would rather just order online! I love having a set of 12 Cylinder vases because I re-use them in some way for every party!

Creation Process!

Put it on top of one of the leaves from the Wild One Balloon Banner with Leaves and done! Easy!

The only other decorations I really needed were white plastic tablecloths, black, green, and white pompon banners, and black, green, and white streamers. I found all of those at the dollar store. Here is a cute Triangle Pennant Banner though that would’ve worked well too. I always find cute things after I throw the party!

I really liked the black, white, and green with the gold balloon letters, because it felt classy but foresty & fun which was perfect for a sweet little boy’s party! <3

Food:

Okay, whew! I guess it takes more effort than I thought to throw a party! πŸ˜‰ But hopefully, it is just as fun for you as it is for me! Seeing everything come together is so fun. <3 For food, I wanted to keep it “simple” but still throw in some references to the theme. I found a couple of cool ideas on Pinterest, my favorite was this idea to create a sailboat like Max had in the book. I found the idea here. My mother-in-law has made cool watermelon fruit salad bowls in the past so I sent her the picture and she said she could do it! Here is a picture, it turned out great!

I also decided to try to make blue punch so that I could put a little sailboat on top of it that I made out of aluminum foil, a piece of brown cardstock, and a toothpick! Here is theΒ “Under the Sea” Blue Raspberry Lemonade Sherbet Party Punch Recipe I used to look like water that the little sailboat was floating on top of. P.S. It was delicious. Here is a picture of the punch bowl with the sailboat in it, I put some extra floral moss underneath the pedestal to make it look a little more forest-like still.

I was super proud of that little foil boat by the way! πŸ˜€ It took a lot of effort to get that to float! The rest of the food was not really for the theme, just basic party food that was easy & delicious! One of my friends made a delicious taco salad, another friend brought veggies & dip, my sister-in-law brought a large assortment of chips, my mom made a delicious Apple Twix Salad, (<–click for recipe), she normally does Apple Snickers Salad, but we have a close friend with a nut allergy, so she switched it up to use Twix instead and it was delicious! (Just a tip since I’m sure a lot of moms will want to be careful about using recipes with nuts in them at birthday parties!) For the main dish, we ordered party-size pizzas from a local pizza place that we love.

I found all of my party plates & napkins at Dollar Tree (maybe I should be an affiliate for them…) πŸ™‚ I just went with black plates, green napkins, black plastic silverware, and I found a couple of cute metal tins to separate forks, spoons, and knives.

Dessert:

Now for the BEST part of any birthday party, dessert! I was excited to have my friend who owns Sophisticated Sprinkles make cupcakes for the party! She did a super cute cake a couple of years ago for my daughter’s birthday that was Doc McStuffins themed, and it was delicious and super cute. I found these adorable Where the Wild Things Are Cupcakes on Pinterest, my friend said she could make them, and here is how they turned out!

She did an amazing job! They were delicious (her frosting is my favorite!) and they were so perfect for the theme!

Cupcakes/party desserts are one area I’m always willing to spend a little more money on because it is my favorite part of the party πŸ˜‰ but if you’re the kind of person that makes your own, you could also order Where the Wild Things Are Cupcake Toppers.

Extras for Guests:

A lot of times I like to have games or activities, but for a 1st Birthday, we just stuck to the basics. We did have the gym open at our church for the kids to run around and play if they wanted, quite a few of the parents ended up hanging out in there too! Here’s a cute picture of Levi playing in the gym in his Wild One Onesie (<–there’s the link to order one, it was super cute!) It did run a little bit big. My son wears a size 12m in most brands, but the 12-18 month was too big so I sent it back and got the 6-12 month instead. It was still a tiny bit big, but was perfect for the winter because I put a long-sleeve white onesie under it! Thankfully I have Amazon Prime (Try Prime Discounted Monthly Offering) so it was easy and free to exchange, all within 2 days!

One of my favorite things to do for a first birthday party is to have a book for guests to sign! Obviously, the book for the party was Where the Wild Things Are to fit our theme! I ordered the hardcover version from that link so that people could easily sign it as a guest book. I bought a set of Sharpie Fine Point Pens too.

Having a book that all of the guests sign is really special to me! I still have my daughter’s from her Curious George 2nd Birthday Party, and she loves to go back and have me read all of the notes that her friends and family member wrote for her!

Okay, I think that is officially everything! I hope you enjoyed our party, thank you for being our guest! πŸ˜‰

Leave me a comment with any other fun ideas, or if you try any of these! Thanks!

With Joy,

Alyssa


Bringing Up Joy is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

30-Day Be More Positive Challenge: Days 7-12 Reflections

Hello! This post will cover my reflections on Days 7-12 of the 30-Day Be More Positive Challenge. If you missed my Reflections of Days 1-6, make sure to check those out as well!

Day 7: Think about the best parts of your life while you’re waiting in line or at a stop light.

