I don’t run…unless I’m being chased

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I don’t run. I don’t go to the gym. And, I’m still not fat. Let this soak in for a bit, and then let me explain….
I believe that we are living in a time period that is very black and white. You are either hideously overweight or you are an exercise fanatic. That in-between area of normal is slowly disappearing. It’s become apparent to me that there are no common sense standards for weight control now, but only drastic measures. People are running for miles and spending hours exercising a day, not to mention the crazy diet plans out there.
I like to think that I am one of those few people out there who still have the understanding of healthy living. I love food, but I watch what I eat…to an extent. Obviously, I make a conscious attempt to not overeat. And, I pay attention to what I am eating each day. For instance, if I threw in some potato chips with lunch…then I try to go easy on dinner. It’s that simple. As for exercising, life is exercise. Contrary to popular beliefs regarding stay-at-home moms, I don’t sit around all day. I am cleaning, playing with the kids, and walking the dog. I make sure to stay active, especially when I’ve eaten foods that are high in calorie content. However, I am not going to let exercising take over my life.
I do not believe for a second that our bodies are made to run miles at a time or to perform the other hardcore exercise routines that are out there. We are not created to live on diet shakes, supplements, or whatever other health concoctions that are being hyped up around us. Good food is all around us; it just is a matter of making smart choices and balancing your decisions. Life is full of activity, if you stay busy. You won’t see me running, unless I’m being chased.
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My Birth Order Made Me Who I Am Today

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I was my parents’ first born child. I came in this world when they finally made the decision to take that leap into all things parenthood. I was the child who would begin that stage in their lives and change them forever.
Two years later, my parents became parents again. My sister was born, and they were through with having children. But, life would always be much different for my sister and me…
With birth order comes certain expectations, ones that I believe to be much greater for the first born child. I was the “test drive” kid. My parents fine-tuned their newly found parenting practices on me, like a tiny lab rat. As I grew older, I set the precedent for the rules and anticipations from my parents. But, those same standards never applied to my sister. By the time she rolled around to the age that I was expected to perform a set task, my parents gave slack and bended their rules. With me, it was balls-to-the-wall on how certain things should be done. This went with chores, bedtime, school, etc. More emphasis was always placed on my growing up period than my sister’s. More times than not, I didn’t see it as a positive thing.
I strongly believe that my birth order made me the person that I am today. I am extremely structured and hold set standards for pretty much everything that I do. My sister is the opposite in so many ways. I am hard on myself and always feel that I fall short in accomplishments. My sister, in contrast, builds herself up with whatever she does. She is never shy about voicing her successes. Though we were raised in the same household, our birth order defined our personalities to a giant degree. What is your birth order, and how has it defined the person that you are today?

Why My Dog is Better Than Yours

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About a year ago, I made one of the most unpredictable decisions that I have ever made: I adopted a dog. She was my husband’s Father’s Day surprise, but I had fallen for her the first day that I saw her in that shelter. Deena was advertised as a mastiff, but she was clearly not just that. Deena’s fur is mostly white, with an array of colors. She has brown spots on her body and large black spots around her eyes. Her skin underneath, however, is pink with black spots. Even her paw pads are designed this way. She has a bulky face, with droopy lips and ears. Her smile is gigantic, and one cannot help but smile back when they see it paired with the way that her brown eyes can light up her face. She has a large build, over 75 pounds, but stocky like a bulldog. Deena is actually listed to be this mix as well, but our vet believes she is more likely a combination of mastiff and pit-bull.
All of this may sound like an unlikely mix of characteristics, but Deena is actually an extremely beautiful creature. She is a dog that cannot be compared to any other, since she is so unique in her appearance. Often, we are complimented on what a pretty dog we have. Many have said that she looks like she is wearing makeup on her face because of the patches around her eyes.
Deena’s behavior has come nothing short of amazing me. In a house with 5 cats and 2 small children, our first concern was the way that she would interact with our family. Our reluctance was squashed when we realized that her best friend was a kitten and that she guarded the boys’ rooms.
Since we are actually Deena’s first encounter in a human home, she is still a bit fearful of the ways of our species. But, this last year has held great strides to warm her up to our family. Deena has never snapped, growled, or shown any other form of aggressive behavior toward us. One day, I watched Kayden play with her ears and her paws as she looked at me like the most defeated dog on this planet, almost to say, “I realize tiny human is cleaning me. I do not understand this creature, the strange noises he makes, or his sudden movements…but I know that he is family. I will be a good girl and let him finish his task.” She is the gentlest giant I have ever experienced, and I have no doubt that she would be the last creature in the world to ever do harm to us.
Deena is housetrained well and loves to sleep. She knows that her potty area is outside, and she has confidence that we will take her when we are ready. She stays patient and often is not in a big hurry to go outside if she is tired. In the mornings, it’s all that we can do to wake her up because she loves to sleep in, and she is usually falling asleep by 8PM!
And, we can’t forget about Deena’s favorite things: peanut butter, digging outside, sticks, walks, and running. She is a giant personality that matches her size. Deena is smart and realizes the cues for her favorites—the jingle of her harness, the opening of a certain cupboard, or an excited statement. That smile of hers could brighten even the darkest of days.
So, you see…that unpredictable, crazy decision that I made a year ago was made to be. We needed this canine family member as much as she needed us. We are showing her life, and she is showing us the same—both from a different perspective. And, for that…Deena is the best dog we could ever have asked for.

