Who’s With Me?!

whole 30

Before you begin this post you might want to read about what exactly a “Whole 30” is HERE.

Now that the craziness has died down for a few days, I am refocusing my attention on my family’s health and gearing up for our second Whole 30.  The first one we completed earlier in the year went so well and really made a big difference for all of us.  Here are the results that I wrote down in the Whole 30 Forum after completing our first round (if you needed any motivation to try!)

My husband lost 25 pounds, his pants are falling off of him, and his moods have been much more even.  He used to always have an energy crash in the afternoon, not anymore!  He is eating much better portion sizes and nighttime snacking has become the exception rather than the rule.

I lost 13 pounds, I feel amazing.  I am wearing clothes I haven’t been able to wear since I got pregnant with our first child.  I just feel happier, less mood swings and although my sugar dragon is simply hibernating and not dead, (got to be careful!) my cravings have diminished drastically.  I am now also able to eat small amounts of avocado, banana and kiwi without getting sick.  Those are food sensitivities I have had for years!  I can’t sit down and eat a whole avocado but guacamole is definitely back in my life!

I have noticed the greatest changes in our daughter.  I had no idea that her daily tantrums and mood swings were so tied to her diet.  She must have been living in a constant cycle of blood sugar highs and crashes!  It was terrible.  Now she is very mild mannered, rarely gets in trouble and throws tantrums only when she is extremely overtired.  (She’s had maybe three?)  The transition was hardest on her, but it’s reaped the greatest results.  She now eats tons of things she never would touch before: carrots, onions, raw cabbage, beets, cauliflower, strawberries, apples, grapes, etc.  And when we go to the store and say no to cookies or candy she is totally fine with that!!  

Since he’s still nursing mostly the change didn’t affect our 18 month old son hardly at all.  He laughed as the three of us went through detox and KATT.  [Read about KATT and the Whole30 Timeline here.] But other than that, his palate has opened up to more tastes as well, which is great.  And his tics completely vanished after day 5.  We will be keeping a close eye on it so they don’t come back!

So grateful for the reset this has given our family, and if things ever get out of control again we definitely know what we can fall back on!  I won’t lie, I’m really glad to be done, but I’m even happier that we did it.

This time I’m going to be doing it a tad bit differently.  The first change we’re making is that the little ones are not going to be doing it with us.

We did that last time and it was incredibly hard.  Now with a language barrier and attachment issues in the mix, there’s no reason to make things more difficult than they have to be!  For the most part, everyone will be eating the same food at mealtimes.  I will make a couple little adjustments here and there for the kids, a little sprinkle of cheese on their taco salad, a peanut butter sandwich for snacks, etc.

Even with those compromises they will still be eating 100% better than they are now!  And it will still be hard, and it will still be an adjustment.  But it will be an adjustment with a little comfort on the side for the littles, and that’s ok.  I also am not going to take their raw milk away from them.  That is one yummy treat that their little bodies need!  This minor tweak for the kids will make it easier on me as far as meal planning and expense.  If I have some cheap and easy, but mostly benign, fillers in their diet, it helps make sure everyone has a full tummy without Mommy going crazy.

Whole 30 eating can get expensive and it is a lot of work.  Not making the kiddos do it 100% with us is a happy compromise we’re willing to make this go round for success’ sake and keeping our long term health goals in mind.  One other thing I am doing this time is a proper reintro!  In our first Whole 30 I felt there was too much going on for that.  Big mistake.  All that hard work right down the drain!

This time I will be resisting the urge to splurge!  Instead we will do the suggested reintroduction of foods to our diet and try to hit a great balance that works for our family for the long haul.  Rather than just jumping back on to the donut bandwagon of doom…  Ahem.  And so here is the part where I invite you to be a part of our second Whole 30 Challenge!

If you like what you see, join us.  The more the merrier!  Support in a group is awesome.  If you want to do a Whole 30 at or around the same time as our family, and want to join our “team”, I will be making a thread on the forums just for our little group.  All you have to do is leave a comment here, email or message us on Facebook to get connected!  For those who are interested I have linked some important resources to get you started:

The Shopping List: The perfect handy sheet to take to the grocery store with you so you don’t forget anything!

Meal Planning Template: How to arrange the food on your plate to have a truly Whole 30 meal experience.  You must remember to follow this template in order to get the full benefits of your challenge!  Also note that nursing or pregnant women and children have different needs.  I eat two extra mini meals a day along with the little ones in order to get enough of what I need.  This is where the forums are really helpful in making sure that you are getting the right portions for your body’s individual needs!  Your Whole 30 can potentially be miserable and totally unsuccessful if you don’t follow the meal planning guidelines, and we don’t want that!

Whole 30 Tight-Budget Style: This was truly a life saver for me those first few grocery trips!  If you don’t have a fortune to drop on food (which is most of us) and you are wondering how to make this work, this link is for you. You can do a Whole 30, even if you have a food budget that won’t quite… budge.  😉

The Produce Planner: Want to spend less and get more out of your produce shopping?  This guide helps you choose seasonal (fresher and less expensive!) options as well as giving tips for what is important to buy organic and what you can buy conventionally with no worries.

If you are planning on joining us, don’t forget to sign up for the forums.  It’s free, of course!  I will post a link in sometime this week when I have a thread set up.  Be sure to meet us there!  There is a ton more information on whole30.com so just go check it out and start plan, plan, planning for a successful challenge!  We will be beginning our challenge on Monday, September 8th.  You don’t have to start that same exact day, but it’s kind of fun to all be in the same spot on The Timeline.  Excited to get back to real food, definitely can’t wait!