Stoplights and lines are usually places where I complain in my head about all the things that I could be doing with my time instead of sitting there waiting. So this was a great challenge for me! I took a second to look in the rearview mirror at my beautiful children, to thank God for the working car I was driving, to appreciate the nice weather, to be thankful for good health, for my husband and how hard he works to provide for our family, and more! This really made a difference in my mindset! We spend a lot of time waiting each day, and this time can either be used as a positive influence or a negative influence. When you choose to utilize that time as a positive influence you are not wasting it, and you are not letting it control you!

Day 8: Take a few minutes to write down your values. What is most important in your life?

Here is a list of my values:

  • God is Lord over my life & Jesus is my Savior
  • Our purpose in life is to glorify God, not ourselves & our accomplishments
  • My husband and my children are my first priority over other people
  • Loving and caring for those around me is more important than my own material wants
  • Our possessions and money belong to God and we should be good stewards of them
  • Encouragement is essential in any relationship

Reflecting on your values allows you to recognize what is most important and to actually start living them out. You are probably already focusing on most of them in your daily life, but stating them makes it more of a reality and a challenge to yourself to be the person whose life revolves around those values. If we don’t stand for anything it is easy to get sucked into what others believe is important. In order to maintain a positive mindset and experience joy in our lives, we have to know who we are. In my life, that means recognizing who created me (God) and what I was created for (to glorify Him). If I don’t keep that first in my mind it is easy to become overwhelmed and bogged down by the pressures, negative cultural influences, and stresses of the world.

Day 9: Whenever you have a minute, take 3 full deep breaths to get your oxygen flowing.

This challenge is *literally* a breath of fresh air. πŸ˜‰ But seriously, how often do you do this if you’re not intentional about it? I know I never do. Taking three full deep breaths helps me to stop my body from moving and my mind from racing for a couple of seconds, but really that is all it takes to redirect and refocus your thoughts. Sometimes I just have 5,000 thoughts running through my head at once creating a sense of chaos and of being overwhelmed. Taking three deep breaths helps me to focus on one. Other times I can only focus on one thought, but it is never a positive one. Taking three deep breaths in that situation helped me to calm down, and redirect to what I actually need to think about, or even just an opposite & positive version of what I had been thinking before! This challenge is SO easy but so vital to our mental health.

*This post contains affiliate links.

Day 10: Dance, run, jump on a trampoline. Get out there & get your endorphins going for at least 5 minutes.

So, this one was a challenge with two kids under 5 in the Winter (yup it was 30 degrees outside), but we did it! I bundled up the littlest one in my Ergobaby Carrier (<–that one is on sale for $25 off right now on Amazon!), put a hat, scarf, gloves, and winter coat on Joy, grabbed the dog & off we went! Honestly by the end of the 20-minute walk, everyone (including me) was in tears but hey, we did it. πŸ™‚ Although it was a struggle, it was good just to get out of that house! It got my endorphins going, breathing cold air definitely woke me up, and it motivated me to keep that positive energy going the rest of the day!

Day 11: Do something nice for someone unexpectedly. Keep your eyes open for someone who could use a boost.

So, surprises & gift-giving is kind of a hobby/favorite thing of mine, making this one of the more fun challenges for me. It also came the day after my husband had bought me these beautiful flowers for no reason other than love: πŸ™‚

So I knew that my nice thing was going to be for my husband because come on, those are BEAUTIFUL. Even though him giving me something first may have disqualified this as an “unexpectedly” thing, but oh well. I ended up just surprising him with ice cream at work (his favorite – Reese’s PB Cups with chocolate in milkshake form.) I also bought a little cup of ice cream for my daughter (who can always use a boost because she is an emotional preschooler) and that made her day. (Not to mention the ice cream I bought myself …win-win right?) Anyways, doing nice things for people when they don’t expect it is awesome because you get to take part in the joy and appreciation they feel! There are no negative thoughts/feelings associated with doing something nice for no reason, just a lot of thinking about why you appreciate them and feeling great because of how you made them feel! Also keep in mind that the important thing isn’t a grand gesture, but your intent behind it to let that person know that you see them and you notice how wonderful they are. (Thanks Jack Pearson) πŸ˜‰ <3 P.S. I’m a This Is Us addict…

Day 12: Share a good memory with 2 friends & reminisce about good times.

Okay, to be honest, I didn’t take the time to do this one for some reason. Okay, for one reason – talking on the phone for longer than 1 minute is super difficult as a stay-at-home mom! I DID spend some time working on plans for a girls trip to Denver with 5 of my closest life-long friends THIS SPRING, which will be an overload of reminiscing on good memories, having tons of “good times”, and creating more beautiful memories together! So, I counted that and am looking forward to it every day. <3 Just for fun, here’s a picture from our last “girls trip” a couple of years ago:

So, spending time in conversation (or even better in person) with friends that KNOW you, and that you have a long history of memories with, is SO beneficial to your mental & emotional health! The picture above just brings so many positive feelings of friendship & fun & a lifetime of “good times”. Even though these aren’t women that I now see every day because of where we all live, they are women that I grew up with and learned about life with and went through joy and heartache with, and connecting with people like that in your life is, in my opinion, one of the BEST ways to create joy in your life!

That is it for Days 7-12! Don’t forget to go back and read the Days 1-6 Reflections, and I’ll be posting my Days 13-18 Reflections soon!

