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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.

 

to my husband

EN&MH: A Letter to my Husband About Mama’s Depression.

If you’ve been around here the past month or so, you know May was hard on me. I’ve been struggling with a pretty deep depression. Whether it’s related to physical reasons, seasonal things, who knows. What I do know is mamas depression has been prevalent and loud.

In the wake of this season of depression, I have found myself slacking in certain areas. In those areas my husband has had to step up. Today I wanted to share with the world a letter of thank you to my husband, who has stepped up so much in my brokenness.

To my husband, picking up the slack in the midst of my mental illness.

I am so sorry.

I hate that this is how my mind works. Whenever my moods spin out of control and my emotions are wild, it seems we find ourselves here. You doing far more than you should in our partnership and me trying to get by. The laundry, the dishes, picking up-they all seem to feel like milestones that I can’t keep on top of. An outsider sees our house and would say, “No Lauren, you’re doing great!” but you know the truth. Far more often I’m doing great at watching a movie with the kids or I’m baking so I can overindulge.

My moods change more than I want. The swings are intense and you love me through them. You love me even when I’m yelling over milk spilling or seething at something so meaningless. When there is no patience left in me, you are a rock I am able to lean into. You’re the anchor as my storms toss our family boat around.

I really am sorry you have to be those things. Through thick and thin you are though.

I hope you know how thankful I am that you are the man I married. That God knew exactly what He was doing when He put you in my life. I hope you know how grateful I am that you are picking up my slack. That you show up at 125% on the days I barely manage 50. Dear husband, I hope you know how much I love that about you.

My sweet husband, I hope you know I wish I could just get better. That it was as simple as choosing to feel better or getting over it. I pray you know everyday that I would rather be awesome and fun all the time. That I want to love you as well as you love me constantly. I hope you know I am trying. I am trying so so so hard to be better. And I am so sorry I’m not yet.

I hope you know this depression isn’t a reflection of you.

My prayer is you know it’s not because I’m unhappy with our marriage. It isn’t in response to being discontent with the life we are living. I am so happy with the life we have made. You are the best husband I ever could have asked for and I would choose you a thousands times more.

I am forever thankful for how well you love me. How sacrificially you love me. I imagine God smiles down on you because you truly love your bride as Jesus loved the church.

I hope you never doubt that I see you. Someday, hopefully in the near future, I will be back to normal. Someday, maybe, you will need me to love you a little more. To pick up your slack. To hold you as you cry and love you as you break.

Until that day comes though, I pray you now that I appreciate you so much my sweet husband. For the moods you endure, the tears you dry, the late nights you hug me through. I am so thankful that I married a man who steps up and picks up my slack as I fail.

And is crazy enough to tell me I’m not failing.

Yes, husband, you’re crazy enough to carry so much of the weight in these seasons and yet still deny you are carrying it. You never call me out for slacking on any of it. You simply come in and pick up, treating me with more grace than I can ever extend myself.

Husband-I am lucky to have you. I pray you always know that I know I’m lucky.

Thank you for picking up the slack me. I love you.

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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!!*

maternal mental helth

EN&MH: Maternal Mental Health Month.

Hey sweet friends! On our Exploring Neurodiversity and Mental Health series this month I am going to be focusing on Maternal Mental Health. May is Maternal Mental Health month. Becoming a mom who struggled with mental health before pregnancy made me acutely aware of the risk of postpartum mental illness. However, even with all my heightened risk factor, I was still shocked when I developed postpartum depression and anxiety.

My postpartum depression stole all the joy from Bug’s infancy.

As I write those words, I’m brought to tears again. I never wanted to not enjoy my baby being a baby. The anxiety and shame in seeking help was so intense though. For those who don’t know, Josh and I began trying to conceive as soon as we were married. After ten cycles, which I know in retrospect isn’t long, I finally had the baby we had prayed for.

Yet I spent most my pregnancy unhappy and depressed. We lost a close family friend right after I found out I was pregnant, we had two high needs foster children, and my hormones were out of control. I went on antidepressants to get through pregnancy. I should have been happy after Bug arrived.

Those should haves can destroy us though, can’t they?

Towards the end of my pregnancy my father was very sick. I’m talking surgery on his brain, scary sick. We also began visits for those foster children and we had just gone through court for another set. I had every right to be emotional. With my history of anxiety and depression, especially, I should have been prepared. On top of all that, my birth with Bug went completely the opposite way I wanted and I was a mess.

Yet I was so ashamed of feeling the way I did. Despite being well educated(in my humble opinion), on mental health, I felt like this was my fault. I don’t want any other mom out there to ever feel guilty and ashamed of how her body, hormones, and mind react to pregnancy, birth and a baby.

I want to spend the month of May talking about Maternal Mental Health. What can you expect? Today I’m going to give a little intro into just that.

I’ve shared how to recognize the difference and some facts about postpartum depression before at “When It’s More Than Just Baby Blues.” I also shared right before Bear “7 Ways I am Trying to Avoid PPD This Time Around.” I’m not going to be repeating this information over again! I have brand new posts to share throughout the month on topics I haven’t covered before.

