Book Review: The Songbird and the Spy by J’nell Ciesielski

songbirdcover

Publication Date: February 19, 2019
Paperback: 327 pages
Publisher: Smitten Historical Romance (February 19, 2019)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1946016799
ISBN-13: 978-1946016799

Synopsis:

As shells explode over Nazi-occupied France, American music student Claire Baudin is trapped behind enemy lines, struggling to protect her identity. Singing as a barmaid while she plans her escape, a handsome Third Reich captain threatens everything she knows to be true about the enemy.

Nazi Captain Michael Reiner isn’t who he claims to be. A British language expert turned spy, he discovers the truth about Claire, but he knows the importance of a secret. Struggling to resist his attraction to the songbird, he’s determined to complete his assignment, no matter the cost. His cover is threatened when a ruthless female Gestapo officer arrives, hunting Resistance fighters. The raid forces Michael’s hand: complete the mission or save Claire.

As the war threatens to tear them apart, they must rely on each other for survival. Is there hope—and a future—for an American songbird and a British spy?

What I Thought:

First, let’s get the business side of things out of the way. I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the author, J’nell Ciesielski, in return for my honest review. There was absolutely NO signing of any documents that said I must leave a positive review. Just a review, good or bad. With that said, what follows is my humble, honest opinion of her second novel, The Songbird and the Spy.

This book drew me in emotionally so fast and I literally did not want to put it down. I felt like I was there, actually observing the story unfold. Her writing made it impossible for me to be anything but empathetic to Claire and Michael.

I don’t want to leave any spoilers, but let me share some of my favorite things about this book.

Claire is determined with a goal of being reunited with her family at the forefront of her mind, yet she doesn’t pursue that goal at the expense of others. She genuinely cares for Giles, Pauline and the French town folk and uses her God-given musical talents to uplift their spirits as much as possible during the difficult times they are experiencing.

Michael puts his life on the line in service of his country, pretending to be something he detests, a Nazi, in order to make the greatest impact he possibly can. That takes so much grit! One of my favorite lines from the book is this:

“Oh, one more thing, Captain.” Walthers drained his glass and placed it on his gleaming desktop. “Stop off to the chaplain before you leave and beg forgiveness from the Almighty for every ‘Heil Hitler‘ you’re about to spit out.”

J’nell skillfully draws the reader into the danger the characters face, the fear, brokenness and anger felt by different characters throughout the story and into the love that grows between Claire and Michael. She cleverly wove the ugliness of the war with the beauty of the love story. As someone who enjoys music as much as reading, I also appreciated her nod to the emotional healing music can bring.

Each night she played, the scars from France healed a bit more. She could find joy in the strings once more.

I’m very much looking forward to reading this book again someday and I highly recommend it to other fans of Inspirational Historical Romance Fiction.

This book was released for purchase today! You can buy it here.

You can visit J’nell’s website here.

About the Author:

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Believing she was born in the wrong era, J’nell Ciesielski spends her days creating heart-stopping heroes, brave heroines, and adventurous exploits in times gone by. Winner of the Romance Through the Ages contest and Maggie Award, J’nell can often be found dreaming of a second home in Scotland, indulging in chocolate of any kind, or watching old black and white movies. Born a Florida girl, she now calls Virginia home, along with her very understanding husband, young daughter, and one lazy beagle.

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Bookish

I don’t know about you, but I’m obsessed with reading.

There were so many trips to the library when I was in middle school and high school, which is saying a lot since the nearest one was about 20 or so minutes away. Each time I left with the maximum number they would allow me to check out at once. It was never enough. My favorite genre was Christian fiction and, by the time I graduated high school, I had read a ridiculously large portion of the library’s section dedicated to it. I also enjoyed the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series for awhile. I didn’t stray much from that.

Then in college, when I finally got connected to the internet, I found the Barnes & Noble website and realized that if I ordered a certain dollar amount I would get free shipping. I don’t know how much money I spent on books that year or the years following, but I’m sure it was a pretty penny. Again, the primary genre was Christian fiction. Mostly historical romance with a few more modern stories mixed in.