*We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Three Morning Essentials for This Momma

Hey there! How are your mornings going lately? Mine started to be a real downer, to the point where I did NOT want to get out of bed. I’m not sure if this is just postpartum hormones (do those count when your kid is almost one?), or just the normal “I have a preschooler that won’t quit” tiredness levels, but I DO know that I wanted to be done with dreading leaving my bed every morning!

So, I decided to come up with a game plan. I thought about why I might be feeling this way, and even had a conversation with a friend of mine who is a social worker, and realized that I’m still struggling with my transition from being a full-time working mom to a stay-at-home mom. (Even though this transition mostly happened a year ago when I went on maternity leave).

This is a struggle for me because I REALLY like to have a set plan and to feel that I am fulfilling a purpose with my day and with the work that I am doing. As a high-school teacher for the past 6 years, these two things were a given every day. Your life runs on a bell schedule, every class has a specific lesson plan, and even your after-school hours with your family have to be pretty well-planned in order to accomplish what needs to be done in the hours you have left once you’re home! Teaching is a very meaningful and purposeful career, (even though not always encouraging- that’s a different story), you always know in the back of your mind that what you are doing matters. Even if it is only acknowledged by a couple of students now, the rest will realize it later.

As a stay-at-home mom, however, no one is telling me when and how to do things! I don’t have a boss. (Besides my kids) but their style of leadership would probably be considered insane. I don’t have a set schedule unless I make one for myself, but even then, no one is around to say “Great job!” when I stick to it! (I also realized I appreciate verbal affirmation which isn’t common for 4-year-olds and 11-month-olds to give out). Obviously being a stay-at-home mom has a purpose, and I am so grateful to be with them, but being with the same two little humans day in and day out, and completing the same household chores day in and day out can be…whatever the opposite of stimulating is…

So, I tried to think of some things I could do right away in the mornings that would give me that extra kick, and fortunately, over the past several weeks, (when I follow through and use them), I have found that the following 3 “items” really help to give me some motivation to get “up and at ’em” (’em being my children) πŸ™‚

*This post contains affiliate links.

Here you go! Hope these give you some options and ideas to give your mornings a kick-start as well!

1.A Fun Planner

My current goal is to open my planner every night and every morning. Even just glancing over the week and the different activities gives me a semi-plan for the next day. I love how my planner has my “top three” things to take care of each day. I try to not plan these out ahead of time, but to add them each night based on what I need to get done the next day. This also gives me a little bit of motivation for the day because I can “schedule in” some me-time, or some time to work on my blog. Doing this helps me feel organized, and I have specific tasks & goals to accomplish each day. Even if they’re not things I actually enjoy, they are still something to “look forward” to in the mundane stretch of being in the house all day! Even if all I accomplish are those top three things, I still feel like I did something because it is documented! πŸ™‚

And something extra – one thing I’ve been trying to add to my planning routine is writing down a way that I can serve someone that day. This really gives me something to look forward to, because doing something for someone else brings even more joy than doing something for yourself!

I found this planner at Aldi for super cheap obviously, because Aldi rocks, but if you missed that one, here’s one that looks very similar on Amazon: Blue Sky Day Planner

2.A Pretty Coffee Mug

My friend Heather bought this beautiful mug for our MOPS Christmas mug exchange and I was the lucky one to get it! It has pretty flowers painted on the outside and even on the inside! It also has a Bible verse (Lamentations 3:22-23) that reminds me of the beauty of God’s grace & mercy in each new day. This “morning essential” is encouraging on those tough days when you are really dragging! And if you aren’t motivated by the pretty cup, the caffeine it contains should give you a jump-start. πŸ˜‰ Here it is if you want one: Mug-His Mercies Are New Every Morning

*My only downside with this mug is that it is smaller than the average coffee-mug, but I don’t mind refilling my cup, OR just sticking to an actual cup of coffee in the morning instead of 2 or 3 like many mugs hold these days. I measured it against one of the “average-sized” coffee mugs and it holds 8 oz with room to stir vs. the majority of my coffee cups which hold 12-16 oz. with room to stir. (This also stops me from adding so much extra creamer!)

3.A Coloring Bible & Colored Pencils

I’m counting this as one “item” because one doesn’t fully work without the other. This is my new favorite thing when I want to meditate on a verse! This Beautiful Word Coloring Bible has lots of “coloring pages” that are Bible verses in pretty scripts and fonts.Β  If you like to color or draw, this can be a great stress-reliever, but also can help with memorizing verses and meditating on them throughout the day. Here are theΒ Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils I ordered, just a warning they are very soft which makes shading possible, and is helpful because the Bible pages aren’t super thick like normal paper. You definitely need a pencil sharpener too because the soft pencils wear down more quickly.

Waking up early so that I have time to sit and read my Bible has always been difficult for me, but when I can color on the pages as I read, I’ve found that it really helps me feel more motivated to start. This sounds terrible because obviously spending time in conversation with God should be my priority, but again, this has been a struggle when I’m exhausted, so I’m doing what I can to just get to that point where I am at the table with my Bible open. Another cool thing about this is that it is really interesting and engages my daughter when she sees me, so I’m modeling that habit for her as well.

