Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Why and the How....

I never realized my life was so intriguing until recently.  I have discovered in the last couple of years that people are SO curious about me staying at home with the boys-- maybe they think I'm old school, they probably picture a domesticated me dolled up in an apron like the 1950's, and while I am a baker and the kitchen happens to be my happy place, that isn't my normal day to day life.  Many women wonder why I would ever want to stay home, many say that they would go crazy being "cooped up."  I think a lot wonder how we survive and pay the bills on one income, and then there are a few who wish that they could stay at home.  I'm always shocked when Daniel tells me about the questions his co-workers and friends ask about me being at home.  Most days my life feels humdrum and mundane, I didn't realize that it interested people.

Without going into my entire work history, know that I have worked very hard my entire life.  Instilling a sense of responsibility into myself and my siblings was very important to my parents.  I got my first job at the age of 15 bagging groceries on the weekends at a local Winn Dixie grocery store.  By the time I was 16, I was working on the weekends and after school, and I was using the money I made to pay all of my own bills (car insurance, cell phone, gas etc.)  and also buy my own clothes and pay for things like movie tickets and food when I wanted to go out.

Daniel and I married young and traveled a hard road in the beginning of our marriage-- attending school and each of us working multiple jobs at different times, and it was no different when Leeland was born.  I worked part-time (after being laid off from my full-time job) some shortly after he was born, Daniel worked 2 jobs and finished up his degree.  It wasn't easy, family time was unheard of and so were date nights, but we felt like we were doing what we had to do to survive.

By the time we found out we were expecting Hayden, Daniel had a much more steady full-time job (and only 1 job), and I was working part-time.  We found ourselves at a cross road.  The biggest struggle was gong to be childcare (soon for 2), but we weren't sure that we could support ourselves entirely on Daniel's income.  That is the point that we decided it best for me to stay at home.

It was NOT an easy decision to make, and it was NOT a decision that we took lightly.  The decision to stay at home with the boys came with a lot of prayer, a lot of time in God's Word, and a whole lot of trust and faith.  So that answer's the "why" question.  Why do I stay at home?  Because that's what we feel God has called us to.  This certainly doesn't mean that a working Mother is going against God's will, and don't twist my words into saying that all women should be home.  The Lord gives each of us desires and talents and gifts, and He gives each of us a calling.  This is MY calling.  I can take heart in the struggle, and I can cling on when it's tough because I know whole heartedly that I am doing exactly what God has called me to do.

So the "how".... now that is a little bit harder to explain, because honestly most month's I'm not even sure of the how.  Living on one income in today's world is incredibly difficult!  (Especially one income that by the world's standards, isn't much.)  If you've read any of my posts from a couple years ago about the horrendous time we had buying the house, then you know-- even buying a house on one income was almost impossible.  I've always been the worrier, and when it comes to the finances end of things, stress each month is one of my biggest struggles.  But every single month, God faithfully provides for us!  Every single month.  We have a roof over our heads and we have food in our bellies.  Our needs have always been covered!... And often times, He even provides our "wants."

In the last couple of years, we have encountered SO many major financial hardships and unexpected expenses, and every single time, the money has been provided.  God is so good to us!  He is so good to us, even when I stress and worry.... my faith can be so small sometimes and He is always good!

Many of our friends know that we have encountered a lot of car trouble this year.  Car trouble to the tune of about $1,500 just a few months ago.  It's to be expected when you drive a 10 year old vehicle with 163,000 miles on it... AND because it's the only car that your family owns, it really takes a beating daily.  Well just this week, my check engine light came on yet again.  My gut reaction was to take it in right away.  I sat in the parking lot of the library with the boys and I prayed-- I covered our car in prayer and I prayed really hard for a good, honest mechanic.  After I said Amen, Leeland very inquisitively asked me why I would pray for our car, and we had a great conversation about how God cares about us and how He wants to talk to us about anything we wanted to talk about.  I felt at peace heading to the mechanic.  I knew it was going to be expensive, and I knew that we didn't really have the money to do it, but just something in me said I needed to drive it to the shop right away.

My first reaction to the sad news and high bill of the multiple repairs we needed was to cry.  I feel terrible for that poor guy who had to break the news to me of the cost and the problem-- in fact, I saw his eyes well up a little too and his voice got a little shaky.  He said that he was going to talk to his manager and find out if there was anything better they could do for me, or if they had any coupons, I could use.  In the mean time I called Daniel to break the bad news and ask about fixing it--- he was also quite upset and angry.  He's been quite literally working his butt off, and a lot of times with setbacks like this, it feels like he's working for nothing.  One step forward, and two steps back.  I don't blame him at all for being upset-- the unexpected is very frustrating.  After that I went to the Lord in prayer and immediately felt a little bit of peace when this verse came to mind....

"Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?" -Matthew 6:26

Finally finding a bit of comfort in the expensive repair, the man who broke me the sad news came back in and said that after some coupons and speaking with his manager.... he could reduce the bill by about $40.  When you're spending that much money, $40 doesn't seem like much, but every little bit counts, so I told him to proceed on with the repairs.  As it turns out, when I went to check out, he said that he and his manager were able to help me out a little bit more, find another coupon AND it turns out the labor wasn't as much time..... when it was all said and done, my bill was almost $110 cheaper than the original quote.  It was still a lot of money for us, but not as bad as it could have been!  Add that to a few off-duty shifts that Daniel was able to pick up, along with some childcare work that I was able to do and the bill is covered.  Sure, if we had a choice on what we were to spend this "extra" money made on, we wouldn't choose the car.... BUT, how perfect that this repair fell when we had this extra income to cover it. 

.... And I could go on and on with story after story of how He has provided for us, but this story is one that I will remember for a very long time.  Shortly after we got back in the car and back on the road home, Leeland asks me, "Momma is our car all better now?" to which I replied, "Yup!  They fixed our car up, and it should be ok now." which he followed with, "I praise God!!!"  I burst out in big, proud, happy Momma tears right there.  So while I have so many stories of God's provision and His never ending love for us, THIS story will stay with me for a while, because this story reminds me of who is watching me.  In those stressful situations, when I'm weeping in the waiting room at the mechanic, when I open up a completely unexpected piece of mail, when our insurance rates go up and I can't fathom how we will come up with that higher amount, two of the sweetest little boys have their eyes on me.  They are watching my every reaction.

So to the "how", the how part is not of our own doing, it is all God.  Apart from Him, I can't explain how we make ends meet month to month, how I have the energy, strength, and guidance to raise, chase after and teach these precious little ones that He has entrusted us with.  Apart from Him, I can't explain how I juggle this life, our hectic schedules, appointments, work, and activities.  Apart from Him, I am nothing. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Earned it!

Guess what came in the mail yesterday!?!  Another earned shirt from Beach Body!  Ever since checking the mail, I can't stop singing "Another one bites the dust"....  Are you singing it now too?  My apologies!
Another shirt to add to this one, and since I just started week 6 of Turbo Fire, it looks like I'll be rocking another new one soon enough.  This shirt describes exactly how I'm feeling about my results and progress, I'm closer everyday.  If you missed my 21 Day Fix results, you can find them here....

"Another one bites the dust
Another one bites the dust
And another one gone, and another one gone
Another one bites the dust
Hey, I'm gonna get you, too
Another one bites the dust"


Monday, July 21, 2014

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough Recipe

I started making my own pizza dough a few years ago when a friend insisted that it was easy and it was yummy-- I figured, why not give it a try?  I love to bake!  I started out buying those pizza yeast packets and following the instructions on the back.... As our family started to make healthier choices though, I wanted to make a whole wheat pizza dough and I soon discovered that you cannot just sub whole wheat flours for the all purpose flour in any old pizza dough recipe.  It just doesn't turn out right, the end result is flat and dry.  So I set out to find a whole wheat pizza dough that would be family approved, and not flat and dry.  The best I found came from and what I'm sharing with you today is adapted from that-- only a few differences.

- 2 to 2 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour
- 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup warm water
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/8 cup ground flax (optional)

1. Mix together the sugar, active dry yeast and warm water and leave to set for 5 minutes for the yeast to get extra happy. 
Happy yeast
2. In your mixer fitted with a dough hook, add 2 cups of the whole wheat flour, ground flax, olive oil, salt, and your happy yeast.  Mix until incorporated well and knead for 4-5 minutes.  Once you have mixed/kneaded the dough, if it still seems a bit sticky, you can add in a little more flour a tablespoon at a time until it pulls from the sides of the bowl.

3.  Form the dough into a ball and place in a lightly greased glass bowl and cover with lightly greased plastic wrap.  Leave it to rise for 45 minutes to an hour.
You want to leave it to rise in a warm place, for me that's on the stove.  In the winter if it's cold in the house, I'll often turn the oven on to get it warm before setting them there to rise.

