a chapter ends.

Big news!

Well, okay – not so big, because chances are that if you are reading this, you are friends with me on Facebook or follow me on Instagram and already heard it.  But in case you haven’t heard:  I have resigned from my part time clinical dietitian position and my last day is July 24th!

Thanks to my hard working husband getting a fabulous promotion and my online nutrition and fitness coaching business – I’m able to quit my job and stay at home with the boys. I can’t even BELIEVE it!  I’ve always wanted to be a stay at home mom, but had pretty much accepted that this was not going to be my reality.  I was okay with working part time and so thankful that my Mom could watch the boys so I never had to put a baby or toddler in day care, but I want to be the one raising my kids full time.  And while I’ve always been grateful that my job helped us be able to afford our house and cars and pay the bills – the dynamics of my department have become particularly stressful in the past one to two years and I just desire to get away from that negative environment and source of stress.

So, come July 25th, I’ll be able to focus more on the boys – I get to be the one to wake them up for school every day, I will be able to go on field trips, I will have more time to teach L at home to prepare him for Kindergarten next year, I can volunteer more at church, and I will be able to spend more time on my coaching business and helping others to improve their health through fitness and nutrition.  I’m so excited!

Because I’m resigning, I have some paid time off available to use and I decided to take two days off a couple weeks ago and took the kids to the seashore for a few days.  For two of those days it was just me and the boys, and we did great!  I was able to take them all to the beach and to the boardwalk on my own.  Everyone behaved (for the most part) and had fun.  It felt really good to look at my 4 boys playing on the beach with good behavior, and think back to two summers ago when I felt like things couldn’t possibly be worse.

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I even got the boys to cooperate with dressing nice for beach photos. We intended to do this as a Father’s Day gift without MJM’s knowledge, but then I forgot my camera battery charger and so we had to wait for MJM to arrive with the battery charger so that I could charge the camera battery and take the pictures. And then, the older boys refused to cooperate with the photo shoot when I planned to do it, so they wound up being disciplined and they changed their tune the next day. So, it didn’t go as smoothly as I had hoped, but I got the pictures and MJM got his Father’s Day gift.

Here was our best shot, that I ordered as a canvas print for MJM’s office:

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And here are the rest: many are outtakes, but I did get a few nice pictures of the boys. I’m so looking forward to the next time I can take the boys to the shore!  Just a few more weeks of work, and then a new chapter begins!

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moving on to summer.

Wow!  Well, May just flew by!  I’ve got a picture dump from the last month and a half or so – basically ever since I upgraded to the iPhone 6 in April.  We kept very busy with soccer, playdates, get togethers with friends, joining the pool again for the summer, hitting up the dairy farm for milk and to visit the animals, setting up a new trampoline, enjoying Mother’s Day (I got to “escape” for lunch with my Mom and sister),  attending the art show at V&A’s school, and spending time with family as we savored precious moments with Gram and then gathered to say goodbye.  It was a whirlwind month – full of fun and happy moments but also marked by grief.  I’m feeling conflicted about moving on to a new season – but I imagine that’s pretty typical when you lose a loved one.  I’m happy to be moving forward into summer and life in general with the boys and MJM, however it makes me sad to think that each day is one day more that Gram is no longer with us.  I suppose I’ll feel like this for a while and that it will get easier with time.                                                                

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gram.

I had the most amazing Gram.  She was beautiful, classy, dedicated, devoted, faithful, funny, knowledgeable, full of life, love, and laughter.  She left this earth on May 21, 2015 – a little over 2 weeks ago now.  I’m no longer erupting into ugly sobbing fits, but the heart ache remains when I think about how I won’t see her again in this life.

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(that’s me!)

She loved being a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.  She loved when the family was all together, especially when we would all spend our summer vacation together in Brigantine, New Jersey.  She would always be up and ready to cook breakfast for each and every person in that house (and there would be more than 30 people to cook for at times), and you could pick whatever you wanted.  I loved when she cooked me eggs.  I often stayed at her house during my high school years and she sent me off to school after making me a scrambled egg with cheese on an English muffin, with a glass of orange juice to wash it down.  She loved to serve her family.  Even in her dying days, it bothered her that she couldn’t do anything to help her daughter (my mom) who was on crutches for a busted foot.

She loved to travel, listen to classical music, watch Seinfeld, watch Jeopardy (and she knew all the answers), play Scrabble, read the newspaper front to back, do the crossword puzzles in ink, and have someone read the word jumbles to her so she could figure them out without looking at the letters.  She loved to cut newspaper articles out and send them to family members to read.  She loved to write notes on beautiful stationary to send to loved ones.  We were all special to her, and she never held back with her love for us.

