Feel like new. Feel like you.

January 26, 2017

Thank you Jenny Craig for sponsoring this post. — Get serious about losing weight with Jenny Craig!

Jenny Craig // livelovesimple.com

Thanks to this blog, I’ve been able to work with so many great companies over the years. I am so grateful for the opportunities that have come my way. I’ve been really excited about a lot of them, but working with Jenny Craig has been my most rewarding partnership yet.

As I wrote about in my last post, just a couple of months ago I was in a really difficult place. I was facing an uphill battle. Especially when it came to my health, I was close to giving up. It was right around that time that I was contacted and asked to partner with Jenny. The timing was so perfect that it felt like an answered prayer.

I realize that this is a sponsored post, but everything that I’m going to share in this post (and every post!) is 100% true to my real-life experience. Over the past few weeks, since I started the program, my life has changed.

Health, wellness, and nutrition have always been a topic on this blog of mine. When I first started writing here, eight years ago, I had just gone through a personal health revolution. I had overcome depression and anxiety, and lost seventy pounds. I was at the top of my health game for sure. After I lost that weight, I had no trouble keeping it off for many years. It wasn’t until after I had my second baby, that everything changed. Becoming a mother changes things for a lot of women. Add to that all of the challenges that life throws on a daily, and sometimes it feels impossible.

Again, as I mentioned in my last post, there was a perfect storm of poor health in my life. No matter what I seemed to do, I just couldn’t get healthy. Everything was out of control for me, especially my diet.

The Jenny Craig program has taken my nutrition from night to day. I am relearning what appropriate portions are. I am remembering how it feels to eat the right amount of calories for my body. My energy and my mood have not been this high in years. The momentum that I’ve gained through the program has even encouraged me to get back to the gym, which I thought I would never be able to do again. I’ve been consistently going three days a week and it feels incredible.

The program features more than 100 premium menu items to love in delicious flavors, created by 40 professional chefs. Every meal that I’ve eaten on the program has been restaurant-quality. It’s like having a personal chef in the kitchen seven days a week; and as a busy mom it’s pretty much the greatest thing ever!

The program will leave you feeling satisfied because the food is so good and you get to eat so much in the course of a day. Here is a picture to show you what food for one day on the program looks like:

Jenny Craig // livelovesimple.com

I’ve been on the program for a little over three weeks now and I’ve lost eleven pounds. I am required to tell you that my results are not typical. Members following the Jenny Craig program, on average, lose 1-2 lbs. per week. And I received promotional consideration. But with that said, I personally feel so confident that anyone who engages with this program will see results. It’s so simple and it’s so good!

When I looked at my meal plan for the week and the daily menus, I wondered if I would even be able to eat all of that food in a day. But don’t worry, I did. 😉 There are not only typical “healthy” meal options, but there are delicious snacks worked into each day’s menu, as well. Whether you love salty & crunch or gooey & sweet, there is something for you.

Jenny Craig // livelovesimple.com

For me, the cornerstone of the plan has been my weekly meetings with my Consultant. On the plan, your Consultant will work with you on your menu, discuss any challenges from the previous week and determine a plan for the week ahead. Plus, your consultant will keep track of your success with weekly weigh-ins and teach you how to self-monitor. The weigh-ins have been such a motivation for me to stay on track and continually make progress.

Jenny Craig // livelovesimple.com

I love my Consultant, Allie. She is such a wealth of information and source of encouragement. For members who don’t live near a center, Jenny Craig Anywhere offers one-on-one support through consultations over the phone or via video chat. They’ve got you covered.

Jenny Craig // livelovesimple.com

For me, the program has truly been life-changing. It’s set me off on a path of positivity and health, that I was afraid I would never find again. If you’ve been thinking about trying it out for yourself, I would definitely recommend it. It is an investment in yourself. When I started the program, I had a lot of fear and doubt. I adopted a mantra to help myself get through the days. Every time I started to feel myself slip in any way, I said, “You deserve to be happy and healthy.” It feels so good to have been saying that these last few weeks. It’s such a far cry from where I was just a couple of months ago. I am so excited to keep going down this path.

Jenny Craig // livelovesimple.com

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

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Write Hard and Clear About What Hurts :: Part One

January 20, 2017

Write Hard and Clear About What Hurts // livelovesimple.com

The past three weeks of my life have been good. I am healthier and happier than I’ve been in a very long time. But rewind to the twelve months that came before this, and it was a completely different story.

A year ago, my life took a difficult & unexpected — but necessary — turn. My entire life got flipped over on its head. I will write about that eventually; but right now, I’m going to write about the consequences that followed.

* *

When my life got turned upside down, it was a perfect storm of disaster.

My stress levels were completely out of control for so many reasons that I can’t even start to explain. Again, I’ll write about it in the future.