<3

And that’s it! Sitting down with my planner, a cup of coffee in my favorite mug and my Coloring Bible gives me a chance to do something I enjoy, relax, connect with God and take a moment to think about my priorities for the day, before the chaos of motherhood ensues! πŸ™‚

 

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30-Day Be More Positive Challenge: Days 1-6 Reflections

A couple of weeks ago I sent a message to the other women who help lead women’s ministry at our church and asked them to pray for me: “I’m so tired, Levi won’t sleep through the night still, all I want to do is stay in bed all day. I don’t feel motivated to get up in the mornings. I’m in a really down and negative state of mind a majority of the time. I’m also feeling a lot more anxious than normal. Please pray for me.” I don’t know if you’ve been in that place (it isn’t always because of a baby), but it is really difficult to break that cycle of negativity.

Especially since becoming a mom, I’ve had to learn to handle a lot of anxiety, and even some depression. I suffered from post-partum anxiety after my daughter was born, which was alleviated by anti-anxiety meds. However, while I was on them I miscarried a baby, and could not get myself to continue taking them after that. I then suffered from post-partum depression, was eventually diagnosed with secondary infertility (which was unexplained), finally was able to become pregnant again, and had a healthy baby boy! At this point (after a lot of support from friends and family, and prayer), I finally felt like I was in a place where I had my negative thoughts and anxiety under control. I was at a point where I could distinguish my crazy thoughts from reality. During these several years, my go-to verse has been 2 Corinthians 10:5 – We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ:

(Thank you YouVersion Bible App for the Image!)

This, along with staying in prayer & conversation with God throughout the day, is a HUGE comfort, and brings me a lot of peace, especially during times of intense anxiety. Committing my thoughts to Christ allows me to recognize what is going on inside of my head as set apart from reality; which of my thoughts are coming from a place of fear and pain, instead of confidence in the goodness of God.

However, over the last several months when I have only been sleeping for 2 to 4 hour stretches at a time, (Yes, with a child that is almost ONE!) it becomes much more difficult for me to maintain that daily commitment to taking the time to read the Bible, and taking the time to pray. This ends up just spiraling to the point where I am texting my friends asking for THEM to pray FOR me!

So one of these friends, who works in the mental health field, calls me to encourage me during this time and gives me the suggestion of doing a 30-Day Positivity Challenge. *Sigh* One more thing to do, right? Again, this is coming from a place of exhaustion and negativity. But I tell her that sure, she can send me the link and I’ll check it out. Here is the Challenge she sent me (That this post is based on!) It is called the 30-Day Be More Positive Challenge.

What I really liked about this was that each day was just a short, simple suggestion. “I can handle that.” I thought. Then, while thinking about it I realized that I usually don’t follow through with this sort of thing. So, I decided to BLOG about it! I knew that once I posted the first day, I would have to follow through and post one every day, so if you are reading this, thank you for being that motivation to keep going through these challenges!

In honor of REALLY doing this Challenge, here are my reflections on each day of the challenge so far. (Days 1-6):

Day 1: For every worst case scenario you think of, imagine the best thing that could happen.

This was actually a HUGE help for me, and I’m glad this came on Day 1 because it helped motivate me to do this challenge. Worst case scenarios are kind of my thing. My husband is always a little in awe of the things I come up with that could happen in any normal, everyday situation.Β  Here is an example:

Brandon: I’m going to take Joy to get some ice cream.

My brain: Should I let them go? What if he crashes the car and I lose half of my family in one afternoon?

Now, to someone without anxiety this sounds made up, but its the first thing I thought. So once I recognized that was a worst case scenario, I instead said to myself:

What if they have a really fun time, Joy gets to have a special memory with her daddy, and I get a break for an hour from having two kids with me?

Woohoo! Success for Day 1. This stopped me from feeling anxious and wasting my free time worrying and allowed me to enjoy some one-on-one time with Levi.

Day 2: Spend 5 minutes imagining your dream life, & write down what steps you need to take to get there.

Day 2 is something that I actually did when I started this blog, but it was nice to just think about the things that I want for myself and for my family in the future. Some of the things from my “dream life” include being able to travel, doing missions work, having more kids and/or adopting a child. It also includes living somewhere warm! Our most important step to make it there is to make good financial decisions, pay off all of our student-loans & mortgage & be debt free! On a smaller “step” scale, we are going to only eat out once or twice a week. (This still might seem like a lot to some people, but this is one of our biggest struggles financially! We don’t buy random things, we buy food)

This practice is helpful because it helps you to look beyond the struggles & irritations of today. Instead of dwelling on the negatives and picturing miserable outcomes, you see that best version of your life and work to start creating it! For me, being able to pray over those things is vital too. Obviously, you don’t always get what you pray for πŸ™‚ but God knows the desires of your heart, and I think that praying for His glory in all of it allows him to reveal his plans for you to bring Him glory in ways you never imagined.

Day 3: Do 3 things to cut negativity out of your life. Unfollow, delete, & remove negative feelings from your life.

