My daughter thinks she has a boyfriend.

We were driving home from getting her cast removed. Emery’s stick-figure arm looked even more scrawny without the hunk of purple fiberglass that we’d grown so accustomed to seeing – and smelling. It was approaching lunch time so I asked her if she wanted to just skip school that day or if she wanted to try and go in for the afternoon. She insisted that I drop her off at school. And then it happened.

“Hey mama, sometimes – at school – we pretend that (so-and-so) is my boyfriend. Isn’t that just crazy?”

By the goofy smile I spotted in my rearview mirror, I could tell she didn’t think it was crazy. She thought it was pretty awesome.

I’m gripping the steering wheel as my child waiting expectantly for my answer. She still cares about my responses – not just my words but my level of excitement.

I really wanted a pause button so I could Google, “Biblical, supportive, female-empowering response for when you’re 5 year old tells you she has a boyfriend.”

Note: surprise, Google doesn’t have a good result for this query. 

Instead, I smiled and said, “Really? Wow, honey. That’s neat. Is he a nice boy?”

She nodded, smiled and went back to fidgeting with her newly freed arm.

My daughter has a boyfriend.

No.

My daughter thinks she has a boyfriend.

Emery is 5 and also thinks that unicorns are real and have chocolate syrup coursing through their veins. So, she isn’t exactly up on what’s what. But they sit together at lunch and hold hands in the hallway. He brings her gifts of apples and presented her with a camouflaged-printed woven bracelet. Look mama, it even has a clip. 

He’s a nice boy, I’m sure.

This isn’t just about stealing playground kisses (which she has been clearly instructed not to do) or setting perimeters around hand holding (it’s flu season, you know). As a mother to daughters, I worry more about the way she views herself in relation to how others – especially boys – perceive her.

My daughter is beautiful and hilarious and a free spirit. She has no concept of negative body talk or feeling insecure about her appearance. She can’t fully grasp the weight of words from the opposite sex. Because she’s 5 and she shouldn’t.

This boy may be a nice kid. But he doesn’t know just how awesome my daughter is. I don’t care who he is – he simply isn’t good enough for her. No one will be. But soon enough, she’ll be 16 and wanting to ride in cars with boys. And then she’ll be heading off to college with thousands of boys who will want to be her study partner. In her 20s, some well-intentioned, God-fearing boy will want to marry her.

I’ll want to say no every time but won’t because she will be experiencing these things in life for the first time. And parenting is about celebrating those things which give our children joy and nursing their crushed spirits back to life when they experience sorrow.

So I tread lightly. We discuss romantic relationships and their importance for adults. I tell her that her body is her own and that she is beautiful and valued as she is, regardless of what attention she receives. I remind her that it’s her daddy’s job to keep her safe and protected. And I look wide-eyed and impressed at her new piece of fabric jewelry.

Little girl, stop growing up. This mama doesn’t have all the answers yet.

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Do you see that cute little Top Mommy Blogs icon to your right (—–>)? If you would, could you pretty please give the little button below a click? Voting will help others find The Lambent Life and good content coming your way. Xoxo, Liz.

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Giving up caffeine: It’s not you, it’s me.

coffee_lambentlifeWe met when I was 18 years old. Fresh faced and ready to explore all that the world had to offer, I ran to you with open arms. They say that college is a time for exploration and experimentation. While some of my college peers tried uppers, downers and round and rounders, I dabbled in flavored lattes and energy drinks. Your bottomless cup was my support during those all-night study sessions at the diner. My 48-count of Red Bull was the only thing there for me when my computer crashed at 2 a.m., wiping my entire Women’s Studies final project just hours before it was due. Through the turmoil of self-discovery and navigating quasi-adult relationships, you were there to lend a comforting lift.

