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Bellows Family Announcement!

Hey sweet friends! A Sunday post…what do you owe this treat to?! Well, if you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you’ve heard we spilled the beans! Lucky Number Seven is coming to our home come January/February 2018!

Yes that is correct, I am pregnant! If you’ve been sad about the silence on the blog, it’s been because I’ve been super sick. We just fund out but I am about 8 weeks along. If we are being completely honest with each other, I thought I was just ill. We had tested about a month ago and the numerous ones came back negative! This seems to be a consistent story for us. I swear I know HOW to use a pregnancy test! At least I think I do…

Anyway, I will probably only do bumpdates once I get further along. I am determined to be healthier this pregnancy than any others and intend to keep hiking and eating right through it all. At the moment, my projected due date is January 30th so whether we have a January or February babe will all depend on the scheduling of the midwives. I will be having another cesarean.

For those of you doing the math, it will be about 22 months between Bear and Lucky. That’s what we are calling bellybaby for now! That will not be their legal name, discussions on that are pending. If you have any names for boys that are moderately weird but cute, please share! We are not opposed to naming our kids animals.

While not necessarily “planned”, this baby is very loved. We are excited to complete our family and have another little love to hold tight.   God always laughs at our attempts to plan right?

Just for a little introduction:

Symptoms: I’m feeling completely exhausted. It’s happened to me with both Bear and James, so I am not worried. Usually about 12/13 weeks I am back to normal energy level. I have had a little bit of nausea and morning sickness. By morning sickness though, I mean full day sickness. It has not been fun but as long as I stay on top of eating every hour or so, no vomiting. I have also experienced much worse dizziness this time around. I am a low blood pressure chick from the start, but it’s been pretty bad. I’m hoping that slows down at the end of the first trimester as well.

Baby Info: Baby Lucky’s projected due date is January 30th. Because I will just be signing up for a cesarean, we should know their arrival date in a few months. Lucky is the size of a raspberry. They are growing healthy!

What Is Coming Up: We have our first real appointment next month. I’m looking forward to hearing the heartbeat. I’m planning the summer with being pregnant, as well as getting ready to drive to Florida pregnant! We still love to hike though and I cannot wait to keep doing that.

I am so happy and blessed to be sharing this news! We can’t wait for our family to grow again.

 

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EN&MH: Talking to Your Kids About Your Mental Health

Hey sweet friends! Today on Exploring Neurodiversity and Mental Health, I wanted to talk to you about your older kids! Specifically how to talk to your older kids about their parents mental illness. In May, I’ve focused intently on Maternal Mental Health. Today’s post is within that umbrella though I am in no way trying to make is sound as though only mothers struggle with a mental illness. This one is for you dads out there too!
As you know if you’ve ever looked at my blog before, I value honesty and openness within the parent-child relationship. I am a firm believer that those traits are the only way we will raise mentally, emotionally, and spiritually healthy children. I’ve talked about discussing sex openly with your children before. Right now I am working on a post about talking about struggling with faith with your kids. Kids are kids, yes, and there are some topics that are less comfortable to talk with them about. But we must prepare them for this world.

Abstinence only education does not help our children. Same goes for an education that erases mental illness.

Talking about our own mental illnesses with our kids can seem daunting though. I still remember the day our oldest son asked me “So Lauren, why did you leave college?”
It was a hard conversation to have, but I wanted the truth to be out there. So I explained in understandable terms what happened and why I left. I not only empowered my personal experience with mental illness but in turn gave him the tools if he ever needed to talk about a mental illness to another.
Now that’s not to say it was easy. And I totally do not have all the answers on the best ways to do this. I however did want to share what worked for us and how to approach the topic with your kids.


Be aware of what your child can comprehend.

Children have different abilities at all ages and developmental steps. Each child is different. I’m not going to lecture you on what your child is able to understand because you are the person who knows them best. I can tell you this-what I tell my 21 year old about my mental health is very different from what I tell my seven year old. While I do not lie to either, nor do I tell it in niceties, my adult son is capable of comprehending what I am telling him much more clearly than my younger children.

Maybe you’re sitting there wondering “How do I know what they are able to understand?” That’s a hard question to answer. Our little Princess tends to be more in tune with things than most 8 year olds I know, but Monkey usually miss a lot more behaviors tied to mental health. Maybe your life looks similar to that. If you’re unsure what they are able to hear at this point, ask them questions. Let them ask questions. Gauge what they are retaining by having it be an ongoing conversation. Much like sex and their bodies, their comprehension will change with age.

It can’t be a once and done conversation. It’s okay to have it be continuous and morphing with each step.

When I first told Doodle I struggle with anxiety, I said it just like that. I was apologizing for checking her seat belt a third time before leaving. As she has matured, I have shared with her specific parts of my life that have caused my anxiety and why some of those anxieties at times feel projected onto her behaviors. I would venture to say that we have a much better relationship because she understands where I am coming from. While haven’t sat her down and had full out conversations about exactly what causes my PTSD, I have told her that’s what I struggle with and why.

