Thankful for Celiac Disease

Audrey 2015

February 10 2015 is a day I will never forget.  That phone call a permanent recording in my memory bank.  I cried harder that day than I have cried in my life.  My body physically hurt from the sobs, my stomach turned with nausea and my mind spun with all of the “couldn’t eat, couldn’t do, never will again”‘s.  It was the day that Audrey was diagnosed with Celiac disease.

It was a pivotal day for not only Audrey & our family but for me and my faith.

For the first time in my life I felt like God had let me down.  I knew that He had answered my prayers, and I knew that He cared, but in the days that followed, I struggled to understand.  I couldn’t understand how He could have answered my desperate prayers with Celiac disease.  Selfishly, how had He let Celiac disease happen to me, as a mother.

I wish I could go back and wrap my arms around that me.  I’d tell that broken mama what I’ve learned about Celiac disease, about Audrey and about God’s true faithfulness.

Believe it or not, the diagnosis of Celiac disease was not the worst thing to happen to our Audrey girl or our family.  Oh, I still have moments where it leaves me frustrated, where I wish it were gone (don’t get me wrong, if I could make ALL of her health struggles disappear I would..but no matter how hard I try, I can’t), where I want to rip my hair out because people are ignorant and don’t understand.   I also have many more moments of something else… 

Perspective and clarity.   They have shown me that inside a diagnosis of Celiac disease are many hidden blessings:

  • Above all else, I’ve learned how strong our Audrey is.  She has handled this diagnosis with grace, courage and determination, owning this part of her life.  She asks questions, makes good choices (she could sneak things if she wanted to, but she doesn’t) and won’t eat anything unless I’ve OK’d it first.  The strong willed nature that God gave her might be making my hair go grey but it’s also the thing that will allow her to flourish in life.
  • We no longer find Audrey curled up on the floor in pain, or hear daily complaints of tummy aches. 
  • Removing gluten from her diet has given us yet another door to teaching our children about label reading, processed food and making healthy choices (with or without gluten).  Conversations that will benefit them greatly as they become adults.
  • The massive, over the top, exhausting mood swings vanished in a matter of a week.  From mid August 2014 (when they guesstimate her Celiac “kicked in”) Audrey had the most bizarre, physically exhausting, emotionally trying mood swings we’ve ever seen.  They left us afraid that we’d never survive raising her, that she’d never survive being raised by us!  Changing her diet was like getting a new, firey, sweet, stubborn little creature and believe it or not ALL of those traits were a welcome exchange for who she’d been.
  • We are SO lucky that Audrey was diagnosed with Celiac disease in 2015, when gluten free is “trendy”.  Many restaurants are learning quickly how to prepare celiac safe meals and stores carry gluten free options for almost anything.
  • Cooking & baking gluten free is NOT the bland, horrible, daunting task everyone made me think it would be.  I’ve been able to replicate most of our favourite baked treats and let’s be honest – when you’re eating clean & healthy (which we do 85% of the time) you don’t have to worry a lot about gluten.  Fruits, veggies, real meat, rice, quinoa etc are all naturally gluten free.

We are in a rough spot with Audrey again.  She’s been facing other (non-tummy) health issues again and at times has really been physically struggling.  We have test results once again coming back not good and are in a position very similar to the one we were in last year at this time.  We are waiting on more results to come back, have referrals to 3 new departments at Children’s hospital and are currently awaiting those appointment dates.  The fevers have returned and I touch her often with trepidation, that my touch will be met with heat.

It’s easy to let the fear creep back in, and while I really have my moments of panic this time is different.  This time I have the perspective of a diagnosis I thought would destroy our world and instead it’s given Audrey a piece of her life back.

God answers our prayers always.  Sometimes those answers are the ones we want, sometimes they’re the ones we dread and other times the answer is simply to just wait. I’ve spent the last 6 years thinking we were in the “wait” zone, but that’s not true.

Our prayers have been continually answered, in the number of diseases that have been ruled out, the number of times they looked for cancer and found none, in the fact that she’s going to be 7 years old – in a diagnosis of Celiac disease.  

BEST

Remembering that gives me confidence that He will continue to do as He promises in Jeremiah 29:11-13, it gives me the strength to face each day with joy and it gives me the courage to say, I am thankful for Celiac disease and all of the blessings it brings.

Butternut Squash Fall Bread – Gluten Free Recipe

Delicious flavours of cinnamon, nutmeg, butternut squash or pumpkin and Fall!

Delicious flavours of cinnamon, nutmeg, butternut squash or pumpkin and Fall!

Fall & winter baking is my favourite.  Don’t get me wrong, I love baking year round but there is something about warm oven, inviting smells & delicious flavours on a cold day that makes me feel…content.  