I grew older and wiser and you grew stronger. No longer satisfied with the sickening sweet beverages of my youth, I graduated to the grande triple shot latte. It was more than the temperature of my beverage that warmed my body and stirred my mind. You, caffeine, were the muse to volumes of publications and articles. You sat with me through hours of edits and acted as my meeting and media event side kick. There was no water cooler conversations in our office – only those friendships built during frequent Starbuck’s runs. As time marched on, our relationship evolved from one of convenience to one of necessity.

When I got pregnant, things became a bit awkward between us. Everyone said you weren’t good for me and, truth be told, they were probably right. But I couldn’t just give up on you so easily. We had history. So we met secretly in the diluted cups of half-caff and an afternoon Coca Cola to soothe the nausea.  Childbirth didn’t do much to fix our broken relationship. Taunted by fears of an insomniac infant, you gave me pause. So I mentally packed you away with my expensive lacy bras and turtleneck sweaters, not to be fully enjoyed again until all babies weaned.

Parenting young children brought new life to our friendship. With the whack-a-mole bedtimes and questions of sanity, I was thankful to have you back in my life. Despite the messy house, cranky toddlers and sleepless nights, you were there for me. You saw me at my worst and still shared your mind clearing goodness. You were a key figure in the early years of my motherhood. And I wasn’t alone. As I made new mommy friends, there was as much discussion regarding the location of our next play date as to who would pick up with Dunkin’. We knew each other’s secrets and coffee orders by heart. I traded the fancy (and expensive) Italian beverages for the simple joys of a morning and afternoon cup of coffee. Your predictability was a small comfort in the midst of motherhood’s chaos.

I loved you and was leery of those who doubted your goodness. You were a litmus test to easily determine my compatibility with a potential friend. But as time goes on and I learn more about myself, I began to see a dark side to our friendship. I needed you. At some point, a long history wasn’t enough to ignore how toxic our relationship had become. What once brought me renewed energy and inspiration turned me into an anxious, slightly manic version of my otherwise copacetic self. I hate the way I relied on you to get through the day.

It won’t be a clean break – more of a slow fade – but I’m already feeling the simple pleasure of being less and less addicted to you. I don’t want my mood and abilities to be controlled by a drug (no offense, but that’s what you are). The joy of a caffeine rush simply isn’t worth the racing heart and shaky hands. My heart isn’t pounding hard enough to be visible to others. I have more patience and I’m less on edge. I’m giddy to be exhausted in the evenings and look forward to building a stronger relationship with my other friend – my bed.

I’ve grown and evolved and you’ve stayed the same over the millennia. So really, it’s not you – it’s me. I wish you well and perhaps we’ll cross paths someday during a late night road trip or a particularly vicious migraine. But until then, I bid you adieu.

Why traveling with kids is worth losing my sanity.

There we were.

We were in hour seven of what was supposed to be an eight hour trip. The girls and I had spent the previous several hours sounding out words, making up new lyrics to our favorite songs and played round after round of I Spy. I’ve become pretty comfortable making the drive from North Carolina to Pennsylvania, where all but two of our immediate family members live. We’ve travelled this same stretch of highway since we moved to Georgia so I’m familiar with every grimy gas station bathroom and each of the three Starbucks along the route. When we moved to North Carolina and the trip was cut from a miserable 13 hours to a more manageable eight, the girls and I began making the trip ourselves. Josh has a hard time getting away from work so I needed to become comfortable making the trip alone.

The coloring books had been filled and the books reread from memory. Heavy rainclouds stole any bits of sunlight that may have remained after daylight savings time but we were in good spirits – one more hour to go. I topped yet another of the rolling hills and winding roads that carry us through Southern Pennsylvania when I saw it: miles and miles of red, angry brake lights staring at me through my rain spattered windshield.

A traffic jam. In the middle of the Pennsylvanian countryside.

With no where to go, no where to reroute, the girls and I sat for two hours.

Do you know what’s exciting? Traveling.

Do you know what’s exhausting? Traveling with children.