P.S. – I also wanted to add that I am not affiliated with the Whole 30 website in any way, nor do I get any kind of compensation for promoting their challenge.  I am doing this purely because I truly believe in it, I would love to help others on their journey to health and it’s so fun to do as a group!  I know this blog post kind of looks like an advertisement, and maybe it is, but it’s certainly not monetarily motivated advertising!  Hope to see you at the forums on the 8th!


Homemade Baby Food

Yum yum yum!  That’s what my newly home six year old says when it’s time to eat, and it is in that spirit that I write to you today.  I was so excited for the opportunity of making baby food at home.  It might sound silly, but as a child-led weaning momma I feel like I got left out of one of the fun, crunchy pursuits of our day… homemade baby food.  It was actually one thing I was really looking forward to… until I learned about how babies don’t really need baby food in the first place, sigh.

But now I have a daughter who does need it, and I was thrilled to give it a whirl (and thanking the Dear Lord for my Vitamix!)  One of the first things I did when we got back from the hospital was Google “baby food recipes”, and I was seriously disappointed in finding nothing to spark inspiration.  Hope needs baby food with no (or little) fruit, no dairy and no grains or legumes.  Luckily our family completed a Whole 30 Challenge earlier in the year, and so I was accustomed to the ingredients I had to work with.

I found my inspiration from the homemade meals I know our family really enjoys, so I wanted to post a couple of my favorite recipes, some flavor combinations and other tips, in case crunchy mommas happen to come behind me and are looking for a little bit of a spark for their little one’s pureed diet or just aren’t sure where to start.  Although, remember, a great place to begin is always your own comfort foods!  If a flavor combination works on a plate, it will probably work in the blender too.

Things to Keep in Mind…

Before you start making baby or pureed foods, first take stock of what’s important to the person who will be eating it.  Babies are not the only ones who need pureed diets, often times older children and even adults with special needs require specialized diets like this, and I think it is important to protect the dignity of the person (or baby!) you are feeding by keeping their preferences in mind.  Are there certain textures they don’t seem to enjoy or can’t swallow as easily?  Be sure to avoid those.  Are there different flavor combinations they prefer?  Do they like spicy or mild, sour or sweet food?

I knew our daughter, coming from the orphanage setting, was used to two basic flavors: bland and sweet.  Lovingly spiced and aromatic foods are not to be seen in Ukranian laying rooms.   However, an abudnance of fruit and sweet formula, or oatmeal flavored with milk and sugar?  Yup, it’s cheap and easy, and children eat better if the food is sugary.  The first week we had Hope she didn’t really want anything we had to give her unless it was full of processed sugar or fruit, but we knew this was not a long term solution, and had to cut it off cold turkey once we realized it was causing her so much digestive trouble.

It’s safe to say that sticking to meat, vegetables and healthy fats is the way to go.  It is better for all of us!  (Especially babies and young children should stay away from grains and processed dairy until their digestive systems are more developed.)  Hope needed to learn to eat this way for her health, (as most of us probably do) and I wanted her to enjoy it, so I was determined to make those meat and veggies taste delicious.

Also note that our daughter is severely malnourished, she weighs 31 pounds now, at nine years old, and that is after having gained six pounds after we picked her up!  Needless to say, the girl needs to gain some weight, so my recipes are based on that.  They are heavy in good fats to boost calories.  If the person or child you are feeding does not need weight gain help, you will want to tone down the fats in the recipe a bit.  However, the recipes as written seem to be working great for someone who needs to gain!

One last aside before we get started, I’ve been using canned meat because it is less expensive and quick (something a mom with four little ones definitely needs!), but it’s certainly not ideal flavor or nutrition-wise.  Fresh would definitely be better and I hope to add more of that as we go, if you have extra from meals, or want to take the time to make fresh, and you’d like to substitute – that’s awesome!  Just use some basic math to convert the portions as needed.

The following two recipes are Whole 30 compliant.

Baby Food Recipe 1: Chicken & Tomato Basil

One of our families favorite meals is Tomato Basil Bisque with a side of shredded chicken.  It’s warm and inviting, and the flavors mesh perfectly.  I knew that chicken and tomatoes worked and that tomatoes and basil worked, so I made the final leap and it has been a smashing success, her favorite meal and umm… my toddler can’t stop himself from eating it either!


  • 1/4 Cup Chicken Stock
  • 1/3 Cup Coconut Milk
  • 2 Large Cans of Shredded Chicken (or fresh equivalent)
  • 1 Large Tomato
  • Other Veggies (Optional)
  • Sea Salt to taste
  • Several leaves of Fresh Basil (or app. 1 Tbs dried)
  • 2 Heaping Tbs Extra Virgin Coconut Oil


Pray that God would direct your hands and bless your work.  Add ingredients to your blender in the order they are listed.   Gradually increase blender speed to high (Variable 10 for a Vitamix) and puree until smooth.  I often add another vegetable that I have on hand (not too many different kinds, sometimes less is more!), cucumber adds a nice fresh element, carrot boosts the sweetness while offering some added starch and zucchini made pretty green polka dots!

Baby Food Recipe 2: Southern Inspired Tuna

Let me preface by saying, I am not a tuna fan… at all.  But our cupboards were overflowing with the stuff and Hope needed to eat… so reluctantly I took the plunge.  SO glad I did.  My first attempt was less than happy, but adding the avocado and lemon was just what it needed… inspiration from my guacamole-loving days.  I open the cans and can’t stand the smell of it, but by the time I’m done blending it’s actually quite pleasant.  Hope definitely seems to enjoy it more than her green beans 😉


  • 1/4 Cup Chicken Stock
  • 1/3 Cup Coconut Milk
  • 4 Cans of Tuna in Water (or fresh equivalent)
  • 2 Medium Tomatoes
  • 1 Avocado
  • Sea Salt to taste
  • Juice of One Lemon


Pray that God would direct your hands and bless your work.  Add ingredients to your blender in the order they are listed.   Gradually increase blender speed to high (Variable 10 for a Vitamix) and puree until smooth.  Feel free to add anything else you have on hand that seems appropriate, garlic might be great depending on the palette, but this is not as flexible as the chicken recipe, in my opinion.