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(okay – ugly sobs are coming now)

My thoughts these days are often “I wish I spent more time with her.”  But truly, I was blessed to spend so much time with her.  She always came to our music recitals, dance recitals, graduations, birthday celebrations, plus we spent holidays with her and our summer vacations with her.  As I previously mentioned, I also spent much time with her during my high school years when I had pit band rehearsals that went late into the evening, and Gram and Pop’s house was much closer to my school than home was.  I would curl up on the couch to watch a show as she walked around in her silk robe with her long flowing grey hair unpinned usually with a rosary in her hands, finally settling in to watch some TV with me before heading to bed.  She worked hard and she enjoyed life.  I just wish she could have stayed here longer – for my own selfish purposes.

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I am going to miss the way I would always feel when I walked into her house.  She would greet me (and everyone who walked in) with wide open arms, a HUGE smile, and a little shimmy as she walked towards me for a hug.  Her daughters and granddaughters were her darlings, and her sons and grandsons were her precious boys.  I am so grateful that my boys were all able to know her, although my heart aches to think that my younger two children will most likely have no recollection of her.

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In February of 2013, she fell as she was going into Mass one morning and shattered her elbow and fractured her pelvis.  She required surgery for an elbow replacement, and rehab for her pelvis. After a few months, she was back home with Pop, but she was never the same.  She became more emotional than she had ever shown she was in the past – calling herself “needy,” and was mostly housebound after that point.  She was able to attend some family functions from that point until this past Christmas of 2014, but it was difficult for her and she seemed very worried whenever I saw her.  Her house was all set up to help her and my Pop stay home safely, but they wound up needing to get home care services after multiple falls last year.   This past January, she was hospitalized with the flu, came home and then developed pneumonia and was re-hospitalized.  She refused to go to rehab and said she never wanted to go to the hospital again – did not want to be kept alive by artificial means (breathing tube, feeding tube) and did not want chest compressions if her heart stopped.  So she was placed on palliative care and also had 24 hour home care, which meant she was able to be in her beautiful home and be surrounded by the people and things that she loved.

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Shortly before Mother’s Day, the palliative care team warned the family that she was showing signs that her death would be in the next week or two.  It was hard to hear, and hard to see Gram go through this, but at the same time we were all so blessed to be able to have the time to tell her anything we wanted to say and have that closure before she left us.  And she was able to communicate her love for us even in her last moments.

She was so loved, and she loved so much.  How lucky I have been to be her granddaughter, and I cannot wait to see her again in heaven.

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my favorite granola.

I love me some granola.  MJM first made this granola recipe years ago, and I was hooked. I’ve been making it ever since, and when I was pregnant with T, yogurt with this granola was the only breakfast that held me over for more than an hour. Last fall, when I started working out consistently, and then worked on improving my nutrition, I knew I had to do something about this granola recipe. It’s way high in sugar. Brown sugar, maple syrup, sweetened coconut flakes. It tastes soooo good, but with that much sugar it’s practically like eating dessert. So, I started by using unsweetened coconut. I was surprised that I didn’t notice a difference in how good the granola tasted. Then, I took the plunge and completely cut out the brown sugar. The granola definitely was less sweet than the original recipe, but I still enjoyed it just as much AND I feel much better about eating it.  I used to eat the original recipe with sweetened vanilla flavored yogurt, but now I eat it with plain Greek yogurt and it STILL hits the spot.

My Favorite Granola

3 cups rolled oats
1 cup whole almonds
1 cup cashew halves
3/4 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
pinch of sea salt
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Mix all of the ingredients together, spread onto a jelly roll pan and cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes at 250 degrees F, stirring every 15 minutes.

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my favorite holiday.

This year sealed the deal for me. Easter is definitely my favorite holiday.

First and foremost: without the resurrection of Jesus Christ – Christmas wouldn’t even matter.

Then, there’s the fact that Easter requires less preparation, it’s less expensive, the kids are under less pressure to behave – which means they actually behave better (funny how that works), the kids expect less and yet are more grateful for what they receive (also funny how THAT works), and most years the weather is nice enough that the kids can play outside which usually means less fighting.  Overall, Easter just seems to be a more relaxed and enjoyable holiday than Christmas.

This year was no different.  The boys received candy, snacks, and one toy (the older boys got a tin of Pokemon cards, L got a Minecraft torch, and T got a coloring book) – and they were all so happy with everything.  We went to church, came home for lunch, and then went to Mimi and Pop-pop’s for dinner with the whole family.  The kids got along with their cousins for the most part – and when they didn’t, they were able to resolve their conflict and move on.  It’s so awesome to think that even just one year ago I was a nervous wreck at family functions, and I would constantly be having to break things up between V and either his brothers or his cousins.  I couldn’t just sit down and relax.  But now, I can actually enjoy myself.  I can sit and watch the kids interact and not be expecting that all hell is about to break lose.  And once again I am reminded of how far we’ve come and how proud I am of my boys.

Happy Easter!

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healthy blueberry muffins that my kids actually ate.

