Keeping a tribe for life – why women need women

“One of the best things that a man could do for his health is to be married to a woman, whereas for a woman, one of the best things she could do for her health was to nurture her relationships with her girlfriends.”

Everyone started to laugh, but he was serious…

celebrate special occasions together

Before I tell you more about that quote above… I have some questions. Why do so many women run from deep friendship? I’m being serious. I have watched it more times than I can possibly count.

A woman has a lot of friends but none of them deep or real (all surface), or a woman chooses not to get close to anyone, only having acquaintances, or she says “I’m a guy’s girl” and primarily hangs with her husband, or boyfriend and/or male friends. Or there’s the scenario where a woman makes BBBEEESSSTTT friends with other women and they do everything together, even confessing their best friendedness on social media (all the time), but then, all of a sudden, she drops the best friends and moves on. What is this?

Then there are the women who seem to thrive on stirring the hypothetical pot and picking apart every mishap and mistake that every other woman makes. This one really breaks my heart. First it makes me grateful to have nontoxic friends (so grateful) but then it makes me a little mad. I’m confused (or just super naive) because I THOUGHT we were all in this together? Or maybe not really. We aren’t?

make the simple, fun

I was thinking that instead of judging that woman who is trying to figure it all out (just like you and me) and loves her babies fiercely (just like you and me) but maybe shows it differently, just needs your woman-to-woman support and confirmation. Maybe the women that I described above – but admittedly do not understand – just need ME to try to empathize and not judge their actions either. Maybe I can take a step in that direction and rather than being put off by what seems shallow to me – I should try to look deeper at what’s really going on. Maybe they need me and I need them. I have no idea, really. But I’ll accept the challenge to put on my ‘support all women even if they get on my nerves’ hat and pull up my ‘get over yourself, there is no maximum capacity to your tribe’ britches and be the woman God made me to be. Who’s with me?

take a break from life and spend the weekend together
laugh really really hard
cherish your friendships
act young

Okay… on to the reason I started this post.

I’ve been thinking lately about relationships. But more specifically about relationships that women have with one another. Female relationships are like a mystical unicorn; so magical but often super allusive.

The relationships are deep, meaningful and spiritual – but often tossed away at the drop of a hat. This sisterhood is one of life’s great mysteries, one that legends are made of… one that the male species will never quit grasp and that all women long for.

Growing up, my mom always encouraged the development of the relationships I had with my girlfriends. She had girlfriends too. She told me that (at that stage in my life) they far exceeded the importance of any crush or romantic relationship I might have or want. I grew up knowing that my female friendships where what would feed my soul, be steadfast, be lifelong, come to me with no agenda, make me laugh until I cried, celebrate with me, and pick me up during difficult times. I grew up knowing that I didn’t just want best girlfriends, I needed them. I tell my daughters the exact same thing!

dress up and act silly
pretend you’re still in your sorority
spend a weekend at a cabin

I have always, and still do, make it priority to maintain my tribe. I still connect with my ‘lifelong’ tribe of girls on a regular basis, I gained a whole new set of tribe members in college and I have added again to the tribe throughout more recent years of figuring out marriage, motherhood and this whole ‘getting older’ thing. I am honored and humbled to say that I get to lean on and enjoy my tribe, my sisterhood all the dang time. But this is ON purpose. It doesn’t happen by itself. I make the point and effort, and SO do they. They make my life more carefree – even if just for a moment. They commiserate with me, shoot me straight (this is a big important one), support my marriage, encourage my faith, know my family dynamic, LOVE my kids like family, care about my stories, know my past, support my successes (or attempts), want me to do well, have seen me be really immature/stupid/thoughtless/careless/annoying/over-reactive/you name it… and they still love me… I could literally go on and on. I want to get across the point that whether you have a ‘tribe’ or a ‘sisterhood’ that you feel a part of or not – It. Is. Not. Too. Late. to connect or reconnect with women around you.

I’m sorry to say it, but the people who live in your house are not enough. Studies even show that friendship has a bigger impact on our physical and psychological well-being than family relationships. Us women have deep abysses’ for souls and we need a lot of fulfillment. A part of this fulfillment can come from the women in your life.  Because we GET each other. We have been where each other are. We can advise and love one another through things that a male cannot do as effectively. And our kids cannot fill this void either. It’s a different heart compartment altogether.

take a lot of selfies
smash your nose in to their cheek so they know you care
celebrate life’s big moments

I have my personal top 6 reasons why having a female tribe is imperative, to me! Maybe you can relate.

1. It’s a powerful force:

The true benefits of friendship are honestly immeasurable. Friends make our lives so much better. Period. But they have to be real friends, not just acquaintances. Don’t say you’re too busy for this… you’re too busy ‘not’ to be supported in this way.

Women share a special bond; we bare our souls to each other, support and encourage one another.

The power of female friendships also has a scientific significance. Researchers have found that the hormone oxytocin (which is a hormone that is associated with empathy, trust, and relationship-building. Sometimes referred to as the ‘love hormone’) is, for women especially, a cure-all in numerous respects. Relationships = oxytocin production.

again with the selfies… add a smirk, just because

2. It can change (and save) your life… no, really.

A study that I read found that women respond to stress differently than men. This fact has significant health implications. When people experience stress, the fight-or-flight response is triggered and releases hormones such as cortisol and oxytocin. Oxytocin (which we already talked about) is secreted by both men and women in response to stress. In women, it puts a buffer around the fight-or-flight response and actually encourages us to ‘protect and nurture’ our children and to gather with other women (God, you are so amazing). So, stress gives us the urge to gather up our little chicks and bond with those around us. Soooo fascinating. That urge you have to gather and bond is not just an urge… it is physiological!

In the study, Drs. Laura Klein and Shelley Taylor refer to it as the “tend and befriend” pattern. When we actually engage in tending and/or befriending, even more oxytocin is released, further countering stress and calming us down. This reinforces our natural caregiving tendencies and our need to be in relationship with other women. In other words; retreating and hiding away when under stress is super unnatural and unhealthy for us. I repeat: retreating and hiding away when under stress is unhealthy.

show your kids what it means to be a friend

Unlike men, women produces estrogen during stress that enhances the effects of oxytocin and compels us to seek social support. Don’t deny this instinct.

Scientifically, friendship brings comfort that reduces the effects of stress. Women seeking support during stressful periods is really the top way that women are different, and really one of the most fundamental differences in men’s and women’s behavior. This difference ALONE contributes to the gender difference in life expectancy. That’s amazing to me.