Now it’s Amazon that calls my name, haha. I try to shop around and find the best price, but rarely do I find what I’m looking for anywhere else at a price better than Amazon. Being a Prime member, I get free, fast shipping. Woohoo!! And, honestly, I’m kind of picky about the condition of my books, so I prefer new ones anyway.

As an adult with young children and maturing faith, I find myself leaning more towards nonfiction these days…not that fiction never turns my head (did you see the book reviews I posted earlier this year?)

The problem is that as an adult with young children, I struggle to carve out time to read. I want to read so badly! It is one way that I completely relax and nurture myself. More often than not, though, I find myself trying to read in bed when I finally turn in at night and, frankly, that doesn’t work out well because I fall asleep shortly after I start.

So, my “to read” pile keeps growing (because 1 – I love to read books, 2 – Amazon Prime! and 3 – so many great book suggestions out there) and my “currently reading” pile doesn’t shrink fast enough. Speaking of which, I used to have a strict policy of reading one book at a time. It was so much easier to keep stories straight that way. But now, reading nonfiction, I have four or five books going at once…! That’s insane. I don’t even know why I’ve done that, lol!

All that to say, I’m definitely a “bookish” person. (That’s an adjective used somewhere, right? Or did I just make that up??)

Do any of you have suggestions for making sure you have time to read for yourself?

Or do I just need to give up on the idea of dedicated reading time while I have toddlers? I mean, there’s already so much to do every day. Is it realistic to add reading time to my day?

Let me know, friends! I appreciate all suggestions (whether I take them up or not – don’t want to make any promises I can’t keep, you know).

Have a blessed day!

Welcome, September!

Tomorrow is a special day. It’s officially our littles’ first day of homeschool preschool! Whaaaat?! I know, right?!

How did they get old enough so fast?! Well, I guess if we’re being technical here, Little Lady isn’t “old enough” yet at two years old, but we’re starting a play-based curriculum and I don’t doubt for a second that she will enjoy participating with her Bubby.

Y’all.

I have so many mixed emotions. There’s excitement (who knew I would someday be happy about teaching my kids at home?) and hope for growth and success.

There’s fear. What if I don’t do enough? Or what if I don’t focus on the right things? Thankfully, God has just gently reminded me that I have a great curriculum that guides me perfectly each month if I will just keep referring to it.

There’s also a sense of being overwhelmed. That’s kind of why I’m still up at midnight writing a blog post.

Earlier this evening I was working on my calendar, trying to finalize our daily projects and overall schedule. Even though our schedule is pretty consistent from day to day, every once in a while there’s a wrench in the system due to extra things that either don’t happen weekly or that just pop up. These are good things and, I dare say, necessary things as I would go stark raving mad if I never had socialization, haha. But here’s the issue I’m having…

How do people do it?

How do other homeschooling parents balance school, household chores (which I’m already really bad at doing consistently), necessary errands and appointments, the “extra things”, spouse time (which is COMPLETELY a no brainer – it’s got to happen for everyone’s benefit), work, etc. The list seems endless! How do blended families do everything when they have to use valuable time to shuttle one kid to and from school in the next town?

So, I’m attempting to work on a daily schedule and there are only so many hours in the day. I want to use them well! If I could have my way, our routine would be identical Monday through Friday. However, every other week is different.

That’s why I’m trying so hard to develop a weekly schedule that will help me to utilize the time we’re given to the fullest and most efficient.

This post sounds like chaos when I go back and read it. A sure sign that my mind needs sleep that it’s too frantic to welcome.

*sigh*

Pray for me, friends. Specifically that God would grant me clarity and peace and confidence in this new phase of our family’s life. That He would guide me as I seek to wisely manage the time He’s given us. Finally, please pray that He would help me to rest well. Thank you!

I hope you had a blessed Labor Day holiday weekend!

Goodnight, y’all!

Book Review: The Masterpiece by Francine Rivers

Masterpiece-Book-Review

Publication Date: February 6, 2018
Hardcover:
 512 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (February 6, 2018)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1496407903
ISBN-13: 978-1496407900

Synopsis:

New York Times bestselling author Francine Rivers returns to her romance roots with this unexpected and redemptive love story, a probing tale that reminds us that mercy can shape even the most broken among us into an imperfect yet stunning masterpiece.