We sat and whined, sighed and scowled. I prayed with a ferocious intensity that neither girl would have the sudden and immediate need for a bathroom break. An eight hour car trip is manageable. But when that eight hour gets stretched to nine and then 10… that’s enough to make a Momma lose her mind. I may have said some things to those sweet children that aren’t fit to repeat.

But we do it. Many times each year. And it sucks. Yet I do it gladly.

We made the decision to move away from home. Our families live in Western Pennsylvania – some just a stone’s throw apart. The issue of traveling and distance wasn’t bothersome when we were in college or when we moved to Ohio. But when we had children, we all became more concerned with quality time. When we agreed to move farther away and began collecting children, we had to make the decision that where we decided to live had to be worth the distance we were placing between our children and our families.

We chose to move away because it was what was best for us, our careers and our children. Yes, there are aspects of life that would be easier if we were near family but currently the benefit to living where we do is worth the sacrifice of a few miserable hours in the car.

While our families do visit and willingly drop their lives to come and help when we need it, it’s harder for our siblings and extended family to make their way south. It’s not fair to our children and our parents, siblings, cousins and dear friends that they don’t get to see us or our children. But they aren’t the ones who moved. It’s our responsibility to make sure that our children know and have memories with their extended family.

I don’t care if the drive is eight, 10 or 15 hours. We do it because family is important and memories like these aren’t made on Facebook on FaceTime.

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That being said, I’m putting away my suitcase for awhile.

 

Down and Dirty of Clean Eating // Meal Planning

//This is the fourth post in a blog mini-series called “The Down and Dirty of Clean Eating.” To learn more about the DDoCE series, check out the intro post here. Previously, we’ve talked about DDoCE basics and the budget. //

When Josh and I were newly married, one of our favorite things to do together was grocery shop. The epitome of romance, I know. Josh was still building his carrier, I was a senior in college and we were broke. Our living room furniture consisted of a few camping chairs and his grandfather’s old floral-print couch. I didn’t know a lick about cooking but every Friday, we would wander the grocery store for inspiration and spend the evening creating a surprise concoction and share a meal on that ugly polyester couch. Eventually, we had to forfeit our Friday night habits because life needs a bit more preparation than what’s found in the frozen food aisle. Now I like to spend as little time as possible in the grocery store with two children who like to pretend they’re Alaskan huskies and Earth Fare is the Iditarod. Once we meandered. Now we’re all Super Market Sweep.

Anyway. I recall those memories fondly but gladly trade the spontaneity of our grocery store wanderings for the structure meal planning provides our current lifestyle.

For our family, meal planning necessary. When you’re trying to eat a clean diet and dealing with multiple food allergies, it’s not as simple as throwing a pizza in the oven or grabbing take out when evenings get hectic. Additionally, it keeps our budget in check and eliminates wasted food. By spending a few hours planning, shopping and prepping, I feel much less overwhelmed which, in turn, makes everyone’s life a bit less tense. Because if Momma ain’t happy…

For simplicity’s sake, I follow three rules for meal planning:

1. Shop the kitchen. 

2. Group meals to maximize ingredients.

3. Plan everything.

I always start by shopping my pantry and freezer. Because buying in bulk and stocking up on sales are key to eating clean on a budget, it’s important that we actually eat what we buy. This becomes the frame work for meal planning. On a regular grocery trip, I don’t want to buy more much more than fresh produce, meats and some dairy.

I take stock of what’s on hand and then I scour Pinterest or cookbooks for inspiration. I shy away from recipes that have a ton of ingredients and try to group meals together that use the same fresh ingredients. If I plan to make Tex-Mex Rice and Black-Eyed Peas on Monday and it uses fresh spinach, cilantro and avocado, I will plan on making a spinach and eggs for breakfast the next morning and taco salads with cilantro and avocado for dinner. I very rarely use an ingredient in it’s entirety so I’m not going to waste money to have the other half rot in the back of my fridge. You dig? This doesn’t happen naturally do you have to plan.