I took this from more of a “social media” standpoint, and went through my Instagram & Facebook and unfollowed anyone who consistently posts things that make me feel anxious or create negative feelings. This is something that I try to stay on top of anyways, so it did not take long. This is not to completely shield yourself from reality, but when you are already anxious about irrational things, it doesn’t help to read crazy or super negative news stories or horror stories online. So that is something I don’t do!

Some funny things I did get rid of in my home that made me feel negative were some workout DVDs and at-home workout equipment. I NEVER use it, we don’t even own a DVD player, and every time I saw it I just felt negative and guilty about not using it like I had planned. Now it is gone, I don’t feel negative, instead, I use that energy to get myself to the gym (with free childcare) for some free time & exercise.

Day 4: Have lunch with someone you admire, or someone you run into today.

This one was easy because I already had lunch plans with someone I admire! My friend Katie is someone who gives her heart & soul to the youth in the area as a director for Youth For Christ’s Campus Life. She is bringing light & life in Christ to kids who are seeking something bigger than themselves, many times hurting, and at a crucial stage in their lives! She is passionate, fun, encouraging, honest, and real! She is a friend who checks in, builds you up, helps you find your strengths, but is there when you need someone to talk through the tough stuff. She even teaches me house renovation tricks because I am helpless with tools. She also loves & encourages my kids! We went to Chili’s for the amazing chips & salsa, and little Levi even joined us. (I admire him for obvious reasons). <3

Going to lunch with someone you admire might be a big step for some people, but maybe even just having a conversation with them can be an encouragement. When you’re feeling negative and/or anxious, looking outside of yourself and caring about someone else’s life can be uplifting because it stops you from caving in and only focusing on your own life. You probably admire people for good reason, and they most likely have an ability to be encouraging to you in a way that you can’t do as well for yourself right now!

Day 5: Choose a positive mantra for the day. Google a mantra if you can’t think of one.

Mantras always seemed kind of weird to me, but in the spirit of committing to this challenge, I decided to go for it. I googled a few, and wanted something light & fun so I chose, “I don’t sweat the small stuff.” Because I DO sweat the small stuff, and it was a mental state I wanted to change. So throughout the day, every time I thought “Ugh, why is life so HARD!” instead I said, “That’s ok because I don’t sweat the small stuff!” And then I convinced myself that it was no big deal, dealt with it quickly, and moved on. For example, getting poop on my hands while changing a diaper, my preschooler peeing her pants because she wanted to keep playing instead of running to the bathroom really quickly, forgetting the diaper bag at a friend’s house. ETC.

Day 6: Give a genuine compliment to 3 people.

Again, the focus here is not ourselves, but others! Looking out is essential in finding positive mental health. When we seek and find the good in others, we are better able to find it in ourselves as well. This isn’t something that always comes naturally though as we go about our day in a rush. This one required me to slow down a bit, actually look the people around me in the face, recognize what they were doing, and point out the great things to them! Most of mine on this day were more surface compliments like, “I like your haircut!” or “Cute jacket!”, but in the future, I definitely am looking for opportunities to point out things I love about my friends in regard to their actions or character. I also am seeking out opportunities to compliment my kids & husband especially! This is something that needs to be done constantly with the people closest to you. I think it lets them know you are not taking them for granted, and that you truly appreciate the small things they do for you. <3

Okay, that is it for now! Hopefully, this was encouraging or helpful to you in some way! If you want to read more about this challenge check out my Reflections on Days 7-12! Also, check out some more of my suggestions that have helped me with my struggles to get out of bed in the mornings: Three Morning Essentials for this Momma

With Joy,

Alyssa

10 Meal-time Rules for the “Picky Eater”

To start off, I want to say that this has not been proven with different children, (let me know if it works for you!) BUT after trying many other methods, and becoming BEYOND frustrated with meal-times, this is what my husband and I now practice with our 4-year-old. We have been sticking this out for about a year now, and have seen vast improvements in the amount and variety of food our daughter eats, as well as the amount of time in which she eats her meals.

Also, to a lot of people, this “method” might seem harsh, but we decided that while we were NOT going to let our child control the food/eating situation, we DID want to do it in a way that put the power, rewards, and consequences in her hands. This took so much pressure off of us feeling like we had to FORCE her to eat something she hated. Essentially we are making her eat it, but she is the one making the decision. We don’t yell at her or discipline her because of what she doesn’t eat, she just has to accept & deal with the natural consequences of her choices. (This is preparing her for real life.)

This also includes empathy (Thank you Love & Logic!). We DO feel bad that she is hungry, and it is okay to tell her that! A simple “I’m really sad that you have to be hungry right now. I’m glad that you’ll have the opportunity to eat again at the next meal, and I hope that you decide to do that.” will go much farther than “I told you to eat, its not my fault you didn’t listen.” or “too bad for you it’s your own fault.”

Finally, this is not something that will “fix” your child’s eating habits right away. It takes time. In addition, if you have been letting your child control the situation for a long time, it will be a much more difficult transition, but I REALLY BELIEVE that if you stick with it, you will see a turn-around in attitude and behavior in regards to meal-times.