A successful LA artist, Roman Velasco appears to have everything he could possibly want―money, women, fame. Only Grace Moore, his reluctant, newly hired personal assistant, knows how little he truly has. The demons of Roman’s past seem to echo through the halls of his empty mansion and out across his breathtaking Topanga Canyon view. But Grace doesn’t know how her boss secretly wrestles with those demons: by tagging buildings as the Bird, a notorious but unidentified graffiti artist―an alter ego that could destroy his career and land him in prison.

Like Roman, Grace is wrestling with ghosts and secrets of her own. After a disastrous marriage threw her life completely off course, she vowed never to let love steal her dreams again. But as she gets to know the enigmatic man behind the reputation, it’s as if the jagged pieces of both of their pasts slowly begin to fit together . . . until something so unexpected happens that it changes the course of their relationship―and both their lives―forever.

What I Thought:

Once again, I’m going to start by saying I was not asked for a review of this book. There were no free copies…no signed contracts requiring me to write a positive review…nothing. This is just my honest-to-goodness opinion about this book and I’m using my time and energy to write this review because the book is that good.

I love(d) it.

See what I did there?

I loved it when I read it cover to cover.

I still love it.

It is easily one of my favorite fiction novels now. I guess it isn’t a complete surprise since I’ve liked most of what I’ve read from Francine Rivers’ pen. Redeeming Love…I literally stayed up all night reading that one and finished the whole thing in under two days.

Squirrel!

This review is about The Masterpiece, not Redeeming Love (but, seriously…get it, too, if you haven’t already).

This was one of those page-turners that I wanted to continue on forever. When I got to the epilogue and then the final page, I tried to slow down so that it wouldn’t be finished so soon…but then I ate up the words.

I love, love, love the focus on

mercy…

grace…

forgiveness…

redemption…

unconditional love…

from our Heavenly Father.

We are each a masterpiece created by Him with a purpose, a mission. No two of us are identical. We each have our own stories, testimonies, known by Him before time began. It’s beautiful.

Mrs. Rivers’ mentions multiple people who assisted her with her research for this book; it’s obvious that she took a lot of time to develop a depth of understanding about her chosen topic. This book is not something she pulled completely from her imagination. It could actually be someone’s story in real life. She handled it so well.

There are flashbacks throughout the story that help you to become fully acquainted with the two main characters. I really like that she doesn’t dump the main characters’ entire backstories all at once. Instead she weaves them throughout the present part of the story, so that you learn important details in the right moments.

Something that I really appreciate is that she doesn’t make Christians out to be perfect. There is no such thing as a perfect person on this earth. There just isn’t. Jesus was, and forever will be, the only human being to ever walk this earth perfectly. I’ve known several people in my life who said they don’t go to church because the people there are hypocrites. Well…yeah. That’s one of many reasons why they’re we’re in church. We recognize that we are sinners in need of a Savior’s saving grace. Life doesn’t suddenly become perfectly easy when you become a believer. If anything, life gets harder. The Bible even says that believers will face trials and tribulation. All that to say, I really appreciate that she touches on the fact that even believers struggle and actually stumble from time to time.

I feel like I could go on and on and on. The bottom line is that if you like other books in the Christian Romance Fiction genre, this is a MUST HAVE book to add to your private library.

You can read the author’s biography on her website. If you haven’t read any of her books at all, I simply can’t recommend them highly enough. This one and Redeeming Love are definitely my top favorites, but I also love her Mark of the Lion series and The Atonement Child. I wouldn’t stop at those, though. Definitely check out all of her award-winning books.

Have a great day, y’all.

Five Years!

This past Friday, Mr. Beck and I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary – woohoo!

My mom, bless her heart, stayed with the littles for four days while we had a little anniversary getaway. She was a trooper considering she had just spent 4-5 days in Alaska, hardly getting any sleep. We are so thankful to have her as Grammy to our kiddos!