I try to make my menu and subsequent grocery lists as exhaustive as possible. This means I plan three meals for everyone (except Josh, who typically has lunch meetings) and include snacks, wine, special events and splurges. This keeps me honest and prevents overbuying. It also ensures I don’t have an “oh no!” moment when I realize I forgot an essential ingredient. I go to the grocery store twice a week to make sure produce, herbs and meats are fresh and mark each ingredient on my list as either a Sunday or Wednesday purchase.

I have tried so many ways to organize my meal planning and shopping lists. There isn’t a one size fits all method. I have friends who love apps but I like the pen and paper approach. I tried various online templates but found it easier to just make my own. I bought a cheap 3-ring binder and keep my meal plan, grocery list and any printed recipes together ( I know, I’m probably the only person in Internet Land that still prints things).

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The most helpful thing I added to my grocery planning sheet is a column for the girls’ lunches. While I may throw in some chopped vegetables that were left over from dinner, I typically buy food specifically for them. Having designated food just for lunches makes it easy to mix and match items for added variety.

Like the rest of a clean lifestyle, there is going to be trial and error. I try to be as detailed as possible but I’m not afraid to nix a planned meal because I’m exhausted and I’ve decided it’s Josh’s turn to cook. That’s okay. Considering where we started, I’m thrilled to see progress.

How do you meal plan? Are you a pen and paper or list app kind of family? 

Why parenting never gets easier – and why it’s amazing.

The countless diaper changes, sleepless nights and dirty dishes create a blur of beautiful chaos those early years of parenthood. Add in siblings close in age and you lay your head every night thankful everyone survived another day. The kids get older, you become a bit wiser until eventually one day goes by unnoticed as anything other than unremarkable. And it becomes two and soon a few weeks and then you realize that without the pomp and circumstance that celebrated your entry to parenthood, you’ve entered an entirely new phase that involves noticeably fewer tears from everyone.

I am never so naive to think that I’ve got this parenting thing down. But we seem to have travelled through the survival phase known as babydom and toddlerhood and arrived at the other side: school-aged.

And things become markedly calmer and you think, “This is easy! We could totally have six kids.”

Then you’re kid does something awesome like break her arm in such a way that it’ll require surgery, pins and a full arm cast. Because, you know, God is hilarious and has awesome ways of gently reminding me when I’ve become too big for my britches.

The kids get bigger and so do the problems. I’m not talking strictly about physical injuries. While I’m no longer concerned with the perils of potty training, I’m now facing the challenge of raising two young girls with healthy body images and leading them through the maze of mean girls and self esteem. While this chapter of parenting is typically less physically demanding – although the shuttle service between school carpool and ballet classes and traffic is exhausting – it is a race of emotional and mental endurance. I’ve shifted my energy away from the day-to-day and toward the long task of character-building and emotional development.

They ask Big Life Questions that I usually feel wholly ill-equipped to answer. You must formulate a concise, spur-of-the-moment response when your five year old explains that sometimes she feels like God isn’t close and wonders if I’m sure He really thinks she’s special enough. Or when she confides that she isn’t sure she’s pretty enough. Or if I’m sure there isn’t even one thing that would ever make me stop loving her – what if she steals a rainbow? Because to a five year old, there is nothing worse than stealing a rainbow.

I want to blame the influence of peers and society but truthfully, I’m confident most women struggle with the same questions regardless of our age, social circle or upbringing. The lessons that we instill now – or don’t – will have a lasting effect far into adulthood. Nurturing a sense of value and self-worth, cultivating grace and generosity and taming arrogance and superiority. Are we ever good enough? Interesting enough? Thin enough? Strong enough? That stuff is hard.