After an hour....
4.  Roll it out onto a sheet pan, pizza pan or pizza stone, and top with your favorite sauces, seasonings and toppings.  For us, on a regular cheese pizza night, we top it with regular plain low sodium tomato sauce and then generously sprinkle it with italian seasoning and a smidge of garlic powder followed with mozzarella cheese.  An easy crowd pleaser!

5.  Bake in the oven at 425 degrees for 13-15 minutes or until the crust and cheese meet your desired "doneness." 
6. Enjoy the pizza.

AND as if one night of delicious whole wheat pizza isn't enough, this recipe is totally freezable!  So usually when I make it, I make 4 balls of dough and freeze 2 for the next time.  To freeze the dough, DO NOT let it rise.  Remove the dough ball from your mixer and roll it in a little flour to keep it from sticking to your freezer bag and throw it in the freezer.  I can't tell you how long it will freeze for, we've never left one in the freezer longer than a month.  The night you want to have pizza, you need to remove the dough from the freezer first thing in the morning and place in a lightly greased bowl topped with lightly greased plastic wrap to defrost and rise for around 8 hours.  
And if you get bored with plain old cheese pizza or tomato sauce or any of the more common toppings and want something new and fun to try, we tried this Thai Chicken Pizza tonight and found it to be amazing!!
You can find the thai chicken pizza recipe here, at The Comfort of Cooking, I substituted the alfalfa sprouts for chinese bean sprouts, but followed the rest of the recipe to the "T".  It is SO good! 

Happy pizza eating friends!!  

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Turbo Fire: 4 Week Update

Today marks the finish of week 4 of Turbo Fire, meaning that I am 1/3 of the way through! (Yay!)  If you haven't read why I chose to go BACK to Turbo Fire after finishing of the "21 Day Fix", you can read more on that decision here.

No photos and measurements to go along with this post, just the dirt on how it's been going.  The work outs have been fabulous!  I absolutely love Chalene, I love the routines and I love the sweat.  I feel really really good this go round with Turbo Fire-- I know the routines and I am keeping up with her and following along without ever hitting pause.  It's pretty amazing!  So far in 4 weeks, I've only missed 1 day of working out (such is life), and I actually ended up subbing out 2 days of workouts with 4 mile runs, let's just say Mommy needed some alone time those days. I've also added in the "Abs 10" class on pretty much every Low HIIT day.

The eating end of things.... has been tough!  I'm not going to sugar coat it!  (I'm not even supposed to be eating sugar.) I have been trying to continue with the 21 Day Fix container system while doing the Turbo Fire workouts, and long story short, I bumped up my calories a bracket at the beginning and I've had a hard time.  I love love loved the 21 Day Fix-- I loved the clean eating, the balance between food groups, the results.... I learned A LOT about eating from doing the 21 Day Fix.  BUT the calorie bracket I was in doing the 21 Day Fix was very restrictive.  Of course it totally works for the end goal of losing weight, but now that I have entered more of a maintenance phase, I don't want to be quite as restricted.  I want to be healthy, I want to keep the figure that I have quite literally worked my butt off for, but I also don't want to be that girl who has to pack her own food for every party or gathering, and who turns down every single sweet at the occasional birthday party--- finding the balance in between those things, and being strict, but also being flexible... that has been really tough!

Anyway, 4 weeks in, I think that I have discovered that it is more a mental thing-- for the past year, I have been solely focused on losing.  And I never thought it'd be this way, but I'm learning that losing is easier than maintaining.  Losing is all about the calorie deficit-- easy math, burn more than what you put in.  Maintaining is about giving yourself flexibility and trying your darndest not to gain back what you worked so hard to lose-- because it's definitely easier to put it on than it is to take it off!  SO it's probably going to sound weird to some, but I've decided to bump myself back down to that restrictive calorie deficit, and then if I'm hungrier, then it won't be the end of the world to have a little flexibility and add in an extra veggie, fruit or protein.  Take it day by day and be flexible with the occasional addition.  I just feel like in my mind, the larger calorie bracket and larger number of containers was a little overwhelming to me, and all the extra containers screamed "freedom!", and I was being a little too flexible and a little too free.  I think this new method of going back down will reel me back in but still allow that flexibility to add once in a while.  I told you it's all mental, right? ;)

So that's the end of week 4.  Feeling really good about how it's going-- it's a work in progress and I love that a year into this journey, I'm still learning new things about myself every single day.  8 weeks to go friends!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Republic Wireless

So in the last month, we switched my phone line over from AT&T to Republic Wireless.  (And we will soon be switching Daniel's phone line over too.)  You guys....  I feel like Republic Wireless is this little hidden gem of a phone company that no one knows about, and I feel like I just want to scream it from the rooftops and tell everyone I know about it!  (And FYI, they have 99,202 followers on Facebook alone, so people really DO know about them.)