Other Fun Combinations

Now these are just two of the many different courses I’ve made, and it is worthwhile to note that these are the “main” dishes.  I give her one serving (about half a cup) of one of those protein-filled dishes and two servings (about two cups) of a vegetable based puree.  I think vegetables are much easier to  figure out, and I follow about the same method with those, so below I’ll list some fun extra flavor combos I’ve used without the specific recipes.  I do add less liquid to the veggies, because vegetables naturally have more water/juice content than meat does.  So here are a few Hope has enjoyed so far and a few that I intend on trying in the near future:

  • photo (13)Zuchinni, Summer Squash and Okra (Pictured on the right)
  • Peas and Fresh Mint
  • Carrots and Sweet Potatoes
  • Green Beans, Tomatoes & Basil
  • Roast Beef, Sweet Potatoes, Onions & Carrots (Try the meat ratios for this one.)
  • Ham Apple and Carrots (Meat ratios again)
  • Butternut Squash and Tomatoes
  • Bacon Drippings with… Anything (Not as healthy as coconut oil… but definitely a delicious treat!)

Now it’s Your Turn!

Use some of the delicious ingredients below to make up your own healthy, taste bud-approved, pureed meals.  Have some great ideas?  Leave them in the comments so we can give them a try too!  There are obviously a lot more options for add-ins, but I have tried to include the highest quality, most nutrient dense ones here.  It’s obviously not an exhaustive list, just a jumping off point.  Tailor your meals to your loved one’s needs!

Liquids: Liquids are essential for processing pureed meals, but never use just plain water!  Make the most out of every ingredient by finding liquids that pack a nutritional and flavorful punch.  Remember, homemade stocks are always best!  And if you use coconut milk be sure to get the canned, full fat milk for good nutritional value.

  • Breastmilk
  • Beef Stock
  • Chicken Stock
  • Coconut Milk
  • Raw Milk
  • Vegetable Stock

Proteins: Protein is essential for a healthy diet and should be included in every meal.

  • Bacon
  • Chicken
  • Lamb
  • Pork
  • Roast Beef
  • Salmon
  • Steak
  • Tilapia
  • Tuna
  • Turkey
  • Venison

High Carb Vegetables: Just eating meat and veggies doesn’t mean you’re on a low carb diet!  Include plenty of these, ideally a little at each meal, for little ones, pregnant and nursing mothers or anyone else who is in need of a healthy intake of carbohydrates.)

  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Parsnips
  • Peas
  • Pumpkin
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Taro Root
  • Winter Squash

Other Vegetables: Getting a good variety of vegetables is not only great for the palette, but essential to a well-balanced diet.  Aim for two or three different colors of vegetables per day, as different colors provide different nutrients to your body.

  • Asparagus
  • Bell Peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Cucumber
  • Eggplant
  • Green Beans
  • Kale
  • Leeks
  • Okra
  • Onion
  • Radish
  • Spinach
  • Tomato (Yes, yes, I know… it’s actually a fruit.)
  • Turnip
  • Zuchinni

Healthy Fats: Not only do good fats add good taste, they have great nutritional value as well.  Many vitamins are fat soluble, and so it’s good to have a little fat at every meal.  Not all fat is created equal, so try these delicious options for a healthier dose of good fat!

  • Avocado
  • Coconut (Butter, Flakes or Fresh)
  • Coconut Oil
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Flax Seed
  • Ghee
  • Grass-Fed Butter
  • Olives

Well, now that I’ve written a book about baby food and pureeing healthy meals, I am going to stop and go to bed!  I hope this is helpful to someone, or at least enjoyable to a few.  I warned you that I was feeling enthusiastic about this new crunchy territory I’ve entered!  Which is probably good, because it can be time consuming and has definitely taken over the kitchen, so I’m glad I’m enjoying the experiments!  If this has blessed you or if you have some recipes to bless us with, be sure to share in the comments.

15 Notes for 15 Weeks

photo (12)I am 15 weeks along in my pregnancy now (well, 15 and 3 days but who’s counting?) so to celebrate I am starting up a new series called Notes for Weeks!  For every week along that I am, for the rest of the pregnancy, I will blog the same number of little tidbits about our life.  I’m excited because it will give me a reason to do a baby bump picture every week and also give me the opportunity to blog about a lot of random little things I’ve been wanting to say, but that don’t really warrant their very own post.  Ok, ready?!  Here goes!

1. Thank YOU!  Yes this first note is for you, all of you lovely people (thousands and thousands) who have read my previous post “Adoption is Not Love” and who have shared it with other families.  My only goal in writing that was to maybe help a handful of people realize that they were not alone on this crazy ride, and their feelings are totally normal and expected.  I hoped that others who knew adoptive families would get a glimpse into what their friends and neighbors might be going through.  But ya’ll, it took off!  Never have any of my posts had so many views, and such an overwhelmingly positive response.  Thank you for sharing; it has reached so many more than I ever imagined it would, and I am honored that God used this little blog to touch other families who needed that bit of encouragement.  People have asked, and yes, please do share!