Likewise, the end result of summer baking is still wonderful flavours & treats.  However, something about sweat dripping down your back & the irony of an air conditioner & oven running at the same time leaves me feeling hot, sticky & often, annoyed. (Word to the wise: if I serve you summer baking act like you enjoy it.  Even if you don’t, it’s safer that way!) (Just kidding, be a truth-teller ALWAYS!)(If I’m PMSing maybe just decline the invitation all together)

This past fall, we were bombarded with fall/winter squash.  Audrey grew 3 beautiful little pumpkins in her Grammy & Papa garden, Dad grew some lovely spaghetti squash and I introduced the girls to one of my favourite fall treats – roasted butternut squash with heaping mounds of butter a teeny dollop of butter.

Butternut Squash aka Candy

Roasted butternut squash, also known as candy

We stood in the kitchen, crowded around the still hot squash with spoons.  Ok, and butter, there I said it, I added a little butter to every mouthful because, well, BUTTER!  We were chatting about what new baking adventure we were going to take for fall gift giving, lunch packing and breakfast on the go, when it hit me.  We were eating the perfect base ingredient.

Butternut Squash Fall Bread - Dry IngredientsI shuffled through a few of my recipes, pulled out a bunch of supplies and began dumping things into my mixer.  This is truly how recipe creation goes in this house.  I gather a few recipes, take what I like from each, add more of what I want, remove what I don’t and then cross my fingers that it worked.

This time, it worked.  It really, REALLY worked.  AND I managed to make it both safe for Audrey by being Gluten Free and safe for me too!  Which, if you know us is something that happens almost never.

Butternut Squash Bread - Wet IngredientsWe have made this recipe many, MANY times over since that day.  We’ve made it as muffins, as regular loaves, as mini loaves.  We snacked on batter (don’t judge, you do it too!), we’ve given it as gifts and I’ve easily subbed the butternut squash for pumpkin.  

No matter which way you shake it, this Butternut Squash Fall Bread is a warm, hearty and satisfying staple.  We’ve even cooked, processed & frozen many, many packages of butternut squash & pumpkin purees so that we can make them in the warmer months too.  I’ll suffer for these delicious little treats, they’re that good!

Butternut Squash Fall Bread (or Muffins)
Yields 1
A delicious slice of everything fall. Easily made with either butternut squash puree or pumpkin puree this bread is the perfect addition to a warm cup of tea on a cold Fall day.
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Prep Time
15 min
Prep Time
15 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 3/4 Cups of Oat Flour (see notes)
  2. 2/3 Cup of Quick Oats*
  3. 1/3 Cup of Rolled Oats*
  4. 1 tsp of Baking Soda
  5. 1/2 tsp of salt
  6. 1/2 heaping tsp of cinnamon
  7. 1/4 tsp of cloves
  8. 1/4 tsp of nutmeg
  9. 1/4 tsp of allspice
  10. 1/4 +1/8 tsp of ginger
  11. 1 Cup of pureed butternut squash (or pumpkin)
  12. 2/3 cup of granulated sugar
  13. 1/3 cup of brown sugar
  14. 1/2 cup of applesauce
  15. 2 eggs
Instructions
  1. Pre-Heat oven to 350°F
  2. In a medium mixing bowl whisk together oat flour, quick oats, rolled oats, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice & ginger. Set aside
  3. In a large bowl whisk together granulated sugar, brown sugar, applesauce & eggs
  4. Add butternut squash (pumpkin) into the wet ingredient and stir to combine
  5. Pour dry ingredients into wet ingredients and stir to combine - MAKE SURE THERE ARE NO LUMPS
  6. Line a loaf pan* with parchment paper and lightly grease (you can skip the parchment if you'd like but I find it makes removing the loaf much easier. Or line 12 muffin tins with liners & again lightly grease.
  7. Bake loaf for 50 - 60 minutes or muffins for 20 -25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  8. Let cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then remove from pan and let cool completely on a wire rack
  9. Keep in an airtight container for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 3 months
Notes
  1. Oats: If you're making these for a Celiac or someone with serious gluten intolerance make sure to use Certified Gluten Free Oats.
  2. Oat Flour: Easily make your own oat flour by placing your oats (see above note) into a blender or coffee grinder and blending until they turn into flour
  3. Loaf Pan: I tend to use a smaller (not mini) loaf pan for this recipe. I find I get a taller loaf, medium to larger pans turn out good as well, your loaf will just be a little more rectangular.
Our Family Stone http://www.ourfamilystone.org/

The Sum of My Fears

Fear +

On a daily basis I battle with fear.  Fear that something will happen to my family.  Fear that I will hurt someone’s feelings.  Fear that I will say wrong, do wrong, be wrong.  Fear that I will take my last breath and the people who matter the most won’t know that they mattered the most.

It’s a battle I’ve fought for as long as I can remember.  As a child I was afraid that something would happen to my parents.  Or that I’d be less than the “perfect” I thought everyone expected me to be (in reality that expectation was & often is mine, not anyone else’s) and in turn become a failure.  