This is really crazy: a breast cancer study I read about actually found that women without close friends were four times as likely to die from the disease as women with ten or more friends. And, surprisingly, proximity and the amount of contact with a friend weren’t really associated with survival. Just ‘having friends’ was protective.

the women in your family are a VITAL part of the tribe
be sure to love them no matter what and do life together
seek wisdom from all of the generations
love inherited family like your own!
be a sister

3. It’s electric!: 

I don’t know how well I would adult and mother without the moral support of my girlfriends. I might be okay at it but it would be far less enjoyable. Being with other women (including the women in my extended family) helps me to be a better mother, and the moral support, physical, emotional and mental support create a beautiful environment for children (and mommas) to thrive! I would venture to say that it makes us better wives too.

Most women are natural nurturers and givers. Don’t shy away from that instinct. It is really important for us to receive and be sustained because, let’s face it, continual ‘giving’ results in total depletion. Women instinctively know how to nourish each other, and just being with each other is actually restorative. Isn’t that nifty? God knew what he was doing when he made us this way (duh). We deplete and then can be re-charged again just by being with one another. We are an energy source for one another. I loves that.

 

go out of town together

4. Friendships can glorify God:

“Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” – 1 Cor. 10:31

When we lift each other up, support one another and (quite frankly) are able to lovingly call each other out when we slip, we are making God happy. He wants us to live in relationship with best friends and fellow believers. He is also (and wants us to be) the friend of sinners… wherever you are and wherever your friends are, supporting fellow humans glorifies God. It’s not your job or your burden to judge anyone. Period.

do life together and celebrate milestones

5. Oxygen, we all need it:

My girlfriends are my oxygen tanks. Girlfriends can fill a void in us that no other relationship can fill. Not our spouses, not our children, not our work or co-workers. If you’re lucky enough to find one great friend, or a few friends who are the real deal, you are a very fortunate person. Count your blessings.

visit where you’ve been, together
acting old timey might make you feel young

6. Keeps us healthy… Stanford’s head of psychiatry says so:

So, about that quote at the very beginning of the post…

In an evening class at Stanford, the last lecture was on the mind-body connection – the relationship between stress and disease. The speaker (head of psychiatry at Stanford) said,

“Among other things… one of the best things that a man could do for his health is to be married to a woman, whereas for a woman, one of the best things she could do for her health was to nurture her relationships with her girlfriends.”

Everyone started to laugh, but he was serious.

what’s that you say?

Women connect with each other differently and provide support systems that help each other to deal with stress and difficult life experiences.

Physically, this quality “girlfriend time” helps us to create more serotonin – a neurotransmitter that helps combat depression and can create a general feeling of well-being. Women share feelings, whereas men often form relationships around activities. They rarely sit down with a buddy and talk about how they feel or how their personal lives are going. Jobs? Yes. Sports? Yes. Cars? Yes. Fishing, hunting, golf? Yes. But their feelings? Rarely.

Women do it all of the time. We share from our souls with our sisters/mothers, and evidently that is very good for our health. The same professor said that spending time with a friend is just as important to our general health as jogging or working out at a gym. Just wow. Does this mean I can skip the gym? ANYWAYS…

There’s a tendency to think that when we are “exercising,” we are doing something good for our bodies, but when we are hanging out with friends, we are wasting our time and should be more productively engaged—this is so NOT true.

In fact, he said that failure to create and maintain quality personal relationships with other humans is as dangerous to our physical health as smoking!

So, let’s toast to our friendship with our girlfriends. Clearly it’s very good for our health.

make a date to go somewhere you would normally have kiddos… but don’t take them this time
go on a journey
make a a LOT of plans and keep most of them
spend time just sitting on a patio together

Do you make time for your girlfriends or is it a struggle to keep and maintain your female friendships? This is a normal feeling. Do you make your friends a priority? I’d love to know!

Let’s all go out there and be friends to one another. Our daughters and the next generation is watching and depending on us to SHOW them – like my mom did (not just tell them) how to be a real live awesome supportive strong encouraging welcoming making-time-for-friends Godly women.

have plenty of adult time
go to concerts and sing every word
laugh about nothing

bring the little ones along a lot too! They need to be a part of the tribe and learn from you.

First Trip to Great Wolf Lodge – here’s my advice:

We were looking for a quick weekend out of town that felt like a mini-vacation. We didn’t want to drive more than 5-ish hours to get there. My mind ALWAYS goes to the beach (ahhhh) but we can’t get to a beach in less than 8/9 hours from where we live. I was stumped.

Well, lo and behold my oldest daughter unknowingly came up with the plan. She had seen “We are the Davises” visit a Great Wolf Lodge on one of their episodes and mentioned it to me (more than once). I had never even heard of it. Apparently, there are several Great Wolf Lodge locations around the country. I mentioned it to my husband on a Monday morning and we left for our getaway that very Friday. We are not spontaneous so this was major cool points for us.

Our closest Great Wolf Lodge is Grapevine, TX (20-minutes outside of Dallas). So, on that Friday we headed out, telling our girls we were going to Little Rock (50-minutes from our house). We were a couple of hours into the trip before they started asking questions. The fun part was telling them… except for Charlotte – she cried. She wanted to go to Little Rock (go figure) #awesome

Charlotte said she wanted to go to “Chunky Cheese” in North Little Rock instead…
Stella was much more enthusiastic! You gotta love a good reaction 🙂

 

In this post, I want to share with you what we learned on our first trip to Great Wolf Lodge and what I would do differently.

The main lobby area of Great Wolf Lodge Texas

WHAT YOU ARE GETTING IN TO:

Great Wolf is really neat because it’s unlike other water parks. You get to stay onsite!  You drive up, park your car, and there’s no need to leave the lodge until checkout.  What you are really going to do most of your time is hang out at the water park. There are several big (really fun) waterslides, a wave pool, a kiddie pool, a lazy river, smaller waterslides and tiny slides, obstacles courses, climbing sets and a HUGE water dumping bucket that’s pretty intense. There is a hot tub and splash pads for tiny ones. There is also an outdoor portion with a big pool, obstacles and two more pretty decent sized water slides.

I borrowed these shots from the Mr. Google.

Then, there is a super nice ropes course that is tall and intense with multiple zip lines. But not too intense for the eight-year-old fearless one. She nailed it.

The cool thing is that the waterpark is great for a large range of ages. From toddlers to teens. The targeted age range for Great Wolf Lodge is 3- to 15-years old.

The waterslides are thrilling. They were even more intense (in a fun way) than I expected.  You can do single slides with lines that move quickly, double slides that are somewhat slower and four-man rafts that take the longest. I’d say the average wait was probably 15 minutes for the four-man rafts (which were the most exciting slides, to me) and probably 10 minutes for single tube slides.