2. A Quick Request.  I assume we are all aware by now of the crisis facing Christian and Yazidi minorities in Iraq and Syria during this time.  The Islamic State (ISIS) has taken over a vast amount of geographical area and has massacred thousands upon thousands of men, women and children.  Some from the affected areas managed to escape to a nearby mountain, where they are dying of hunger and thirst in the scorching heat.  Parents are being forced to choose between watching their children die this slow, painful death, be captured by ISIS or throw them off of the mountain  themselves to avoid such evil ends.  Friends, we can do something.  We can do more.  Sending money is good, but this might even be better.  Please sign this petition to grant these refugees asylum in the United States, which has been refused at this point.  We need at least 150 signatures for the petition to be searchable and have a shot at reaching the White House.  It only takes ten seconds, really.  I beg you to add your voice to ours.  Click here to sign the petition.

3. Our Littlest Girl is Catching Up!  Hope is now a whopping 30lbs!  She has gained five pounds since we took her out of her orphanage, and her thighs and upper arms are definitely showing a little chub.  We are over-the-moon for this milestone and next we are going to work on getting her on the height/weight chart!  Just four more pounds to go and she will be at least on the chart and on her way to a healthy weight.

4. Baby Stuff!  I had my very first prenatal appointment with the midwife yesterday.  It went fabulously; she is a lovely lady and has 36 years of experience.  Not to mention she lives less than ten minutes from us, so hopefully we won’t have another unassisted birth like last time!  My official due date is February 7th.  Seven is my favorite number and also the day of the month I was born on, so I was pretty happy with that.   Evangeline came with me and we had a great little Mommy-Daughter date.

5. Nicknames for Mom.  I can never remember being called anything other than “Mommy”  (baby babbling not included).  But recently I seem to have developed all sorts of other nicknames from my littles.  The first new one was “Mama”, the Russian word for Mommy that Jacob calls me and the others picked up.  Then next, he started shortening it to “Mom”… and so did everyone else.  Jacob and Evie’s voices are practically indistinguishable shouting that from another room so I never know who it is!  Mom is probably the only one I don’t like so much.  It sounds too grown up for my little ones to say… and they usually say it when they’re, ya know, shouting from another room.

But, there are two names, in particular, that have stolen my heart: Momitchka and Momanee.  Momitchka is a name Jacob started calling me a few days ago.  I was so touched, because from my limited Russian I know that adding “itchka” to the end of a name is an endearing thing to call a person who is close to you; it’s intimate and reserved for family, someone in your very inner circle.  I knew we were truly beginning to bond when I heard him say that, almost brings tears to my eyes just thinking of it.  Momanee is something that Stephen came up with out of nowhere and has been saying for a few weeks.  He always does it in this loud, sing songy toddler way, with a huge smile on his face, and it totally melts my heart.

6. Her First Real Cry.  Our sweet Hope is such a strong kid, she is a survivor if I’ve ever met one.  Here’s the thing, she has a hard time crying, as in it doesn’t happen.  Before this week I had seen her cry once – one time.  We were in the hospital and her stomach was in knots after eating (before we figured out what to cut out of her diet).  She was in so much pain that she sobbed for fifteen minutes.  I called in the doctor because I knew that it was totally not normal for her.  Jake had seen her cry before too, but only from pain.  She couldn’t cry because she was stressed.  If she is stressed enough to need that release she literally has to hit herself (hard enough to probably break things) to initiate tears.  Until this week.

I was putting on her knee immobilizers for the first time since we had been home from the hospital.  She was terrified of them, probably because they are restraining and she remembered them every day at the hospital.  I was trying to comfort her and keep her legs straight enough, no easy task.  I was able to keep her from hitting herself though, and then the saddest and most amazing thing happen.  She burst into tears!  It’s always hard to see your babies crying, but I was so thankful that she actually had a real cry just from stress alone and didn’t need to hit herself to do it.  It was a short lived cry, but a much needed one.  Here is a picture after she settled in.  Her sister was very attentive to her the whole time she wore them and Hope was never short a toy to play with!

photo 3 (2)

7. So Tired.  That is pretty much where I’m at.  I’ve been trying to wake up around 5ish… sleeping in until six or seven instead.  And I am still totally exhausted.  Hoping some B Vitamins will help.  All four of my children have been sleeping through the night for the first time in years so why exactly am I having this problem?  Sigh… so frustrating.

8. Baby Food Time!  I know, I know… I am still working on that post, promise.  Planning on doing some veggies tonight and then I will be ready to finish the draft and post!  Can’t wait to share some recipes and tips for delicious, nutritious pureed food.  Every time I make any my two year old asks for tastes!  Craziness…

9. Double Baptism!  We said before that Jacob would be the only one needing a Baptism, but unfortunately we were never able to get Hope’s orphanage to bother to actually find any confirmation of her baptism.  So, being uncertain, we will simply baptize her here with Jacob.  The ceremony will be on Sunday morning the 31st and I am having so much fun planning it!

10. The Only Bad Thing About…  exclusively breastfeeding?  Your children never learn proper etiquette for feeding their baby dolls.  Propping bottles and all.  Oops, better teach them some bottle safety!

photo 1 (2)

11. Routines and Things.  Our routine is still going strong at about the same place we’ve been for two weeks.  Really hoping to add in more than just meals, nap and bedtime routine every day.  Although, trying to be grateful that we have that down.  Our next goal is Matins in the morning during the week.  It’s great church practice for the kiddos, as we get to do it in the sanctuary, and a lovely devotion for the start of each day.

12.  Hymnody and Love.  I am really beginning to believe that beautiful hymns are a love language.  Hope perks up every time we sing them.  Jesus Loves Me is her favorite, and she gets the hugest smile when I sing “Let’s His little Zhanna come in…”  She has the best smile ever.  Also, when she starts getting agitated, Evangeline will go to her and sing her the hymns she knows.  Her go-tos are: Lamb of God, Glory be to Jesus and Jesus Loves Me (of course).  The most beautiful thing in the world is a young child singing comfort into the life of another.