My love and I went to Wimberley, Texas and stayed at the best little boutique hotel – Hotel Flora and Fauna. If you ever get a chance to visit the Texas Hill Country, we highly recommend staying there. Children must be over the age of 12. There’s no smoking on the premises or in the rooms. It’s so peaceful and they have the perfect pool and hot tub. They also provide grills if you want to make your own food. Each unit has a little kitchenette with flatware, dinnerware and enough tools to make a decent meal on the grill. We took our sous vide that I gifted Mr. Beck for our anniversary and cranked out a couple nice meals.

Our favorite place to swim off the premises of our hotel was the Blue Hole. You have to reserve a swimming slot, but the city’s new reservation system is super easy to navigate. I would recommend reserving your swim slot as soon as you know you’re going to Wimberley.

We visited Jacob’s Well, which is a natural spring roughly 130 feet deep. Yes, you read that right. From my understanding, scuba diving isn’t allowed anymore except for special occasions and only for people with the proper licenses, etc. That wasn’t always the case – people used to dive all the time to explore the three caves that are accessed through the spring. An horrible accident put a stop to that and rightfully so. So now people jump into it for the thrill just to swim to the edge after they surface. It’s a cool 68ish degrees. Water from Jacob’s Well actually feeds the Blue Hole, so it’s cold, too! Unfortunately, the downside for us with Jacob’s Well is that the water was nasty this year. Algae and leaves…just gross! I would have enjoyed the temperature of the water (eventually…maybe) more if I hadn’t felt like slime was constantly swirling around my legs. UGH!

In the same direction as Jacob’s Well is a local rum distillery. Really nice, rarely crowded (so it’s nice and peaceful) and the Rum Sunrise cocktail is spot on. They, of course, have different tasting options and you can purchase bottles of their different rums and/or a bottle of vanilla extract made on site.

When we reserved our hotel room we opted to purchase swim passes for Cypress Falls at the same time. I believe Mr. Beck had actually looked it up online and it looked pleasant. Unfortunately, when we arrived, we were underwhelmed. It was basically a dirty pond – no pretty falls or anything. However…Cypress Falls redeemed itself and became the site of my first canoe experience with my love. Once I got over the fear of falling into the murky water, I really enjoyed paddling around the space. My only complaint at that point was that the space was so small. I wanted to explore!

We ate at a place called The Back Porch, which sits right off the edge of Cypress Falls. The food was delicious! So, there’s another redeeming quality of that swimming hole.

The canoeing experience was a bit addicting, so on Saturday we drove just shy of 30 minutes to nearby Blanco State Park and rented a kayak! Kayaks look small compared to a canoe, so once again I was a bit terrified that I was going to end up in deep water I couldn’t see through. I was surprised when the hardest part was getting into the kayak. Once we were moving, I felt considerably more stable overall and was able to enjoy myself. We saw a couple geese…got a glimpse of a turtle…observed what appeared to be bird nests made from mud under the highway that bridged the river…and briefly saw two other birds we were unable to identify. Since we arrived early, we beat the worst of the heat out on the water and I actually sweat more helping to get the kayak back to the park office than I did when paddling. “Paddling” doesn’t sound right, but I honestly have no clue what to say instead, haha. If you’re an expert kayaker, please feel free to correct me.

After some lunch, we visited the Deep Eddy Distillery in another nearby town. They distill vodka. Let me just say, the drinks they serve are STRONG.

That evening we met up with some of my love’s high school friends. They hadn’t seen each other in six years or so. They enjoyed catching up and reminiscing and I was happy to meet them and most of their families.

It was a great way to celebrate the first five years of our marriage. I’m so very blessed to be married to my man! There are times that I’m guilty of taking him for granted. There are times that I don’t love him as well as I should.

But grace. Lots of grace.

And God. God knit us together and He is our strength.

Here’s to the next five years!

Here’s to the rest of our lives!

Let’s Talk Armpits (and Oils)

For most of my life I’ve been using the readily available deodorants and antiperspirants found in most grocery store personal health aisles. Dove…Degree…Secret…those were typically my go to brands.

As I started learning more about essential oils, I became more aware of some of the harmful ingredients found in those products. These include parabens, aluminum, Triclosan (which is found in almost everything from cosmetics to home cleaning products), phthalates and fragrance (another one found in pretty much everything).