48″ tall is the magic height for the largest water slide. My youngest is right at 42” and she did every big slide except for the largest ‘red’ four-man slide. The lodge provides life jackets for free, so no need to pack yours if they are needed. We are life-jacket free at our house, so that was nice. But no biggie if your kiddos need one, I saw lots of kids wearing them.

Other entertainment (like I mentioned before) includes the Howler’s Peak, which is an outdoor ropes course – climbing and zip lining. There are small shows/entertainment/story time and games inside the Lodge, a Magiquest game, an arcade, a children’s spa called Scoops and a little shopping. Some locations have indoor golf, Grapevine does not. Howler’s Peak (ropes course) and indoor golf are extra and not included with the cost of your stay. We only paid $5 per kid to do the ropes course.

There really is a lot to see and do during your stay.

The nice part about an indoor water park is that the temperature was regulated and we didn’t have to worry about a sunburn (unless we went to the outdoor portion, obviously) and it really seemed clean to me. And clearly, this is a bonus because you could go to GWL any time of the year. I can see this being super fun in the winter when you kids are dying to play ‘outdoors’ and swim. It might even be less expensive in the winter. The ropes course does depend on fair weather somewhat, but it was 108-degrees when we were there (no joke) and we still braved Howler’s Peak, outdoors.

The waterpark is open from 9 a.m. – 9 p.m. daily.  Checkout time is 11 a.m. but your wristband (which is also your form of payment and your room key) will get you access to everything all day long even on your checkout day (major bonus).  Likewise, your room is guaranteed to be available at 4 p.m. on check-in day but you can arrive as early as 1 p.m. and get your wristband and start to play. We got super fortunate and when we arrived at 1 p.m. our room was ready! BONUS. If this is not the case, you can rent lockers for your water park things (be sure to leave all of your luggage in the car until your room is ready – there is nowhere to put it until you have a room). You can pay extra for a late checkout on your last day if you don’t want to have to pack up early. We actually just took a few minor things into the water park and laid them on the ground up against a wall. There are tables and chairs all around as well. No one bothered anything. For us, the goal was getting the most of the park and other amenities.

On the day we were leaving we ate a banana and a granola bar in the room, threw on our bathing suits, popped by the onsite Starbucks, and then got to the waterpark by the 9 a.m. open. Note: there are several onsite breakfast options to choose from, we just prefer a simple breakfast and wanted to get to the important stuff, playing. 9-10 a.m. was the magic hour – not many people were in the park yet – meaning little to no waterslide lines. At about 10:20 a.m. I headed back up to the room to pack and get dressed while Grant and the girls stayed and played. They came up around 10:45 a.m. and I got them in leggings, tennis shoes and T-shirts so they could do the ropes course. We moved out of our room at this time and loaded the car. After the Howler’s Peak ropes course, we departed from GWL. This was around 12:30 or so. The cool thing is that we could have stayed all day long at the waterpark and changed in the locker room. And if it weren’t a 5-hour drive home we might have. But we were ready to hit the road.

In the water park, they have a few cabanas available to rent.  I saw several larger families in the cabanas. This would be a great landing zone if you were with a big group. I am sure they have to be reserved in advance. But, honestly, the water park is not huge and you can see the whole thing (mostly) from most vantage points.

A lot of families stay for two+ days.  We found that one night was totally adequate for our kids. I was worried we’d feel rushed but they really give you a lot of opportunities to stay and play before and after check in/out hours. I felt like we got a great value.

For dinner, we ate at the Lodge Wood Fired Grill and all really enjoyed our food. We didn’t need reservations and were seated right away at about 6:30 p.m. The girls got spaghetti, Grant got a burger and I got an Ahi Tuna BLT. It was great. There is also Hungry as a Wolf for pizza, Buckets Incredible Craveables (a snack shack in the water park), Grizzly Jack’s Bar & Grill (also poolside) and The Loose Goose Cottage which has a large all-you-can-eat buffet. Again, you will not feel any need to leave the lodge once you’ve arrived. Plus, did I mention Starbucks?

THE ROOMS:

You can choose from all sorts of rooms for your stay.  The ‘standard family suites’ come with normal beds and a sofa. This is what we chose (above). I was the same price as a standard room when I booked. We knew we’d be in our room very little so I wasn’t worried about it being super amazing. But even the standard room was very nice. Two beds plus a foldout sofa in the ‘living room’ area. It’s not huge but really a perfect size for us and very comfortable. One thing to note – BRING CONDITIONER. Us girls were struggling with the lack of conditioner in the shower. GWL does not provide this. They have a very small bottle of shampoo and a tiny wolf paw shaped bar of soap. Be sure and bring your own shower products. I was trying to pack light… so… yeah.

Simple bathroom. The sink/vanity area is actually in the room.

You can also upgrade to a themed room.  The difference with the themed room is that the kids get a semi-enclosed bunk bed area that has a TV inside.  I am sure that would be neat for the kids, but only staying one night and barely being in the room, we were super pleased with our selection. If our kids were older and/or brought a friend, we would do the semi-enclosed bunks for sure.  You can also splurge a bit more and get a whirlpool tub and fireplace suite or a loft suite. All of them look very cozy.

The rooms are clean and simple but I was pleased to see they came and with a small refrigerator, a tiny coffee machine, and a microwave. We didn’t need any of these amenities but on a longer stay, we might.

Stella was happy to be there!
Both girls touring the room before heading to the water park

Something that was really neat! When we checked in I got a text that said: “Hi! I’m Brinley, your personal assistant @ Great Wolf Lodge Grapevine. Your room number 8041 is ready. Text me for questions, requests, or other needs at any time.” I loved this! I text her to ask about conditioner (we have long hair okay, it was kind of a big deal, ha) and I text her about dinner recommendations. It was a really neat feature and so smart of GWL. This must drastically cut down or eliminate calls to the front desk asking questions.

THE FOOD SITUATION: 

Charlotte enjoying her spaghetti after a lot of water play!

I touched on the food already but I want to elaborate a little more. The pizzeria is takeout only and you can take the pizza to the main lobby area, into the waterpark, or back to your room to eat.

Stella gobbling her food up while trying to catch Loud House out of the corner of her eye…

If we hadn’t eaten breakfast in the room on Sunday, we would have gone for the all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet that features the Great Wolf Kids characters. This character breakfast offers fun photo opportunities too.

Bear Paws Sweets & Eats offers freshly brewed coffees and lattes (if you want to skip Starbucks). Fresh-baked pastries and cupcakes, ice cream and fudge. There are caramel apples, chocolate strawberries, and fruit. There are ice cream and dippin dots as well.

