Meet Willie

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We've been talking about adding to our family for awhile now. Don't get me wrong, we're in love with Ruby. In fact that's been part of our motivation to add four more paws to the family tree. We want all of her good habits to be passed on to the next little pup. 

But we've been waiting for the right time. Waiting to settle in here at Woodlawn a little bit more. Waiting for the weather to improve so that we're spending our days outside instead of in. 

And when, on somewhat of a whim a few weeks ago, I called the man who sold us Ruby and he happened to have a litter of pups just two weeks old, it seemed like the right time was finally here. 

Meet Willie. The newest member of our family as of yesterday afternoon. A boy this time. The gender scales need a little tipping in my husband's favor, I do believe. 

He's Ruby's half-brother. But for now, she's not giving much love in response to his eager curiosity. Ruby stays at my feet while I make dinner, or beside my chair while I work at my desk, cautiously eyeing this strange little thing on four paws. 

I know it's only a matter of time before they become best pals. 

Last night was Willie's first night. And just like Ruby's first few nights, I let him sleep in our bedroom. He sprawled out in a cool corner and slept all. night. long. 

I however, did not. Between booming thunderstorms, a sick kiddo, and constant checking on the snoring pup, I'm feeling the ache behind my eyes of my newborn baby days. 

But Willie was up at 5. Ready to eat and dying for attention. (I was dying for my bed.) 

But after making the rounds for morning chores, and then following me into the kitchen while I made extra-strong coffee--he's fallen asleep on the cool kitchen floor, head wedged inside someone's sneaker. 

So here we go. A baby in the house again. No more sleeping through the night for awhile...although I'm not sure I've slept through the night since I became a mother 13 years ago. 

You might remember Ruby's traumatic beginning. She turned out so well, I'm wondering if it's the secret to a perfect dog. Kidding. There will be no under-car-napping for Willie. 

15 songs on my workout playlist

I promise this blog will not become all about workouts and food diaries. But you know, if there's one thing I love, it's music. And when I can marry music and my new-found motivation to get healthy, well...bonus stars all around. 

I am always on the hunt for new music, but now I've added a new category to my search--songs to workout to. (Sorry for the preposition at the end of that sentence.) The funny thing is, my normal taste in music is pretty different from my taste in workout music. I hardly ever listen to these songs outside of the treadmill--well, except when I'm in the car with the girls being the cool mom. My kids approve of my workout playlist. I am honored.

So read the fine print above, please, don't judge a girl by the music she puts on her workout playlist. I prefer my playlists on shuffle so there's a fun little surprise each time a new song comes on. And yes, I have Justin Timberlake and Dolly Parton on the same playlist. I like to shake things up.

Also it will only be a matter of weeks before this list will start to drive me nuts and I'll need a new round of songs. Got something good for me? Leave your favorites in the comments, please! 

  • Chinese Translation // M.Ward
  • Stubborn Love // The Lumineers
  • Empire // Shakira
  • The Man // Aloe Blacc
  • Hey Brother // Avicii
  • Cecilia // Simone & Garfunkel
  • Politik // Coldplay
  • Get On Up // The Esquires
  • Jolene // Dolly Parton
  • Superstition // Stevie Wonder
  • Problem // Ariana Grande
  • You Go Down Smooth // Lake Street Dive
  • We Are Young // Fun.
  • Build Me Up Buttercup // The Foundations
  • New Shoes // Paolo Nutini
  • Mirrors // Justin Timberlake
  • Sail // Awolnation

The nifty widget below lets you listen to the songs on my playlist and click over to find them on amazon. 


When your daughter writes a book for her little sister and your heart breaks a little

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I think that God periodically gives you glimpses of remarkable goodness in your children as a way to let you know that as a parent, you're doing a few things right. Now that my oldest is firmly planted in the world of tweendom and well on her way to teenagerhood, I've been learning a lot about parenting and being a mother. And almost daily, I find myself standing in the middle of this swirl of four girls, their messes, my messes, our chaos, and wondering, "Am I doing a good job?" And part of you says I don't think so. And another part says maybe.

You reach the end of the day and you're tired and you just want them to all be asleep and quiet, but then you catch your two littlest snuggled in bed together heads touching, legs tangled, reading books. And you get this little pain in your heart, like a gentle touch on your back saying, "See? They're turning out to be pretty awesome kids."

You accidentally walk past an open bedroom door and see another one making her bed. And it happens again, that little jump in your chest, and you realize they do listen. They do care, every once in a while.  

You're driving in the car and they seem to have forgotten you're the one behind the wheel and you overhear the oldest taking sincere interest in what someone smaller has to say. And you try not to let them see you smile because you don't want them to notice that they're doing it again. You're getting another gentle reminder that you're getting a few things right. 