Y’all…when you research these things, it’s kind of scary. If you’re a conspiracy theorist type, you’d probably start believing the government is somehow involved in an attempt to control the population. These ingredients are baaaaaaad for us! We’re talking potentially cancer causing…hormone disrupting…allergy inducing…

Ugh.

I couldn’t tell you the first time I noticed the mole growing in my armpit. So much life has happened since then and, at the time, I didn’t think it was valuable to even really care about keeping track of it. Yet, I do remember having the realization that it was slowly growing.

Also, I don’t remember the first time I made a batch of homemade deodorant. It had to be  either late 2014 or sometime in 2015. Totally vague, right? But hear me out. I received my  kit in January/February of 2014, shortly before I found out I was expecting Little Man and started battling morning sickness. I was NOT using my oils at that point because every scent made me sick. I know I started using them shortly after my son was born in November of that year. Hence my very vague memory of when I actually started making my own deodorant.

All that being said, I haven’t stopped using it. Every once in a while I take a break and use Schmidt’s, but that’s kind of rare.

Today, that mole that was slowly growing in my armpit, is almost gone.

Since I’m not posting picture of my armpit on the internet, you’re just going to have to trust me. (Another reason is that it never occurred to me to take a before picture.)

Y’all…I noticed it seemed to be shrinking, but I never thought it might disappear completely. Yet it’s definitely disappearing.

I don’t have scientific proof of what caused it to grow in the first place.

I don’t have scientific proof that using natural ingredients, including Young Living Essential Oils, is causing it to shrink and fade.

All I have are my eyes and what they are seeing.

All I have is my knowledge of what I changed in my routine.

That is enough for me to encourage all of you to DITCH the typical, readily available, well-known deodorant/antiperspirant brands and start using something that is free of all the toxins I listed above.

Even if you don’t make your own (which is by far the least expensive option), there are so many more natural products to choose from now than there used to be.

If you do want to make your own, here’s the recipe I found on Pinterest and made my own:

  • 1 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup tapioca or arrowroot powder
  • 1/3 cup baking soda
  • 5 each Lavender, Lime & Tea Tree Young Living Essential Oils

Mix it up well and transfer it to two glass jars (glass because the Lime oil is a citrus oil and citrus and plastic don’t jive).

This is ridiculously cheap and makes so much that you won’t need to make another batch for awhile.

Now, a word of advice: if when you decide to change to a NATURAL deodorant option, first take the time to do an armpit detox. If you don’t, they will rebel and get irritated. I know this sounds time consuming and annoying, but it’s MORE THAN WORTH IT to get all the toxic junk out of them before putting all the PERFECT, NATURAL, GOLDEN deodorant you just made on. I did this one from Wellness Mama.

If you don’t want to make your own, that’s ok! It’s not everyone’s jam. The only natural brand I’ve tried is Schmidt’s. I love their scent options!

Young Living makes a couple deodorants and there are people who love them. I’m going to be brutally honest here and tell you I’m not one of them. It’s all because of the scent – I just didn’t love it when I first opened it. Has it improved since then (it’s been years)…? I have no idea. Maybe I would like it more now than I did then since I’m using oils more than I was in the beginning? I don’t know. Since I make my own more often than not using my Young Living essential oils, I don’t stress over it and I see no reason to try it again.

So there you have it. Essential oils are awesome for your armpits.

Here is an article from Time talking about the problems with commercial deodorant. If you google the topic, there are tons of posts about it. It’s important when you’re considering a wellness lifestyle using essential oils that you do research for yourself and determine with what you’re comfortable. You will find articles on both sides for pretty much every issue you research because everyone has an opinion, right? So become informed. Make your own decision.

If you’d like more information about essential oils, please reach out to me! My website is here.

Have a blessed day!

Potty Training & Whole30

Howdy!

I dropped off the radar after the “scared of potty training” post. Life has just been consumed with making sure our kids sit on the potty regularly, making Whole30 compliant meals and now, finally, venturing outside the house with fingers crossed, sending up prayers that we get back home accident-free.