Anyway, they're like no other phone company around because they offer "hybrid" technology in their phones that enables you to make phone calls through wireless internet.  That probably sounds really weird to most of you... BUT please understand that we quite literally live in a black hole.  Our house is in a black hole.  Sprint does not get service here... with AT&T I had to stand by the back door and most times my calls ended in being disconnected against my will.... Verizon doesn't have service out here.  BUT we DO have wi-fi!!!  I am so excited that I finally can text and make phone calls from sitting on my couch, or being out in the front yard with the boys, or in the car headed out. And not only do I have cell reception through my wi-fi at home, but when I'm out and about, I most often have wi-fi options and if not, there is a back up regular cellular network that I receive darn good signal with as well.

AND as if just simply having cell service in our little black hole over here in the boonies wasn't enough.... we also only pay $25 a month for it!!  $25 a month! What!? $25 a month!!!  AND it's a smart phone, so I still have access to maps, email, Facebook, Instagram, internet, camera, video.... I get all that jazz you might want from a phone for only $25 a month!!

You guys, let me break down the math for you. Because I HAVE done the math!  Before switching, we both had iPhone 3gs models, which Daniel most often referred to as the "iPhone zero" because they were such old models.  We were both up for an upgrade, but to get the latest 5C, we'd have to pay $99 each to AT&T with a 2 year contract.  On top of that, our cell service for our 2 iPhones was costing us $173 a month for both phones.  Are you following me??  So here's the total for a year.

$173 x 12 = $2076 + $99 + $99 = $2274

$2,274 for 1 year of service with 2 iPhones through AT&T.  INSANE!

Now... since moving to Republic Wireless (and including Daniel's phone in this because he will be switching very very soon.)  We opted for the $150 phone which is the Moto G.  They do have the option for the newer model which is the Moto X, but we went with the G.  And then our phone plans are $25 a month.

$50 x 12 = $300 + $150 + $150 = $900

$900 for 1 year of service including 2 Moto G phones with Republic Wireless.

- $900
$1374 saved!!

You guys, one thousand three hundred and seventy-four dollars saved!!!  You guys $1,374!!!  As much as I loved my iPhone, and I was disappointed to know that Republic wireless does not have the option for an iPhone, I am definitely not paying $1300 more a year just to have that iPhone.  The iPhone that didn't even give me cell reception in my own house!  

Can you tell I'm excited y'all?  Did I mention that there is a 30 day money back guarantee with Republic Wireless?  Or that there is absolutely NO contract!  Consider us converts!

Here's the phone for those curious-- I opted for a cute little teal flip case to go along with it, and keep greasy kid fingers off of the screen.

And just FYI, if you are fed up with paying high costs for terrible service, you can switch too, AND if you follow THIS LINK, you will save $20!!  

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Happy Birthday Daddy!

To my Daddy....

-the man who radiates kindness and probably does more for others than he does for himself.
Holding baby Leeland at the hospital waiting for my nephew to be born.
-the man who licked his thumb and used it to wipe the pop-tart off of my face before I headed into daycare each morning as a kid.

-the man who taught me what hard work was all about because he lived it.

-the man who taught me the importance of saving, and all about financial independence.
Before he walked me down the aisle to marry Daniel. 
-the man who fixed my hair in the mornings as a kid.  Only a ponytail on top of the head so tight that you squinted would do.

-the man who taught me how to fish.

-the man who loved and saw me through the grief of losing my Mother.

-the man I've always looked up to most, and yearned to be just like when I was a kid.
At Leeland's 2nd birthday-- train themed.  I believe the hats were made for kids. LOL
Today, we celebrate you Daddy!  I couldn't be more blessed to have the most awesome Dad.  Thank you for always loving me, supporting me, teaching me, and helping to mold and shape me into the woman I am today.  I love you so much, and want to wish you a....

Very Happy Birthday!!!!

And of course we can't celebrate without cake.  And since my Daddy also happens to have a huge sweet tooth and fond love of chocolate and candy, that's the direction I went.

Peanut butter cake with chocolate frosting, surrounded by Kit Kats and topped with Reese Pieces! Delicious!!