No matter what the present fear may be, it all boils back to one root fear – that what is my normal, my routine, my safe will be shaken and I will be forced to face change.

As an adult, with perspective I can look at those past fears and even my present ones and recognize where they come from.  Every last one of them, even my root fear hinge on the fact that I like to have control and any or all of those things happening would mean I lose control.  And if you know me, even a little then you know that I hate to lose control.

The last few days have seen my fear levels rising.  Things are happening in our lives right now (which aren’t things I can share here, at least not right now) that are causing my tummy to turn, my brain to spin and my nights to be filled with fitful, interrupted sleep.

My thoughts are going 100 miles a minute running through the “what ifs” of how I’ll handle what may be to come, trying to get a grip on what could potentially capsize my boat of “normal & routine”.  It’s my way of trying to cope with my fear but let’s be honest…

it doesn’t work.

“What if” never works.  I know that. I can even rationally tell my children that but when it comes time to applying it to my own life, I get sucked in to its vortex just like the next gal.

In truth, 90% of what we worry about never even happens & even when it does we rarely, if ever draw on our “what if” scenarios.  Instead we dig our heels into the moment and focus on adjusting, adapting and coping with what is in front of us.

So, then why do allow the “what ifs” & fear in?

I don’t really know but I think it has something to do with where I let my eyes focus.

When I choose to focus on the hard things, the scary things, the flat out bad things that may lay ahead I miss all the good things, the beautiful things, the incredible blessings that God has placed right here, in my present.

It’s much the same as embarking on a long hike for the first time, alone.  Looking up at the top of the mountain alone from the parking lot, the end result feels daunting & even unattainable.  The reasons why it’s “too hard” flood out the reasons that brought us there in the first place and we may be tempted to get back in the car and leave. 

If we take a friend (or 6) with us though, the experience is completely different.  Instead of focusing our eyes on the top of the mountain, we’re laughing in the moment.  Stories of kids crazy antics, trips to the dentist (we’re cool that way), husband blunders and life fill the air, and motivate your steps.  Pretty soon you’re halfway up the trail and right about that time you feel like you can’t take another step, someone turns back and grabs your hand.  

Sometimes it’s figuratively, in the form of words of encouragement, other times physically helping you over that last hump.  Either way you’re not alone and before you know it, you’re at the top – feeling satisfied, accomplished and victorious.

That’s something like how life works too.  When I choose to try to work through all these fears and stresses alone, I feel like I’m drowning.  My chest actually hurts and I struggle to breath – fear takes over and then, it wins.

Then I realize I’m not on this journey alone.  The God of the universe, the one who put the stars in the sky & the planets into motion is right here, walking beside me.  When I choose to talk to Him, to focus on His continued faithfulness and to listen for His quiet whispers, my fear doesn’t seem so big.

I wish I could say I’ve mastered trusting God in all things.  I have not.  I still struggle every single moment daily with my need for control but I’m trying.

Going into this holiday season I’m going to change my focus.  I’m going to do my best to relish in what Christmas is REALLY all about – the birth of a baby who’d one day die to save my faulted & dirtied soul.  I’m going to try hard to not only sing about the peace that His birth brought but rest in it as well.

Because I know, no matter what our future holds, God truly is greater than the sum of all my fears.

 

Pure Hazelwood – Pain Relief & Giveaways!

For as long as I can remember I’ve had trouble with my hips.  Doctors have looked at them, x-rays have been done and the ultimate conclusion is that they probably should have been casted when I was a baby.  Not quite congenital hips but just a step below them.  My Mom was really on the ball, noticing how loose they were but our doctor was never concerned.  It’s just one of those things that happened, because stuff happens.

Anyways, what that means is that they often “fall out” of the socket or at the very least sound/feel like they do.  If I’m sitting on the floor with the flats of my feet pressed together my knees flop to the side.  Riding a bike can often be painful because one or both will slip out of place and I have to manually shift them back to relieve the pain. 

I’ve spent years working the muscles that surround those joints, to strengthen them and while it’s helped they still cause me grief.  

The hardest part – they ache horribly, like the kind of ache you get when you have a fever except it feels deep in my joints. They are the worst at night, especially during my period (you’re welcome) often resulting in lost sleep.

The thing is, I don’t like taking medication.  In fact, in our house we do our best to avoid taking it when at all possible, looking for more natural solutions.  I also don’t tolerate most pain medications well as many of them contain corn as a filler and leave me with a whole different problem.  That being said – there are times I need something to help alleviate the discomfort, which leaves me on the hunt for natural alternatives.

When I heard about the Pure Hazelwood products (for more information check out their website) and their potential to help with so many different ailments, I was intrigued.

For the past 18 years Pure Hazelwood has been pioneering scientific research on hazel wood products, discovering it’s anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-bacterial potential. They’re products have been credited for helping with a wide range of ailments, teething pain, colic, arthritis (joint pain!), skin problems (including eczema, & psoriasis), digestive problems & even mouth sores.

