Monday, June 15, 2015

Finding what works for US...

I am having an internal battle with some recent realizations Sean and I have had.  First of all, I know that every family is different and no one can know what it is like to be in another's family.  Ours is just the same...unless a family deals with the same things we deal with and has a child with special needs and another with medical needs while the 3rd has sensory and social issues, they won't understand why we make the decisions we make.  I still am battling though...I battle with how it looks when we make certain choices...what will people think?!

It's ridiculous, I know this!  I know that I love my kids beyond words and I do what is right for them and our family.  So why do I care what other people may think of us?  I don't know.  I just don't want people to think poorly of us, I guess.  It's silly.

All of this to get to the point.  We have slowly started to realize that our constant exposing Cason to certain things has become an issue.  We thought it would improve, he would grow accustomed to the sensory overload that comes along with lots of public places, restaurants, museums, zoos, etc.  We were has gotten worse.  His meltdowns have become more inconsolable, louder, screaming and hitting himself in the face is something he has taken up.  He claws all over us and acts as though he just wants to crawl out of his own skin.  The zoo in Des Moines a couple of weekends ago was the final straw.  It was bad.  He cried...almost the entire time.  He was terrified of the animals, the sounds, the crowds.  He didn't want to walk, he didn't want to be held, he didn't want to be in the stroller, he didn't want to be there.  Period.  This made the evening less enjoyable for all of us.   We couldn't relax and enjoy our time because Cason was so upset.  Nothing calmed him down.

It was after leaving the zoo that Sean and I realized that we cannot keep doing this.  We just can't.  It is not the reality of what works for our family, for Cason, for Tate and Wesley.  It isn't fair to anyone.

This realization made me so sad.

I want to do things as a family of 5, but the big boys are able to do so much more now, they enjoy lots more things that Cason finds terrifying.  He wants to be in a more private setting, some place less chaotic with less stimulation.

There are definitely certain settings that work for Cason during outings and travel and we fully intend on taking advantage of doing things that Cason will learn from and enjoy, but many of those things aren't enjoyable for the big boys and they need to be exposed to things as well.

We had our first vacation as a family of 5 planned in July.  The first time we would all go away somewhere together, just the 5 of us.  Our trip to Colorado is something we have been looking forward to for a while now.  We have lots on the agenda that the big boys will LOVE and as we got to thinking about the trip, we realized that most of those adventures, while they are things we are able to bring Cason along on, will be experiences Cason will not enjoy at all!  I think the thought of not bringing Cason on our family vacation entered my mind a long time ago, but I pushed it out of my mind knowing that this was a family vacation and so our whole family NEEDS to go...we will just deal with it.  It's our reality.

You see, it could be our reality...bring Cason along with us and deal with his freak outs, understand that this is our family and it's what we have to do.  OR, realize that bringing him along in these situations isn't beneficial to anyone.  The big boys have to sacrifice...we leave places early, I have to stay back with Cason sometimes, we have added stress, we don't go to certain places that will be uncomfortable for Cason or that we will waste money going to knowing that no one will enjoy it with a screaming child in tow.   Also, Cason sacrifices being in a comfortable situation with people he loves in a setting that he enjoys.  I hate seeing Cason so worked up and upset.  It has become clear what the obvious decision is to be the most beneficial to all of us.  We just cannot bring him EVERYWHERE with us any longer.  This realization makes me so sad.  I WANT Cason to enjoy these experiences and I WANT to be with our little family as much as possible...I don't want to leave a child behind.  I love being with Cason, but I don't like seeing him miserable and I don't like our big boys not being able to experience certain things because Cason cannot participate.  It's not good for any of us.

We are SO BLESSED to have such an amazing village of people who love our boys and who are willing to care for Cason in these situations.  So we decided we would see if anyone would be willing to keep our Sweet Cason while we go to Colorado in a few weeks and finding people was no problem!  Lora and James, Sarah and Mike didn't hesitate and I know Cason will be so loved and spoiled while he is with them!