*We only really started following this strictly when she was 3 years old. You will have to decide if your child is mentally capable of understanding this process. I think that if we would’ve started out more consistently we could’ve started even earlier. For the younger kids just make sure you’re offering a variety of foods, providing lots of encouragement without becoming frustrated, and modeling healthy eating in front of them.

Without further ado, here are our rules for Joy:

1.Consistent Expectations:

Whatever we eat, she eats. There is no longer an argument or “discussion” over what we are having for dinner.

  • I try to stick to basic, healthy foods. Grilled/roasted chicken & pork, beef or ground turkey & bean chili, not-too-spicy tacos, roasted & fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, salmon with olive oil, salt & pepper, sweet potatoes, etc.
  • I try to have at least one or two meals a week that I KNOW she will eat. (spaghetti, pizza, pancakes, etc.) This way every single day is not a struggle. (The rules below still apply, just because she likes something doesn’t mean she will always eat it or will eat it in a reasonable amount of time.)
  • A lot of times lunch will be more basic, she will get either a pb&j or turkey & cheese sandwich, yogurt, applesauce or fruit, some kind of fresh veggie (Again, the rules still apply)
  • She eats one of these options for breakfast every day. This usually depends on whether or not she ate dinner the night before. Cheerios are the “treat” breakfast if she ate her dinner:
    • Cheerios & fruit
    • Scrambled eggs & fruit

Your only response to “I want _____ instead!”, “I hate ______!” “This is yucky!” “I can’t eat this!” is:Β  “This is what we are all eating for dinner. If you don’t want it you can wait until the next meal, but you’re going to be really hungry, so I would think about it before making your decision.” With this you did the following:

  • Stated the expectation: They will eat the food they are served.
  • Gave them the alternative: They won’t eat any food until the next meal.
  • Gave them a warning about the consequence: They will be really hungry until it is time for the next meal.
  • Put the decision in their hands: They can make the choice, they just have to accept the consequence.

2. Appropriate Portions:

She receives a small portion of everything we are eating. This keeps it from looking overwhelming to her. When we first started she would become overly upset because it was “too much” food. I found that if I just decreased the portion, she was more likely to try something new.

As the child repeats different meals, you will learn what they are really capable of finishing. You just don’t want them feeling that it is impossible, especially the first time.

At the beginning of this process, it may help to only give the child one food at a time. For example, if we are eating chili, I know she is going to complain because it doesn’t look very appetizing!

  • So I will give her about 5 spoonfuls of chili in a bowl with a sprinkle of cheese on top. Once she finishes that, she can have 3 -4 carrots. After the carrots, she can have some fruit.
  • Start with the least appetizing food, and finish with what you know they will eat.

3. Opportunity for More:

Once she finishes what she is given she can ask for more of anything. This lets her feel that she has some control over the situation because she is choosing what she wants to eat more of. It gives her something to look forward to once she finishes the “yucky” stuff.

  • Example: “Great Job finishing your food! You still have some time left to eat, is there anything else you would like that you thought was really good?” Child: “Yes! I’ll have more salmon please!” πŸ˜‰ JK, she usually asks for fruit, which is fine by me!

4. Time Limit:

She gets 30-45 minutes to eat her original helping of food.

  • This is dependent on the amount of effort that she is showing. This is another reason to give appropriate portions.
    • If she is purposely making a mess, shoving food around, etc. she gets less time.
    • If she is making a decent effort to finish the food, but it just takes a little longer to eat (for example salad, or anything with rice, which always seems harder for her to get off the plate), she gets a little bit more time.
  • She always gets time warnings.
    • You do NOT want to let the child sit there until there are only 5 minutes left and say well, too bad! Again, this creates an overwhelming situation for them.
    • Setting an actual timer, that the child can see, helps. If they can’t read timers, just tell them every time 5 minutes go by. “You have 30 minutes to eat the food.”, “You have 20 minutes left.” “You have 15 minutes left.” etc.
    • If your child doesn’t have an issue with eating on time, this may not be something you need to focus on as much.

5. Finality:

No second chances! Again, this was their decision, you set the limits, they didn’t follow through. In any of these situations, the food is removed from the table:

  • Time is Up
  • The child continues to act out after receiving a warning. Examples (these are real-life people!):
    • The child throws food from the table.
    • The child sneaks food to the dog.
    • The child asks to throw something away and sneakily spits food out into trash can.
    • The child gets up and throws self onto the floor.
    • The child hits the table, plate, parents, etc.
    • The child screams until everyone’s eardrums are broken.
    • The child “spills” water all over their food on purpose and says it’s inedible now.

Ask the child to get down from the table also, but they may sit there a bit and cry/fuss. Just ignore it unless it breaks any of your other general household rules.

Remember: This is the child’s decision. This is NO LONGER YOUR PROBLEM. You should not be yelling or crying, regardless of the child’s decision.

6. Natural Consequences:

If the above expectations were not met, and the food was removed from the table before she finished her original helping, she does not receive any food or drink (besides water) until the next meal. Once the food is taken away, it stays away until the next meal.