We’ve even made our first 3 hour trip to East Texas since the whole potty training adventure began. We made three stops, spaced as evenly as possible, and the littles did amazing. They were dry every stop and used the potty each time – Mr. Beck and I are so proud. Fast forward to today and Little Lady has already poo’d in her undies…twice. GAHHHHHH!!! God, we’re praying for patience and resilience!! We have yet to even attempt night training.

As for my Whole30 Round 4 Redo…I’m about halfway done with the elimination portion of the program. I love the food I’ve been eating, but the only real change I’ve noticed so far is that I feel fuller between meals. The need desire to snack isn’t nearly as strong. Totally a good thing! Definitely a non-scale victory. I did miss snacking in the car on our road trip. I should have prepared for that, but I guess I didn’t realize how much I snack on road trips, lol.

I was really hoping to start looking less bloated by now, but last Tuesday at the pool someone asked me when my baby was due. NOOOOOOO!!! It’s been months since someone has asked me that (not because I don’t still look pregnant, but I guess everyone I spend time around already knew so there was no one to ask me), so it came as quite the shock. Despite the intense desire to know, I have refrained from weighing myself in an attempt to follow that specific Whole30 rule. Can’t lie, though…after a stranger assumed I’m pregnant, it’s really tempting to go find the nearest bath scale.

I mentioned that I love the food I (sometimes we – at dinner time) have been eating this round of Whole30, so let’s look at some of our favorite recipes and their sources.

Some of my favorite Whole30 breakfasts are:

  1. Sweet Potato and Apple Hash (recipe from Paleo Running Momma)
  2. Apple Cinnamon Hot Cereal (also from Paleo Running Momma)
  3. Bacon Sweet Potato Hash (recipe from The Whole Smiths)

Remember, all Whole30 recipes are also Paleo, BUT not all Paleo recipes are Whole30 compliant! A lot of the Whole30 food bloggers I follow, also do Paleo adaptations and, thankfully, they’re good at marking the ingredients that aren’t Whole30 compliant so that you can omit or substitute with something else that is compliant.

A new Whole30 lunch that I recently came across (and can’t get enough of) is Paleo Running Momma’s Paleo Egg Salad with Bacon and Scallions. Y’all. I could eat the whole batch straight from the bowl. I loooove it. My favorite way to eat it is with butter lettuce. It’s messy, but worth it. Most of the time, though, I try to just eat leftovers for lunch since it means warming something up rather than prepping and cooking something.

Some of our favorite Whole30 dinners these days are:

  1. Pressure Cooker Lemon Olive Chicken (recipe from Health Starts in the Kitchen)
  2. Instant Pot Tacos (recipe from Living Loving Paleo)
  3. 3 Ingredient Instant Pot Pot Roast (recipe from Girl and the Kitchen)

That first recipe…it’s bursting with flavor that is so delightful to the palate. I can’t say enough good things about it! Mr. Beck agrees. I will say, I use chicken thighs instead of breasts because I just like them better. Little Lady ate almost two thighs by herself! The second recipe – what makes it in my eyes is her Creamy Cilantro Lime Dressing (the link is in the recipe I linked to above). The consistency is thicker than a dressing, in my opinion, but it’s the flavor that’s important not the name, right? Use an immersion blender – it’s so, so easy!! As for the third recipe, I have never enjoyed pot roast like I enjoyed this one. Seriously. After lots of dry ones though my childhood, I never thought I would like pot roast. Ever. But this one is not only amazing, but making the gravy by throwing the juices and onions from the pot into a blender is genius. No thickener needed!

My Instant Pot has been a life saver this last week. It seems like I made every dinner using my IP. I think I did anyway. Haha! It seems like my brain has a hard time remembering anything other than whether or not a child had an accident or not. If you haven’t bought an Instant Pot, I highly recommend jumping on board. It can be a major life saver. I’m actually considering getting a second one so I can have two things going at once, but that’s so rare it seems like a little much.

All that to say, potty training is progressing. Whole30 Round 4 Redo is progressing. Everything is moving (mostly) forward.

Just for the record, though, I don’t recommend doing potty training and Whole30 at the same time…they’re both very hard, time-consuming work. It’s exhausting.