I am working on being okay with leaving Cason behind, with understanding that this family dynamic is much different than I had always dreamed before having a family.  However, I wouldn't change my family for the world...I wouldn't trade any of my kids for any other situation.  This is our reality and our family and what works for us and God gave my these boys and also gave us this incredible village of family and all works.  It is just how it is supposed to be.  Maybe in the future Cason will be able to join us on more adventures, but for now, if necessary, we know we have lots of loving arms that will keep him while the other 4 of us are gone!

God's plans are often different than our own, but His plans are perfect.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Life according to my phone...

This is a new record for me as of late!  2 posts in 5 days?!?!  What?!!!  Unheard of!

So here is what has been going on according to my phone (and a couple other pics that aren't from my phone)...

Stopped in Williamsburg on my way to Des Moines a couple of weeks ago and they had 50% off all women's clearance that pretty much made my week!  I got shirts for 0.48!!!  Amazing!

While in Des Moines, I got to go to The Lion King with these beauties and their mama and grandma and my other sister in law, Sara and my mother in law.  I saw it years ago and it was JUST as wonderful the 2nd time!

Paleo is on full force for fact, I've stuck with Whole30 past my 30 days...and it didn't stop me from celebrating Cinco de Mayo with some yummy paleo Mexican food!

Mother's Day was wonderful.  I had a great day and even got some fun gifts...Sean surprised me with this beautiful scarf!

Then we got to celebrate my mom, the most amazing mom in the world in Muscatine with my whole family.  Fun fun!

I can't believe it's that time of the year, but our summer list is done and ready to have some items crossed off!

Don't even get me started on the disgustingness (it's a word, in my vocabulary at least) of my boys' bathroom.  It's appalling.  I can clean their sink and 2 days later it will look like this.  And don't get me started on their toilet and pee....everywhere.  Yuck!

Cason's last day of preschool was Thursday.  He has an amazing teacher that loves him and that he adores.

I made zoodles for the first time (zucchini noodles) and they were SO GOOD!  This awesome vegetable slicer is going to change our paleo lives!  Welcome to our world paleo "pasta", can't wait to add some recipes to the menu!

Another one of my Mother's Day gifts from Sean and the boys.  Have you heard of Boymom?  Cute stuff...and they have some Girlmom stuff too!  I got 2 shirts...this one, since my boys are soccer lovers and another that reads (My Boys - My (super) Heroes.  Love them!

The NKF Kidney walk was yesterday.  I helped plan the event and had a great time supporting an important cause.  It was wonderful to have family and friends come out and walk with Wesley's Warriors and also support us with donations.  Thank you means so much to us!

This week is the big boys' last full week of school...then they have Memorial Day off and go 2 1/2 more days after that.  THEN SUMMER!!!!  I am SORT OF ready.  We have a busy summer ahead and while I LOVE spending time with my boys and doing fun family things, it is also nice to have a few free hours a day while all 3 are at school. :)  Now that Cason is done with school, I have him full time again which is easing me into a new routine.  Can't wait for the warm weather to stay and for some pool time and vacations!

Bring on summer!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Massive Update...because it's been so long!

So now it's been 2 months since I've posted?!  Yikes!  I love having this blog to look back on from years past, but I am finding it harder and harder to keep up with it as our lives get busier and busier!  I will continue to do my best, but most of my life is documented on Facebook these days.

Health Update:
I went off the wagon with my eating for a couple of months and gained a few pounds (ahem...8 lbs to be exact!) back.  I guess I assumed that I wouldn't because I have remained consistent with my working out, but I was wrong about that!  Weight loss (for me at least) happens at the dinner table...period.  It certainly boosts my results that I am working out, but when I fall off the diet wagon, my working out doesn't make up for that.  Soooo...lesson learned!

I got back on Whole30 (which I LOVE...I feel sooo much better when I am not eating dairy, grains or processed foods!) and yesterday was my last day with it.  I weighed myself this morning and found that my 30 days on the program helped me to shed off 15lbs!  I'll take it!  I don't think I will be done...I would like to lose 10 more pounds before switching back to normal paleo.  We'll see how that works.  :)

I am still doing the gym 5-6 days a week and doing some running outdoors again now that the weather is nicer.  Body Pump is my favorite class and I have even started getting Sean to go...he loves it too!