Or maybe one day, you walk into your oldest daughter's bedroom and find a palm-sized notebook wrapped in blue polka-dot duct tape on her bedside table. And when you look inside, you can barely read the print past the tears. 

For two years, she's been writing down tips for her little sister.

It's another glimpse, another breaking of your heart in the best possible way that despite the fighting (oh the fighting!) and the eye-rolling and the big huge sighs, and the slammed doors, that this kid is a good kid. Everything and everyone is gonna be okay. 

I told Emma I was going to share a few peeks into the pages, which you can see in the gallery below. She knows I can barely get through it without getting all weepy-mom on her.  

And I'm thankful and proud and even though someone just ran in the door crying because someone else soaked them with the garden hose, and probably later, I'll walk into their bedrooms and want to weep over the mess, I'm grateful and I'm encouraged. I have the best kind of happy mama pain in my heart.

Update: 10 new tips for healthy living

I've had a bunch of people ask me for an update on my "13 Things I'm Doing to Get Out of A Diet + Exercise Funk" post, and looking at the calendar I realize an update is long overdue. 

I'm glad to report that things are going really well. Since I wrote that post, I've lost 15 pounds and about 13.5 inches and although I've had a few hard moments, I'm generally feeling really encouraged and inspired. I've started taking advantage of some nutrition guidance at the club where I workout, and I'm convinced that right now, that has been one of the major keys to my success. Well, that and a bunch of people in my life who are cheering me on in a big way. 


So I'm back with a new list for you! Here they are:

10 new things I'm doing to maintain my healthy groove:

  • I'm a food-diary-keeping maniac. I am writing down everything I eat for two reasons: One because I need to show it to the nutritionists who are guiding my food choices but also because it really makes me mindful and careful about what I eat. It's helped me control those "innocent" bites I might throw in my mouth while making dinner and especially the things I eat between meals. 
  • I'm moving more. The days I don't exercise in some way have become the rarity of my week versus the norm. Some times it looks like a big old sweaty workout at the gym. Other days it looks like a walk up the road with the girls and their 4-H lambs. (Yes, we do that.) And today, it's probably looking like my first attempt at a yoga video in my living room. 
  • I've switched to Fitbit from Jawbone, for now. I've had a Fitbit flex band banging around on top of my dresser for awhile, but have always loved my Jawbone more. But after some frustration with my Jawbone band needing a soft reset every time I charged it, I got frustrated and reached for my Fitbit. The jury's still out on which I like better, but for now, the data nerd in me likes keeping track of steps and sleep. And in case you were wondering, if you're cutting grass on your riding mower, the Fitbit will think you just knocked it out of the park with your steps. So you might want to take it off. Have a Fitbit? I'd love to "friend you"!
  • I'm drinking water consistently. So this was a new and interesting thing I learned a few weeks ago--when you are drinking water, it is important to drink a consistent amount of water each day. Right now, I'm at 64 ounces, which is the recommended minimum, but as long as you are in a healthy range, your body gets used to that amount of water and craves it each day. It's your body's happy place. Eventually, I'd like to bump up my water intake but for now, this is working. 
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  • I keep track of my water intake in a very archaic way. I kept finding myself sit down at my food journal at the end of the day, having lost track of how much water I'd consumed. I know there are a million apps to keep track of water, including a nice one on the Fitbit app, but I didn't always have my phone on me. So, I have been wearing four bracelets around my wrist. In one day, I need to drink 4 of my water bottles, so each time I finish one off, I move my bracelet to the other wrist. It simple and by no means a fashion statement. But it's working. And, in case you're wondering, those loops for potholders work like a charm. *cue probable eye-rolling from my children*
  • I'm keeping track of victories. When I started my food diary, the nutritionist told me she wanted me to keep track of one victory every day. It sounds simple, but surprisingly, for me, it's really hard to come up with something each day.  We are so hard on ourselves. And this practice of coming up with something positive has been really eye-opening and helpful. I highly recommend it. 
  • I make my whole plate before I sit down to eat and I try to make it really beautiful. I'm basically making two meals every time we sit down to eat--mine and everyone else's. And sometimes, man! I'd really like what everyone else is having for dinner, but for now, it's not "on the plan." But I've found that making it visually appealing and having my whole meal portioned out in front of me makes me feel pretty good about what I'm eating. I'm all about setting a nice mood for my meals.
  • I'm staying satisfied. My most difficult moments are when I'm hungry--when I walk into the kitchen starving, I'm pretty much willing to shove anything into my mouth. But I'm learning to both stay satisfied and to talk myself through those hungry moments. I tell myself that if I just eat my meal, I won't be so ravenous for junk or for what everyone else is eating. 
  • I "treat" not "cheat". I'll be honest, I just got back from several days at the beach with my family and there were a few days where I let myself go off the plan and have a treat. It's tempting to beat myself up about it and then in turn feel like the rest of the day is screwed. But when I change my thinking and know that they are small treats, it's a much healthier approach. Granted, I'm not giving myself a bag of M&Ms each day and calling it my treat. But that night when we went out for ice cream and I got a child's serving for myself? That's a-okay. It's a treat. Treats are good.
  • My kids are involved. With a house full of girls, I've been extremely careful about how I approach my desire and need to lose weight. The absolute last thing I want to do is put any insecurities or worries in their minds about their physical appearance. I've been consistently staying away from the word "diet" and putting all the focus health--eating healthy, moving because it's good and important for my body. It's a tender path to walk down, but so far, I think the little things that they are picking up by watching me on this journey are positive.
  • I keep the end in mind. I'm not really one for visualizing or anything like that, but I will say that every time I get on the elliptical and don't feel like it. Or get hungry and find myself questioning whether I'm going to eat well or eat poorly, I keep thinking about how awesomely good it's going to feel when I get to the place I'm headed. I've already experienced little tastes of victory and man, they feel good. I can only imagine how great it's going to feel when I'm even further along in this journey. When I think about how good that will feel, it encourages me to keep going. 