When Josh and I decided to have kids, it was a pretty short conversation and a sudden shift from my career-oriented life goals. And my view of parenting was very short-sited and I, embarrassingly, didn’t think what it meant to be a parent past the first year. I never entertained the idea that God may bless us with daughters instead of the enviably less dramatic male option. Instead, He gave us and one then another incredible little female human with tender hearts that need guarded and guided and given a safe place to flourish.

I want them to grow strong – physically and emotionally. I will teach them to shine brightly and boldly. I will show them that vulnerability is not weakness. I will encourage them to embrace difficulties and remain joyous through the challenges.

I miss the simpler days of parenting when snuggles and Momma milk made everything better. But how fortunate am I to be tasked as steward of such precious gifts?

Please, please don’t let me screw them up.

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Worry.

Parenting has a way of amplifying qualities in a person, doesn’t it?

Hi, I’m Liz and I’m a worrier.

Raising two girls, close in age and in the midst of a chaotic life has left me grasping for control. When that isn’t feasible, I get a little crazy.

This isn’t healthy, right? So I’ve been working to let go of what I can’t control. A healthy level of concern is a good thing. Worrying about every worst case scenario is not.

I’ve made a real effort to stop worrying so much about my children’s safety when they are playing outside. I survived years of wandering the farm from sunrise to sunset without seeing a single adult – I want my children to have the same opportunity to experience things without an adult hovering above, narrating and stopping them short of discovery.

This morning, we got a late start and missed church. We decided to take advantage of the gorgeous autumn weather and take the girls to a nearby park with great trails for scooter and bike riding. Josh and I had some reading to do so we settled on nearby bench and set the girls free to explore.

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They played flamingo and spun around in circles. They swung to the moon and raced down the slides. After awhile, Emery called us over to see what she learned. She jumped from a platform and reached her arms up to catch a bar above her head. She pumped her legs and tried to work herself into a chin-up position before losing strength. I was ecstatic to see her pride and accomplishment. She repeated this over and over and I encouraged her to try it again.

She jumped from the platform. Only this time, only her fingers gripped the metal bar and she slipped. She fell to the ground and landed on her elbows and knees. It was evident by the way she laid in the mulch that the landing hadn’t been kind. Josh was standing near and helped her to her feet. The sobs turned to shrieks as he tried to touch her arm. He carefully removed her sweatshirt to inspect the arm and her pain was undeniable.  They made their way to the truck while Blair and I gathered our books and the scooters they had intended to ride. After a few minutes, we concluded this warranted a visit to the Emergency Room.

I thought we were nearing the end of our childhood firsts. No, today we got to experience our child’s first broken bone. A fractured humerus, to be exact. Our sweet, adventurous girl will be sporting a full arm cast for the next six to eight weeks. This means no climbing at recess, no hopscotch in gym class and a hiatus from her beloved ballet class.

How can a momma not feel guilty? In my efforts to not worry and to let her explore, did I fail at my job to protect her? Common sense assures me not but her tear-filled question, “Momma, why did this happen?” breaks my heart.

She has handled this like a champion but my Momma worry is on high alert.

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Farming.

I was raised on a 500 acre dairy farm in Western Pennsylvania. My childhood was spent constructing forts in the hay loft and chasing renegade cows down back country roads. Countless times I returned to the house with one less muck boot after rainstorms turned the pasture into a mud pint. But by the age of 8, I wanted nothing more than to leave the small town to fill the larger britches only found in city living. The arts, culture and community found in cities sing a song that harmonizes with my soul.

But the longer I live out of the country, the more I realize there’s another part of me that’s starving. I suppose this is why I feel most comfortable at the farmer’s markets discussing heirlooms and companion planting with the farmers. Seeing that I’ve spent my adult life between the corporate world and as a stay at home momma, I don’t have any real talent in farming but it’s more familiar to me than discussing family vacations to Disney or the newest gadget.