Buckets Incredible Craveables located in the water park has your typical fair food such as pretzels, burgers and ice cream sundaes.

For the tired mommas, GWL offers an in-room ‘Wine Down’ menu. They have developed a food and wine pairing menu that has sweet and savory sections complemented by a variety of vino.

It is sufficient to say, you will not go hungry or thirsty while staying at the lodge.

You can bring your own food into the lodge as well. We brought a few packaged snacks as well as bananas and cuties. I should have brought more bottled water. There were two bottles in the mini fridge for us upon arrival so that was nice. They also left two “Kid Kind Bars” on the small dining table in our room.

WHAT WILL ENTERTAIN YOU:

OTHER THAN THE GREAT WATER PARK… The lodge will give you a list of activities and show times available.  Our lodge had pajama story time at 8 and 9 p.m. followed by a dance party (which was very fun). There is morning yoga, The Great Clock Tower Show, and character appearances. There are so many activities that we didn’t even have time to investigate.

There is this thing called MagiQuest. What it boils down to it that you spend around $30+ for a magic wand for your child and then you get a map with tasks and places to visit.  When you visit these locations the wand will do something ‘magical’ and you add up points.  There are badges for those that achieve certain goals but no other rewards or prizes that I can determine.  We skipped this activity and it really wasn’t even promoted to us as something we should do (which I was glad about) but we did see a lot of kids running around waving the wands. It does seem that if you do this, you can bring your wand back each time you come to the lodge and all you have to do is pay for more ‘activities’ or quests on the wand.

One of the MagiQuest crystal locations

At the Texas location, there is something called Howly Wood XD Theater. I have to admit… I had NO idea about this or ever even saw a sign for it until after we left. On the website, it is promoted as the ultimate, full-immersion, 4-D thrill ride. It’s a multi-sensory adventure with motion-enhanced chairs and other effects. I am pretty sad we didn’t do this or know about it. There are several other fun activities you can do if you are all water-parked-out. Here’s the full list.

And because no child can pass an arcade without playing, we did that after dinner!

SHOPPING:

When you check in you will get a wristband that serves as your room key. It also serves as access to the waterpark and you can charge items in the gift shop and restaurants. Because we have younger kids we didn’t get the room key and charging capabilities on their wristbands. But if they were older and going to be away from us at all – we might have. Although, that’s a little scary too. All kids also get wolf ears to wear. They are a really cute souvenir. You’ll see most kids around the lodge wearing theirs.

The main hallway and gift shop

There was a gift shop with the standard t-shirts and other various sundries. The lodge had a Scoops salon for children. The salon is super cute.

There is also an adult spa called Elements Spa Salon and well as the Iron Horse Fitness Center.

PACKING:

You will most likely be inside for most of your stay.  I packed two swimsuits per person, flip flops, athletic sandals with Velcro straps, cover-ups and goggles for the water park. Goggles were nice for the water slides. Depending on your kid’s preference. The Great Wolf Lodge provides towels for use in the room and different ones for the water park area. You might want to bring fun pajamas for the evening activities such as story time and maybe exercise clothing for the morning yoga or for hitting the fitness center (we didn’t do the yoga or fitness center during our stay).  We also packed a cuter outfit (still causal) for dinner on Saturday evening. Grant wore a T-shirt and a ball cap for dinner and it was fine too… the ball cap was due to a head injury received in the waterpark… but that’s another story and at NO fault of the waterpark or lodge. Just a hairsplitting accident. Too soon? Okay.

Here’s Stella between water park adventures
Stella has since decided that she wants to start training to become an American Ninja Warrior. Seriously. I guess this means I’ll be training with her…
Charlotte got over the fact that we didn’t go to “Chunky Cheese” in North Little Rock and instead came to the amazing Great Wolf Lodge 🙂

Like I mentioned before, our lodge had a ropes course and we were happy to have packed leggings and tennis shoes for the kids. Closed-toe shoes with a back are required.

Charlotte quickly changed her mind and opted for the lower to the ground version of the ropes course. We were glad they had that!
Stella, however, had no fear and nailed the entire structure.
And yes… it was 108-temp on this day.

I would recommend bringing the minimum amount you can into the waterpark. You can rent lockers or set things up on a table but literally, your hotel room is a two- to three-minute walk away.

Some things I WISH I had taken: conditioner (obviously). Water socks – this is not a huge deal but when you have to go into the water park bathroom it would just be nice to have water socks on. Next, I would pack mesh or quick dry swim shorts! I was so wishing for some shorts over my suit. Yes, I wore a simple and modest one-piece black suit but there is just something about running around at a water park that makes a momma WISH for some shorts. Can I get an amen? I would say that I’d like to have had my phone in a waterproof/clear case for photos and videos. But, honestly, I was REALLY happy to not have my phone on me. It was a good thing to be detached. And as far as photos and videos, I still took the time and got some during little breaks.

Overall, I was able to pack pretty light. And if you’re staying more than a night… there is a laundry facility.

My final review of our first Great Wolf Lodge experience — It was really good! It’s a super neat well-kept place and so kid-focused that it’s a blast for kids of almost any age. I never felt like it was over-crowded and I am told this is the busiest season. The drive was easy from Arkansas, the parking was simple and check in was a breeze. It was a no-fuss experience. We were pleased with the attractions and the room. Overall I give it a great review. I feel like we will go back at some point. It’s not cheap (over $500 for one night) but in all honesty, once you get there you can see what you are really paying for. The water park and the super extended hours of access are great. If you need something besides the beach but less of a commitment than some other larger amusement parks, I say go for it! We made some great memories and it was very unique from our normal vacations.

WHAT WE DID BEFORE  WE GOT TO
GREAT WOLF LODGE:

I want to note that on Friday night we stayed in Dallas at a new Holiday Inn Express. It was very nice and offered a nicer than expected complimentary breakfast with a large variety, for our Saturday morning. We had dinner at Medieval Times on Friday night and really enjoyed that as well! Minus my slightly extreme allergic reaction to the horses (Really? Who does that?). Grapevine is only 20-minutes from Dallas. Also, when we arrived in Grapevine on Saturday it was too early to check in so we went to Grapevine Mills Mall and it was very nice and fun to walk around. There are several attractions inside as well, including LEGOLAND and Rainforest Café.

 

But, as with any time away from home, it is always nice to see this sign!

 

(Purely Delicious) Cauliflower Dirty Rice with Red Beans & Sausage

This is a  healthy, low-carb (lower if you omit the beans), gluten- and grain-free side dish or main course and I just had to share.

