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I cannot even begin to tell you how far out of my comfort zone I am.  I have been asked by friends for years to start a food allergy blog, but was too afraid to do it.  Our middle child has multiple life threatening food allergies.  She is 18 now and not as severe with some of them as she used to be, but still anaphylactic to others.  I am not very good with technology.  Pencil and paper are more my speed, but after 25 years of marriage and learning to navigate food allergies, autism, keeping the neurotypical, non-food allergic child from feeling invisible (none of this perfectly, mind you)  I guess I have a lot to share.  So – here goes!

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My husband Steve and I have 3 children.  Madison is our oldest.  She is a recent college graduate and is currently in training for her first “big girl” job.  We are so very proud of her.  She has worked or volunteered, in some capacity, since she was 16 years old.  She has amazing compassion and love for her two younger siblings and has handled playing second fiddle to all of the medical needs with true grace.

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Lauren is our middle child and is in her first year of college.  Yes, it is a big challenge.  The university she attends has a rule for Freshmen to live on campus the first year.  She is anaphylactic to wheat, dairy, eggs and peanuts, so eating in the dining hall is not really an option.  We have kept her alive for 18 years by cooking the majority of her food.  She has still had to be injected with an epi-pen on 6 separate occasions, over the course of her life.  So, we chose her roommate carefully and received an accommodation to have a full size refrigerator in her dorm room to be able to hold all of her meals.  I make a weeks worth of breakfasts, lunches and dinners every weekend. It has worked very well for her college to be only an hour away.   We are so very thankful for Enjoy Life Foods and other companies like them that have come onto the scene over the last several years that have pre-packaged cookies and snacks that she is able to have.  Lauren is doing very well this year and just received notice of  making the Dean’s List this past semester.

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Our baby is Michael.  He is 15 years old.  He is funny, friendly and has the biggest heart of anyone I know.  I have learned many lessons from him over the past 15 years of his young  life.  I could tell things weren’t the same as with the girls when he was around 11 or 12 months old.  He would open up DVD cases and spin them.  He would line up toys and have a meltdown and a half if one of them was moved.  He did not speak.  All of my friends and our pediatrician assured me it was just that he was the baby and the girls spoke for him and that he would do things eventually.  If he had been my first child, I probably would have believed them, but he was not.  By your third child,  you know.  You don’t just take what anyone says and go with it because you think they know more.  I think even mothers of first-born children probably know.  Anyway, over the next 8 years we went through evaluation after evaluation.  We were told severe developmental delay, ADHD, sensory integration dysfunction (sensory processing disorder), and then finally what I knew all along and just needed someone else to see – Autism.  Of course,  before the official diagnosis at the age of 9, we still sought out help and therapy.  I had to teach him how to put his pants on and pull them up,  put his shirt on and put his shoes on.  Nothing came naturally like it had with the girls.  I vividly remember going to a parent-teacher store and buying beads and shoestrings to help him learn fine motor skills. I sat on the living room floor and put him sitting in front of me and dumped the beads and string onto the floor.  I took his hand in mine and helped him pick up a string and then a bead and put it onto the string.  You know that angry cry that little ones have when they don’t want to do something?  Yep.  That was Michael…and me, except my cry wasn’t an angry one.  It was one of heartbreak, that every little thing was such a huge struggle for him.  I could tell story after story just like so many other autism moms out there.  I tell you how we started out, not to make you sad, but to bring hope to those of you out there experiencing the same.  Michael is now in the 8th grade in public school.  He still has many struggles, but is doing remarkably well.  I cannot wait to tell you more about all of the progress he has made over the years and is still making and what all we have learned on this journey.

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Steve and I have been married for 25 wonderful years.  Does that mean each day has been wonderful?  Umm…no.   I can say, however, that I wouldn’t have wanted to do All The Things with anyone else in this world.  I look forward to sharing what all we have learned that has worked in our lives, family, marriage to hopefully encourage you as you tackle all the things of life.

 

Cindy

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all the things

What Do You Dispense?