13.  Raw Milk Deliciousness.  So glad to be back home to our raw milk farmer friends!  It’s a half hour drive, totally worth every drop.  I cannot speak highly enough about raw milk and so glad to have it for the kids’ diets!  Not to mention this particular milk is the most delicious I’ve ever tasted, and I don’t have to feel bad about drinking a glass every day.  It’s the little things in life…

14.  Shout Out To… the best husband in the world.  Mine.  Why?  Just because.  He’s an amazing father, husband, pastor and friend.  I just don’t tell him enough how great he is so, I’ll say it now.  You are the best!  Can’t believe I get to love you for the next bazillion years. :)

15. Last but Not Least.  For all those who’ve helped bring our little ones home, please know that we are forever grateful.  Even though it might take that long for your thank  you to arrive in the mail… ahem.  We really are working on them with the little bits of time we have here and there.  Know that we have not forgotten you or the amazing love you have shown our family.  I could not imagine being more blessed by so many.

A Time of Quiet

photo 1 (1)

As you can tell, I haven’t been updating as regularly.  I have lots of things to talk about, but the more fun we have the less time there is for blogging!  In many ways this feels to me like a season of quietness for me.  After so much being public for so long about our adoption process and our little ones I am feeling a desire to step back for a little while and be out of the spotlight for a time.  I absolutely have no intention of going away, there are so many of you who have helped to get us to this point and I will continue to share our family with all of you as the Lord provides the time and ability for me to do so.

With that being said, we have had a fairly good week.  The kids went to their first doctor’s visit here in town and saw our favorite chiropractor who is great with little ones and specializes in adjusting children with special needs.  She does an incredible amount with children who have autism and was able to give us some more insight on Hope’s stimming.  For example, the reason why she pokes her eyes is because it causes her to see spots and colors.  It’s a way of getting new visual stimulation when you never leave your crib.  Hope is not autistic, but she does have many behaviors similar to what you see with autism that are caused by the chronic neglect of an institutional life.

I have been noticing, bit by bit, her stimming is beginning to slow down.  At first she did it constantly, 24/7 when we were home, and most of her behaviors are self-injuring so I had to watch her like a hawk.  But sometimes now she will go 15-20 minutes at a time without even thinking of stimming.  Her dietary transitioning I am very pleased with.  She still does not handle grains, haven’t tried dairy yet, but she can do some fruit with no issue.  We did a little family birthday party for Stephen on his baptism birthday a few days ago.  Everyone else got cake and ice cream, so I gave her some banana baby food as a treat.  No trouble at all!

I have also switched from Crystal Light to coconut water.  Apparently I got the yuckiest flavor of Crystal Light in existence and no wonder I couldn’t get her to drink it!  I decided to switch to coconut water because it’s not fruit juice (I think that’s just too much for her system right now) and it is natural without a bunch of junk in it.  I was hoping it would be just sweet enough that she would be agreeable and she loves it!  Right now we’re using the one with added orange juice and gradually putting in less of the orange juice and more of the regular coconut water.  The goal is to eventually get her to drinking regular water, but that will probably take some time as she has never had water in her life and there isn’t much flavor to encourage her to drink it.

I am also moving from store bought baby food to all homemade.  Right now the vegetables are the only thing she’s getting from the store, and the meat portions I’ve been making taste better, are more filling and are way healthier.  I can add extra veggies and fats and season it a little.  I currently have a draft on homemade baby foods I’m working on.  So excited to share that when it’s done!

In other news, we did have a birthday party this week for my favorite two year old kid.  He missed out on a regular party due to the craziness of getting his new siblings home, but we celebrated on his baptism birthday two days ago and it was a great.  We had a gift, a cake, some balloons and all six of us together.  Here you can see the newly dubbed Big Brother helping Daddy put together his first bike.

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In other news the children are very much enjoying their baby dolls lately.  Getting their older brother/sister gears in order I suspect!  Today was a hoot.  I let them bring their babies outside and they were all trying to do everything with them.  Swing, ride bikes, go for a spin in the toy car… ya know, to go to the gas station for cheese sticks and baby food.  (Can you guess which little girl took her dollie there? Lol!)  Speaking of sweet girls, Evangeline is insistent that the baby is a girl and really wants to name her Allie, which also happens to be the name of her baby doll.  Her pleading is so irresistible I am almost considering the name… almost.

I snapped a couple shots of baby dolls on the swing set for ya’ll.  And guess what Stephen found out today?? My phone takes black and white photos!  And sepia!  How neat is that!?

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Always an Adventure

Today has been an interesting adventure.  Every day is in this foreign place!  Like the time I couldn’t figure out the oven so I cooked our frozen pizza on the stove.  Or trying to order food at the restaurant, or guess about what type of filling is in the crossaints at the grocery store.  Or driving… anywhere.  Today’s adventures started off with laundry.

Our current washer is evil… really.  When it’s running its cycles it sounds like it’s going to take off or blow up or something.  The last few times we had used it we came back in the bathroom to see it in the middle of the floor three or four feet from where it was supposed to be.  There are dents on the side of it – scars of its internal maladies.

Washers here are loud… but this thing appears to be off one or more of its rockers.  Yesterday Jake started going in and holding it down when it decided to become violent.  I was a little worried for his safety.  After the awful thing had woke the children up I told Jake that we simply could not use it anymore.  It was not worth the stress!