The Schedule for Maternal Mental Health Month:

May 3rd: An Introduction…well what you’re reading right now!

May 10th: How to Talk to a Loved Mama You Think is Struggling. Sometimes, we notice a mama is struggling even before she does. Coming out and saying that though…that can be hard! I will be sharing some delicate ways to

May 17th: Maybe PPD is Partially Our Fault. Oh snap. this is an article I thought about writing for awhile. It’s going to dive into the possibility that we as a mom society are not helping younger or new moms but instead forcing them into a lonely place where PPD/A developing isn’t a shock. It will also have some ways to ACTUALLY help new moms and families.

May 24th: Talking to Older Kids About Your Mental Illnesses. This is actually something I have been passionately wanting to write about. My kids know I have mental illnesses. I will not and CAN not lie to them about that. I’m going to give you some tips to talk to your kids about yours or your spouses mental health.

May 30th: PLEASE NOTE THE DAY CHANGE. I will be joining a campaign where we are all sharing our motherhood journeys and different lives with maternal mental illnesses. We Are Motherhood is the title of campaign. You can check out the introductory post here! Today will be the day I share about my personal experience with maternal mental health. I’m going to talk a little about OCD and anxiety being intensified after birth and living with OCD, depression, and PTSD constantly as a mother. Again, this will be posted on a Tuesday and NOT my regular Wednesday!

Hiking 101 (1)

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.

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EN&MH: I Don’t Have the Kind of OCD You Joke About

Last week for Exploring Neurodiversity and Mental Health, I shared an informational piece on obsessive compulsive disorder. This week I wanted to share with you all a piece I wrote entitled, “I Don’t Have the Kind of OCD You Joke About.”

I want to share a secret with you all. I have obsessive compulsive disorder. That’s not a real secret, though I know some people who know me scoff at this admission. “OCD, Lauren? Really? We’ve seen your kids and your house…”

Truth is I do have OCD. I was diagnosed after Bug and after further exploring it we realized it wasn’t only because of my postpartum anxiety/depression. OCD is something I have lived with my entire life. But I don’t have the kind of OCD people joke about. My OCD is not what they portray as obsessive compulsive disorder on television or in movies.

I don’t care about germs. Disorganization doesn’t bother me. You should see the floor of our Yukon or, well, the coating of stuff that covers the floor of my Yukon. This is why people’s eyebrows grace their hairline when I admit to having OCD. I’m nothing like Monk. I don’t compulsively wash my hands and I am 50 shades of unorganized.

I don’t have the OCD you joke about your mom having because she doesn’t like when you put the dishes away wrong.

My OCD? Well it looks like this…

Sitting on the bathroom floor, rocking back and forth as I try to get the image of my family members murdered on our living room couch out of my head. Because once it enters? It’s there to stay. Even writing this I am afraid to close my eyes. The images that grace my imagination are nothing short of horrifying.

It looks like my tracing my veins because obviously inspecting them will tell me if I caught an incurable disease.

Nightmares that wake me up in a moist bed, shaking from the dreams I just had. The lingering feeling after I awaken. The graphic images making me unable to clothes my eyes to go back to sleep.

Tapping my body parts 10 times to attempt to bring me back to reality when my images and thoughts run out of control.

Calling my husband three dozen times to make sure he’s okay. And having a panic attack when he doesn’t answer and therefore may not be okay.

Walking out of church because I hear sirens go by and I assume it’s one of my family members who is hurt. Sneaking out the back as I frantically check to see if anyone I love has updated their status. Because I can’t bother them with a text message again.

My OCD isn’t glamorous. It’s not clean.

It’s kind of messy, which always shocks people. Messy thoughts, messy feelings, messy mind.

Being diagnosed with OCD was a breath of fresh air. Up until then I lived a pretty lonely existence with my anxiety. People around me who also suffered from anxiety couldn’t understand my crazy thoughts. I felt ashamed and embarrassed by the images stuck in my mind. After all, would you really be comfortable with the fact your mind would think about your parents getting in a car accident and that’s all you could think about for hours? And that those thoughts often escalated into specifics.

Getting a diagnosis allowed me to take a step back and realize my thoughts weren’t just because I was a bad person—because I felt like a bad person a good percentage of the time. There’s such a guilt involved in the type of OCD I struggle with because we don’t want to imagine the things we get stuck on.

Sure, I would prefer not to feel like I have to call my husband 27 times exactly after he doesn’t answer the first. I would prefer it even more if that compulsion didn’t come after having vivid images of him having an affair in my mind for hours before I cave and call.

Getting this diagnosis though-it suddenly explained a lifetime of struggling.

I was able to put a name to these thoughts and compulsions. Guilt was not a necessary factor any longer. There was a real reason they existed. And that reason was a mental illness that had been roaming my mind for years. It wasn’t that I secretly hoped these images could come true, as one terrible psychiatrist mentioned. It was that my mind caught hold of one and it became my focus.

Suddenly, the me who found myself sitting in my moms room at 3am, having a panic attack because I read a single sentence on a Youtube forum and believed the world was about to end...that me was explained. She made sense. Well, as much sense as a mental illness can make.