Cason Update:
Cason's last day of preschool for this year is this Thursday!  He is going to do the summer program, so that will be good for him, but he has several weeks off starting Thursday afternoon!  He will probably wonder what on earth is going on.  He LOVES school! He has the most incredible teachers and his year alone made me realize how worth it it was for us to make the huge life decision to up and move to the district last year.  For us, and our family needs, it was the best choice.  He has accomplished so many things this year...he wears his glasses all the time now, matches colors, speaks so much more functionally and has matured socially as well!  He loves music and can sing every song (on key!) that plays on the radio.  It's so crazy and awesome!

Wesley Update:
Kindergarten was a rough transition for Wesley as so much more was expected of him this year than in years past, but the team at his school has been amazing at working with him to provide for him what he needs to be successful.  His academic IEP was dropped at the beginning of the year because he tested on target and has remained above that benchmark all year!  He struggles in many areas, but seems to remain JUST above that threshold. :)  His behavior has been up and down...he struggles maintaining focus.  He is now working with a school based therapist from Vera French who we really like and has been diagnosed with ADHD and they are concerned about some attachment disorders...neither of which are surprising to Sean or I.  He is so well known in the school....I swear, every child in that school knows him!  I've never seen anything like it!  We will even be at HyVee or WalMart and multiple adults will pass us and say "Hi Wesley!" and I will have no idea who they are!  So funny!  He is such an, he is going to be great at athletics.  He did great in soccer this year and really enjoys any sport he can play.  Wesley will take part in the summer school program as well which he is looking forward to.  We are proud of all that he has accomplished this year.  He has started to read and has really grown academically and in the last few weeks has really made amazing strides in improving some of his behavioral challenges as well!  I hate to even type out the words, but this has been Wesley's healthiest year yet!  He hasn't had a hospital stay for over a year and has hardly gotten sick at all.  Thank goodness!

Tate Update:
Starting 2nd grade at a new school proved to be difficult for Tate as well.  Academically, he has been great, but he struggled to make friends and his teacher had some health issues this year which caused her to be out for extended periods of time.  She was such a wonderful teacher for him though and we are glad he had her.  He probably needed some of that inconsistency to force him to learn coping skills, but it was hard for him at times.  Those of you who know him know that Tate needs consistency!  It took a while, but in just the last few months, Tate has really started to make friends.  It was never his peers that didn't want to be friends with him, it was more him not agreeing to play with them when they asked or him just preferring to be alone.  He started playing soccer which he is actually really good at and really enjoys!  He looks forward to playing again in the fall.  We are thrilled that he found a sport that he enjoys!  We believe that soccer may have been a factor in helping him come out of his shell.  He did start cub scouts back in the fall, but after the first few meetings, it became a struggle as he didn't enjoy it and didn't want to go.  We kept him in for several months and tried to help him enjoy it more, but once he joined soccer and continued to not want to do cub scouts, we gave in and let him quit. :/  We just don't know that cub scouts is his "thing".  We are hopeful that in 3rd grade, Tate will continue to make friends and continue to grow and mature more socially.  We are so proud of him and the things that he has accomplished this year and the ways that he has surprised us.  He has stepped out of his comfort zone more than once and actually enjoyed his new ventures on several of the occasions.

This summer will be a busy one!  Between a few trips we are taking, some work around our house we are doing, my photography businesses being busier than ever this year and the 2 littles participating in summer school, we are jam packed!  Glad this is a longer summer so we can fit it all in. :)

Our nephew Bode turns 10 at the beginning of July so that means we will have a fun 10th birthday trip for him!  We've been planning his trip for a few months now and look forward to surprising him.  For those that don't know, 4 years ago we started a tradition with our oldest nephew that when all of our nieces and nephews turn 10, we take them on a short getaway.  So far, we've only had 2 turn 10.  We took Brigg to St. Louis for 2 nights and went to 2 Cardinals games and stayed in a hotel and had fun dinners out.  We went to the Magic House and the zoo.  It was an amazing trip!  Then, for Lani a year and a half ago, we took the train and stayed in downtown Chicago for 2 nights and I took her to see Wicked.  We never tell our nieces/nephews when we will show up and say, "let's go, we're taking you for a couple of days!" so it makes it a huge surprise.  After Bode turns 10, we have Leah and Tyler that turn 10 in January.  They will be SUPER surprised because they are the oldest on the Peakin side and don't know of this tradition yet!