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When they were younger, one of my kids’ favorite things were PEZ dispensers. Remember those?  I loved them, too.  I liked the sweet candies that popped out when you flipped the top up.  PEZ candy was first created in the 1920’s.  Did you know that in the 1960’s, some unusual candy flavors were featured?  Have you ever wanted to taste chlorophyll flavored candy?  Once upon a time, PEZ offered chlorophyll flavored PEZ.  Yep.  You also had the options of licorice, coffee, cola, or pineapple.  I sure am happy they had grape, lemon, and orange by the time I got my first PEZ!

Today I want us to think about what we dispense.  I woke up early one morning last week thinking about love and what God says about love.  The first fruit of the spirit mentioned in Galatians 5 is love.  As children of God, this product of the Holy Spirit lives inside every believer and as we grow spiritually, the holy spirit gives us the power to reject our sinful desires and begins to work in and through us to make us look more like Jesus.  By following the guidance of the holy spirit, fruit becomes evidence that we are becoming more like Christ.

Love is vital.  It is indispensable.  It is necessary to be effective in sharing love with others.  Romans 5:5-8 says His love is poured out abundantly in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.  That love is in us.  Sealed by the Holy Spirit as we see in Ephesians 1:13.  We should burn with the love of Christ, for without love, we cannot be effective in sharing that love with others, which is our entire reason for being here.  1 Corinthians 13:1-3 says, If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.  Without love, people tune us out.  We become unimportant to them, untrustworthy, and invalid.  To them, we have nothing of value to offer.  This is why it is so important to be in constant communion with the Lord, in His word and in prayer.  God’s presence breeds love, because God is love.  Perfect love.  And the closer we come to Him, the more consistently we feel His strength, His comfort, and His guidance.

I had the wonderful opportunity to lead worship at our Women’s Spring Retreat this year and it was such a blessing.  I enjoyed it so much, but to tell you the truth, I did not want to go.  When I was asked, I was in a deep pit of depression and had been for some time.  Finding myself in this all too familiar place was embarrassing and I stepped away from anything where I would be in front of anyone because I didn’t feel like I had anything positive to offer.  I feel like I make a mess of things.  If I feel like I hurt someone’s feelings or make someone angry, fear and avoidance take over and I find myself in a pit.  It took me several months to dig out of that pit and I was just starting to feel like myself again right before the retreat.  I would like to share with you what I learned about God’s love as I walked that journey.  Hopefully, it can help someone else.

One of my familys’ favorite movies is Star Wars.  I’ll never forget one of the many times watching the series.  Over Christmas break, we have been known to have a Star Wars movie marathon.  You know that famous Yoda quote:  Fear is the path to the dark side.  Fear leads to anger.  Anger leads to hate.  Hate leads to suffering.  I remember thinking, great,  I’m Darth Vader!  Lovely!

Seriously though.  Fear brings torment.  It really does.  When we are tormented, there is no love in torment.  It is actually quite ugly.  When we are fearful, many times we are irritable.  We lash out at the ones we love or at others.  1 John 4:18 says, There is no fear in love.  Perfect love casts out all fear.  God’s love is inside of you.  It is internal.  His perfect love casts out all fear.  Fear is going to come, but our response should be totally different than an unbeliever’s,

  1.  because of our prayer life.  We have a direct connection with God through His Holy Spirit living in us.  Prayer should be our first response, not our last resort.
  2.  because of our intimacy with God.  He speaks to His children through His word and through His Holy Spirit, and through others.

We cannot afford to allow fear to have a resting place because that will impede the flow of God’s love through us.  Our peace comes from God.  We have to remember that God is still on His throne.  What is true in the light is also true in the dark.  God tells us in His word, I will complete the good work that I began in you.  I will carry it on to completion and that all things work together for the good of those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose. We must focus on God and His promises for good things. Be still and know that I am God.  The Lord says, “I’ve got you.”  Whenever I start stinkin’ thinkin’, I have trained myself to stop in the middle of the negative thought and say, Whatever is true-  okay Cindy, what is true right now?  because I am worst case scenario girl.  I am.  Whatever it is on my mind that I am concerned about,  I’ve already got it playing through in my mind and somebody’s gettin’ a tongue lashing.  Well, hold up.  I don’t even know what’s gonna happen.  Do you even know how much time and energy I have wasted on worrying about how I think things are or aren’t?  Oh my goodness!   And, you know what?  Even if sometimes things were the way I thought.  She really was talking about me.  They really don’t like me.  The teacher really did forget to give Michael extra time and his grade is not good.  Whatever it is, God’s got it and my worrying about it is not what I am called to do.  One of my favorite songs right now is Like You Love Me by Tauren Wells.  The first verse and chorus are:

Always something trying to steal my mood
My crazy thoughts trying to kill my groove
That’s when I hear a voice, whisper through the noise
That brings a bigger picture into view
Whenever the clouds come into my mind
I won’t forget it’s You who tells the sun to shine
Every worry, every night
Every second thought about tomorrow’s wasted time (Ay)
You give the sparrows everything they need
You light the stars and You paint the leaves, eh
You clothe the lilies with Your majesty
And You don’t even love ’em like You love me
No, You don’t love ’em like You love me, no
Steve and I were sitting outside on our back patio one morning, eating breakfast.  We love to watch the birds.  This particular morning it wasn’t sunny.  It was raining.  We noticed the birds were quiet.  The trees aren’t fully in bloom yet, becuase it is still early Spring, but the birds are still there.  The rain started getting heavier.  We noticed one bird on the fenceline between our house and our neighbor’s.  It just stayed perched on the fence.  The rain kept getting harder and harder.  You know, sometimes we are going to have to weather storms in life.  For me, it is depression.  It may be something different for you.  It may just be a particular season you are in.  It may be a health issue, a mariage issue, a job issue, one of your kids, all of your kids.  Whatever the storm,  we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us and we can be very confident that nothing will be able to separate us from His unfailing love.  Our confidence should be sky high in God!  We are more than conquerors through HIS love.  His perfect love.  Ephesians 3:18-19 tells us that His love is endless.  It surpasses knowledge.  Think about that… and we are to be filled up to all the fullness of God.  We should be overflowing.  Overflowing onto others.  How can we do that?  The more openly we invite God into our hearts…where the hurt is, where the pain is, where the fear is, His love can heal us – Jehova Rapha my healer.   Jehovah Jireh my provider.  His love can deliver us – Jehova Mephalti my deliverer.  He gives us our identity – Jehovah Nissi the Lord our Banner.  God’s perfect love, inside of you, will make you more than a conqueror, and then you can be a dispenser of love through the overflowing love inside of you.  Love covers a multitude of sins.  Love is an action word.  As believers, people should know you by your love.  John 13:35

Be Blessed!

Cindy

 

 

aip, health and wellness

Entering the World of AIP

Well, if you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you know that Lauren went to see a functional medicine doctor recently.  She has been dealing with severe eczema, asthma, and life threatening food allergies for the majority of her life.  Due to her bloodwork results, she is now on an aip diet to try and get some out-of-whack numbers back in line.  She tested positive for ana, antinuclear antibodies, which basically means an autoimmune disease is lying dormant.  Lovely.  We’ll add that to the list.

AIP stands for Autoimmune Protocol or Autoimmune Paleo.  It’s goal is to eliminate certain primal foods that can sometimes trigger inmflammation in people with autoimmune disease (dairy, eggs, nightshades, nuts, and seeds).  This includes spices that come from seeds, such as celery seed, which I use in Lauren’s German potato salad…  Potatoes! aww 😦  Basically, for foods that are allowed, think meats and vegetables, as long as it is not a nightshade, and bone broths.  Fruit is allowed, but in small amounts per day.  The only sweetener allowed is the occasional use of honey or maple syrup.  Her sheet says 1 tsp a day.  Yikes!

We came home with a mini booklet of 8 1/2 x 11 papers listing what foods she cannot have and those she can.  I will have to admit, at first, my eyes and mind went straight to, “What!? No potatoes!  No tomatoes?!  That means no chili!  No chocolate?! ”  I know.  I know.  A real negative Nelly stance.  Don’t worry.  I got over it and reframed my mindset to what we can have, and honestly, there are a lot of I cans out there.  They are just not what we are used to having. Some foods we have never tried or even heard of.  It’s like an adventure.  Like traveling to a place we have never been.  Dare I say exciting, even.  Okay, maybe not quite that far.  New flavors, new textures, new combinations will be our friends on this quest to fight inflammation and build up the body with good nutrition.