I know this isn’t always the easiest conversation to have. To be completely authentic here, I didn’t even make this choice on my own. A trusted elder pushed me to do it and I took his word on it. Talking about it totally helped though.

Acknowledge the parts your kids can notice-they’re picking up more than you realize.

One of my biggest pet peeves as a parent is that I find we tend to assume our kids don’t notice anything. We pretend that we can hide things so well they will miss what’s really going on. That’s just false. Kids are so much more aware than we give them credit for.

You may think you’re behaviors are too small or your children are too young. This may not be true. Even the smallest thing sticks to our kids.

Let me tell you a little story. My mother hates when her food touches. Hates it. I watched as she put huge spaces between her food for most my life. For her this wasn’t a behavior due to OCD or an eating disorder-it was just how she liked to eat. But she never thought anyone else ever noticed or it effected us. My Mema doesn’t drink while she eats. Also not a behavior because of a mental illness, just a preference. They have both told our families this. Seemingly super small things that probably would never stay in the mind of a small child right?

But after years of watching these behaviors, my siblings and I know these as facts. I no longer even offer Mema water or milk with her meal and when I make a plate for my mama you bet your bottom nothing touches.

Yes, these have nothing to do with mental illness, but it is to serve as an reminder that even the smallest things we believe our kids don’t noticed are noticed by them.

Treat it like a REAL illness.

It is so easy to wave off mental illness. So, so easy. I catch myself doing it sometimes still. “Oh yeah, I mean I have anxiety but it’s not that big of a deal.”

Right now, in this moment, it doesn’t feel like that big of a deal to me. I have it mostly under control. And I understand trying to brush it off as not a big deal in general, with the hope as to not scare your kids. But as I mentioned above, they’re pretty intuitive. Most kids will only be afraid if there is a reason to be.

More important is what their lifelong reaction to mental illness will be. Mental illness is a real illness. Repeat that a few more times. We are taught to treat it differently than anything else because it’s all in our heads. This belief is so ingrained into our culture that even those of us who are advocates sometimes forget to treat our own mental health as kindly as our physical health.

We need to treat our kids that mental health matters.

Be okay with being uncomfortable.

Ladies and gents-we all hate to be uncomfortable. It’s just a fact of life. And some of these conversations may be really uncomfortable. They may bring up conversations you don’t know if you’re ready to have yet. Your child may ask questions you truly don’t want to answer. And that stinks.

I know it can be really hard to cross over some of those lines. We are all here struggling with different mental illnesses, so I can only speak generally and for myself. One really hard conversation I am not looking forward to having someday is when my children ask me where my scars came from. I dread it. I truly do. But the fact it will make me uncomfortable or may be a hard conversation to have doesn’t mean I can shy away from it. If anything the sensitive subject needs to be pushed even harder to talk about because it is such a raw and vulnerable area of my life. 

And don’t forget- if all else fails, get help from a professional. There’s no shame in bringing your child with you to a therapist and having them assist you in explaining what’s going on with your mental health. Having a second person to help may further your child’s understanding.

Mamas, I know this is a hard topic to breech. Some of you may be thinking “Wow, thank GOD I only have an infant for now!”

While I know it can be a hard topic, it’s also such an important one.

As I said above, the way we speak to our children about mental health will shape the way they talk about it forever. If we are ashamed and embarrassed by our diagnoses, they will learn that. They will learn mental illness is something to be ashamed of. If we are open, they will learn the opposite. We empower them to speak about their own mental health. We will teach them that the stigma surrounding mental illness is outdated and silly.

When we talk about mental illness openly and freely, we will raise a generation of people who are empathetic. Who are compassionate. Who are educated.

So please, step outside your comfort level and share your mental illness with your children. Be open, be bold, and be freed.

It’s time to end the stigma, one little person at a time.

*Don’t forget next weeks EN&MH will happen on Tuesday, May 30th!!*

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Five For Friday: May Update!

Hey sweet friends! I know I haven’t been that great at updating you all on our lives as much as I mean to.  A lot of people seem to truly care about what and how we are doing so I wanted to jump on and give you all a little update. In case you didn’t notice, this is a lot later in the day than usual…because my week has been CRAZY. But good, too. So without making you wait any longer, here is what we have been up to the past few weeks!

We got a DOG!

You read that right-a sweet 7 year old named Sasha! She is coming in from another family who had to move and couldn’t keep her. She’s an absolute doll, great with the kids and my new favorite hiking buddy. We brought her on the trail today and she was amazing. I need to work on her endurance a little though, because she’s exhausted after 2 miles!

Our trip to Florida is PLANNED!