Of course they had me at joint pain, but then I started looking at their product line and I was pretty impressed.  They have beautiful bracelets, anklets & necklaces for adults & children, as well as moisturizing lotion & zinc ointment.  By using glass beads, fresh water pearls & natural gemstones they have been able to offer a variety of lovely products that suite everyone’s taste.  I chose a fresh water pearl hazel wood necklace – and I LOVE it.  (Pearls are among my favourite things!)

Pure Hazelwood Necklace 1

All of the products are made from 100% natural hazelwood from the Canadian Boreal Forest by a Canadian company, which is something else we love!.  When at all possible Our Family Stone tries to keep it local.  The products can be found in pharmacies, health food stores, baby boutiques and my favourite option – online.

Pretty right?

Pure Hazelwood Necklace

Pretty cool too, no?

My necklace came and it was beautiful, something I could and do wear with just about anything.  I’ve spent the last 2 weeks wearing it every day and watching to see what would happen. 

While I’d love to say it was a miracle cure & all my pain disappeared overnight, you and I both know that wouldn’t be true.  What I can say is that I weathered my period over those 2 weeks (again you are SO welcome!) and I didn’t have to get up in the night to take any pain medication not even once. That all by itself is a huge win!

We will see what the future holds for our family with my Pure Hazelwood necklace.  I have plans to let Audrey wear it and see if it makes a difference for her with her eczema this winter too.  Who knows, maybe I have found the easy & ultimate cure for a problem that can be so persistent, I’ll be sure to report back & let you know.

Now, here’s something exciting for YOU – Pure Hazelwood is giving away 3 fantastic prizes including a $50 gift certificate and a Pure Hazelwood product (valued at $50)!  All you have to do is enter below for your chance to win!

Pure Hazelwood Influence Central Contest

If you’ve tried the Pure Hazelwood products I’d love to hear about it!  Did you find relief, did your kids?  If you haven’t tried, will you?  What ailment are you hoping to find a natural cure for?

If you have any further questions be sure to check out the Pure Hazelwood Facebook page or reach out to them on Twitter!  

“Disclosure: I am part of the Pure Hazelwood Influencer Campaign and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.”

Finding Grace in Small Things – The Husband Edition

This past weekend Corey and I were privileged enough to have some time alone.  The girls spent the 2 nights/days with my parents while we attended Christmas parties, shopped and spent time together.

When I crawled into bed last night, our whole little family back together I couldn’t help but look back on the weekend and the years and see all the blessings God has given me in a husband.

Us  2015

5. He (still) opens car doors.

When Corey and I first began dating I can remember thinking how sweet it was that he’d always open my car door for me, pull out a chair or walk on the road edge.  I loved it and appreciated it but somewhere in my mind I thought the day would come when the “comfortable” part of being together would set in and he would stop.

Nearly 10 years later, that day has yet to come.  No matter how busy we are, how rainy it is, how tired Corey feels he STILL opens my car door and I must say, it means more to me now than it did then.  The days of trying to impress me are long over, and now I can see it wasn’t formality, it was chivalry & it is love.

Kiss

4. The Laugh

I love the sound of Corey’s laugh.  The one that bubbles up when he’s trying so hard to be serious.  It’s the one that I often kill the serious moments with a little of my own breed of stupid just so I can hear it.  The laughter, our laughter is what has helped make this marriage what it is, and I hope we always find the place where it exists.

aug, sept. 2005 004

This photo was the first time I ever saw Corey.  (We were set up by a mutual friend, thanks Mac!)

3. Grey hair & wrinkles

Just over 10 years ago, on our first date, my arms wrapped around Corey’s waist, zipping across Okanagan lake I saw the first streaks of grey in his hair and I though “so handsome, attractive even”.  Later that night, curled up watching a movie, I looked into his eyes and God gave me my own secret window into the future.  For a split second I felt like I could see his eyes, years from that day weathered from the years, full of love and all I could think was “I need to see those eyes.”

IMG_0067

The grey has multiplied and some of those weathered lines of wrinkles have begun to show and I can’t help thinking, every time I see them how thankful I am that God has allowed me to travel this road with this man.  (ps. They’re also that thing that makes him sexier with each passing year.)

Lean on Me

2. The Arms

In Corey’s arms I have found safety, comfort, strength and intimacy (you may not want to know that but it is an important part of a healthy marriage).  When Corey gives a hug he holds on.  For as long as I need it and he lets go of his hold first.  He’s content to let me take what I need and I love that.

I’m not much for being touched on any level (read: most times being touched by people causes me to feel like I’m suffocating & causes panicked, if not dangerous defense responses) but when it’s Corey it’s so very different.  His arms are my “home” and tucked against his shoulder is my best place.  

IMG_8456

1. His servant’s heart

There is nothing, absolutely nothing I love more about the man I married than the heart God has given him.  It is the heart of a servant.  He is giving and kind, compassionate and patient, soft spoken and sweet, understanding and forgiving – even when the forgiveness is completely undeserved.