Marina was still breastfeeding and she was waking up, on-average, every 45 minutes throughout the night to comfort nurse. Indeed, there was a solid three-month stretch where I didn’t sleep for more than 45-minutes straight. I was dangerously sleep-deprived.

To cope with the stress, I started drinking more than usual. Alcohol was a quick, easy way to forget about my problems and my pain, even for a little while.

Exercise and nutrition went completely to the wayside. As exhausted as I was, exercise was an impossibility. As far as my diet went, I did whatever was easiest, with no regard for the consequences. At that point, I simply didn’t have the emotional capacity to care.

There was my perfect storm. Stress. No sleep. Too much alcohol. Poor nutrition. No exercise.

It is no small wonder that eventually, I fell apart.

It all came to a head one morning when I found myself lying in the emergency room of an unfamiliar hospital, paralyzed by fear, waiting for a series of test results to tell me “what was wrong with me.” Because as crazy as it sounds, I was so lost in the mess, that I really didn’t know.

* *

That was a hell of an introduction. So what happened next?

My estrogen was dangerously high and my melatonin was dangerously low. I had gained nearly thirty pounds quickly. I had developed a large cyst in my left ovary. And finally, and most terrifyingly, my doctor found precancerous cells in my cervix.

It was a nightmare. I was so scared. I feel compelled to write that it was one of the lowest points of my life, but the truth is that the past few years have been filled with so many incredibly low points that they all blur together. I can’t be sure which point was really the lowest. There were so many.

My head and my heart have been completely shattered. I found myself in impossible situations and I had to claw my way out. There had been so much darkness and fear for so long.

As difficult as it was to hear those things from my doctor, I’d already been through so much that I wasn’t really surprised or hurt. The best word to describe what I felt then was: numbness. I felt very numb. I was so lost and ready to resign myself to whatever fate would take me.

Yet, when I came so close to giving in, somehow I grabbed onto the strength I had left and decided to fight back.

During those darkest of days, I had a conversation with my sister. I was completely down and out, I felt that I had no strength left. But she said something to me that I will never forget. She said that when it came to my children, I was the strongest person that she knew. I was fearless. And that I should take my strength from my role as a mother and if I couldn’t fight for myself, then I had to fight for them.

And so I did.

* *

I had a lot of false starts. I would gain some momentum toward turning things around, but then I would fall back. I would have a good week, followed by a terrible week.

My health was still on the rocks. I would get my diet right, exercise, cut back on drinking, and feel in control. But then as quickly as I gained the control I would lose it again. I would double-down on unhealthy habits, destroy my progress, and feel more discouraged than ever.

I prayed a lot. I prayed and I prayed.

And then one day, things actually started to turn around. This time, I knew that things were going to get better. I was going to make sure of it.

Slowly, slowly, some good news started coming into my life. While there were only promises, I held tight to the hope that those promises held — and I’m still holding on.

In order to regain control, I had to make enormous changes and I had to cut out all of the things in my life that were not critically necessary. I had to focus exclusively on my health and my children. I had to let go of every single other thing. I am still in that space and I will be for a long time yet.

As far as my health, it seems that things have stabilized in a way. A little over a month ago, I was asked to do a campaign with Jenny Craig which I’ll write a lot more about very soon. The Jenny Program has absolutely changed my relationship with food for the better. I’ve also started exercising regularly again and it feels amazing.

Marina finally started sleeping through the night about six months ago, and while sleep is still touch-and-go with two toddlers, it’s way better than it was before. I’ve stopped desperately using food and alcohol as a crutch to cope with my pain.

I will continue to have follow-up tests done to monitor the cyst and the cells. Right now, there are no immediate threats. I’m hopeful that getting back to my healthy, active lifestyle will allow my body to heal itself in time.

* *

It’s all very much a “work-in-progress.” When I look back over the course of my life, I could have never imagined that I would have wound up here at this point. I had a vision of what my life would be, and it turned out nothing like I expected. But ultimately, looking back, I can see how necessary all of these challenges have been. Now that I am finally on the right path, I’m just going to keep going.

“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”

I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again. ♥ This. Always, always this.

Our Favorite Natural, Baby Bubble Baths

January 6, 2017

Natural Bubble Bath

This is not a sponsored or affiliate post. All opinions are strictly my own. I paid for and tested these products myself, nothing was sent for review.

Natural Bubble Bath

Natural Bubble Bath

I’ve been wanting to do a post about our favorite bubble baths for awhile. I feel like it’s been a “trial & error” thing for us and I’m hoping that my wisdom might benefit some other parents out there. Also, I may or may not have simply been looking for a reason to snap some photographs of my sweet babies in the tub together. 😉 I know these days won’t last forever.