Yes, you’ve read that right. Our trip to Florida is ready to go! After much discussion and arguments, we reserved our house. We are staying in a gorgeous condo with two pools and a hot tub! We have our roads mapped out, I’m finalizing where we are staying the two nights we’re driving, and I’m finishing up our summer to do list to share with you all next week. There will be one for Florida and one for the rest of the summer. The rest of the summer one will be super cheap because we have to save some money, you dig?! Keep your eyes peeled for that.

I’ll also be beginning to share VIDEOS as I move forward with this trip. More on our future vlogging life later.

Mama didn’t lose her engagement ring.

Alright y’all, ready for a story? I don’t wear a wedding ring. That’s right, I don’t wear a wedding ring. Neither does my husband. My old ring doesn’t fit and doesn’t match my current engagement ring. Josh lost his. OK, he didn’t LOSE it. He knows where it is…behind a sink he can’t get to.

Anyway, we don’t wear wedding rings. Judge away. We have discussed getting them but for now we’re okay with not having them. I do have an engagement ring I LOVE though. It’s a pearl delicately put in rose gold. Everything about it was perfect for me when he gave it to me. Delicate, pretty, soft, intricate.

And then I had kids.

I always worried about putting my engagement ring on and losing the pearl or one of the diamonds or losing it. Mama only wears it on special occasions like Mother’s Day. Only, this Mother’s Day I thought I lost it-I couldn’t find it ANYWHERE. I spent a week searching for it only to find it sitting on my bureau UNDER my jewelry box. Put it on for Mother’s Day and at the end of the day I put it right back in my jewelry box!

Speaking of Mother’s Day-Praise Jesus for Mother’s Day.

This Mother’s Day was absolutely amazing. I’ve shared quite a few times on how rough it can be on adoptive and foster parents. It can be emotional and exhausting. This Mother’s Day however was absolutely fabulous. My husband surprised me with  day off, a present, and my kiddos made me presents and cookies. It was an amazing day I desperately needed and I am so thankful I got it. It was a breath of fresh air. I love you Joshua(not that he would read this but…oh well!)

Life has been really good lately.

Life has also been kind of hard the past few weeks.

I’ve always been pretty honest on here and I’m going to very honestly tell you…the past few weeks have been kind of rough. It may be because oh my favorite aunt flo coming back. It also may be weaning Bug. Maybe because it’s summertime.  No matter what it is, something has me all out of whack and pretty emotional. So that’s there. I’ve been pretty proactive in meeting with some friends and talking it through as well as getting out hiking extra. I would love your prayers as we make it through the summer. As I find joy and peace within this summer. After all, peace is my word of the year!

Anyway, that’s what life has looked like lately! I’m working on a post about hiking safety, the one about our summer goals, and of course-I truly AM doing a few on marriage! Just have to work myself up to them.

What have you been up to lately?

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Five For Friday: What’s on the Horizon!

Hey sweet friends! It’s been a hot second since I’ve done a Five on Friday so I decided to go over the results from my spring survey a wee bit and have a Five For Friday-Five Things To Expect On the Blog in the Near Future.

If you haven’t taken this survey yet, feel free to go check out my post on 26 Things You May Not Have Known About Me. I shared these and our spring survey on my birthday! The facts are pretty interesting and fun, if I do say so myself! Now onto the five things you can definitely expect in the coming months!

Exploring Neurodiversity and Mental Health will be continuing!

I was overjoyed to see an almost unanimous love for this series. Mental health and Neurodiversity are two topics very close to my heart . I love sharing them with you all. Many suggestions poured in for what people would love covered within this realm and I will do my BEST to get to them all. This month I will be focusing on Maternal Mental Health. I introduce this mini series within the series right here! If you want to see what has been posted for EN&MH you can check it out here. My personal favorite piece thus far? “I Don’t Have The Kind of OCD You Joke About.

I will begin cutting down on the number of foster care posts.

This may come as a surprise to some people because it was a pretty split answer on the survey. Upon looking at our open ended questions though, a lot of them can simply be covered as an adoptive mom or a mother to many.

The truth is, and I’ll be posting more about this in a few weeks, we may not be going back to the foster care life any time soon. While it’s a passion of mine, Josh has made it very clear he does not wish to foster again any time in the near future. My heart aches for the need, my soul wishes we could-but I respect his and our kids opinions on this. I will still be posting about foster care adoption because this is and will always be a big part of what made our family a family. I will also be posting about the lasting effects it has within OUR family. However, I am choosing to take a step back from talking about foster care in general. If you want a few suggestions for foster care blogs, I am happy to help you find some.

This hasn’t been an easy choice on my part-in fact it’s been a big discussion in our family constantly for a few months. But for now…it’s where we are at.

We will be talking more about marriage and faith.