So our trip with Bode will be at the end of June, then we are going on a family vacation in July with just the 5 of us.  We are going to Colorado...spending a few nights in Denver and then heading up to Winter Park for a couple of nights.  We are driving so we plan to hit the zoo in Omaha on the way.  Can't wait for a family vacation to somewhere fun and new that the kids have never been!  Then in August, Sean and I get to go on our 10 year anniversary trip (11 months late...ha!) to St. Lucia.  We had been planning to take a trip to Italy, but to make a long story short, plans changed because of a few fears I had about traveling over seas right now.  So St. Lucia it is!  It is another destination that I've been wanting to go to since I learned about it back in 1999 when I met someone from there while in school.  We are SUPER excited to get some time away just the 2 of us and relax!

To say our summer will be busy is pretty much an understatement!  All fun things, but busy none the less.  Hoping I can find time to keep this blog updated more often amidst all of the other things we have going on this summer.  The boys still have 2 weeks of school left, but then BRING ON SUMMER!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

My Journey to update

I just realized that I haven't written a blog post (aside from my cabbage rolls recipe I posted last night!) for a month and a half!  Yikes!

I thought it was time I posted an update as I have recently had lots of people ask how things are going with my diet/exercise.  So here's the low down...

My diet...I wouldn't say I've fallen off of the paleo wagon, but I am definitely holding on and being drug by it. ;)  I cook paleo 90% of the time at home.  When I go out, I am conscious of my choices, but definitely haven't stuck to paleo.  And you know what?  I can tell...not in my weightloss, but in how I FEEL.  Eating paleo just makes you FEEL good.  Period.  I stay away from pop (unless I am drinking a cocktail, which is rare it seems) and have really tried to avoid cheese...well, dairy in general.  I have continued to lose a slower rate (and much slower than I would like to!), but it's still going in the right direction.  I would like to get back to full paleo soon.  Or at least be better about it when I go out.

I ate this one night in the last month...and have had several other desserts that I didn't photograph!

The fact that I am still losing weight might be a bit of a miracle! lol

However, when I eat like that, I work out extra hard...I do machines and then walk and plank and do stairs and do Body Pump.  I work out hard when I go to the Y and now am super excited to be able to start running outside!

The ARC at the Y kicks my a$$!  I have a serious love/hate relationship with it.  I love it when I am done and I see this...

I recently got a Fitbit Charge HR and am a slave to it.  Seriously, it is going to probably be the reason I lose weight...I've already lost another pound since having it and it's only been 5 days!  It's amazing...I log all of the food I eat and every ounce of water I drink.  It tracks everything!  I LOVE LOVE LOVE it!

And I still have to say that having working out buddies has been my saving grace...the reason I haven't given up.  I can't say enough how thankful I am that Sam has motivated me and kept me going to the Y even on days when I just wanted to sit on the couch...I hope I have done the same for her!  Even Lisa has started to join us every now and again!

And the consistency and how hard we are pushing is working.  We are getting stronger every time we go.  I am so proud of us!  It feels so good!

And when I'm down in the dumps and feeling lazy, the best way to motivate me to go to the gym is to buy some new, crazy, fun workout clothes, and then I HAVE to go to the gym because I need to wear my new clothes! LOL

These pants are my fave...and they are crazy and Lisa and Sam make fun of me for wearing them, but I love them.  They match my crazy personality.  I like things that most people don't! Ha!

On the horizon for me?  Color the Quads, Inflatable 5k and I think I am even going to run the Bix for the first time!  Eek!  A little nervous about that.  And my sister is trying to talk me into a sprint triathlon in the fall.  We'll see!

So there is my update...healthier every day (aside from this stupid cold I am battling right now!) and stronger every day...and with the help of my Fitbit and my friends holding me accountable, hoping I will continue to be LIGHTER every day!