Real farming is far from the idealistic version Americana portrays. It’s a lot of sweat, swearing and heartache. But it’s genuine. It’s sacrificing the luxury of time and convenience for the sake of growing food and crop. There is no cheating or cutting corners. You are subject to the elements, acts of God and sometimes just dumb luck. I remember winters when the temperatures would drop dangerously low and my father would spend nights in the barn testing faucets to make sure water lines wouldn’t freeze and packing in extra hay around the cows. It makes me proud to be the daughter of a third generation farmer.

Sorry. That was a bit of a tangent, wasn’t it?

By the nature of Josh’s job and our relocations, we’ve been city dwellers since college. Or at least suburban settlers. As we eased into a more natural lifestyle, we wanted to source most of our diets directly from farmers and support those who’s practices we believe in. We started shopping at farmers markets and eventually joined a CSA in Savannah. With our move to Charlotte, we’ve had to rebuild our network of farms and it’s hard. Not everyone has good farming practices and many consumers don’t ask the questions that matter to me. So I was stoked to snag a LivingSocial deal for the seventh Charlotte area Know Your Farms Tour and get a chance to see the farms in person and meet the farmers face to face.

The event included 13 farms split between Saturday and Sunday afternoons. They spanned from far Northwest Charlotte across to the University area so with traffic and travel, we could only squeeze in three farms. But we weren’t left missing out on anything. We visited Wish We Had Acres (a dairy goat and herbal medicine farm), Apple Orchard Farms (beef, pork, eggs, honey – oh, I could go on) and Allee’Bubba Farms (ducks, chickens, vegetables and horseback riding in the most unusual suburban setting) and left feeling nothing less than inspired.

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SONY DSCIMG_2288SONY DSCSONY DSCFarming is hard. But it’s good. I wouldn’t trade my upbringing for a lifetime full of Disney adventures and a part of me worries I’m depriving my children of the goodness that comes with being a farm kid. The world is changing and I want to want less and apply my efforts toward those things that are simple and sustainable.

Will we become farmers? I’m not sure. But homesteading? I may be able to hang.

“When it is understood that one loses joy and happiness in the attempt to possess them, the essence of natural farming will be realized. The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.”
-Masanobu Fukuoka

The Down and Dirty on Clean Eating

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When I started this blog, I did a mini-series called Dirty Little Clean Secrets that to this day are some of my most popular posts. This is amusing because I knew very little about blogging back in 2012 and was just writing what I cared about. What’s even more amusing is that two years later, I haven’t learned much about blogging – except that “dirty little secrets” provides interesting and unsavory search traffic. But I have gained a wealth of knowledge through experience about clean living and eating and I still love to share information to help others.

There are very few conversations that cause me to take a firm stance and they generally fall into one of two categories: faith and food. While I love to talk about my faith, I want to focus on the many, many questions about what I feed my family and why. I realize the food choices that are common for us seem odd to others. Straight away – pause the background music – I want to be clear that I am not telling you what or how to feed your family. Our family’s journey to a healthier lifestyle is ours – you need to be responsible for yours. In fact, our very definition of “healthy” is probably different. But I am telling you to be an informed consumer and make educated decisions and sharing ours.

Our journey to clean eating started when I was pregnant with Emery and has changed and evolved several times. But at the core, my numero uno food rule is to eat real food. One of my favorite quotes on this is by Dr. Alejandro Junger (yes, this same Junger) who says, “The problem is that we aren’t eating real food anymore; we are eating food-like products.”

Right?

I have yet to meet anyone who truly believes processed foods are better than the real deal. But we live in a culture that promotes taste over function and sacrifices nutrients for convenience. Before we started eating a cleaner diet, we were eating under the advice of a well meaning personal trainer who encouraged low fat dairy, artificial sweeteners, fortified grains and diet sodas. Josh and I were both working long hours and many of our food choices were based on convenience. We trusted that this professional knew more about our health than we did. We wised up and cut out the processed grains and started making our own bread. A few months later, we started thinking hard about organic produce. And then looking at where our meats came from.