So this morning when we needed laundry done I did something I have never done before… I washed my clothes by hand!  I filled up the tub, put in some detergent, stirred them around, wringed them several times, worked on the stains, rinsed and air dry.  It was an unusually empowering experience to know that I could actually clean my own clothes without electricity, lol!  The second load is soaking now.  :)

Next, I spent more than twelve hours expressing just an ounce and a half of breastmilk for Janna’s visit today.  Before yesterday I had never used a bottle before, had never had to pump and had only expressed for a pesky diaper rash or an owie.  (Try it, it works!)  Boy have I had a lesson in dedicated parenting!  I was really not wanting to drag a pump around Eastern Europe with us, but I am sort of considering it…


The boys were feeling under the weather, and not wanting to take any risks at all, we had a girls-day-out for our visit with Janna today.  We got there early to have a bit of a longer visit today.  She seems to really light up after about the first 50 minutes or so.  I got her to eat a little and we went into the sunroom, which was nice and bright with the windows open.  She sat on the floor with only a little back support; I was so proud!

She absolutely loves being held while standing.  Just changing her from one hip to the other elicits lots of giggles and playfulness.  I decided to try spinning her since she enjoys movement so much and she loved it!  We just spun in circles for about five minutes, she would hold tight and then laugh hysterically when I stopped.Evangeline was begging to go play outside on the playground, so we went downstairs and I stood in the doorway to watch while holding Janna.  I told the nanny we were staying inside, so I didn’t want to get her in the sun without a kerchief or hat or break some other cultural taboo.


Then, in the middle of a spin, her nanny came down.  I wasn’t expecting to see her so soon and hoped we hadn’t done anything wrong.  When she saw Janna giggling she said her name in an affectionate “You’re being so silly” sort of tone.  She then announced “lunch” and I reluctantly handed Janna back.  Not sure why lunch was 35 minutes early today but I was disappointed.

We went early to work Janna up to a longer visit, and it ended up being the same amount of time, right as she was starting to completely relax and enjoy herself.  I also hadn’t finished giving her her bottle, and I was so frustrated with that!  I really wanted to get all one and a half ounces in her.  Oh well, perhaps tomorrow.

It’s been raining a lot and the kids are stir crazy in these apartments which are tiny compared to the running space they are used to at our parsonage!  I am really missing Juri and, honestly, tired of being illiterate.  We all seem to be hitting a fatigue with our travels.  Evangeline is having a hard time understanding why we can’t take Juri and Janna home yet.  We’re still having a good time and making the most of our trip, but there have certainly been some difficult moments.

It will all be worth it.  Taking this process one day at a time!

A Very Crunchy Visit

I am going to have a lot of fun with today’s post, not only because it was a fun visit but also because I get to share some crunchy things with you all today!  The last few months I’ve been blogging mostly about adoption stuff, and neglecting the “crunchy” part of my blog.  But today I get to do both!!

I asked our facilitator last night if we were allowed to bring snacks for Janna during our visits and she said yes!! I was super excited.  We were told one of the foods she likes is mashed banana, so I went with that.  We also know that she is getting formula daily, and of course, being the crunchy mama I am, breastmilk is definitely more my speed.

IMG_0549We went to the store this morning before our visit to get a few items for our sweet girl!  Before we left for the orphanage I mashed up the banana and softened it a bit with (you guessed it) breastmilk.  It is seriously the most nutritious food she could be having right now, and I have plenty so might as well share the wealth, right?

I also expressed an ounce of milk into the bottle we picked up at the store.  (You can see my lovely banana mash and the milk on that picture to your right.)   The last thing we bought her was a teddy bear, which is totally cute and fun, but is mostly just an avenue for her to be introduced to mama’s smell and have a familiar, comforting object when we leave the orphanage.

I have a special anxiety-relieving Essential Oil blend that I made before coming.  I sprayed the teddy bear with it and I used it like a perfume almost so that she would associate that smell with me as well.  When we got to the orphanage Evie gave her the teddy bear, which she sort of liked at first.  But I put it aside to help her focus on eating.

It took us a couple of tries before we figured out how to work with each other, but she did get it and ate almost the entire banana!  After that I gave her the bottle which she was initially excited about, took it right out of my hand and started guzzling.  That lasted for about five seconds, at which point she noticed the change in flavor from her usual menu and did not appreciate it.  She threw that thing on the floor faster than you could say “hot potato!”

It took us the entire hour, but eventually we did get all one ounce of mama’s milk into her tiny body.  We didn’t force her to take any, of course, but it seemed that she kept forgetting that she didn’t like it.  :)  By the end she didn’t seem to mind and she actually took it pretty happily.  She certainly wouldn’t hold it, however.  Whenever I tried to let her hold it, the bottle always ended up swiftly on the floor.

In any case, the snack went well for our first go-round, and the rest of the visit was awesome too.  Jake had her to himself for about twenty minutes, and he didn’t have to worry about feeding so they just got to play!  She is certainly a Daddy’s girl right now.  He said she was laughing 60% of the time they were together, which is huge huge progress from our last two visits!  She also apparently loved his scruffy chin, and he got her to really enjoy the teddy bear.

The kids and I came back in and she withdrew a bit again, but we stood up and held her, which is usually more comforting.  I was able to get her in a front-to-front carry which she was incredibly delighted with!  I doubt she’s ever been held that way before.  She was smiling and giggling and having a great time.  We really felt like she was just starting to come out of her shell when it was time for us to go.

It was so hard to hand her back to the nanny.  As soon as she took her Janna started searching for me.  I said “Paka, Janna” and gently touched her face.  She relaxed a little but started looking for me again when I didn’t take her back.  It was so incredibly hard to leave.  The last two visits were different, she needed to get back to her familiar crib and quiet by the time we left.  But today it was clear she was still ready for more!  I am just stunned at the progress we’ve made in a few short days.  I saw very few stimming behaviors today and there were so many smiles and giggles.  We will go for an hour and a half tomorrow and see how she does, very excited!