I made this recipe last night mostly because I was trying to use up a few ingredients I had at home. I knew I had riced cauliflower and smoked sausage… but what could I do with them? Well, you gotta love Pinterest because it totally inspired this recipe that I pieced together. And it was SO GOOD, if I do say so myself.

Note: It was a little on the spicy side so if you’re not in to that I’d say reduce or eliminate the Cayenne. It was too spicy for the kiddos, but husband and I both went back for seconds (mouths on fire).

This was the finished product… See below for all the instructions!
Here, I am sautéing the bell pepper, garlic, onion, and celery. Then I added the sausage, red beans and seasoning mixture in to the skillet.
I then added the chicken bone broth to the skillet, plus a whole bay leaf, to simmer.
Meanwhile, I had my riced cauliflower in a pot with a bit of olive oil. I cooked it until it was the texture I wanted.
Once the veggies, beans and sausage had simmered for 10-12 minutes and the ‘rice’ was just right, I combined them all in the skillet. Plus, I added the chopped parsley at this point.

____________________________

Cauliflower Dirty Rice with Red Beans and Sausage

A healthy, low-carb (lower if you omit the beans), gluten- and grain-free side dish or main course.

Prep time:    10-min
Cook time:    35-min
Total time:    45-min
Servings:       4-6

Ingredients

  • 1-head of cauliflower, core removed, chopped into florets (or use pre-riced cauliflower in the frozen section)
  • 1/2 Spanish onion (aka: yellow onion), diced
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 pound smoked sausage, sliced (or your favorite sausage)
  • 1 can of red beans, drained (omit if adhering to a super low carb diet)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 cups organic bone broth, chicken (or use vegetable broth)
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf

Instructions

  1. If making from fresh cauliflower, place 1/3 of the cauliflower florets in food processor with blade attached, and pulse until florets are finely ground about the size of rice. Pour ground cauliflower into large bowl, and repeat with rest of cauliflower in batches. If making from frozen, pre-riced cauliflower, thaw and set aside.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the diced onion. Sauté until translucent, then add the garlic, celery, and bell pepper. Sauté for about 5-minutes.
  3. Add the sliced sausage and red beans and continue to cook for about 10-minutes, until the vegetables are tender and the sausage is browned.
  4. Stir in all of the seasoning and the broth – and add the bay leaf. Reduce heat to med/low, and let simmer 10-minutes, until the liquid is reduced by about ¾.
  5. While the vegetables simmer, heat the rest of the oil over high heat in a  pot/sauce pan and add the cauliflower. Cook for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally until it is cooked, but still a little firm (you do not want mushy cauliflower).
  6. Transfer cooked cauliflower in to the vegetable/bean/sausage mixture (be sure to remove and discard the bay leaf).
  7. Mix well to coat, stir in the parsley and season with salt and pepper, to taste.

 

Chickpea Chia Cookie Dough

I have always been a sucker for cookie dough.  Growing up my mom told me not to eat it because of the raw eggs and whatnot.  As an adult I generally rebelled against that notion and took my chances #worthit. While obviously telling my kids not to eat it because of the raw eggs and whatnot. Duh, more for me. Hmmm… mom, we need to talk.

Nowadays I do my best to eat a much healthier diet and indulge in far less (or no) cookie dough. Believe me, it’s a good thing. However, I still love the thought of taking a big ole bite outta some cookie dough!

Cue this recipe. It ticks all the cookie dough boxes for me and is made out of (shhhhh) chickpeas. I guess you could even call it cookie dough hummus if that name tickles your fancy.

Let’s get started. This takes maybe 8 minutes to make.

Gather all of your ingredients up – plus Chia Seeds (not seen in this picture)

I had these Chia Seeds on hand but I needed them to be ground up, so…

I had this little shirtless helper spin them around in my magic bullet blender for a few. They turned in to a powdery form which is want I wanted.

Then, I made her put her soccer jersey back on (story of my life) and she started to put it all together. First, the chickpeas! Drained and rinsed. If some of the shells come off while you are rinsing, go ahead and pick those out.

Then she added everything  (except the chocolate chips – wait on those) in to the food processor.

After you blend it all really well (we had to spoon it down several times), dump it all in a bowl and fold in your chips.

Just look at that little pile of amazingness!

The full recipe is below.

________________________________________________________

Chickpea Chia Cookie Dough

Ingredients

  • 1 (15-oz) can chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
  • 1 Tbsp. ground chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup nut butter (I used organic peanut butter) – cashew butter would be really good with its mild flavor, too
  • 2 ½ Tbsp. maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips (I used Enjoy Life chips – they are gluten/soy/dairy free)

Instructions

  1. First – I only had whole chia seeds so I ground them up on my magic bullet blender. It only took about a minute until they were a powder substance.
  2. Now – place chickpeas, ground chia seeds, nut butter, maple syrup, and vanilla extract in to a food processor and blend until smooth.
  3. Place the dough in a bowl and fold in chocolate chips.

Ready, set… eat!

These would be great rolled in to easy to grab balls, flattened our and cut in to squares or rolled in to a ‘log’ similar to the slice and back cookies you buy. Just sayin’ – placebo effect

 

dear stay-at-home mom + dear working mom

If you are a parent or ever plan to be a parent you have probably contemplated the stay-at-home vs. working parent scenario. I am here to tell you, I certainly have. What I’ve discovered from a little life experience and conversations with other parents is that there is NO right answer. There is NO option that leaves you carefree and guilt-free. NO option that makes your kiddos grow-up perfectly with no stumbling blocks. NO option that God smiles upon more or frowns on. I truly believe that. It is an incredibly intimate and personal decision… and the one you made (or needed to make) is the RIGHT one. You need to know that. You’re making it work and that is inspiring in and of itself.

Here’s what I know as a woman and a mom. There are two sides to this coin and both are equally noble, sacrificial, hard, fulfilling, hard, did I mention hard? What I also know is that I love and support women and I hope you all love and support me too – whatever my personal style and choices are as a parents and human. I’ve read articles and letters similar to this over the years and I am certain I gleaned a lot of subconscious inspiration for this post. I hope one of the letters (or both) speaks to YOUR heart.


Dear stay-at-home mom,

Some people wonder what you do at home all day long. I don’t wonder; I know what you do. I know because I’m a mom and there are never-ending things to be done at home and for your family.

I know you do work that you will never be financially compensated for and may never even be thanked, which begins the second you open your eyes in the morning. There is no buffer, or a long commute with coffee to help you mentally prepare for your day. I see that you work nights and weekends, with no distinct end to your day or week. I know you probably feel a little annoyed when people get excited about Friday and the approaching weekend – because to you every day is the exact same – there is no Friday in your world – no break from your job for the weekend.