  • This WILL result in tantrums, crying, whining, and a deep sense of guilt on your part. Again, this was the child’s decision. You gave them food, they did not eat it. I promise this will lessen over time once your child realizes that it does no good.
  • Remember to practice empathy, but stick to the rules and consequences.
  • IF YOU GIVE IN, the tantrums will not stop, the child will not eat what they’re given, and this is all for nothing.

7. Leftovers:

This really only applies for lunch to dinner, I don’t make her eat her leftover dinner for breakfast, but if you feel like that would help you could try it?

  • Cover & refrigerate her untouched food from the meal she refused to eat
  • Serve the child the same meal that they did not eat before
    • This lets the child know that they cannot just skip meals until they get what they want
  • In special situations, for example, the leftovers are not re-heatable, you’re going somewhere else for dinner etc. it is okay to give them a different meal, as long as you’re following the same procedures as before
    • MAKE SURE that you’re not giving them something they love just because you feel bad that they didn’t eat the last meal, kids are smart, they will pick up on this.

8. Endurance:

In the event that the child still refuses, follow the same rules as before!

  • No food or drink (besides water) until the next meal.
  • Again, empathy, but sticking to the consequences.
  • This is where you will REALLY be tested! My daughter has never gone an entire day without giving in and eating! If they are that hungry, they will shove food in their mouth. Remember, you are not poisoning them, this is their decision, it is their will against yours.

9. Praise & Rewards:

This is the fun part! When she does eat all the food she gets lots of praise and gets to have a treat!

  • Go to the store with your child before you start this process and have them pick out something as a treat for the week. That way they know they will receive something they want if they follow through and finish their food. Examples:
    • Goldfish
    • Fruit Snacks
    • Go-gurts or the Dannon Yogurt Smoothies (Joy loves these)
    • A piece of Candy
    • ANYTHING that motivates your child

Remember to offer them more food as well! Ask if there was anything they liked that they want more of.

10. Extra Rewards & Reminders:

When she has eaten a meal I make a point to offer her additional snacks BETWEEN meal times.

  • I always suggest healthy snacks (apples, raisins, pears, carrots, etc.)
  • If she says “how about a piece of candy” I will usually give her a couple of Pez pieces, or something small, and say, “okay, but only since you finished your food so well earlier!” Sometimes I will have her eat a healthy snack first before she has candy.

I always remind her that she is getting a snack because she did a GREAT JOB eating her food earlier!

  • This can feel like a discouraging process, so when they eat their meal you want to overdo the praise so that they have positive feelings about eating instead of dreading meals!

Again, This can seem/feel harsh and is super hard at first on you as parents, but if you can push through, your kids won’t let themselves starve even though it might seem like it. It just takes determination on your part because once you give in its back to square one!

Encouragement for YOU: At this point, I don’t think there is anything that Joy has absolutely not eaten! The complaining and whining are really difficult to put up with, but it is better than dealing with a child who won’t eat their food for the next 18 years…I know that my child has a varied and healthy diet, she is open to trying new things, she knows how to respond and behave when boundaries are set for her, and she doesn’t think that she can control every situation!

Additional “Guidelines”:

If we are with other people, and this creates an inconvenience for them or makes them feel awkward or if we’re at a party or get together then we will adjust as needed but as far as eating at home and when it doesn’t interfere with other people, we stick to the rules. You want this to be your norm, not picky-ness. Examples:

  • Family Christmas, other holidays – I don’t really want food to be a huge focus of the holidays for my kids, so this is something I try to be more relaxed about
  • Birthday parties – let the kid have fun πŸ™‚

Again, this is NOT an “easy fix”, people might think you’re crazy, but it works.

It only takes a few times for the child to realize you’re serious and then the choice is for the child to eat or not and not on you to cater to their demands.

If there are certain dipping sauces that your child loves (ketchup, ranch dressing, barbecue, etc.) go ahead and let them dip their food in that! For example, I will put sprinkle cheese on things sometimes just because Joy likes it and it encourages her to try the food. You still need to stick to the rules though! If they douse their food with dipping sauce and say they can’t eat it now, that was their decision, they can now decide to eat it or to be hungry. They will learn not to do that again.

We also make a big deal out of telling her the following:

  • “This food is so good for you!”
  • “Wow, this food is delicious!”
  • “You are such a big girl to eat your food like that!”
  • “This food makes you big and strong!”
  • “This food will make you smarter!”

Happy Campers eating Salmon, veggies, & rice:


GOOD LUCK! IF you have additional questions or comments let me know! Before you comment “I tried this, it doesn’t work.” Think back over the rules and if you REALLY followed them or if you gave in, or were a little too lenient on some things! If other things worked for you, let me know!

With Joy,

Alyssa

5 Re-calibrations in the New Year – This More Than That

Welcome! I decided that my first post in 2018 (and ever) should be something to motivate myself to have a better year. SO here we go…Instead of coming up with some new (or old) resolutions that I will ditch pretty quickly, I decided to choose 5 things that I wanted to do “more than” others. So basically this allows me to “re-calibrate” my habits and work more of the positive elements into my life without just expecting myself to completely cut out things that are probably not realistic, based on my free time & energy levels with a four year old & a 10 month old! “Bringing Up” Joy is not always simple, but maybe these things can help!