P.S. – We are still a ways from being funded.  Please click here to find out how you can help!

Silent Nights

There have been many a silent night on my blog as of late.  Forgive me while I try to move from one floor of my house to the other, compile a dossier, fundraise, get my life in order and think about the many deep mysteries of life… while also trying to have an awesome Advent season.  But I am still here!  I would love to give an update soon about where we are in the adoption, but today this is going to be short and sweet.

I thought I should blog about this milestone for my two little ones… new bedtime milestones.  They are always bittersweet aren’t they?

First, Evangeline is now in her very own room!  Since she was born she has always slept in our bedroom, either in our bed or in her bed pushed up right next to ours.  She has always been close enough for me to hold her hand if she woke up and needed me during the night, but as of Friday we have four newly refurbished bedrooms in our parsonage and… it was time.

We had been telling her about her bedroom for a while and she was so excited to have her “own” room. I always assumed our children would never have their own room, they would share once the first two were ready to make the leap.  But I’ll just say it… it was time.  Stephen isn’t going to be ready for a while and who knows when another girl will come along for the girls’ room.  She seemed ready so we decided to go for it!  And she is doing fabulously.

The first two nights she did not make it the whole night.  We ended up carrying her into our bedroom around 2:00am because she was just restless and, hey, we wanted to sleep!  We still have a second bed in our bedroom (back to that in a second) so it was just like old times and it worked perfectly.  Last night I went to go retuck her in once but she fell back asleep and didn’t need us again until morning.

Now for that second bed :)  Evangeline’s twin bed went with her to her room, but we just happened to have another, so we scooted that up next to ours and that is officially Stephen’s bed now!  We are transitioning him over a few months sooner than we started with Evie, but with the new room and everything it just made sense.  It also helps if I have to get up for Evie in the middle of the night, I don’t disturb him and he will eventually sleep better.  Right now he’s not quite used to the new space so he isn’t sleeping as well.  He has always been very space oriented.  If he’s not in HIS bed, he fights sleep.  But  the second night was better than the first!  He still hasn’t made it an entire night yet without cuddling with mommy by the wee hours of the morning, but I don’t really mind :)

All in all we are very happy with the smooth transition and hope it continues!  I have two blog posts coming up the pike for you, one is an update on our adoption, long overdue I know… and the second is a little more heavy in content, but necessary I think.  Hopefully as the days go on and we continue getting more settled around here I will have less and less of those silent nights on my blog!  Praying you are all having a wonderful Advent!

Wait… Where did that week go?

It’s been a week since I’ve posted?  Already?!  Oops… sorry.  I must have lost that week; I do not know where it went!  There has been a lot going on, so I’ll fill you in with the details.  As far as the adoption is going – stressful!  I have not been sleeping well and to add insult to injury, my children have not been sleeping well either.  There is some mild virus going around, Evangeline and I have been generally malaised the last couple of days which is killer for any motivation to get anything done.  We have been running errands like crazy.  Yesterday all four of us went to the chiropractor – totally needed it, but there goes the morning!  Today we went to go get our passports and fingerprinting done for the adoption and I still have a ton of paperwork to do…

On the fundraising front, I am having two Thirty-One parties in September.  One is being hosted by my lovely mother and my wonderful aunt, the other is being hosted by my sister.  So if there is anyone local to the Illinois/St. Louis area you should stop by!  I get 25% of commission on all orders, and that will all be going (of course) to the adoption!  So hop on over and check it out if you’d like: https://www.mythirtyone.com/thecup/  I will have that fundraising post up for you tomorrow too!  I am also putting together an email list for our adoption newsletter.  September’s edition goes out this weekend, so if you want one let me know!

On the hair front.  Can you say poo-ey?  I have really tried every which way of washing my hair without shampoo and I am continually disappointed.  A reader told me that the vinegar actually makes oiliness worse (oh great…) so I tried JUST baking soda and no rinse.  My hair was so oily and I was so sick of it that I probably went a little overboard on the amount.  The top of my head? Not oily!  The middle?  Where I wasn’t as thorough?  Ugh… as awful as ever.  So for a few days I had Neopolitan style hair, the top was dry and felt terrible (baking soda is apparently NOT nice to your hair) and the bottom was more or less typical.

Then I read this post about pH levels and the yo-yo effects of baking soda/vinegar.  I don’t know, maybe I just don’t have the amounts worked out, maybe I’m just not good at this yet.  But I have tried several different ways of doing it, and when I use either or both of these on my hair… the results are less than dreamy.  So, I tried this blogger’s suggestion of honey.   My hair felt weird… and still oily.  No thanks honey shampoo.  Then I thought to myself, well what if I put all three together?  So I did baking soda, a quick (less than 30 second)  vinegar rinse and THEN I did honey afterwards to try and balance the pH.  Eh… no change.

After so many tries, I eventually began to give up.  My hair was feeling worse after washing than before, and it seemed it was doing a better job of regulating oils if I just left it alone. So that’s what I did for a few days.  It was much less oily than at first, but still not nearly nice enough to wear in any way other than up in an attempt to hide as much of it as possible.  Then today it happened… I needed my hair to look nice.  We were taking passport pictures after all.  So I began to reason with myself… My hair had seemed to regulate itself.  It wasn’t pouring gobs of oil out onto my head every day anymore.  Maybe it just needed a last little push and then it would be ok?