I had put her on lots of vitamin D3 and magnesium earlier this summer, as well as a good multi-vitamin with lots of B vitamins.  She was already taking a probiotic and vitamin c, along with an anti-oxidant.  Her bloodwork showed that her vitamin D was good.  Yay!  Success!  It had been rock bottom at her allergist appointment a few months earlier, so this is progress.  We’ll take it!  We already eat mostly organic, but Lauren craves a good cookie or some type of bready texture, which is hard to come by with food allergies.  Because she doesn’t get much of that, and now that we are on aip, that eliminated sugar, nightshades, and seeds.  Ugh.  I will say that, so far, we have had some fairly decent meals, so I feel encouraged at the moment.  I hope she does, too.  We are thankful for friends that have reached out with recipe suggestions.  We appreciate it!  In fact, we tried a few over the weekend with great success.

The first recipe we tried was on Friday evening.  We made a crustless chicken pot pie from a Paleo Instant Pot cookbook that I have.  It uses 2 heads of cauliflower florets, along with chicken broth, and the standard onion, carrots and celery.  It was really good!  Everyone liked it.  Score!  I was kind of skeptical about the whole cauliflower thing going in, but it gave just the right texture, a kind of thick, heartiness to it.  Who knew?  On Saturday, I made Lauren’s chicken noodle soup, mainly for Michael because he came home from school congested last week and I believe in the power of garlic and onions and homemade chicken noodle soup.  Remember, we just started this journey on Friday, so I didn’t realize how many no no’s were in that soup.  The noodles, for starters-rice based.  That’s a grain.  No no.  Black pepper- no no.  I did use arrowroot starch as a thickener, so that was okay.  We will figure out the rest.

Lauren had the sweetest friends come visit her on Sunday afternoon from school.  They drove over from Tuscaloosa just to see her.  I have tears in my eyes writing this.  They are all members of the discipleship group that Lauren was a member of.  None of them are from Alabama, but from all over the United States.  We cooked lunch for them.  I made one of the suggestions from a sweet friend that has experience cooking the aip way.  It is called Cracklin’ Chicken and the recipe can be found on nomnompaleo.com.  So simple, yet so delicious.  We also made roasted baby organic sweet potatoes, and pan fried squash and zuccini.  My husband also grilled burgers, so we would have options.  It was a beautiful afternoon of eating good food and getting to meet some of Lauren’s college friends.

Last night I made another friend’s suggestion: Swedish meatballs.  You can find that recipe on forestandfauna.com.  I will say that I didn’t use all of the spices recommended in the recipe this time, simply because I didn’t have all of them.  Time to go shopping.  I made spaghetti squash and green beans to go along with the meatballs.  They were delicious.  I think due to not having all of the recommended spices, the meatballs weren’t as flavorful as they could have been.  Still learning.  In making the green beans, I fried a couple of slices of bacon to add in.  After dinner, I dove right into re-learning how to make Lauren’s German potato salad with sweet potatoes, instead, so that she would have something to eat for breakfast.  Yep, breakfast.  Think a breakfast hash.  It’s hearty and has protein from the bacon.  It makes a delicious breakfast food. There are many types of sweet potatoes.  There is the typical orange flesh sweet potato, but there is also a Japanese sweet potato that has purple skin and white flesh.  There is also an Okinawan sweet potato that is gray or tan in color and has purple flesh.  There are pale yellow skinned and purple skinned sweet potatoes, as well.  So, lots to choose from.  I used three different types in her new German potato salad.  I traded out the celery seed salt to a pinch of garlic salt.  I just left out the black pepper and kept the pink Himalayan salt.  I used a bit of maple syrup, instead of the sugar or coconut sugar I have used in the past.  Instead of a tablespoon of her flour, I used arrowroot flour (starch) to thicken.  Those are really the only changes.  I kept everything else.  It turned out beautifully.  I think we’re gonna make it.  New food adventures await!