I also have heard you loud and clear. Marriage and faith are two things you want to see more of on the blog. To be completely honest, this is the second survey I’ve given and the second time those two things have been requested. I’ve shied away from it for two reasons.

First, I feel like both are such personal matters. We are obviously a religious family. We attend church and my kids are taught how to pray, read their bibles, etc. I know though, not all families will look like mine when it comes to being a Christian household. I never want to come across as thinking I have all the answers. Same goes for marriage!

Secondly, I feel wildly unqualified to talk about faith and marriage. Josh and I have an overall amazing marriage. I don’t want to say something about our choices and lead another marriage into a bad place. For example, he is the head of our home and he’s amazing at it. He handles all our finances. In another home that may not be right for this family(which brings back point number one). And I often worry that my knowledge and wisdom of the Bible is not enough to speak on it.

But I hear you guys. For some crazy reason, you want to read more of both on my blog. So it will be there-the best I can!

Family adventures are here-and they’re going to stay!

But in the wake of walking away from posting about foster care, I will still be posting about our family…which means family adventures! They have been around the past few weeks and will continue to be discussed! Some kind soul said they also would love more photos of us because “we’re all adorable.” I think so too..so I’ll include those! In case you missed my May goals, we are heading down to Florida this August so that will be a whole SLEW of adventures. In the car, on the road, visiting the Everglades…you name it! And….

There will be VLOGGING!

I am amazed how many people like our faces. APPARENTLY YOU ALL LIKE OUR FACES. Between votes for live videos and vlogs, this was a huge one. So we’re in the works of making a youtube channel where you can all tune in and see us! My plan is to have it up and running, ready for August so we can vlog a whole bunch of our family trip to and from and in Florida!

That being said, this won’t be a “replacement” for my blogging. Writing is my passion and love and that’s what I’m here to do. This is just a more hands on and I think fun way to share a lot of our family adventures! I’m working on making an opening sequence right now!

That’s what we have to look forward to in the coming year! Is there anything you would love to see more or less of?!

April Recap, May Goals

April Recap&May Goals

Hey sweet friends! Can you believe that April is over and it’s MAY?! I’m in love with April, it’s one of my favorite months. It’s Josh and I’s birthday month and we celebrate hard. I also love the weather changing.

I’m actually quite proud of my April goals, which I would say were a pretty awesome success! Without further waiting…

April Recap:

Complete a Whole30. I DID IT. Okay, I did it a little off for about the last 5/6 days, but I totally am counting it. I am so happy about how well this went. You can read about it here.

Read three books. I have totally finished three books this month leaving me at 10 for the year! I still haven’t made it through “When the Enemy Strikes” by Charles Stanley. I will be sharing the books I’ve read once I make it to the half way point. I’ll take that opportunity to share my reviews as well.

Go through and update my pinnable graphics. Okay, complete honesty, I did not give this as much respect as it needed. I started going back and redoing our older posts and man…it’s time consuming! But, overall, I am really proud of what I have gotten done. I created a bunch of new images, updated some older posts, and am feeling really great abut it all. This is definitely going to be a continuous journey but this was a great start. I consider it a win!

April was an amazing and successful time for us! I am so happy with how hard I worked on my goals this month.

May Goals:

Two Date Nights. With the Whole30, our date nights were postponed. We *could* have gone out to eat…but how fun would it be for me? We desperately need some time alone…and to plan our backpacking trip! We’re going to section hike part of the Appalachian Trail this summer. My sister offered to keep the kids overnight and we are pumped! Our first date night is Saturday.

Plan our trip to FLORIDA. Guys…we’re going to Florida this year! Right now it’s all kind of up in the air, but the plan is Florida in August or Florida in November. We are not going to Disney World. My great grandmother lives in Florida and we will be staying close to her and visiting with her. She has met all the kids except Bear, so we feel like it’s super important to get down there. Did you meet your GREAT GREAT grandma?! Me neither. It’s also a great chance to get our family together and travel. I’m hoping to take advantage of being in the south and get in a cool hike as well. If we go in August, my sisters will probably join. If we go in November, Josh can come! Do YOU have any tips on traveling with kids, road tripping, packing small amounts?? Leave them below!

Continue updating older posts! This one is really time consuming, but if I can get 2 or 3 done a week, that would be awesome! I’ve finished a good chunk so here’s to hoping. Summer is a busy time for us and these updates must be done on a computer. When Josh gets back on nights, though, I will have every night to work on them after the big kids go to bed!

Maintain or lose weight.  I have a fear that after finishing the Whole30, this weight is going to jump back on. As I said above I plan to eat an 80/20 Whole30 diet on my off months. I know it’s up to me to eat better and that’s what I’m going to be focusing on! Also LOTS of hiking!

Do you have any May goals?!

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Whole 30-Day 30!!!