Monday, March 09, 2015

Cabbage Rolls Recipe

(These are not Paleo, but could be changed up to be paleo pretty easily)

I have never made cabbage rolls...or eaten them, but have wanted to for a loooong time.  And tonight I just made a super simple recipe, but they were super good!  Now that I've made them and my ENTIRE family LOVED devoured them, I will now know how to change them up and make them a bit more flavorful next time.  I think the next time I make them, I will use ground sausage for more flavor.  So here is my recipe that I created by mixing a few different cabbage roll recipes I found online. :)


1 head of cabbage (this made 14 rolls for me, so 14 large leaves...some I used 2 smaller leaves)
1 lb ground beef (or sausage)
1 egg
1/3 cup uncooked white rice (or brown)
1 jar marinara sauce
1/2 onion
garlic salt (I didn't measure...maybe a couple teaspoons?)
salt and pepper

Cook your rice and mix it with your ground beef/sausage, 1 beaten egg, 1/4 jar of marinara sauce, garlic salt, chopped fresh basil (you could use dry basil) and your onion.  Don't go to light on the seasoning, because I was pretty liberal with mine and worried it may be too salty, but it wasn't at all.  Boil some water and put your cabbage leaves in for about 3-4 minutes.  Take out and drain and pat them dry.  I cut out the tough rib on the end of the leaf so there was a V shaped cut out of the end.  Roll a spoonful of meat into the cabbage leaves...roll them so that  the ends are tucked in and no meat is showing.  Place them in a large saute pan and pour the remainder of the marinara sauce on top.  Put on medium-high heat until the sauce starts to boil and then turn down, cover and let simmer for about 35-40 min.  One of the recipes I saw said you could put cheese on top.  We didn't do that, but it would have been good, I bet. :)

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Tate in the Kitchen - Paleo Pumpkin Spice Granola

This stuff is a staple in our house...we almost always have a batch on hand!

What you need:

1 cup dried cranberries
2 cups plantain chips (or banana chips)
2 cups almond slices
2 cups coconut (unsweetened)
2 cups chopped pecans
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup pumpkin seeds
1 cup sunflower seeds
2/3 cup Coconut Oil
1/2 cup raw honey
4 Tbls Pure Maple Syrup
2 Tbls Pumpkin Spice Spice
1/2 tsp salt
2tsp Vanilla Extract

Pre-Heat to 300 degrees.

Mix all of the nuts, seeds, coconut, plantain/banana chips, dried cranberries, salt and the pumpkin pie spice in a large bowl.

In a sauce pan, heat up the coconut oil, honey, maple syrup and vanilla extract until it is all melted together.  Pour the mixture on top of the nut/seed mixture and stir together to make sure everything is coated with the liquid mixture.

Pour everything onto cookie sheets on parchment paper...I use silpats.  Bake for 25 minutes and then take out of the oven and cool before breaking it apart.

This makes a TON, so you could cut it in half if you don't want that much. :)

I eat it like cereal with almond milk over it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Something happened yesterday...

Wesley's story is complicated and the details are not something I plan to disclose, but yesterday for the first time, something was the conversation we had...

Wesley: "Mommy?  What was I called when I was a little baby?"

Me: "What do you mean?  What was your name?"

Wesley: "What did the girl who I grew in her tummy call me?"

Me:  "She called you Wesley, that is the name she gave you when you were born."

Wesley: "My name was Wesley when I was a little baby?!"

Me:  "Yes.  That was the name your birth mom gave you...your name has always been Wesley."

Wesley: "My birth mom?  Do I have a birth daddy?"

Me:  "Yes.  Your birth dad's name is Wesley also!  You were named after him.  You know how Tate's birth daddy is named Brandon?  Your birth daddy is named, Wesley."

Wesley:  (giggling) "That is silly!  Are you almost done with my hair?  I want to go play."

And that was it.

That is pretty much how things go...any serious conversation doesn't last long with Tate OR Wes, but Wesley has also NEVER asked about his birth parents.  It is something I have thought A LOT about and how I might respond to what questions he might have.  I am nervous about a lot of it...I want to say/do the right things for him and also for our family.  I want him to know where he comes from, but also want to protect him from knowing the "bad" stuff.  I don't know that I can.  He's 6...these questions were bound to start coming out.  I was caught off guard by it last night and now can't stop thinking about that short exchange.  I know this is just the beginning.