At our wedding Pastor Gary talked about serving each other in marriage.  About how being willing to “wash each other’s feet” like Jesus did with the disciples was a beautiful metaphor for marriage.  The willingness to serve your spouse, to put them before yourself and give to them was a key component in a strong marriage. 

Engagement!

I know that might sound a little scary, like one person might be completely depleted and uncared for, but in fact it’s exactly the opposite.  Think about it for a minute – if you’re each humbling yourself and serving the other one, then both parties are being completely loved & taken care of.

Corey heard that message and he has embodied that every day of our lives together.  Sure we’ve had our moments, what married couple doesn’t (heck what long standing relationship doesn’t?!)?  But those moments pale in my memory compared to the good ones.

This man has cared for me, deeply, truly and completely for 10 years and I know, from the depths of my soul how truly blessed I am to call him mine. 

Grace in Small Things is a social network created by Schmutzie to wage a war against imbitterment!  Check out my first post here.

Gluten Free Shortbread – AKA Melt in your Mouth Heaven

Gluten Free Shortbread Cookies - Yum! Looking for the regular “wheat” version of these cookies?  You can find them and MANY more in our Baking Life Healthy: The Secret Recipes Behind the Business e-cookbook, HERE!

If Christmas were to be defined by a flavour, for me it would be simple – (frozen) Shortbread Cookies and Ginger Snaps.   They are home, they are yummy and they are everything I love & loved about Christmas.

My Mom baked a lot when I was little and I clearly remember hours spent helping her in the kitchen. We’d bake gingerbread men, make chocolates for gifts, lick beaters (ya we did!) and decorate shortbread cookies before popping them in the oven.   I also remember sneaking back into the freezer long after the dishes had been cleared, liberating a few frozen cookies for a little snack…I mean, somebody had to make sure they were safe, right?!

Looking back I’m not sure how many of those hours were actual help, but they were without a doubt the makings of great memories.

I learned a lot those Christmases, gaining valuable skills in the kitchen, discovering Moms don’t have to see what you’re doing to know you did it (she always knew I’d had those extra cookies, though she rarely called me on it) and leaning into the comfort of family traditions & recipes.Gluten Free Shortbread Cookies 2

I’ve carried many of those traditions on with our girls, selfishly creating a new batch of memories for me and hopefully giving them a start on some special ones of their own.  

This year, we’re still going to make those memories but they’re going to take a new shape.  I’ve been spending hours in my kitchen, taking our family Christmas favourites and making them gluten free.

Thankfully, this recipe is one that co-operated first time out of the gate and is (according to my family) equally as yummy as the traditional “wheat shortbread**”.  It’s the same melt in your mouth Christmas favourite that I grew up, only now it’s also a gluten free, Celiac safe treat for EVERYONE in our family!

I hope you enjoy it and keep watching the blog (or sign up to our email list so you’ll NEVER miss the BIG stuff!)  I’m going to be sharing a series of gluten free Christmas baking over the next few weeks and there might even be some extra Freebies in it for you too!

Here’s to the start of the holiday season and Christmas baking….and eating!

Gluten Free Shortbread Cookies
These melt in your mouth gluten free delights are the perfect addition to your Christmas baking line up!
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Prep Time
5 min
Total Time
25 min
Prep Time
5 min
Total Time
25 min
Ingredients
  1. 1/2 Cup of Cornstarch
  2. 1/2 Cup of Icing (confectioners) Sugar
  3. 1 Cup of Gluten Free All Purpose Flour (we LOVE Namaste's All Purpose Flour)
  4. 1/4 tsp of xanthan gum (if your blend contains it like mine does omit this ingredient)
  5. 3/4 Cup of COLD butter cut into small cubes
Toppings
  1. Gluten Free Sprinkles
  2. Mini Hershey's Kisses (in Canada they are gluten free, make sure to read all your packages if gluten is a concern!)
  3. Chopped Nuts
  4. Icing Sugar for dusting
  5. Colored Decorative Sugars
Instructions
  1. Note: This recipe doubles very well. I also use a stand mixer for this recipe but feel free to do it by hand if you prefer.
  2. 1. Preheat oven to 350° F
  3. 2. In the bowl of a stand mixer sift together the corn starch, icing sugar & flour.
  4. 3. Cut the butter into very small cubes & add to the dry ingredients
  5. 4. Using your paddle attachment & either your bowl guard or a clean, dry tea towel turn the mixer on low speed
  6. 5. Once the mixture resembles coarse sand, turn up the speed to medium & allow the mixer to work until the dough forms a ball & the sides of the bowl are clean.
  7. 6. Roll out dough approx. 1/2" thick between two pieces of wax paper, chill for 15 minutes and cut out desired shapes, re-roll dough and continue. Alternatively you can roll pieces of dough into balls and press them down slightly with a fork. Add toppings
  8. 7. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet & bake 12-18 minutes or until lightly golden brown on the edges I have found times dramatically vary based on the oven
  9. 8. Let cool on cookie sheet for 5 minutes then remove to a cooling rack.
Notes
  1. These cookies last on the counter for approx. 1 week before starting to dry out. They also freeze really well just make sure whatever way you decide to store them that the container is airtight!
Our Family Stone http://www.ourfamilystone.org/
**We don’t call food with gluten in it “normal” or “regular” food because that makes Audrey’s gluten free food sound like it’s something strange.  ALL of the food I bake is “normal” (except for that one time I mixed up my baking soda and my salt ratios, that was NOT normal!) some of it has gluten/wheat in it and some of it is gluten free.**