So that's the latest from where I sit...yes, once again I need to get up from this desk and get moving--(actually I need to get to the feed mill for horse feed). But as always, thank you all SO MUCH for asking and listening and contributing to this journey I'm on. More soon. xo.

Shave and a haircut :: Shearing the sheep

I remember when Sarah delivered the sheep to us a few years ago...she handed me two tool boxes full of sheep shears, clippers, blades, oil (and bandaids.) She said her husband went to a shearing school and the one thing he learned was that he never wanted to shear sheep. 

I've sheared a few sheep in my day. In fact, the very first time I met Dan's family I sheared their ram lamb. As the men of the family struggled to get the sheep down on a tarp and in to position, I stepped in, did the old 'bend the neck' trick and the ram dropped down onto his side so I could zip off his fleece. 

I'm pretty sure I sealed the deal with his family right there.

But except for buzzing down our lambs for the fair (what we call slick-shearing) I am ridiculously rusty, out of practice and a complete nervous-Nellie. On top of that, Southdowns go down in the books as one of the toughest sheep to shear because of their dense fleece. 

Last year, my sister sheared for me and one swipe into the job she turned to me and said, "I think I bit off more than I can chew." But she muscled through and we got the job done. 

But you know how sometimes in life there are jobs that you can hire out to have someone do and you think to yourself, Why have I waited so long to do this? and This is worth every single penny!. Yeah, that's how I felt about hiring someone to shear the lambs for me this year. 

Standing there watching Kristen shear my sheep, realizing that this huge job was being taken care of by someone else and someone who was doing such an amazing job? I could kiss her lanolin and wool-covered hand. 

Kristen makes the rounds shearing in the Philadelphia area and we were lucky enough to catch her on a day when she had a few farms to shear in our area. She couldn't have been nicer, kinder or more patient with my sheep. She was the best. 

Kristen shears in the New Zealand-style which means she shears them on the ground versus up on a stand. The day before she came, we eased way back on the lambs' water and feed so that they would be more comfortable while she sheared them. This way, their bellies aren't full when they are being bent into position, they are less apt to fight and fuss and less apt to get cut. 

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We asked Kristen how she ended up as a shearer and she looked up and said, "This is what happens when you go to art school." In reality, Kristen majored in fiber arts and is hoping to have her own flock some day. She wants to do the whole process from growing the herbs to dye the wool, to raising her flock, shearing her sheep and turning the fibers into goods. Now, she's traveling from farm to farm learning and watching and saving money. 

We asked Kristen how many lambs she could shear in a day and she said eighty. I'll let you just sit with that fact for a moment. I thought for sure she was about to say eight. But eighty? Be still my heart (and achey back.)

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The lambs get the full service treatment. After they are sheared their hooves are trimmed (another job I hate), and then they are re-introduced to the other sheep. 

This part is always pretty humorous as they suddenly don't recognize each other and have to go through the whole meeting process again. There is much head-butting and foot-stomping and baa'ing for their friends, even though they're standing right next to each other. 

We kept some of our wool--the Southdown wool isn't the best quality for spinning--but we use it for a wreath project that I hope to share some day soon. The rest of the wool we give to Kristen who takes it to the Maryland Wool Pool and gets a few dollars a pound for it. 

So now the deed is done. And there is happiness all around...except for maybe the sheep--whose missing wool has exposed their gigantic bellies. Next on the schedule--a rigorous diet and exercise plan.