Well this is it, y’all! Today is my final day of the Whole30. The past 30 days I have lived on a “diet” that restricted gluten, beans, alcohol, dairy, added sugar…man oh man! I’m writing up a few of my final thoughts and I’m planning on going live tomorrow, after TBall(about 8ish) on my Facebook page. I’ll be taking any questions!

You can read day eight, fifteen, and twenty-two updates!

First, to clarify, I only made it to Whole30 on a few fronts. I have not had any dairy, any grains, or any beans(with the exception of day like 17 on accident) for 30 days. I however have not made it 30 days with no sugar. On about day 23 I folded and began adding almond milk creamer in my decaf coffee. It’s about 10 grams of sugar a day. Authenticity matters to me and I want to be completely open about how I did!

Physical Perks:

I think nearly EVERYTHING has been a physical perk. I have had so much more energy. My sleep habits (for the most part) have been absolutely amazing! My knee had been bothering me for awhile and it hasn’t hurt once while hiking. This may be a little “TMI” for some people, but you all asked for honesty-I’ve been more regular this past month than I can ever remember. In numbers, I have lost abut 12 pounds. I weighed in the first day at 193.6 and today I weighed in at . I’m also definitely a little bloated right now because…well read below!

Physical Downfalls:

In case you remember from last weeks update-my acne has been out of control. I did, however, receive a friend back this past week! My period has returned. That could be part of what is going on with my hormones. I have also noticed I have lost the “Tiger Blood” during this past week-probably because I’m losing lots of iron. This was my first after Bear and it was (like my first after Bug) a really hard one. The Whole30 didn’t help that!

Mental Perks:

Can I say everything again? I honestly feel so great right now. Minus the past four days (again, thanks period), my mind has been so happy and clear. I honestly can’t think of any downfalls. I feel so much better about myself right now. Honestly it’s been such a great challenge. My anxiety has been so much more under control.

THE FUTURE!

So, what am I planning next?

As I mention above, I’ve been eating sugar for about a week now and at the limited amount I’ve been eating, I haven’t really seen any negative side effects. My headaches have been pretty non-existent. I’m assuming that sugar was not causing the problem! After today is up, I will be eating an 80/20 diet with the Whole30. What I mean by 80/20 is that most my meals and snacks will still be compliant, but I will not be overly anxious about small amounts in meals or treats when eating out.

The one thing I do believe I’m saying good-bye to is dairy. I’ve always had a low tolerance for dairy and unless after adding grains back in causes me to have a migraine, I’m assuming it’s been the dairy causing migraines. After reading everything I have on soy, I will also be staying away from that except in very small quantities.

I will be going live tomorrow, as mentioned above, so if you have any questions about the Whole30 and rocking it with 6 kids, please feel free to ask! I’ll try and answer them tomorrow.

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Hiking: What To Bring, What To Know, and WHY We Do It!

Disclaimer: Sweet Friends, in this article on hiking I am including some links that are affiliate links. If you click and buy an item I have advertised, a small payment will come my way at no extra expense to you. These are items I use regularly and have faith in or I would not share them with you!

Hey sweet friends! I really wanted to take a moment to talk about my favorite subject three seasons of the year-HIKING! As most people know, especially those who follow my Instagram, know we hike from April until October. I would hike more year round…but I hate the cold! Today I want to share with you what we bring hiking, what to know when choosing your trails, and WHY we make hiking a priority. I am so passionate about hiking and all the reasons we do it-and why you should too!

To begin, I want to share with you guys what we bring on our hikes. For reference of those new here, most hikes we take during the summer time are often myself with the four youngest kids alone. That means myself with 8, 7, 3, and 1 year olds! If I’m on nanny duty that day add in an extra 5 year old!

What we bring!

Water.

 This should be an obvious thing, but for thorough knowledge I want to be sure to mention everything. We are currently using these bottles for the kids and really liking them. Bug is at the stage where he spits half the water back into the bottle as he drinks. The straws help hinder that grossness.

Snacks.

 This may depend on the ages of your children but I ALWAYS keep snacks on us when hiking. We love applesauce packets for Bear. It’s something I can give him without worrying about choking. I prefer to bring bars for the kids. Our family favorite are Nature Valley Crunch bars! It feels like a treat for the kids because it’s crunchy and sweet. I usually bring fruits or veggies cut up for myself.

An Emergency Kit.

 I am a HUGE advocate for being prepared for any situation. For a little story-a week or so ago we were out hiking a trail. Monkey jumped onto a slippery rock and boom, lost his footing! He ended up on his back with his head split a bit. While this was very small emergency on the scales of emergencies I need to stress the need of having a kit on you. If not a full kit, a few necessary medical tools. I have a post here talking about what we pack in our emergency box for the car. It could easily be changed to fit the hiking needs. Or you may be able to find one online.

Hiking Carrier. 