 

It takes a Village…MY Village

Mom's Night Out 1

 

“It takes a village to raise a child”

As a young mother, I remember hearing that old proverb and thinking, “maybe it used to take a village but not now.  I have everything I need at my fingertips, doctors on speed dial, parenting advice on Facebook (ha!) and answers to all our potty training dilemma’s on Google.  What do I need a village for?”

In general I’m content to be on my own, I crave the silence of solitude and when given a choice I will avoid/bail on any & all large group activities.  In reality if I HAVE to attend something that has 5+ new people I have to battle the urge to flee.  Corey has, on more than one occasion had to hold my hand and gently tug me into a room reminding me that he’s “right there” and it will be OK.

Now if you know me this may have just completely blown your mind.  I mean this from the girl who can talk the ears off an elephant but it’s true.  You see, that girl only comes out when she feels safe, and even at that my time with groups of people is limited.  My tank will run dry and I need my space to once again “refresh”. 

Pair that with my incredible need to be self sufficient and you can see why I felt I really didn’t need a village.  Women can be mean, mommies can be scary (do not, I repeat DO NOT poke the Mama Bear.  Especially THIS Mama Bear) and I was far too independent to need anyone else’s help in raising my children.

Or so I thought.

Mom's South Hills Birthday locket

I’m not really sure when it happened or how but by the end of Bethany’s Kindergarten year I had met a group of beautiful women who very quickly have become some of my dearest friends. I spent years petrified of what life would be like surrounded by a group of women (high school “girl groups” left me with a tainted and unrealistic view of female friendship), and what I’ve discovered is the incredible love & power we, together bring to life. 

 Over the past 4 years as the bonds between us grew, so did those of our children, in fact I think it was their friendships that put us together in the first place.  They are this unique blend of little people who fit so well together.  They just simply work, floating and rearranging themselves in clusters of fun (and sometimes mischief) these kids are truly incredible.

This past year as we have faced so many changes in life, work, and health challenges I’ve never been more thankful for the village of women I’ve been given.  Not only for me, but for my children as well.

When Audrey ended up in hospital a few weeks ago, and I couldn’t make it to the school to get Bethany I knew I had back up.  Though my heart ached to be with my other little girl, I was confident she’d be taken care of and loved until Corey could get home to get her.  A few quick texts and that’s exactly what happened.  Not only was she picked up from school but she had “the BEST DAY EVER” hanging out with a few of her friends and I was given the gift of leaning into my friends.

As the weekend pushed on I was overwhelmed and blessed by text messages of thoughts, offers of help and encouragement.  I knew these women were wonderful before but in the midst of another bout of uncertainty their love really drove home my blessings in each of them, at time to point of tears.

Asking for help isn’t something I do very well.  In reality for me, asking for anything makes me feel physically ill.  I want to do it on my own, I feel as though I’m SUPPOSED to do it on my own and when I can’t I’m left feeling weak.  I selfishly would rather be the one doing the helping rather than the one asking for it.

Over the years these ladies have taught me so much, about life, about friendship and about learning to let others help you back.  They’ve shown me that friendship, the real kind of friendship is a balance of give and take.

Mom's Night Out 2

To my beautiful, amazing, incredible friends (who are NOT at all part of a Mommy Mafia….just to be clear)(inside outside joke)(but we AREN’T)

I love you.  I am better for knowing you, for the lessons you taught, the vulnerability you’ve shared and for the family we’ve created.  Your children are amazing little people whom I love as deeply as I love my own girls.  Our special little group was created for each other, designed & built to grow together on this crazy life road.  When I look at them I’m filled with hope, for who they are and who they’re going to become.

Thank you for the laughter, the friendship, and for holding me up in the moments I didn’t think I could stay standing.  Thank you for joining me on my journey through life & letting me walk with you on yours.  

You are incredible women and I’m so thankful that you are each the blessing branches on my tree of life.

♥Ashley

Don’t be afraid of building your village dear readers, they are God’s daily reminder of His love & faithfulness in the people who join you as you travel through life. 

It’s HERE!

It’s here, it’s finally here!  After months of work and a few delays “Baking Life Healthy: The Secret Recipes Behind the Business” e-cookbook is finally here!  