So I did it.  I buckled… I used shampoo.  Not any shampoo, of course.  I used my daughter’s baby shampoo, all natural, organic, non-stripping shampoo.  She only uses it when she really makes a mess of her hair that I can’t get out with water and a comb.  You would be really surprised what kind of food can come out with just some water and a comb!  Needless to say, it’s less than once a month that she needs it, and her hair is never oily.  If it does get a bit excess of oil (usually after waking up in the morning) it is back to it’s shiny, happy, bouncy self after brushing it through a few times.  No bath necessary.

So, back to my story, I used it.  And guess what?  Shock and surprise!  My hair felt marvelous.  It feels soft and smooth and healthy.  It is not oily in any way and I am just so glad for the break from drudgery!  My sincere hope is that my hair has more or less started regulating itself, and that it will continue to do that.  If my hair stays good over the next few days, I think I’ll be set.  I am feeling pretty optimistic as, over the last week, my hair never became more oily for not washing it.  It just never got less oily.  Here’s to hoping!

In the meantime, I have kiddos to go chase.  Enjoy your weekend and stop by tomorrow for a Fundraiser Q&A!

(Sham)Poo Free: Week 2


Sigh… I almost didn’t want to take a picture this week because it looks JUST as bad as last week.  But I did… to be fair I took the picture on Monday so it was exactly at the two week mark (even though this post is a little later).  Yesterday when I did my vinegar rinse I left it on for a good ten minutes before washing it out.  That seemed to help a lot, so next Monday I will take a picture after doing that and you can be the judge if it actually is helpful or not!

On the bright side, I do think my hair feels cleaner than it did before.  More oily, but less chemically.  It just seems like all that shampoo builds up after a while.  The last several weeks before I started this I felt my hair was just not nice after being washed… it was mostly not oily (but that only lasted about ten hours) but it just didn’t feel soft or smooth or anything nice that you would expect hair to feel.

Now that I’m not using shampoo anymore, my hair feels better.  I can tell especially at the tips where it’s not oily; it just feels nicer.  I also started noticing that my hair is looking wavier than usual.  I would chalk it up to the oiliness, but you can tell at the bottom too!  This interim period is awful, but here’s to hoping it will be worth it!

(Sham)Poo Free… Week 1

Knowing my own body, I do anticipate that there’s a possibility I may be fertile again sometime soon.  My last two pregnancies I have endured a terrible rash called Pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy (also known as PUPPPS).  Sounds fun right?  Not.  It is a condition that is connected to the liver, probably the extra load on the liver during pregnancy becomes a little much and so this lovely rash appears and sticks around until you deliver.  (Or in my case it gets worse after you deliver…)  Many doctors will tell you that there is no cure for PUPPPS except delivery.  Indeed, this rash can be so painful and unlivable that doctors will even induce labor early for women who have a particularly aggressive case.  As you can imagine, this added discomfort and stress (not to mention the overload on mamas liver) is not good for baby any more than it’s good for mommy.

But there is good news!  There is a cure for PUPPPS!  The bad news?  You can’t use it while pregnant.  Many women can successfully eradicate PUPPPS with a regimen of daily dandelion root or milk thistle supplements or teas.  These are powerful, natural detoxing agents that will take care of whatever it is that is causing your liver undue stress.  The problem with this cure, however, is that detoxing while pregnant is not safe.  When eradicating toxins from your body, these toxins are released from their relatively safe holding places (like your liver) and transferred into the blood stream so they can be removed from your system.  This is a necessary step, but it can be dangerous transporting these toxins from their holding places.  It is dangerous especially if you have a baby inside you that is sharing your blood supply!  We do not want these toxins making their way to baby, so unfortunately, it is best for them to stay put while you are pregnant.

The moral to this story?  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  I hope anyway.  My theory was that if I detox my liver before I get pregnant, maybe my body will be in a better place to handle the demands of pregnancy and I will not need to endure that terrible rash in the next round of baby growing.  Even though I am still nursing, I decided a little detox was going to be overall better for all of us than no detox for the rest of my childbearing years.  So… I am gently and slowly working through flushing out my liver of toxins.  I started last week with a few simple things, one of which is limiting my contact with chemicals and household cleaners or beauty products that have chemical ingredients.

I am still tweaking my recipes for things like toothpaste, dishwasher detergent, carpet cleaner, etc.  But the one I wanted to discuss today was shampoo.  I am ditching it!  I have been wanting to do this for a long time, but have put it off.  I just never wanted to go through the transition phase.  You see, shampoo is really not great for your hair.  It chemically strips your luscious locks of their natural oils.  Your hair knows this and, defiantly, begins producing even more oil to combat the shampoo.  The result?  A vicious cycle where the more shampoo you use the more oil your hair produces and… the more shampoo you have to use.  The cure for that is quite simple.  Stop using shampoo!  Wash your hair with baking soda or an egg (yes really) or water, you know something that does not force the natural oil out of your scalp.


Unfortunately, your body does not respond immediately, and it has gotten used to creating all that excess oil.  It will take a while before it realizes it doesn’t need that much anymore.  And in the meantime you are stuck with hair that is excessively oily.  Yuck.  But there is really nothing you can do other than wait out this period of re-stabilizing your hair’s oil production.  It can take weeks… or months.  I am hoping mine is on the weeks side.  I will update for you again next week, but right now my hair is just downright oily.  I do like the way it feels after washing it with baking soda (shampoo replacement) and rinsing with vinegar (conditioner replacement).  I know it will be lovely when it remembers how to balance its own oils, I just hope it figures that out sooner rather than later!

Above is my week one hair picture.  Let’s hope next week’s picture is a little less oily.  Although you will notice, the bottom of my hair is not oily at all.  That’s because the oil production is all at the scalp, so the last place that gets the oils is the bottom of the hair.  At the beginning of the week ALL of my hair was oily.  I suppose this is a little progress already.  Right?


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