I see that your work has long-term rewards but is extremely sacrificial and selfless.

I know that you infrequently have a cup of coffee that you get to finish without reheating it in the multiple times. I know there is no lunch break and a lot of your meals consist of eating the leftovers on your kid’s plate as you clean-up (#momivore). I know that your work requires you to start before you are fully awake and certainly before you’ve showered and are dressed. I know that your attention is always divided, you are the queen of multitasking, and you can rarely count on completing a task in the first try, without interruption. I realize that you don’t get breaks or downtime during the day. Maybe there is still naptime for your child, but that time is reserved for other duties including getting your home put back to some resemblance of order only to be undone again once naptime ends or the kids get home from school.

I understand the battles that greet you every day. The tiny and unreasonable ‘co-worker’, the monumental messes, the personality clashes, the pleas of boredom, the dirty or sticky fingerprints on the wall, the sibling rivalry, the battle of the screen-time (Lord, help us all), the one that needs you all day long. I know that your work can seem unyielding. You go to the grocery store, you prepare meals, attempt to feed it to your family, wipe the counters, sweep the crumbs, wash the dishes, and repeat every three to four hours. Then you have guilt because what you fed them could have been healthier.

I am certain that you daydream about having time all to yourself (just a little). You most certainly fantasize about catching up on sleep and maybe those good ole days when you could watch television that wasn’t completely wholesome or had more adult conversations. I know your days are long, and you might even feel some envy for your friends who are having a slow cup of hot coffee at their desk at work while catching up on current events. You might even envy the fact that they appear more put together during the day and seem to have a more organized life. I get that when your husband comes home after work, his workday is done, and he may want to decompress and even relax. This is at the exact moment when you need his attention and support the most, and this can hurt and frustrate you (and him). But then – there’s the guilt again – you feel unable to lay this heaviness on him because you have the ‘honor and privilege’ of staying home with your family.

I know that you are probably misunderstood by a society that struggles to appreciate the difficulties of caring for children on your own, all day (and night), and the work it takes to keep your home running, the people fed and not to mention the pressure of teaching them things, keeping them active and healthy, all while feeding them a balanced and wholesome diet. I mean, is it organic, grass-fed and free-range? Oh the pressure. It’s really heavy. Others might imagine you spending your days scrolling social media while your children play quietly or do a creative craft that is totally Instagramable. They may wonder why you don’t volunteer for every possible committee because you obviously have the time. They may find it surprising when you don’t get to the gym every day and cook a Pinterest perfect meal every night.

Stay-at-home-momma, my hat is off to you sister, I don’t know how you do it. I so admire your fortitude, your ability to face each day head first and bring happiness and consistency into your children’s lives even when they wear you down and out. I admire your perseverance in being a constant presence in your children’s lives even when it isn’t easy. I admire and want to honor the way you work without getting any tangible reward – no big promotion, no recognition, and no salary. I know you do it because you want your children to feel cherished and loved, and stay-at-home-mom, you do this really exceptionally well. I need you to know that I get it, because we are both mommies and we have to be in this thing together. You are doing such a good job and I respect you so much.

 

Dear working mom,

I know that you are oftentimes silently judged by others for leaving your children in someone else’s care while you go to work. Some might even conclude that you don’t adore your children as much as a stay-at-home mom does, and that it’s best for children to be at home with their mothers. That it’s best for women to fully commit 24-hours each day to the care of their children.

But, I know how desperately you love your children. I know that going back to work was a heart-wrenching decision. You tried to weigh every possible positive and negative, long before you even had a baby. It has always been one of the heaviest and most important decisions of your life.

I see you everywhere. You are at all of the pre-k and school performances and assemblies. You are at the doctor when your children are sick. Heck, you are the doctor. You are the attorney who fights for the rights of children and the innocent every day. You are the police officer who risks your life and prays that you make it back home to your own babies at night. You are my daughter’s teacher who molds her young mind and encourages her confidence. You are an entrepreneur who has bravely designed your own life, you are the salesperson burning up the roads to make a better life for your family. You are the boss at work. You are the mom all the time. You are all of it. What kind of place would this world be if we didn’t have you doing what you do best? What you were called to do. What if you hadn’t followed that calling and rather stayed at home because of the pressure to do so (not necessarily because it was your calling)?

I know that you wake-up at least an hour before anyone else does, just so you can work out, have a quiet time, makes lunches, prepare breakfasts and get yourself looking put-together and professional. I know you still make it to work with a smile even after being up all night with your child. I know that when you come home after work, your second shift begins. Those who don’t take the time to really see you, don’t understand that you help run a household and you have a job. You come home from work (stopping by the grocery on the way home), cook dinner, bath your kids, go through the bedtime routine, write a check for school pictures, re-read the school calendar to be sure you aren’t forgetting anything, check backpacks for notes, start a load of laundry, fold a load of laundry, put up the dishes, and straighten the house – just like every other mother does. Then it starts over early the next morning. No time to waste, no time to procrastinate. Everything has to happen now.

I know that when you are at work you don’t waste a minute. I know you eat your lunch at your desk and you show complete dedication to your job. You do this for a few reasons; if you are going to be away from your kids, you are going to make that time really count. Also, you don’t want to linger. When the end of the workday nears, you want to hit the door running to go pick-up those little babes and soak in the few hours you get with them. Idle conversation can be hard for you at work because you are thinking about getting all of your to-do’s done before it’s time to leave for the day. Honestly, idle anything is hard for yo, because there are always things to get done. Every day’s ultimate goal is getting back to your kids.

I know it hurts your heart when you want to see them and hold them during the day and can’t. I know it hurts to think of others seeing their little personalities grow and interact, while you’re at work. I also know that you spend days caring for your children at home when they are sick and that you secretly enjoy these days, and celebrate being able to be with them like that.

Working mom, please I know this and let it really sink in. You are setting an outstanding example for your children. You are showing them a woman who knows how to work hard and contribute to the world outside of the home, and still be a nurturing and focused mom. This lesson is tremendous. You are showing your watchful children that they can do absolutely anything they want to do in life. You are displaying focus, positivity, endurance, dedication, and you do it with so much grace and persistence! Amazing job sweet working momma.

What it boils down to is that we are all mothers. We have all gone through the life-altering experience of becoming a parent. We are all in this together. Show love, support, patience and understanding for all of our different ‘styles’ of doing this motherhood thing. I don’t know about you, but it is the scariest hood I’ve ever been through. #Jesustakethewheel

 

A letter to my first born child

To my first born child,

You are the only person who I can say changed the entire course of my life. You stopped me in my tracks and completed me in ways I could not have prepared for.