Even with that acceptance though, even with the knowledge, my obsessive compulsive disorder feels very lonely.

Like I said, this isn’t what you see on television. The show Monk is probably the closest to my reality because he did have some fears that he had to do compulsions to help alleviate(but they never go away.) You don’t see in movies people who have these intrusive thoughts take over their mind until it’s all they can think about. More often, you see a woman washing her hands compulsively in the sink to get rid of the germs. You don’t see a mom of 6 who watches as one breathes, counting the seconds in between to reassure herself they are breathing normal.

You don’t see movies about a mom on the side of the road checking her tires(forgetting she doesn’t even know what she’s checking) to make sure they aren’t going to explode and burn them all in a fiery death.

I don’t have the kind of OCD you joke about. I’m not “like so OCD because my house needs to be cleaned a certain way.” I’m not “a little OCD” about how my clothes organized.

I don’t have the kind of obsessive compulsive disorder we often talk about. And that’s why I need to share this now. Because everyone out there who struggles with OCD the way I do-you deserve to feel safe as well. You deserve to live a life without guilt and shame over your thoughts.

If you’re out there living with the same kind of OCD I’m dealing with, please. Feel free to come talk to me. Get help! Find a trusted therapist who can help you manage what’s going on in your mind. You aren’t alone, sweet friends.

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2017 So Far (Yearly Goals Update)

Hey sweet friends! Someone mentioned they missed seeing more of our personal life, so I’m going to start really trying to add these kinds of posts to my rotation. I love telling you guys about our family! My hope is you all enjoy reading about our adventures as well. Today I want to share with y’all how my goals for 2017 are going!

For those of you who missed it, my goals for 2017 were not that intense. We chose a word for our family to strive for this year. I chose a Bible verse to pray over and work on throughout this year. Then I had three more year long goals I wanted to complete. Without any further waiting, here is a little update on how we are doing!

Word of the Year: Peace

This year, I want to focus on finding peace in four main areas.

Peace within our chaos:

I feel like we have been doing really well in this! Things in our life will never not have any chaos because the very existence of 7 people living together create chaos. We have been able to really set aside family dinner as a moment of peace each day. We have also really practiced the art of saying no. There’s a bible verse that says(and I’m paraphrasing), “everything is permissible but not everything is beneficial.” We have used that as a staple in saying no to some things. And yes-we get a lot of flack. We are currently not attending family bible study night at our church because it added too much stress. But that no has kept out chaos at least a bit more peaceful.

Peace in my actions:

In complete authenticity…I forgot I had written this down! I actually have been working a lot the past few weeks especially on not reacting as quickly and intensely as usual. I have noticed a huge shift in my impulsive behaviors since beginning the Whole 30 and that’s been amazing.

Peace within Jesus:

I have felt pretty great with Jesus lately. God has been working some miracles on my mental health and I am able to truly find joy in Jesus’ promises. I really need to work on getting in the Word more often. In case you haven’t noticed, this is just a constant in my life. Quiet Bible time and reflection are so hard to come by. I’ve found a few tricks to getting in The Word quickly that I hope to share with you guys later this week!

Peace with my past.

I have been working on this! I’m a firm believer that healing will never be linear and some times will be harder than others. However, the effort is being put in by both my husband and I.

My verse of the year: Titus 2: 3-5

“Similarly, teach the older women to live in a way that honors God. They must not slander others or be heavy drinkers. Instead, they should teach others what is good. These older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children,  to live wisely and be pure, to work in their homes, to do good, and to be submissive to their husbands. Then they will not bring shame on the word  of God” (KJV)

This verse has been one I’ve prayed over many times this year. Make me more submissive. Allow me to learn from older Christians and mold me to lead younger ones to you. Give me a pure heart and put wisdom withing my mind to follow Your Word only. Close my slanderous mouth and allow me to bring joy and honor to God.

It’s obviously a work in progress, because my Christian walk will always be a work in progress. I have found a few people to behave as almost a mentor to. And I have been honored to be able to do that.

 

And for my three smaller goals! 

Lose 40 pounds/be healthier in 2017. I’ve lost about 20 pounds since my starting this! I am currently doing the Whole 30(Read about it on day 8 and day 15 here.) I am also SO much healthier than I was at Christmas time. I’m sleeping better, I’m more active, my mental health is flourishing. Once you start taking care of your temple, amazing things happen!

Read 26 books in 2017. I am currently about a third of the way through number nine and half the way through number ten! These numbers are really great because they’re right on schedule! I’m hoping to finish before we actually hit December and my “busy” season. (What season isn’t busy?)

Start writing the book and finish writing the devotional I startedWell the good news is I didn’t completely forget about this goal? This one hasn’t happened. At all. I have been free writing for myself a bit and that’s been a blast to write poetry again. But I haven’t worked at all on the devotional. I have considered sharing parts of the devotional on here and forgetting making it a full on book. Any thoughts?

Well there you have it friends! My 2017 goals so far. How are you doing on yours?