If you have a baby, let me begin by saying-I am in LOVE with my Clevr carrier. It is my favorite thing ever. A good carrier is necessary for doing any miles in the woods. I prefer this carrier because it has room for snacks, the emergency pack, my cell phone and of course-the baby!

Sturdy Boots or Shoes. 

This is one of the MOST important parts of hiking. You need to have the proper footwear to make a hike fun. I personally usually walk in sneakers, but recently Josh bought me my own pair of nice hiking boots! I am so excited to wear those out.

A Weapon. 

I know a lot of people begin to get a little freaked out when I say I carry a large knife every time we go hiking. Truth is, when we started hiking I didn’t think I would carry anything either. But it can get a little nerve wracking out there in the woods alone. Especially as a woman. Especially as the mother of four kids with me. I chose to start carrying a knife this year and while it may not save us in the case of a bear attack, it will slow down most anything coming at us. I have THIS specific knife. This knife ROCKS because it not only has the blade for protection but it also comes with survival items that could help if we ever find ourselves lost. The loop on it is perfect for putting on the front of a carrier. And the price? Cannot beat it!

Bug Spray and Sunscreen.  

Bug spray is SO important this season. I know anyone on Facebook has seen the warnings about Lyme disease this year. It’s so important to spray yourself and your kids any time you go into the woods. Check yourselves after every hike. Sunscreen is also so important. PROTECT YOUR SKIN.

Don’t forget your phone! Sweatshirts if the weather is on the cusp. And remember-anything going up a hill or near the water will be colder at the end!

I know my list is pretty minimalistic but whenever we go out our number one priority is to carry as little as possible. When you have to carry a twenty pound baby, you keep the list much smaller. I also tend to believe there’s not much necessary when you’re out in the woods.

What to know!

When you’re about to undertake a hike, there’s a few things you need to know. If you’re going with your kids, you want to be prepared even more. Being stuck in the woods, getting halfway through a hike only to realize JUST how hard it is or how long it is…those things are bad enough without your kids there. When you have your children, those things are exponentially worse!

Before you go out on a hike, research the trails you’re about to hike. Look up what people have said about it on forums online. If it’s in your home town or a place where you know people who hike often, ask around in person. As a state employees wife, I feel the need to also say, talk to the forest workers if it’s a national or state park! They know those trails better than anyone as they spend the time clearing them in the spring and fall.

If at all possible, I highly recommend trying to make the hike by yourself before bringing kids on this walk or knowing someone who has personally hiked this trail. Knowing the trail is s important when it comes to keeping everyone safe!

 

Why do we LOVE hiking?!

I love hiking. Our kids love hiking. Every so often though, some people ask me “Why do you love hiking so much?” I’m left bubbling over words that I can’t come up with to explain my love for these adventures with my children. The most important part for me is that hiking feels like an adventure with my kids. We’re kind of boring people when it comes to vacations. We went on one to Alabama and have gone to my parents camp in Vermont. Beyond that? We don’t really leave home. Inviting this adventure into our life is such a joy.

Bring these kids into the forest always brings me back to the beauty of God’s creation as well. Reading Genesis 1: 1-31 is such a gift and reminder of how wondrous this world is. God’s Word celebrates the beauty He gave us over and over again. While out hiking I am able to celebrate these gifts with my children and praise God for that.

Finally-I love how hiking can introduce the kids to so many other things!

We currently have art journals, which we take on some hikes as well as drawing at home. I point out plants, trees, and fungus. We talk about survival tips and tricks. I encourage them to write poetry on our times in the woods and stories about people out in the woods. The Bible being an app is so amazing and we can open it anywhere to praise Him. Geography and geology, as well as biology are amazing topics that can come up with hiking. And HISTORY! You can find so many wonderful historical things out there.

I hope this article helps give you some advice on hiking and encourages you to get out there and hike your area! Do you love hiking like us or are you not feeling the hiking bug?

26 Fun Birthday Facts

26 Birthday Facts-And a Reader Survey!

Hey friends! Tomorrow is my birthday…I have hit the ripe old age of 26! Can you believe it? I can’t. I’m sure my parents can’t either. If we weren’t married, this would be the fateful year I was kicked off their insurance.

I thought it could be a fun little birthday post to share 26 things about myself. While I’m pretty open on the blog, I wanted to share some fun facts you may not know about me!

  1. I hate cotton balls. It’s pretty close to a fear…okay it is a fear. They are horrifying.
  2. I was a vegetarian for many years. When I first met Joshua, I was still eating a mostly vegetarian diet. I was even vegan for a few weeks. I’ll NEVER go back.
  3. People always laugh at youngest’s name and tell me it’s because I’m a hippie…I didn’t choose it! Bear was actually Josh’s number one choice and he suggested it. I just fell in love after.
  4. I love shaving. Hair on any part of my body other than my head makes me uncomfortable. It’s a miracle I’ve never lost it and shaved my arms.
  5. Pet rats are my jam. I’ve had them since like 5th grade and can’t wait to get some again!
  6. Bad ScyFy movies are also my jam. The faker looking the better!