Natural Bubble Bath

Natural Bubble Bath

Natural Bubble Bath

So let’s start with the basics. When it comes to bubble bath, I use it as a wash and a shampoo. I think it’s silly to buy separate bubble bath and shampoo for babies/toddlers. It shocks me that baby shampoo is usually priced higher than bubble bath, by the way. As far as I can tell, they do the same thing and function the same way. But anyway, I digress…

Natural Bubble Bath

Natural Bubble Bath

Natural Bubble Bath

When I’m looking for bubble bath for my babies, I’m looking for four qualities:

  • It has to be natural, preferably organic.
  • It has to be moisturizing and easy on their sensitive skin. As I’ve written about previously, my babies have sensitive, dry skin — just like their Mama.
  • It has to smell delicious, and I prefer lavender, because we usually do baths at bedtime and lavender soothes (if not them, at least me!).
  • It has to create a lot of bubbles — what fun is a bath without bubbles!?

With that in mind, here are my top 5 choices for bubble bath, starting with my favorite.

Natural Bubble Bath

Natural Bubble Bath

Natural Bubble Bath

1. Honest Shampoo + Body Wash — It surprises me that an Honest product finds itself at the top of my list. The truth is that I’ve always wanted to love The Honest Company. I love what the brand stands for. However, I haven’t had the best luck with the products. The diapers always left my babies with diaper rashes, and the dishwasher detergent didn’t effectively clean my dishes at all.

So, I was hesitant to give Honest another try, but I’m grateful that I did. Their baby Shampoo + Body Wash is my absolute favorite. It meets all of my must-haves and it creates the best bubbles and scent of them all. Note that, I am referring to the Shampoo + Body Wash. Honest also makes a bubble bath that is more expensive. I haven’t tried that one, and I don’t see any point in spending the extra money, when this stuff works great.

2. Aveeno Baby Calming Comfort Bath — Aveeno is a close second. I love this stuff and it also meets all of my must-haves. The reason I rank it second is simply because the fragrance is a little bit more mellow, and… give me all of the the lavender, please.

3. Burt’s Bees Baby Shampoo & Body Wash — I love Burt’s Bees. It’s the natural brand that I use the most and have been supporting the longest. It was what I used when Roman was a tiny, little baby. (Remember this!?)

I’d love to rank this higher on the list because I love the brand so much, but the truth is that it doesn’t meet a couple of my wishes. It doesn’t come in lavender fragrance and it doesn’t bubble up well. Other than those things, it’s a great product, so I still recommend it, depending on your needs.

4. California Baby Calendula Bubble Bath — This is another brand that I’ve come to love and trust over the years. One of my favorite part’s about this bottle is that it comes with a bubble wand inside for blowing bubbles, so fun. California Baby offers a whole selection of bubble baths in different fragrances that claim to do different things. I’m interested to try their “Overtired & Cranky” formula one of these days.

My gripe about this product is that it doesn’t seem to be carried by many of places that I usually shop. I usually fail to plan ahead end up running out in a pinch to grab something at my local grocery store or Target. But if you’re good at planning ahead, this is a nice choice.

5. Shea Moisture Raw Shea, Chamomile & Argan Oil Baby Bubble Bath — This one shows up last on the list, simply because we’ve only been using it a short time. I actually starting using Shea Moisture products on my own hair recently and I really love them.

I was initially drawn to the products on the shelf because the label so proudly declares that the products are natural, organic, and sustainably-produced. They’re also pioneering fair trade through Community Commerce and strive to be sulfate-free, paraben-free, and more, whenever possible; and never test on animals. Basically everything that I’m looking for when I shop — yes.

We just started using the bubble bath, but so far so good. The drawback is that the bubbles are minimal. While the scent is not lavender, it is quite delicious! It’s definitely a product and a company to keep on your radar.

Natural Bubble Bath

Natural Bubble Bath


Okay, friends. That’s all for this bubble bath roundup. If you have any recommendations that I’ve left off the list, please let me know. I hope that you’ve found this post helpful, and if you know someone else that might find it helpful, I do hope that you’ll pass it along. xo

Natural Bubble Bath

Natural Bubble Bath

My Little Sugar Plum Fairy // Goodbye Christmas Tree

January 3, 2017

Sugar Plum Fairy // livelovesimple.com

I took our Christmas tree down on Sunday. I knew it would be difficult. If you’ve ever done it, you know that it’s a “pain-in-the-ass” task. What I wasn’t expecting, however, was how emotionally difficult it would be.

Aside from the usual magic of a Christmas tree and all of the beautiful, warm memories that are created around it; this year’s tree represented something bigger and deeper for me. It became a symbol for what I am capable of, for the life that I am capable of creating for myself and for my children.