I know what it’s like to be pressed for time, money and energy and pulled like a Stretch Armstrong between all the new “right” ways to eat. It’s overwhelming to figure out what a clean, healthy diet looks like – I get it. Paleo. Low carb. Vegan. Vegetarian. Organic. Local. Raw. Every supporter claims their way is the right way. Regardless of who is “right,” I promise you that making even small steps away from processed, empty-calorie foods will show a big return on your health. The journey to clean eating and natural living is a journey – it’s a process, trial-and-error, failures and grand successes. It doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. It’s taking baby steps that turn into bigger steps that eventually lead to a stride.

There are thousands of blogs that do a great job of highlighting the reasons why we should eat unprocessed foods. so why am I even talking about this?

A few reasons. My passion is holistic health. That means I want to help people life their fullest, most satisfying life possible. Eating a clean, unprocessed, organic, locally sourced – whatever you want to call it – is the most important piece of a healthy, natural lifestyle. It doesn’t matter how many vitamins, supplements, fermented foods, non-toxic cleaners, yoga sessions or essential oils you use – if your diet isn’t strong, neither is your health. It’s my goal to help others improve their overall wellness but a strong foundation in good nutrition is necessary.

Secondly, I’ve been there. And it wasn’t until food allergies forced us to examine our diet that we finally made serious, life-long changes. We had to do a dramatic overhaul of our diets – multiple times – and quickly. We were in for it, sink or swim, praying we would swim. Our first dairy allergy diagnosis forced us to make a change but that doesn’t mean it was easy and in hind sight, we made a lot of decisions then that I wouldn’t encourage now. But it’s a process.

Third, I’m not Paleo. Or vegetarian. Or anything. I strive for clean. Unprocessed. Nutrient-dense. I may subscribe to certain aspects of a diet theory but health is not a one-size-fits-all approach. That does not mean I’m perfect or in perfect health (obviously). We eat out. We give in to cravings. We live on a budget. We travel. I have kids who want sugar and junk and treats. I don’t make everything from scratch.

And although our diet is clean, my kitchen is messy. Like, really messy. Don’t stop over unannounced. Does anyone want to do my dishes?

So, what Down and Dirty of Clean Eating topics are we going to talk about?

  • What is a Clean Diet?
  • Making Time
  • Eating on a Budget
  • Eating on the Go
  • Clean Eating for Kids

Guys, I’m ridiculously excited about this.

I want to hear from you! What topics do you want to talk about? What stops you from eating a less-processed, nutrient-dense diet? What tips work for you? Please share!

Precarious.

A normal Saturday morning. Rising a little later, moving a little slower, we gathered ourselves and our things and loaded up for a trip to the farmer’s market. Routine, uneventful, rather boring. We snaked through the narrow streets of the older part of town, turning between the old mill warehouses and remarking how crowded it was for a cool, drizzling morning. The girls chattered in the back seat and argued over Fancy Nancy books while Josh and I sat silently and waited for a parking spot to open.

At nearly 3 and a half, Blair is a cautious soul and continuously looks to her Momma for approval and encouragement. The truth is, I don’t worry about her. Aside from the typical parenting worries, of course. She listens. In the shadow of her older sister’s untamable energy and will, parenting Blair is, honestly, easy. So, when we eventually parked and began to unload across the street from the market, I helped Blair out of her seat and mindlessly told her to stay nearby while I gathered our bags.

She did not.

 

Blair ran behind the truck and out into the street from where she was hidden in between the parallel parked vehicles. She ran to her daddy and sister who we’re waiting on the other side of the single-lane street. Just as a large black suburban came down the street, lost in thought. The driver was probably running through her list for the market – cucumbers, zucchini – no, yellow squash, –  beef steak tomatoes, and a bouquet of flowers. But only if there were daisies. I can imagine her horror as a small tot with bunny ears sewn atop her hooded sweatshirt bolted in front of her vehicle.