  7. I have three tattoos. There’s the bird on my foot, a recovery symbol on my ribs, and “as good as” written on my forearm. The second I have the cash and time to get more, I totally am!
  8. We never wear our wedding rings. I lost mine, Josh’s is under a sink in the house we used to live in. Sometimes I’ll put on my engagement ring, but it’s very delicate, so not often!
  9. Hiking has become my favorite thing ever! I cannot wait to start backpacking this summer.
  10. Up until my most recent therapist, I really hated therapy. I was always a huge advocate for others to go but I had some terrible experiences and it took a lot for me to go back.
  11. My least favorite color is orange.
  12. We go to my two favorite restaurants usually once a month: The Hub and Korean Garden. If you’re ever in NAMA-GO.
  13. Blue is my favorite color.

  14. Autumn has always been my favorite season. I love the changing of the leaves against the mountains. The cool nights but warm days. It’s my absolute favorite.
  15. I constantly consider home schooling my kids. In so many ways I want to. I would love to go about by unschooling them, but I’m so worried to. And the older kids love school.
  16. I hate olives. If there are olives anywhere near my food I will not eat it.
  17. I wasn’t actually raised going to church every Sunday. Neither was my husband-people tend to be REALLY shocked when we tell them this.
  18. Wine goes with every fancy dinner in my book. I enjoy wine.
  19. Last week I went out and got a pedicure. Not a huge deal right? It’s the first pedicure I have ever had!
  20. I told my great grandmother many moons ago that I would name my first born daughter after her. We have two daughters, but I didn’t name them so this still holds true. Josh has agreed…we just need a girl!
  21. I had a blog with a huge following once…I’m talking tens of thousands of people. I deleted it though, because the topic no longer fell into my lifestyle.
  22. I don’t actually like to take baths! Crazy right?

  23. My password for things has been the same thing since I was 12 years old. I highly doubt most people would be able to ever guess it…so I never changed!
  24. Most people are aware I love learning about mental health, but I also really enjoy other kinds of health as well!
  25. I used to be far less adventurous than I am now, especially with food. I’m pretty sure for years all I ate at restaurants were fries and chicken tenders.
  26. If there’s ever an emergency, I’m your girl! I have such bad anxiety on a regular day but when there’s a crisis? I am in total control. Bleeding child? Seizing adult? Lost? You want me on your side.

Well, that was a little harder than I thought it would be! I hope you found something you could identify with. And now for your part of my birthday post: a reader survey!

Last September I did a survey on Bellows in the Berkshires about what you, the readers, enjoyed or didn’t enjoy. A lot of my planning for this year was based off those answers. I just want to re-check in and see what you are loving, hating, want more or less of.

The survey is right here and shouldn’t take more than a few moments. Please take it, especially if you’re a regular reader! Thank you all!

Whole30 Update 22

Whole30 Update: Day 22

*Disclaimer: Affiliate links! Some links are affiliate links which means I get a small compensation from clicks or buying of the product with no additional cost  to you! I will never link you to something I don’t believe 100% in.*

Oh hey guys! Today is my day 22… have only about a WEEK left of the Whole30! My Mema said to me yesterday, “Wow that flew by!” I laughed because it didn’t exactly feel like flying to me those first few days. Now however, I cannot believe its almost over!

(You can read Update Day 8 here and Day 15 here)

With my usual authenticity, let me admit I was defeated on Easter. I tried to shy away from all the temptations, but my husband made his famous triple chocolate pie. When I say famous, I mean people will beg for this pie on holidays. I had two huge bites. I sure felt them later that day though. It broke the gluten free, dairy free, and sugar free all in one bite!

Other than that and my Natural Calm, still going strong!

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Physical Perks:

I have never in my entire slept better than I am at this point. I am able to sleep 6.5-8 hours a night! For anyone who knows me, you are well aware sleep has never come easy to me. With some amazing gift from God, Bear has begun sleeping as well and I am just in awe of how refreshing 7 hours can be. This past week I supposedly am at the “tiger blood” place where everything feels amazing! I can’t lie, I feel so good. My energy levels are up, we went on five hikes this week, and I’m sleeping so soundly.

Physical Downfalls:

I was told a lie y’all. Every single person I read about this from said that their skin looked AMAZING as a result. I don’t know why, but my skin is revolting against this diet. I have had breakout after breakout. And as a person, I rarely have skin issues. I’m not sure if it’s something completely separate causing it or if my skin really isn’t about good, whole, yummy foods. I would love for it to stop though. My only other thought is maybe my hormones are balancing out? Who knows.