Sugar Plum Fairy // livelovesimple.com

Sugar Plum Fairy // livelovesimple.com

Sugar Plum Fairy // livelovesimple.com

Several times while I was unwinding the lights, and pulling the sparkling balls from the branches, I found myself crying. It halted me at moments; but I coaxed myself–remembering that it wasn’t the sad ending of one thing, but rather the beautiful beginning of many things.

Sugar Plum Fairy // livelovesimple.com

Sugar Plum Fairy // livelovesimple.com

I snapped these photographs of Marina in front of the tree a few weeks before Christmas. I’m so grateful to have them, to freeze those precious moments in time. That cute, little tree–that sweet, baby girl.

Sugar Plum Fairy // livelovesimple.com

Thoughts Upon a New Year…

December 31, 2016

Nature in Winter // livelovesimple.com

Disclaimer: I’ve been working on this post for a week. I’ve had a few bursts of inspiration, but there’s also been a lot of “dead air.” As has been the case every time I’ve tried to write for the past three-to-four years, it starts to come… but then it stops. And now, it’s 7:00 pm on New Year’s Eve, and knowing the way things usually go with me and my babies, I will be fast asleep very soon. The changing of the year will come & go, and I will be dreaming through it all. And so, I’ve decided to share this post exactly as it is, an unfinished draft.



"The Journey"
 By Mary Oliver
One day you finally knew
 what you had to do, and began,
 though the voices around you
 kept shouting
 their bad advice--
 though the whole house
 began to tremble
 and you felt the old tug
 at your ankles.
 "Mend my life!"
 each voice cried.
 But you didn't stop.
 You knew what you had to do,
 though the wind pried
 with its stiff fingers
 at the very foundations,
 though their melancholy
 was terrible.
 It was already late
 enough, and a wild night,
 and the road full of fallen
 branches and stones.
 But little by little,
 as you left their voices behind,
 the stars began to burn
 through the sheets of clouds,
 and there was a new voice
 which you slowly
 recognized as your own,
 that kept you company
 as you strode deeper and deeper
 into the world,
 determined to do
 the only thing you could do--
 determined to save
 the only life you could save.


I know that poetry isn’t everybody’s “thing.” And so even though it has been a huge part of my life since I was about seven years old, I’ve always hesitated to share it here. Still, on occasions when it’s really appropriate, I’ve shared a handful of poems or so in this space. Because sometimes words alone fail me and the only thing that allows me to feel like I am expressing myself at all, is poetry.

Today is one of those days, or I should say, now is one of those times. So at the top of this post is a poem. You might see them here more often. I’ve decided that for the next while, my writing here is going to shift. While I intend to continue sharing useful content and mommy-style blog posts, much of my life-focus is turning inward. As always, this blog will reflect the changing tides of my life. This is my space to share my heart, whatever that might mean.

Nature in Winter // livelovesimple.com

Nature in Winter // livelovesimple.com

That said, for today a few things–

First, there is the poem. It’s something that I discovered in the autumn of 2015 that happened to coincide perfectly with the journey that I had just started at that time. I won’t offer much further explanation than that right now. I’ll say simply that if you appreciate poetry, then I hope that it touches you in the deep, profound way that it touched me. And if you don’t appreciate poetry, then I hope that you found it easy enough to skip right over.

Nature in Winter // livelovesimple.com

Nature in Winter // livelovesimple.com

Second, I want to speak about my “Words of the Year.” For the past two years, I have ascribed a word to each year at its start. In 2015, my word was Survive. In 2016, my word was Bravery, accompanied by two quotes:

➳➳➳ “Fortune favors the bold.”
➳➳➳ “By acting bravely, we become brave.”

In 2017, my word will be STRENGTH, accompanied by three quotes:

➳➳➳ “Be the strongest person that you know.”
➳➳➳ “You have a spine like a sequoia.”
➳➳➳ “Never grow a wishbone, daughter, where your backbone ought to be.”

Nature in Winter // livelovesimple.com

Nature in Winter // livelovesimple.com

Third, let me take a moment to speak about the images in this post. It’s winter here. Most of the plant-life died awhile back. The temperature usually hovers around freezing. When we go out for our walks these days, we are usually bundled and rushed. We went for a walk earlier this week. I had a desire to bring my camera and snap some photographs. But I stopped, thinking, “There will be nothing beautiful to photograph in this awful time of year.” Suddenly something came over me, a streak of rebellion against that thought. My mind challenged back, “Take your camera. Try to find the beauty hidden in the awful.”

Nature in Winter // livelovesimple.com

And so, I did. I bundled my babies up and I took my camera out on that bitter-cold, gray afternoon. The photographs that you see in this post are the result. They reminded me that there is beauty to be found, always. Even in the ugliest, most awful times. It’s always there if we look hard enough.

Happy New Year, my dear friends. Here’s hoping that two-thousand-seventeen is full of every love and light for all of us. xo

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