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family, food allergy friendly

Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and a green

Nothin’ fancy.  In fact, many people you ask don’t like meatloaf, but our family loves it.  Actually, anything that has a tomato based product (ketchup) Michael is all in!  This was one of the first meals I cooked that was Lauren friendly, she liked, and would eat.  It is a simple recipe because you basically just mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl and then transfer to a loaf pan and into the oven.  Boil a few Russett potatoes, drain, whip with some chicken broth or a non-dairy milk (I use whichever I have on hand) and mashed potatoes are finished.

Now, don’t forget a green vegetable to go with everything!  True story:  When Steve and I were in college, my mom came over to take us to dinner one evening and the one rule she had was we had to get a green vegetable to go with whatever we chose to eat off the menu.  She wanted to make sure she got one good meal in us because, as most college students did back then, we ate as cheap as possible.  Lots of Taco Bell, ramen noodles, and soft drinks filled our bellies.  That rule has stuck with me.  So, at our house, if there is a food that isn’t your favorite, you must still take some, but it is called a no thank you helping (a smaller portion than normal, but you are being respectful of the person who cooked the meal, and whether you want to admit it or not, you are benefitting from a balanced meal, not leaving out the vegetable because you happen to only like tomato based products 😉  The vegetable rule was my moms.  The no thank-you helping I learned from Steve’s cousin, Jan.  I thought that was ingenius and adopted it right away.   So, we either have english peas, or green beans, or maybe squash and zuccinni.

We had this meal last night before going to the high school football game.  We were a little late for kickoff, but our tummies were full of a home-cooked meal and we sat down at the table to eat dinner -together.  I think that’s important .  So, as much as humanly possible, we do it…and without further ado- Let’s eat!

 

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Ingredients:

  1 1/2 lbs ground beef                                 1/2 tsp pepper

  1/2 c chopped onions                                 1/4 cup ketchup

  1/4 cup bell pepper                                    1/4 tsp garlic powder

  1 tsp baking powder                                  1/2 tsp salt

 3/4 cup rice milk (or non-dairy milk)

 

 

Directions:

Mix all ingredients together.  Pack into a loaf pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes.

 

 

family, marriage

A Chord of Three Strands…

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Well, it has been a little over a year since my very open post on married life and all the things and I thought I might visit with you about where we are.  Steve and I have been married now for 26 years.  Last year we hit a pretty rough patch.  I confessed how we didn’t seem to be on the same page anymore.  At the time, it felt more like not even in the same library!

We have become more intentional in our relationship.  Praying together before we walk out the door to go to work, school or whereever happens every morning.  Every morning.  Do we still have moments of frustration with each other or times we don’t see eye to eye?  Yes, but it is less often and less intense.  We seem to have found a new rhythm.

It was really different with both the girls out of the house and just Michael under our roof.  I recognized Steve’s need for BMX and all that entails and I think he has recognized that I needed to decompress from my former job and just be mom and wife for a while.  I needed to get our home back together.  We have also discovered that I have been dealing with some health issues that explains my exhaustion all of the time and why I couldn’t seem to do all of the things and keep up like I used to.  I am feeling much better, sleeping again, which helps alot!  I guess the pace of the Bierman household has slowed down compared to when there were five of us here, but we still have plenty to keep us busy!

I have noticed that Steve and I both acknowledge what is important to the other more readily.  We definitley make time for each other.  We are much more intentional about our relationship.  I guess it’s just that it was easier before kids, multiple kids and all that goes with that.  It sounds so simple yet we somehow still wound up where we did and had to fight our way back to each other.  It was worth the fight.  It is easy to just build a wall and do your own thing when things are tense.  It is difficult to stay affectionate with someone you feel at odds with.  However, choosing to show our spouse love and affection, even when it would be easier not to, benefits the both of us.  I have found that when we do the hard work, God blesses that.

The most powerful change we have made is praying with each other.  To some people it may sound kind of corny, but to me, it has made a big difference.  I’m not saying that when we pray all of the clouds depart and a rainbow appears and all of our problems go away.  I am saying that I believe and trust in God’s word and that He is faithful to keep His promises.  According to Lamentations 3:22-23, His lovingkindnesses never cease. For His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is His faithfulness.