Here are the five I came up with in no particular order of importance:

1. Encourage more than Criticize

I spend a lot of time criticizing others and myself. A lot of times it is in my head only, if I can keep my mouth shut. I tend to be kind of pessimistic sometimes (Thank you God for an idealist/optimist husband) and I often will see the negatives in a situation, or a person, yikes, before I recognize the positives. However, when I take the time to encourage the people in my life, I feel more relaxed, and more encouraged myself! The people in my life (husband, children, friends) also feel better about themselves. Creating an environment in our home where my husband & kids have a positive self-image builds up their confidence & willingness to try new things, and to be the best version of themselves. They also encourage me back! For example, the more of an effort I make to compliment my daughter on the little things, the more she compliments me.

2. Cook more than Eat Out

Okay, so this one might sound SUPER easy, but the real idea behind this in my head is that if I could make a meal in the same amount of time(or less) than it would take me to drive out and buy something, then I need to suck it up and just cook. It is frustrating to me that this is even difficult because I actually really enjoy cooking, but when I want junk food, I WANT it. Now. This is kind of a way for me to justify NOT going to get the food because I can slowly begin to see how simple it is to just cook something at home. This “more than” also encourages me to meal plan because then I don’t allow for the opportunity to get sucked into those cravings. One extra tip – I’ve been working one “take-out” meal into my meal plan each week so that in my head I can say okay, just wait until Wednesday, then you can get that food you want, but tonight, cook what you ALREADY paid for that is sitting in your fridge.

3. Exercise more than Watch TV

Exercise was becoming really difficult for me to accomplish because I either had to go workout really early in the morning before my husband left for work, or really late at night after the kids were in bed. Option A: Too tired, Option B: Too tired. Fail. SO I broke down and joined the YMCA even though it costs more than a normal gym membership. BUT when you have kids it is SO WORTH IT because you get TWO HOURS of FREE childcare every day! What?! I’m not going to lie, after my friend Sarah told me about this brilliant system, I took her advice, and a couple of times, I just dropped off my kids, went and sat in the sauna, hot tub, sauna, etc. and then went and took a shower and blow-dried my hair. No exercise. Oops. Anyways, the point of this one should be obvious. Exercise is better for you than binge-watching TV. However – again the reason this says “more than” and not “instead of” – I’m TIRED at night and sometimes I just need to relax my brain and watch something funny. Or emotional, like This Is Us, and then I cry my eyes out and get a good night’s sleep and feel less tired! Win-win. Probably. But when I watch TV I think okay, I really need to keep this under an hour so I don’t have to exercise for MORE than an hour tomorrow. Make sense?

4. Pray more than Worry

My #momlife is actually my #worrylife. Anyone else? Ugh. There are so many things to worry about! This is pretty much a daily struggle. I over-think, over-analyze, and over-criticize every decision I make. I also imagine every possible negative outcome of anything I do. I envy my husband on the daily as he walks through life seeing all the good in everyone and everything. Anything can be scary if you think about it too much. On the flip-side (do people still say that?) you can also pray about anything, and God will give you peace about it! I used to not really believe that and just start worrying about why I didn’t pray about it and worry that if I tried it might not help ETC… but if you are willing to really give over your anxieties to Him there is so much peace and confidence in knowing that you are going to be ok. (This could be a long aside – summary – obviously bad and terrible things can and will happen, but I can be confident in my relationship with Christ and eternally I will be with Him, and that is what matters.) I have a really amazing friend named Holly, and every time I tell her about a situation that brings me anxiety she says “did you pray about it?” and I’m like NO, LEAVE ME ALONE, I’m trying to complain here! …but then I do pray and I’m like what was my fear again? (Side note – I have suffered from post-partum anxiety in the past, this section is NOT talking about that intense level of anxiety, please seek the help of a medical professional in that situation! Yes, obviously pray also, but chemical imbalances are real and can be treated in different ways as well!)

5. Cuddle more than Nag

My husband is a cuddler. I am not. So honestly this is not the easiest for me, but I have found that I can bring up my “to-do list” as many times as I want, write it on the wall, etc. and it just causes frustration. However, in those moments when I want to remind my husband of all the things he is NOT doing, if I go cuddle with him (connect, talk, check in with him etc.-find what works for you), I remember all of the things he IS doing, and HAS done, and CONSISTENTLY does for me and our family that make our lives wonderful. Again, I’m not saying don’t ever remind your guy what needs to be done, I’m just saying that maybe meeting him where he’s at sometimes and appreciating him will go a lot further in your own heart and mind and lead to more understanding (and maybe more getting done on your list) than nagging would.

 

Okay that’s it! Hopefully some part of this was helpful to you! The point here is doing the one thing MORE THAN the other and it will slowly (hopefully) become an integral part of your life.

What things do you think might be good to do more than others this year! Please share in the comments!

With Joy,

Alyssa