I hope you check out some of the recipes above. Even if you don’t follow a Paleo diet or need a diet reset like Whole30, these recipes are REAL, WHOLE food and are so delicious! I can’t imagine anyone not liking them, haha.

Have a blessed day!

Looking at July

Our family needs a dog. Yes…NEEDS a dog.

But we were living in an apartment at first and pet rent/fees are astronomical.

Then we moved into our first home and the fence could barely stand in a strong wind, so getting a dog was just not an option. Now, thankfully, the fence is fixed and that’s no longer a hurdle.

However…Mr. Beck has declared that he would like at least one of the toddlers to be potty trained before we add a dependent fur baby to the family…even if that fur baby is already house trained.

There was a book handed down to us from some friends about potty training in three days and I’ve been nagging…encouraging Mr. Beck to take off work so we can get this done. We’re going to try to potty train both toddlers at once since Little Lady likes to do everything her big brother does. For that to be successful, I need a second pair of eyes and hands…and feet. Ha!

He surprised me recently by saying he would take off July 2-3 since he has July 4 off due to Independence Day. So now I’m looking at July…or at least the start of it…a little differently.

July 1 will see us taking the littles shopping for potties and undies – FUN! *ahem*

July 2-4 will see us painstakingly potty training and hopefully not losing our ever-loving minds.

July 5 will see me starting my Whole30 Round 4 Redo…because the previous four days will be about survival.

Can I be honest? As sound as this three day plan seems, I’m a bit terrified of the whole potty training process. Will we be able to motivate the kids? How are we possibly going to keep them entertained during this process?

You know those puppy training pads that you’re not supposed to buy because they teach dogs it’s ok to pee in the house yet they seem so logical it’s hard not to succumb to the marketing hype? I’m thinking about covering our living room floor with those because 1) it’s way too hot to spend all day outside and 2) I have no idea when we will be able to replace the flooring in our house, so I don’t want our carpet to be peed on all day. What do you think? Will those protect our floor?

Then, there’s the inevitable moment when we start leaving the house again. I don’t like being cooped up at home for days on end, but I also don’t like the odds of one or both kids having accidents in public. Not that I would be embarrassed – I’m sure it happens to everyone at some point. Dealing with these things is part of parenting…and life. It’s just that going anywhere with two toddlers is already exhausting (i.e. keeping them alive as we walk across a parking lot or even just getting them across the parking lot together when one wants to be stubbornly disobedient). But I’m borrowing trouble and I need to stop.

I want my children to be successful in this, but not at their expense. Does that make sense? Even if only one of them is successfully trained by the end of next week, that’s ok. If neither of them are successfully trained, that’s ok. They won’t be in diapers forever. If next week turns out to be too early, so be it. We will try again another time.

The mindset I need to adopt and maintain is that we are going to try and teach our children something new next week and none of us will be failures if this method doesn’t work. There are other methods to try later if this one doesn’t work!

Our kids will be trained eventually.

And, eventually, we will adopt us a family dog.

I will admit, though…I’ll be glad when we get back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Whole30 Round 4 Redo

Soooo, if you need an example of how poor planning can absolutely RUIN your Whole30…look no further.

I looked back at my post regarding the imminent start to my fourth round of Whole30 and I cringe because I was so determined…and halfway through I quit. That’s right. I made it halfway and was about to start the downhill coast to the finish line, but I put on the brake.

Because I wasn’t prepared and braking was the easy route. *facepalm*

Mr. Beck and I attended the Great Homeschool Convention this year as we want to start preparing to homeschool our toddlers in a year or so. Timing is iffy because Little Man is only 3.5 and is already counting to 100 (unassisted) and somewhat legibly writing his ABC’s. He knows his colors (even cyan and that it’s Momma’s favorite) and shapes (he’s so  cute when he says “parallelogram”!!) and, honestly, I see no reason to slow him down. Anyway, back to the point…

The food options during the convention were tolerable at best. Don’t even get me started about the prices. With sessions scheduled every hour of every day and long, long lines, it was virtually impossible to find time to even sit and eat. The venue didn’t want people bringing in outside food or drink (I may have broken that rule and snuck in – is it sneaking if it’s in full view? – some Starbucks from our hotel across the street), so I literally felt like my hands were tied when it came to food.