When I first shared with you that I was going to write an e-cookbook I was excited.  I had big dreams and big plans.  It was already almost complete when I wrote that post and I sincerely thought that I’d have it ready to go within a few weeks. 

Baking Life Healthy e-cookbook!

Then I got scared.  The great “what ifs” took over and pretty soon I was paralyzed with fear, unable to click “PUBLISH”.  

What if nobody buys it?  What if everyone things I’m lame.?  What if they don’t like my recipes? What if my friends laugh at me?  What if my family is embarrassed by me? What if it completely tanks and confirms what I fear, that deep down I am a failure?

The story of how I got from there to here is long and one for another day, but what I will say is that in the middle of a load of laundry & a great podcast (I ♥ personal development) I  realized that everything I fear exists only in my head.  By NOT putting myself out there I had decided to accept failure before success ever had the chance to exist.

So here we are, I’ve published it and it is officially for sale!

I’m nervous.  And excited.  And really, really nervous but it’s done, and I’m glad.

Truthfully,  I hope you want to buy it.  I hope that you share it with your friends and I hope that they take these recipes and run with them.  I hope my Instagram feed is filled with YOUR versions of what started in my kitchen.  Secretly, or maybe not so much any more I hope it’s a success.

The reality behind those desires and the success of this e-cookbook remain to been seen but I can go to bed tonight happy.  I took the leap, I clicked “PUBLISH” and I faced the “What ifs” head on.  

Today, I no longer chose to accept failure, today I made the decision to give success a chance.

Thank you ALL so much for your support, your encouragement and your friendship.  You are loved, you are cherish and you are valued!

Now…to buy the book click the picture above, or the button below.  If you’re as excited as I am, please share this post on your social media and invite your friends to get a copy too!  Snap photos of your creations and please use the hashtag #OFSBakes so I can see all your yummy treats!

Let’s Get Baking!

Thank you again and HAPPY BAKING!

“The Talk” across the Years

Mountain Lake 1

I had the rare opportunity the other day to have the house to myself for a few hours.  Corey & the girls were out, I’d finished running in 82 different directions and decided to push aside the massive guilt cloud and sat down to watch a little TV.

(Side: Am I the only one who has a few hours to herself and ends up filling it with groceries, house work & errands? Please tell me I’m not.  I just always feel like I should be doing things that are responsible and I shouldn’t be doing things that are fun.)

Anyways, I was watching a very grown up show (OK, let’s be honest….I watched 90210 because I’m cool like that.) (Also because HELLO 90’s I MISSED YOU!) with the intention of letting my over working brain unwind. 

However, not long into things the topic of sex came up.

If you grew up in the 90210 era you know that sex was basically the center of any & all story lines.  Each episode seemed to revolve around someone “doing it”, someone else not “doing it”, if they weren’t “doing it” they were talking about it, or the rest of the world was dreaming about which one they’d choose if THEY could, ya know… “do it”.  (Oh, yes you did, you know you did, we ALL did!)

As I giggled my way through the innocence of the episode a different reality hit me.  No longer am I seeing these characters through they eyes of a teenager, I’m seeing them through the eyes of a mother.

And I had a heart attack. 

We haven’t even had the full “sex” talk with our girls yet and all of a sudden I was picturing my future.  The talks we are going to have when they are little, the way those talks are going to evolve as they get older and the role those conversations will play in the choices they make.

I know the message I want to send them about sex, about God’s plan for it in their lives (believe it or not, I believe He intends for it to be an excellently, awesome part of their lives.  When they are married.), about choosing to wait until they are married and all of the things in between.

I also know the part of those conversations where I have to be real, to be raw and explain that I am not necessarily speaking from a place of example but rather experience and sometimes even a place of regret. 

Despite being raised in a Christian home, with supportive parents, and good strong morals, I didn’t always make the right choices (um, hello sin nature).  As a young girl I swore I’d wait until marriage, I wore a purity ring and I was sincerely convinced I would wait but I didn’t.  Temptation and circumstance bested me and I made choices, more than once to give that part of my body, of my heart to someone who didn’t end up my husband.

I knew the consequences those choices could have in the moment, on me but I had no idea how they would affect my future, as a wife, as a mother.

As the scenes from the show passed by so did my life choices.  I really began thinking about how the things I have done, the things that happened in my past will shape my girls’ future.  Will they hear those stories and make wiser choices?  Will they want to emulate them, ignore them or hide their heads under their pillows?  While there is no doubt in my mind that I will be truthful, I do wonder if I’ll have the courage to allow that truth to also come with the emotions that those memories hold.

Our future as parents is filled with unknowns.  If having newborns teaches us nothing else it’s that all that we think we know is a fallacy and our best laid plans are actually recipes for disaster.

So, I won’t play the “what if game” because it won’t do me any good.  Worrying about it now won’t change anything but I will think about it and pray for all that is to come. I will pray that the words that I say, the conversations we will have will prepare them, protect them and empower them to do what they believe is right. 