We planned for you, you were no surprise. But in reality the planning started way before daddy and I were married. I thought about you from the time I could play with baby dolls. Deep in my soul, I knew you long before you were alive. You are my soul sister, you gave me a big title upgrade, and you made me worry more than I ever knew possible. Oh, and the guilt. Where did this guilt come from?

You are smart. You are intuitive in a much more mature way than your age dictates. You are silly and have a quick sense of humor. You see and feel people’s emotions. You are a worrier, mostly about others. You are conscientious and a rule follower, no doubt. You are compliant and don’t want to rock the boat.


I know when we had your little sister (just one week after your third birthday) that your world was rocked. I know it probably hurt you a little. But your compassion and tenderness always shine. You care too much about making mommy sad, to say that you’re sad. I know that my precious girl. I see you. You instantly took a backseat to the needs of your sister. You didn’t seem to mind. But I know it may have left a tiny scar. I see you sweetie. I was no longer spending unlimited amounts of time with you; talking, playing, reading and giggling. I had a baby to tend to. You never complained. Even today, your sister still needs more attention than you require. I hope you feel and know how cherished you are.

You were my test-run baby. You joined daddy and I when we had no idea what we were doing and who the heck thought it was a good idea to send us home with an infant anyway? That’s you. You have survived us and have been resilient amidst our ‘epic fails’ as you might call them. You are wise beyond your years and seem to turn a forgiving blind eye when we mess-up. You love us so big that you don’t want us to feel like we’ve messed-up. But we do sweet girl. We know we mess-up. We are the humanist of the humans. So flawed. You love us anyway.

You are going to be an outstanding teenager and adult (I just know it) and I will cherish the phase where I get to transition to also being a friend to you (because I think you are awesome), when you’re a mom yourself. This transition has been one of the biggest blessings of my life with my own mom, your Lotte.

I can’t wait… Yes I can… Oh gosh, just please stay young. You know what I mean.

But for now you are my sweet 2nd grade long-haired beauty and I adore you.

Listen, I know you take the blame for a lot. I pray that it teaches you that life isn’t always fair, but to be humble anyway. Whether that’s having humility or standing up for yourself. Either way, as the first born you are learning what battles are worth fighting for, and when to move on.

I see, sweet girl that you probably tire of always having to lead by example. We say this a lot don’t we? I pray this is teaching you that when others need your help, you can gracefully step-up with confidence. These leadership skills will translate into life, and give you the confidence you need.

As the first born, you are going to be the person your sister turns to and it’s going to teach you how to gain trust and keep confidences. You probably will not take relationships lightly because you already see the value. You already know that when someone gives you their trust it’s important and it’s significant.

As a big sister you have to know how not to sweat the small stuff. With a strong-willed sibling to contend with you will realize that the little things are just that, little. You will have your fair share of petty fights, but you will learn how to save your energy for what really matters. I already see this in you.

Because your sister will likely look to you for advice through the years, you will learn quickly that you’re much more capable that you might think. You will grow in to this realization. I can’t wait to see it.

There are no words that can express the deep love and respect I have you, my first born miracle. You have taught me so much about who I am, but mostly who I want to be. You have given me a longing for my Lord and Savior like I never knew before (let’s face it, I can’t mom without Him). You make me want to be better person and build a better life. You make me tow-the-line and treat myself and others with respect. You have made me flip-flop my thinking on so many topics in life because the little things are little and the big things are fleeting.

You are in my thoughts when I lay down at night and when I open my eyes each morning. You scare me and inspire me. Your beauty intimidates and delights me. Your depth makes me long for a deeper understanding. You are profound my sweet child. Your soul is an endless abyss. You overthink like I do. Let’s try to help each other live more in the moment and think less at times.

But for today, maybe we can just focus on 2nd grade and an upcoming 8th birthday, shall we? All of the tomorrows will come much too soon.

Love,

Momma

 

 

A letter to my last baby

To my last baby,

To the most independently-codependent human I’ve ever known. I know you would prefer that you and I were skin-on-skin 24-hours a day, but you want to ‘do it yourself’ at the exact same time. You are the most exasperating, challenging, enlightening, educational, awe-inspiring little person I’ve ever met. Your agility from (literally) the week you were born was astounding. You have the hand-eye coordination, speaking ability, mental capacity, and level of understanding of a child much older than yourself. When you make choices, they are truly your calculated choices, good or bad. We always try to remember that you are a tiny human with less than five years on this planet. You have BIG emotions contained in a small raspy-voiced frame.

When I became a mother for the first time I was so overwhelmed with the life change that I didn’t have a choice but to be in the moment with your sister. I was a classic milestone mom and I obsessed over her every move because she was this new shiny little person that somehow made me a whole person. When you came, I had that shiny three year old depending on me still. I may have paid less attention to your intricacies. Sometimes I wonder if you cling to me now because I didn’t freely give you my wholeness like I was able to do for her.

 

You, my lovely wild-hearted beauty, are my last child. I wasn’t sure that you would be my last when I found out that I was expecting you. I honestly didn’t know. However, as you and your sister grow in to beautiful little ladies we are finding that we have a happy home and I am content with our life. Even with all of the health and beauty that runneth-over in my home and heart I am just now, nearly five years after greeting you in to our home, coming to grips with the reality that you are my last pregnancy, my last baby. I still write this with baited-breath.

 

I have to admit that there are things I might have done differently if I had known you would be my last. I would have talked to that big baby bump more; I would have embraced and cherished the last time I would ever feel a human miracle growing and moving inside me; I would have stopped and stayed still when I felt you kick; I would have worried less about adding to the family and the changes it would bring; I would have spent more time taking photos, writing about and documenting the nine months I had with you before your birth day; I would have tried to burn the feeling in to my permanent memory. I would have soaked all the moments in.

 

If I had known you’d be my last I would have smiled and laughed to myself when you woke me up in the middle of the night all those nights; I would have enjoyed the sleep deprived state-of-mind knowing it was fleeting; I would have done something special to remember each and every day of my maternity leave with you – just you and I at home for so many precious days; I would not have looked at my phone while breastfeeding or wished that phase away because it was inconvenient; I wouldn’t have been distracted while you cooed and gurgled; I wouldn’t have longed for you to sleep a little longer so that I could get laundry done – forget the laundry – you were only that little for a split second, I swear.

 

Since the day you were born you’ve longed for me. Your love languages are most definitely Quality Time and Physical Touch. Why have I sometimes felt this to be an inconvenience? I could kick myself. It’s so precious and so brief. I see it. I see that you are my last chance to have a baby and I will desperately miss how much you want and need me even still today.