I began writing this post back in May or June, I think.  It is now August.  School has started.  Our college girl is not at school, but is home dealing with some pretty heavy health issues.  An unexpected change that we didn’t see coming.   We’ve had lots of unexpecteds this summer.  So the new rhythm will have to become a new, new rhythm.  Ha!  Anyway, new challenges and new stressors, but we still have the same God with us and I know that we will work through these new challenges together, too.  Praying all the way.

A chord of three strands is not quickly broken.  Ecclesiastes 4:12

 

family, health and wellness

…and then June happened.

Well, for two weeks we ate right, exercised, and were feeling good. We knew that Michael and Steve were going to church camp with the youth group the second week of June, so Paleo was kind of out the window. Camp food is camp food. Early mornings and late nights. Just as it should be. Lauren and I stayed home because she is home from college and we had a room in the house to get cleaned out. Her room. I had used it as a storage room for all the things when we had wood floors put in and I had not emptied all of the boxes by the time she was home. She has been none too pleased to be sleeping on the top bunk in Michael’s room. So, we had plenty to do. There was no reason for us to stop exercising or eating right, but somewhere in between getting the boys packed, snacks purchased, and them sent on their way, I lost my mind and abandoned the exercise/eating right routine we had begun to establish. 

Lauren and I did get the room cleaned out. I even got the yard mowed while they were away. However, exercise was non-existent, as was the healthy eating. Somehow, I convinced myself that a box of Little Debbie Swiss Cake Rolls and binge watching Dowton Abbey (yes, I know everyone else watched it like six years ago) was the new order of the day…every day…like four seasons worth. I know. I know, but we could get back on track next week. Right?

Life has a funny way of marching on where it will, even if the direction it marches isn’t where we intended. Steve and Michael had a good week at camp. They walked all over the Charleston Southern campus and despite the bus having a bit of trouble on the way, they all made it there and back home safe and sound. I thought that we could just get back into the swing of things when they got back, but God had other plans. Steve received word of a sweet family member’s passing in St. Louis and a couple of days later, I received word of my dear Uncle Jim’s passing. It was a long week, but we are so thankful that the services fell so that we were able to attend both of them. Trips were soon scheduled for Mississippi and Illinois and we got busy cooking Lauren’s meals for the trip and packing. 

Attending funerals has a way of presenting a crystal clear picture of how quickly time passes. I was reunited with cousins I had not seen for twenty to thirty years and met some of their children, who are practically grown themselves. I gave hugs to aunts and uncles that, in my mind’s memory, are 50, but in reality are now in their 70’s and 80’s. Waters muddied as we little cousins took for granted seeing each other at big family get togethers every Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Fourth of July. Somewhere along the way, we all grew up, got married, had children, raised them, and are living our lives in respective states all over. Some of us have sons in law or daughters in law. Some of us have grandchildren now. It seems that life is so busy as we raise our own families that we have lost touch…or at least it feels that way to me. It makes my heart ache a little. I am grateful for seeing those I was able to see for the short time we had to spend together. It warmed my heart to see the new little family members and meet the teenage cousins that reminded me of what their parents looked like when we were growing up. That made me smile. 

We arrived home just in time to get ready for another good-bye. Our beloved pastor of our church in Alabama is moving on to a new chaper in his life. We were blessed to have him for fifteen years. I was blessed to sing with our choir at his last service with us. It was a nice celebration of him and his family. We love them. We will miss them, and we are grateful to have served with them. 

As I finish writing this post my family is on the road once again. We are coming home from a visit to Arkansas to visit my father in law and step mother in law. We have travelled like crazy this month. None of it planned, but all of it necessary. Time absolutely does march on and we are being more intentional about taking time to visit more often and spend time together. We had a good visit with our family in Arkansas. We showed our kids our old stomping grounds like the high school we graduated from, the college we met at, the church we got married in, etc… We had good conversations along the way. 

Over the month of June, I have been learning that balance and flexibility of all the things are the order of the day. Eating healthy and exercising are what we strive to do most of the time, but traveling to spend time with loved ones and pay our respects to loved ones that have passed on is important, too. The burpees, sit ups, wall balls, and paleo food will be waiting on us when we get back home.  For the month month of June, they turned out not to be the most important of all the things.