 

Mental Perks:

EVERYTHING? I can’t lie, I am feeling so great emotionally, this may be worth a forever kind of diet change. My moods have been high, my anxiety in check, and I even have some decaf coffee I can enjoy now. I feel much more comfortable in my skin. I’ve definitely lost weight, which does make me feel better about my appearance. I was hanging on to a lot of weight that was making me way over a healthy number. I just feel really good all around.

Mental Downfalls:

On a totally vain side note though, I’m having a really hard time with these breakouts. As I mentioned, my face rarely broke out. It’s been a tough run trying to deal with that emotionally. I’ve had a hard time taking photos of myself because I don’t like not having clear skin. If you have any remedies that aren’t via a MLM company, please feel free to let me know. I’m pretty particular about what I put on my skin at this point. I recently went through a whole armpit detox and use Tom’s Deodorant now. So the more natural the better.

 

On a oops, wasn’t supposed to do that, note…I weighed myself! During the Whole30 you’re supposed to weigh yourself at the beginning and the end, but stay off the scale during the process. I wanted an idea of how much I lost however, and stepped on a scale yesterday morning! It read 181.8! That may not sound like a very low weight, but for reference, I began this journey at 193.6. That’s almost a 12 pound loss over 21 days! I’m feeling so encouraged by how I feel and now by the weight I’ve lost as well.

Next week I will be doing the update on Sunday, Day 30. I can’t wait to share with you my end result and my first meal as a free woman again!

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Five Hikes in the Berkshires!

Hey all! Happy FRI-YAY! Or as I like to call it “Happy Josh has a day off tomorrow!” Because what’s happier than your husband being home and helping out? Nothing? I AGREE.

This week was vacation week and man was it FUN! I wanted to share with you our five hikes we did each week day this week…that’s right five! Guess we’re getting ourselves in shape for the summer time. I’m just throwing this post together as a quick look at some adorable photos and also some reference for anyone visiting the Berkshires or North Adams. All these trails were less than 45 minutes from Main Street in North Adams! I’m going to let you know how each one was for the kids as well as how I felt about them.

Brook and Berry Trail, Mount Greylock

This was a hard trail! We followed it in about a mile and then turned around because I wasn’t sure how long it was or where it came out. There were quite a few uphill areas I was worried about going up with Bear on my back. The trail itself was well kept and okay views. The brook was pretty but no berries yet. However If you’re looking for some stunning photos, I’m not sure I would recommend the first mile of this trail. Again, I only went a mile in and turned.

The kids DID love it because there was a lot of things to pick up and they really enjoy the brook. The hike we did took about an hour and a half. Again, it’s pretty hard! If you’re not an experienced hiker or going with little kids, I caution you on this trail. We probably won’t be taking it again with the kids.

Bradley Farm Trail, Mount Greylock

If you’re a newcomer to the area who wants to drive up to the top of Mount Greylock then take an easier stroll through the woods? This hike is totally for you! With the entrance right next to the visitors center and a fun 2.3 mile hike, it’s great for kids. There’s still not as many great views to look out on with this hike.

I really say this hike is great for kids. There are a few places where I was just a little worried because the side of the trail was a little bit of a steep fall. It was mild though!

Rail Trail (Cheshire Entrance)

We entered in through the Cheshire entrance for our Rail Trail hike. I chose to use the kid bikes and packed a lunch. We walked about a mile in, had our lunch by the lake, and walked back out. This walk was so easy! The path is paved for bikes. The road is flat. The only part that caused any worry is crossing the high way. But they made it so easy by adding a stop light!

The sights on this hike were nothing short of stunning. Looking out at the lake was such a blessing. It was a little chilly right there on the water, so if you’re with kids, bring a sweatshirt!

Shoreline Trail to Lookout Point, Clarksburg

The kids LOVED this hike. I have a special connection with Clarksburg State Park. We frequent it during the summer months.

 

We chose to walk the Shoreline Trail to the Lookout Point then turn back around. Once we hit the parking area, we went down to the Blueberry trail and walked the beach. Then we followed the road back up to my car. All together this was a little over two miles. It’s a fairly easy hike to make and the sights you see are spectacular. I cannot recommend this hike enough. The staff even recently fixed the bridges on that trail and they were amazing.

Be forewarned though-this is a SHORELINE trail! It’s wet all year round but you sink a few inches during this wet season.

Natural Bridge

On our final weekday of vacation, Princess and Monkey had slept over Mema’s. Doodle was still on her mission trip. Josh was at work. It was Bug(3), Bear(1), and I. We headed out towards Natural Bridge! I’ve written about Natural Bridge before and it’s a great hike, but I want to add in today-if you’re an art enthusiast, there’s an area with some great statues the boy LOVED to look at! This trail is super easy but has beautiful sights. And in the summer there are a few areas to wade in!

 

I hope anyone who just had April Vacation had a blast! I know we did.