My 10 Proudest Moments

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1. When my kids were born
2. Marrying Quentin
3. Buying a house
4. Graduating college w/ honors
5. Giving our animals forever homes w/ us
6. Volunteering at Animal Care Sanctuary
7. Starting a blog and having followers
8. Figuring out how to cook great food, even on a gluten free diet
9. Pushing through years of unbelievable stress to fight for Jesse
10. Giving my kids experiences that they will always remember

Our Very Best Vacation

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Last year, my husband and I were proud to gift our children with their very first visit to Disney World. As a result of the memories we created, the amazing things we saw, and the opportunities we had, this was by far the best vacation we have ever taken. Let me break down some of the best moments for you…
We stayed at animal Kingdom Lodge, which was an African-themed resort. Our room had a “savannah view,” which meant that we could watch the African animals outside from the comfort of our room’s balcony!
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The view was beautiful, and we could not get enough.
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The inside of the hotel was amazing as well–complete with African touches, such as rope bridges and animal prints.
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We were lucky to have an animal caricature drawing done of the boys toward the end of our stay. The artist worked inside our hotel, and we caught him just in time to draw us a masterpiece that hangs in our living room today:
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Our favorite restaurant in Disney World was even located inside our hotel. It was called Boma and was a buffet-style restaurant that served exotic African foods. But, the kids were most excited about the Mickey Mouse waffles!
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Speaking of food, we were greatly impressed by the service at Disney World–especially since I have Celiac Disease. Not only was it easy for me to eat out at restaurants there, I felt normal!
There was so much that I could eat that I felt comfortable and unembarrassed of my condition.
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We even found a bakery that was entirely gluten free! I was ecstatic, and we ended up getting way too many treats from there…but it was so worth it!
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It is probably a no-brainer by now that my favorite Disney park is Animal Kingdom. Nothing, no matter how magical or wonderful, could compare in my mind to an entirely animal-themed park. Our favorite ride was the Kilimanjaro Safari, where we where we were taken on a wild African excursion with close-up encounters of real animals. We were told to go early, when the animals would be fed…and we were not disappointed by the breath-taking animals we encountered.
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There were other aspects of Animal Kingdom that made it fun, too. We saw a fun parade one afternoon, complete with dancing animals and wild, African-themed floats.
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We saw a “Finding Nemo” play on a whim and were extremely impressed with the work that went into this piece. Actors and actresses dressed in garb that matched their character, as they maneuvered sea puppets with intricate backdrops. The kids were captivated throughout the entire performance, and so were we!
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We saw some unexpected performances on the streets of Animal Kingdom, but the one that stood out the most was the “bush lady,” as we would call her. She was completely silent but looked just like a living plant. She moved in fluid ways, camouflaging herself amongst the scenery of Animal Kingdom. We watched her for some time. She was beautiful in an indescribable way. I tried to get Jesse to go up to her for a picture, but I think the mysterious way that she had was a bit much for him.
532910_10151471215353096_1743813174_n Surrounding the Animal Kingdom park with its splendid beauty and breathtaking symbolism is none other than the tree of life. Standing in the distance, the figure cannot help but catch your eye. The roots and trunk are formed of countless animals, displaying togetherness of our species. Trails lead around the tree, showing its roots and animal carvings. The boys enjoyed the little scavenger hunt of finding the many animals that were hidden in the woodwork.
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We made a brief stop in Downtown Disney in the midst of our vacation, basically for the purpose of seeing the Lego store. Both of our boys love Legos, and we knew they would love seeing the many scenes that the Lego store would hold. They were more than surprised, however, to find a Lego sea monster in the lake nearby!
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Magic Kingdom held the key to Disney World. This is truly where the magic is held. The castle was a must-see, and so were the fireworks and Electrical Parade…
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There were the unexpected aspects with this park as well, such as a mid-day performance at the castle that we were not aware of and a street party that we knew nothing about. Both turned out to be a ton of fun, and we were more than happy to have experienced them.
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Another item on our agenda was the Story Time with Belle. We thought that this would be a cute little experience for the boys to interact in, but we never would have dreamed that the magical wardrobe would pick Jesse as The Beast! Jesse danced with Belle herself, and they lived happily ever after…
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Epcot was where we saw the world, one step at a time:
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The day was scorching hot, but we weathered the fire and continued on to see the sights. We were pleased to find out that the Flower and Garden Festival was taking place during our visit so we had the bonus treat of seeing the plant sculptures on display:
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When we decided to journey to Disney World, it was very much a spur-of-the-moment choice. The boys seemed the right age; we could afford it; and now was as good of a time as any to go. We traveled for 2 days each way by van, dealt with our setbacks; and made it to and from our destination unscathed. Was it worth the time, effort, and money? More than you could ever imagine. The memories that were created and the look on my boys’ faces overrides any hardships we came upon along the way. Disney World was our destination, and it became our best vacation to date…

What is a family?

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What is a family? Is it blood relation, living in the same household? Or, is it a group of people combined for a common purpose? There are countless visions of family in our world today, including my own personal vision…
To me, family has nothing to do with blood, time, or obligation. Family is what you would call the most important people in your life, who you could never imagine living without. Family is a combination of moments, memories, and pictures. It is the smile on your face and the fullness of your heart. The special souls that can produce that effect will forever be your family.
Without family, we have no meaningful existence. As important as it is to feed our own needs, we also require those who stand by us and lift us up, support, and thrive off of our accomplishments. We need those who will embrace our strengths but continue to hold us through our mistakes and hardships. And, in turn…We do the same for them.
Family is unbroken, untarnished, and unforgotten. You cannot take away a true family, for their bond is stronger than anything that could ever be imagined into existence. Family is the one guarantee we have in this broken world…and I am honored to say that I have found mine.

Random Kitchen Foods

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*Behold–some of the most random foods of my kitchen:
• Coconut flour
• flax seed
• garbanzo bean flour
• xanthan gum
• rice wine vinegar
Can you tell that I cook strictly gluten free? Years ago, I would have never understood the purpose of these items, but I have embraced my disease as a learning tool for my kitchen ventures. What are the most random items in your kitchen?