I, still unaware that Blair left my side, heard my husband shout a deep bellowing command to Blair, telling her to stop immediately. She froze. Everyone heard him. Truthfully, I couldn’t figure out why he was yelling. I never for a moment thought that Blair was anywhere but waiting behind me. She would never run off. Until she did. The driver slammed on her brakes and I’m sure 25 miles per hour never seemed like a barreling speed before.

In a second, it was over. Blair was fine. Josh ran onto the street and scooped her up, her face nuzzled deeply against in neck in embarrassment and fear. I apologized profusely to the driver the driver shook her head disapprovingly. I grabbed Emery’s hand and hustled into the safety of the market crowd and people went back to their tomatoes and melons.

Life dangles so precariously. We plan and prepare and preach and convince ourselves that we have ensured our safety and, in turn, happiness. But it takes only a second for it all to fall apart on such a grand scale. I’m sure onlookers were appalled and probably thought their children would never run into traffic, just as I once did. But they do. No one expects accidents – that’s what they are. As parents, the sad truth is we often feel superior when we see others’ fail. When awful things happen, we vilify parents and curse them for not doing or seeing better. Yes, there is negligence. But most often, there is just life and mistakes and sometimes just a crappy series of events. I am horrified at what happened. I replay it again and again, considering the what ifs and every which way it could have played out. What if Josh had his back to the street and wasn’t watching? What if the driver had been going faster? What if I had made Blair hold my pant leg while I gathered our things? Hindsight is clear but offers little comfort. 

I’m sensitive and truthfully, a bit anxious by nature. It’s taken me 29 years to realize it and begin to embrace it as a gift instead of something to apologize for. As much as I want to dwell on Saturday morning’s incident, I can’t let myself. It’s not reflective of who I am or my parenting abilities. But I can learn from it, remember it, and appreciate it. I take it as a lesson and am grateful.  

New life.

One month ago, we said goodbye. Goodbye to our first house, goodbye to our neighbors and friends, goodbye to our church, goodbye, goodbye, goodbye. After so many months of preparations and planning and waiting and waiting, the final goodbye was rather anticlimactic.

We had a week to get our things packed and loaded – with the “help” of a moving company – and the house cleaned and thought we’d have a few days leftover to enjoy the city we called home for over four years and say goodbye to friends who became like family. As usual, things became increasingly complicated as the movers took two days longer than planned to pack the house and our sweet Blair fought a high fever for over five days. And so, the week involved little fun and lots of tears and many prayers.

Timing is a strange thing and as it happened, as we were settling into our new home in a new city, we should have been welcoming a new life into our family. Mid-June would have been the due date to the sweet baby we lost last November and I’d be a horrible liar if I said the timing of our move and the what would have been wasn’t a heavy weight. Miscarriages are an awful, heart-crushing experience and with one heartbeat, you want to scream to the world, “this enormous, life-changing, emotionally and physically retching thing has happened – recognize this!,” while with the next you want nothing else but to hold this precious, private thing so close that the outside world can’t claim it and taint it. With the due date passed, I feel closure. Paired with our move, June turned a page in our family’s story and while I recognize and honor that chapter in our lives, I’m ready to write a new story about a new life. 

We’re more or less settled in our new house in Charlotte. We fought the trek to suburbia both tooth and nail but as the truth of family-friendly and convenience spoke, we ended up with a mini-mansion situated squarely in the middle of a subdivision with a pool, playground and sidewalks. Sidewalks that randomly end. For all I hate about the cookie cutter lifestyle, there is something to be said for neatly kept lawns and the type of community where kids leave their bikes strewn across the driveway without worry. So, I’ve resigned myself that this is our – for now – new normal. But I still hum “Tiny Boxes” as I chase my kids down the sidewalk on their new bicycles.

We have lots of catching up to do, don’t we?

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