How do YOU feel about your children, you past and the conversations you’ll have about their futures?

*Please know that if you disagree with our opinion of what God’s plan is for marriage & sex that is OK, no judgement here.  We respect everyone’s right to an opinion and I’m certainly not going to force mine on you.  However, this is my space, and just like I try to live my life authentically I promise to do the same here, which means sharing who I am & what I believe.*

Dirty Little Secrets

Silly Stones

You know what I have?  Secrets.  “Dirty little secrets” that I rarely if ever let anyone see. The things I keep hidden from the outside world, the thoughts I never say (shocker – she does have a filter), the things I try not to let you see and the habits I work to hide.   

Until today.

In an effort to live my life as authentically as possible (which I’ve always tried to do with sincerity & honesty) I’ve decided it’s time to share the things that make me, me.  The quirky, silly, annoying & sometimes even embarrassing parts that make up the whole of me. 

Why?  I guess to encourage others that we’re not alone in our idiosyncrasies.   Social media has made perfection easy to fake and I don’t wanna fake it.  I want to be the true, faulted human God has created me to be, because it’s in acknowledging my failings I can work to be better (or embrace them completely).  

So, deep breath here we go!

DLS #1 – My Kitchen looks like something exploded: when I bake.  No kidding, I do my best to avoid having anyone see what my kitchen looks like when I bake.  Back when Baking Life Healthy was running, I’d keep the front blinds drawn so that customers coming to the door for warm baked goods couldn’t see the catastrophe behind me.

In general it’s a pretty clean place, especially now that we are living in a constant state of Gluten Watch but when it’s time for the magic to happen, all bets are off.  Flour flies, dishes are everywhere and there are always multiple items being constructed & experimented with at the same time.  I mean, if I’m gonna have a mess to clean up anyways, I might as well make it worth the while right?Sweat

DLS #2 – I sweat, uncontrollably: when I workout.  It’s seriously disgusting and there’s not a thing I can do about it.  I’ve got fancy workout gear, I keep the house as cool as possible, I use towels & I drink copious amounts of water.  The only thing I won’t do is reduce the intensity because, dude – if your heart’s not thundering, what’s the point?!

Now I wear deodorant (see DLS#3) but let’s be real that stuff is only meant for under your arms.  I’m pretty sure applying it to my forehead would go against manufacturer’s instructions.  That and I’m guessing nobody’s tested what happens with the aluminum sinking into your brain….(I have no idea if it does, but I wonder)

DLS #3 – If I could afford it I would TOTALLY get Botox: in my armpits! I know, I know weird right?  But not really.  You see I sweat, A LOT and it’s really gross.  I have tried all different antiperspirants/deodorants and while some work better than others, I’ve yet to find one that really does the job.  And I haven’t found ANY that help when I work out (see DLS #2).

It’s not just the sweat either, it’s the smell.  Sweat itself doesn’t smell, but the warm, moist environment is a prime location for bacteria to grow which equates to bacteria stink &  me a nasty, smelly mess.  The other problem is that I really don’t love the idea of putting aluminum on my skin, in my armpits near any breast tissue I may have (HA!), but natural deodorants are completely ineffective.  To date armpit Botox is coming up as a safe alternative to antiperspirants/deodorants.  Since it’s gonna be years before I’ll be able to afford the treatment, I have time to wait and see if it stays that way.  

DLS #4 – Sometimes I go the bathroom not to use it but to: get my children’s attention.  Sadly, this is not a joke.  There have been days when nobody is listening, nothing is getting done and I am getting hoarse from yelling (see DLS #5).  Instead of completely losing my mind or moving out, I just head straight for the nearest toilet.  Within seconds of the “click” from the light switch both my girls are meandering in there.  Then we have a meaningful conversation as I sit on the toilet, lid closed.  It’s stupid that it works, but trust me it works.

(WARNING: Should you begin to employ this method of parenting I strongly suggest you stop hiding in there to eat the chocolate you don’t want to share with them.  IF they find you with it, you’ll never EVER pee alone again.)

DLS #5 – I’m a yeller: and a cryer.  I truly hate this part of me, and it’s something I’m working really, really hard to change.  I hate that my frustration amps up my volume 25 fold in 5.2 seconds.  I hate that post hollering I end up in tears because I didn’t like to holler and I loath that there are times I hear my girls mimic that tone back to me.  

I, like everyone else am a work in progress, and I can truly say it’s getting better.  But, in an effort to be transparent it’s not as better as it could be.  I don’t yell when other people are around (unless they have really, really pushed mama’s buttons) so there’s no reason I need to do when it’s the 3 most precious people in my life.

So there you have it, just a few of the things that I’ve worked so hard to keep hidden way down deep.  I hope my being transparent with you has made you feel better or even laugh a little at my expense.  

What Dirty Little Secret are you hiding from the “real world”?