MJM does the food shopping early on Saturday mornings.  It’s my job to create the menu and the list for the store, and I often wait until the last minute to do it – and then complain that I’m stuck in a rut and I’m tired of doing this.  I’m often awake until 11 pm Friday nights, still making the list – because I’m a procrastinator, and I wind up checking on the older boys around 10 PM or so to see if they are still awake (they usually are – since Friday nights we let them bring their Kindles to bed), and ask them what they want for their school lunches and school day breakfasts.  This week, they both replied that they wanted blueberry muffins for breakfast.  I’ve been trying to give them healthier options for breakfast lately, and the only recipe I’ve ever tried for blueberry muffins is LOADED with sugar.  So, I felt a little bummed because I didn’t want them to have a super sugary breakfast, but I didn’t have another option in my muffin repertoire yet.  So, I went to Facebook, asked for ideas from others and did some searching on Pinterest as well as Google, and thought that this recipe looked like it would turn out all right.  I wound up making two batches, because – well, the first time around I forgot to add the baking powder.  Hint: you need that.  As the second batch baked in the oven, I felt nervous that the boys (particularly the older ones) would hate the muffins and refuse to eat them which would complicate the weekday mornings.  I was having second thoughts because the recipe seemed like it didn’t have enough sweetener, and using juice instead of milk seemed odd to me (although I guess the juice would add more sweetness to them – but I subbed milk for the juice).  Luckily though, the second batch turned out perfect and all of the boys ate them for breakfast on Sunday morning!  On Monday, however, the younger two boys refused to eat the muffins – but the older boys have been eating them every morning without uttering a single complaint.  So, I’m calling it a win.

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Here is the recipe with my adaptations:

Healthy Blueberry Muffins
Makes 12 regular size muffins

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 eggs
2 Tbsp honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup oil
3/4 cup milk
1 cup fresh blueberries
muffin liners

Instructions:

Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Mix the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet ingredients in another bowl. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, being careful not to over mix. Gently fold in the blueberries. Line the muffin pan with liners and fill 3/4 of the way with batter. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.

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family fun day is way more significant than you might think.

Last weekend was MJM’s 35th birthday, and we decided to pack the day full of fun family activities.  We purchased a zoo membership for T’s 2nd birthday but hadn’t been able to go yet because it’s been too cold.  Since Sunday’s high was projected to be 50 degrees, we decided to take advantage of the warmer weather and spend the morning there.  It turns out that 50 degrees when it’s cloudy and windy is not very warm at all.  We totally under dressed the kids, so we didn’t last very long – but we did get to see some active animals which was exciting and the kids all behaved.

After the zoo, we ate lunch at Mimi and Pop-Pop’s and left T there to take his nap while the rest of us went to the movies.  The only kids movies out were Cinderella, which the boys refused to see; and Spongebob.  So, we chose Spongebob – which was obviously quite annoying and boring to me and MJM.  Turns out we picked a theatre with recliners, so MJM and I both struggled to stay awake and needed a Starbucks run after the movie to get some caffeine in our system.

After our nap – errr, I mean after the movie – we went back to Mimi and Pop-Pop’s and stayed for dinner with the whole family.  Everyone behaved themselves and it was a nice, fun-filled, busy day.

It really wasn’t until I was giving the weekly report to V’s mobile therapist yesterday that I realized how significant that last sentence is.

Everyone behaved themselves and it was a nice, fun-filled, busy day.

That is HUGE.  Here’s why:  

You see, last year on MJM’s birthday – as V proceeded to have meltdown after meltdown as we ate dinner at a restaurant, MJM declared that once V could get through one of our birthdays without a meltdown, that it would mean that the therapy was successful.  And that is PRECISELY what happened last Sunday.  V not only got through  MJM’s birthday without a meltdown, but he was COMPLETELY cooperative, very pleasant, and enjoyed himself – despite the fact that he very much dislikes the zoo.  He even got along with his cousins that evening, and when he wasn’t getting along with then, he just removed himself from the situation and joined the adults instead.  I feel like I’m starting to take all of this progress for granted.  Sometimes I need reminders of how far we’ve come.  I am SO proud of V, and so very thankful for everyone who has helped us – for our families and their emotional support, for friends who I could vent to, for my manager who let me change my hours so I could start my work day an hour earlier and then be home when the kids get home from school in the afternoon, and of course I’m thankful for the mobile therapist and the behavior specialist consultant who have worked with us every week for over a year now to help our boy.  I get all warm and fuzzy inside when I think about just how bad I thought things were during the summer of 2013: that I thought nothing could ever get better and that I was actually afraid of my then-8 year old, and that now this 10 year old young man is cooperative, happy, and loves to give me hugs throughout the day.  That 2 years ago I was devastated that he was the example for the younger boys, and now I’m so thankful that he is the oldest and sets the example.  

That, my friends, is what you call a complete 180.

Of course, he’s not perfect, and he obviously still needs discipline.  But we now feel better equipped to handle difficult situations with him and he has really improved with his coping skills which has reduced his anxiety level which means better behavior overall.  I’m just so happy that we can now have days like this – making new memories, having fun together, and not being afraid that it’s all going to be ruined by a meltdown.  Looking forward to all the fun the future has in store for us!

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