Honestly, we were so tired at the end of the day that I didn’t want to bother with finding a Whole30 approved meal for dinner. I just wanted FOOD. Good food. Food that was worth spending a small fortune to get.

At the time, I was proud of myself for not beating myself over the head about it. The quitting, that is.

That’s my typical MO and that’s what I’m struggling with now because despite my declaration that I would restart my fourth round the following Monday…then the following month (April)…then a future month (June)…I haven’t followed through.

My mentor said something to me almost a month ago that really struck me and it comes to mind now. It was about being trustworthy and went something to the effect of this: if I don’t find myself trustworthy, then how can I expect others to find me trustworthy?

You may ask, what does that have to do with all this Whole30 Round 4 business?

Well, if I’m telling my husband or my mom or a friend that I’m going to redo my Whole30 Round 4 in April and then I don’t do it…I certainly don’t come across as trustworthy. Then, if I say, “well, I didn’t do it then, but I’ll do it in June for sure”, but I don’t…well, that makes me even less trustworthy.

Ugh.

Who likes to think of themselves as untrustworthy?

I’m pretty sure absolutely no one.

When I read that post from February, especially the end, I feel shame because I was resolved at that time to be successful for my God, my family and myself (I need to get healthy for so many reasons) yet I failed and I’ve proved to be untrustworthy to those very beings and more as I have neglected to follow through with what I said I would do.

So, I feel I have two choices from here:

  1. I can wallow in guilt and self pity and fall into further bad health or
  2. I can pull myself up by my hypothetical bootstraps, choose to FINALLY make the difficult choices required to follow through, be successful and rebuild my trustworthiness

The second one is definitely what I want. But my insides cringe at the idea of giving up all those bad-for-you-but-so-yummy things I love for 30 days.

It’s so stupid when I write it out. It’s only 30 days! It goes by in a heartbeat! And, if I’m really being honest, I FEEL so much BETTER after not eating/drinking those things for 30 days. They don’t add value to my health…only my sweet-loving tastebuds and temporary pleasure.

Almost mid-May I wrote out my reasons for getting healthy again. My “why’s” if you will. As trivial as some of them may sound to others, I’m going to be vulnerable here and share them with you.

Why get healthy?

  1. my marriage
  2. my children
  3. better quality of life
  4. decreased chance of disease/heart attack/stroke
  5. better sleep
  6. no headaches
  7. more energy
  8. high self esteem
  9. confidence
  10. looking forward to shopping for myself rather than dreading it

This list is mostly prioritized in order. My marriage and being present for my children are definitely the most important, but I’m not going to lie: the sexiest and most confident I’ve ever felt when it comes to my appearance was in 2012 and it was awesome. I get that my body has borne two children since then and there are permanent changes to my body as a result, but I also believe that I can look better than I do now if I put in the work. My hypothyroidism works against me – my thyroid gland is incapable of working on its own. I learned that last year when I attempted to find a natural way of managing it and it backfired and I ended up with a TSH of 153.4. That’s no fun, people. Absolutely NO FUN. But if I can find what works (Whole30 has helped me a TON in the past), I’m confident I can get to a better place than where I am now – almost 200 lbs and absolutely ZERO self-love.

That being said, here’s what’s been going on and/or what I hope to accomplish moving forward…

I’ve been walking on the treadmill at our local rec center. Not daily or even consistently yet, though I’m trying to be more intentional about it. I’m currently at about twice a week. That’s been good and I feel like I’m making gradual progress. My first goal is to walk two miles in 30 minutes. I’m currently at 1.6ish. My second goal will be to start running again. Interval training towards a 5k.

I hope to find some food freedom in this journey. Hopefully, Melissa Hartwig’s book Food Freedom Forever will help me in reaching that goal. I’m tired of making progress on Whole30 just to lose it all between each round because I’m reverting back to horrible habits.

I want to successfully complete my fourth round of Whole30 in July. Bottom line.

So, here’s to being trustworthy and successful.