You will turn five in less than a month. You will start kindergarten this fall. You, my sweet precious last baby, are not a baby. That time is gone. The ending of an era and a beautiful season in my life that I waited for my entire existence. I dreamt of you and your sister from the time I was a little, playing house and mommy with my baby dolls, just as you do now. I don’t know how to not think about pregnancy, babies and all that come with it. I don’t know how to not be the mommy of “little ones.” So much of my identity revolves around being a mother of young children. I don’t know how to not think about my next pregnancy. I longed for it, it came to be (twice), and now – just like that – it is over.

I want you to know, last baby of mine, you completed our family. God knew. You were the missing puzzle piece all along. He knew. You are what makes us a family. I am so proud of you and who you are becoming. May I never break your free and wild spirit. May I always see all the glorious beauty that is your unique personality. May this imperfect human who you call mommy not stand in your way as you grow in to your fullness with Christ and become the women you were made to be.

For now, I will feel sad. I will go through the loss of this lovely era in my life. May I be able to gracefully mourn the end while realizing, that this is actually the very beginning.

Love,

Mommy

My full-on, no punches held, review of the 30-day clean eating challenge

The Arbonne 30 clean eating challenge is a re-set. A kick-off. It can be the event that puts intention behind a BIG change.

THE GOOD:

It is 30-days, which is the longest commitment I’ve ever made to a cleanse or anything like that, and I think a huge part of the overall success. Because it takes 21-days to form a habit and the 30-day solidifies the habit.

Throughout the 30-days I exercised. I am not ‘hardcore’ with exercise. I want to stay active and fit but there are only so many hours in the day, right?! I love hot power yoga at Nooma and I go when I can. I think any nutritionally educated person will tell you that 80% (or more) of your wellness is, in fact, what you EAT, not how active you are. But, that other 20% does matter! Don’t get me wrong.

Good news! You won’t be hungry. There’s no major deprivation here. You do give up: all added sugar, gluten, soy, peanuts, corn, coffee (yes, COFFEE!), vinegar, white potatoes, dairy and most fruits – except lemons, limes, green apples and any berry (thank goodness). You can allow yourself a banana mixed in with a protein shake if you worked out really hard (at least one intense hour). Oh, and any meat, fish or eggs you consume should be healthier, too – like grass-fed beef, wild-caught fish and free-range eggs and poultry. Pork is out for the month. Get used to turkey bacon.

You can still eat out with parameters. That’s a huge bonus for anyone who has never done a cleanse or has social engagements during the 30-days.

There are also a lot of recipes included to make snacks. I have made several cleanse approved (and non-approved but still healthy for my kiddos and husband) here, here, here and here.

The protein shakes? Delish. Smooth and creamy and really chocolate-y or vanilla-y, even just by itself mixed with water and shaken in a shaker cup. Or add it to a blender with some frozen berries and a handful of spinach? Really good and really filling. My favorite was vanilla or chai protein (it’s a new flavor) with pure pumpkin puree and pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon added. SO good!

Arbonne gives you lots of great shake recipes, too, so I never got bored drinking two of the same things in a day.

When you sign up for the 30-day clean eating challenge, you’re given access to a Facebook group that provides support specifically for those starting this program. This is very good and very engaging. It gives you a ton of accountability, and this is where you’ll get recipes, reminders, encouragement and have an opportunity for Q&A.

Also, I had someone coach me through this and now I coach a lot of other people through their 30-days. All this looks like is me checking in (via text mostly) every few days and helping to troubleshoot when needed. It’s not too much, but I find that it’s just ‘enough’ to keep us all on the same page and motivated!

The Arbonne 30-day clean eating challenge is basically brainless weight loss and improved health and focus. You know without a doubt that two of your meals each day are shakes. So all you really have to think about and prep for is one healthy meal based on your restricted foods. It’s much easier than detoxes where you need to do tons of meal prep and come up with all three meals yourself, every day. I like the no-brainer-ness of it all! There were days when work or other factors required me to have only one or even ‘no’ shakes.  I just stuck strictly to my guidelines for food and it was fine. It was so second nature by this point that I didn’t have to think much. Again, I’m a fan of easy.

Protein shakes aside, I found the eating plan to be really good. It offers enough variety so you don’t get bored with the available choices and there are enough ingredients to make some interesting and flavorful dishes.

Let me take a moment to talk about Fizz Sticks… oh, my – HOW I LOVE Fizz Sticks! It’s a little jolt of green tea derived natural caffeine, B-12, other vitamins and good-for-ya stuff with a whole lot of flavor. They not only enhance energy and alertness but have been said to enhance your MOOD. Say what?! Addiction central, hello.

The 7-day cleanse which enters the picture during week three is pretty easy to handle, even if it isn’t the most delightful-tasting beverage you’ll ever have. It’s totally doable – just not a big deal. And it does get things moving in the ol’ bathroom department if your high vegetable consumption isn’t already doing that for you.

Eliminating so many foods for 30-days means that as you re-introduce them into your diet, you can discover any sensitivities (that’s the whole point of this program). Turns out, sugar and dairy do not love me, like at all… They cause stomach upset, breakouts, congestion (dairy) and bloating (mostly sugar). Sugar also gives me a terrible taste in my mouth. I still ‘go there’ from time to time because this woman, she be weak. But, I consciously avoid for the most part because, WHY would I want to feel bad? The answer is, I don’t.

At the end of the day, this approach worked for me. But – again – this was a lifestyle change. It wasn’t just about eating (although, like I said before, nutrition is at the top of the list above exercise for maintaining an ideal weight).

Like most Arbonne products, the cleanse kit is somewhat pricey. At regular price, it’s in the $400 range but when a person becomes a preferred client the cost drops to $260 + their $29 one-time signup fee. I already spend a lot on the anti-aging Re9 skincare line, but that lasts me four to six months and I have yet to find anything comparable that makes my skin look as good. I get what I pay for. So, I can see where a one month supply at that price point can seem scary.

But let me break the clean eating package down for a moment. As a preferred client, you are spending about $9 each day. That’s literally a Starbucks coffee and $2-$3 leftover – so a snack of some sort. You’re by default giving up the coffee (or whatever your thing is that you overspend on food-wise) and replacing it with this. It seems like a big chunk at one time, but if you spread it out, theoretically, it’s a savings. You’re pre-buying up to 60 meals, basically. I can justify that any day. I have talked to people who said that they saved money by the end of the month because of their minimal grocery shopping.

With the 30-day challenge, it’s really the full “package” with the Facebook page and personal coaching support that round out the positives of this challenge.

The how to:

Want more information or want to join the next challenge? Just reach out to me and I can answer questions that may not be answered in this post.