I took a bit of a hiatus from blog posting, and therefore from working on my “Disney Digest” series. Planning a Disney World trip is somehow really intimidating unless you’ve done it before, so although I am not at all an expert, I figured I would share tidbits of information from our experience that may help others with theirs. As part of this effort, I’ve already shared some of our thinking behind our Disney World planning, as well as our experience with the travel.

Now? Let’s tackle a review of the resort. We stayed at Coronado Springs.

I mentioned very briefly in my planning post that we decided pretty early on to book our stay at one of the moderate level resorts. We’re pretty low maintenance people when it comes to hotels when we travel—we don’t need a ton of bells and whistles, just something clean and comfortable. I’ve heard pretty great things about the value level resorts, too, so I would consider it—although after perusing the resorts’ websites and Trip Advisor reviews, we did lean toward the moderate resorts. In choosing which resort within that category, I relied on experienced Disney friends. Coronado Springs and Port Orleans seemed to be the two recommended most often, and we somehow landed on Coronado Springs.

{Photo Credit: DisneyMeetings.com}

I will admit that when we were about two months out from our trip, I panicked a little bit about our Coronado Springs choice. After further reading reviews and experiences, I worried it was going to be too big, too annoying to get around, and I regretted not choosing Port Orleans instead. I actually called Disney Reservations to see if we could make a switch, but not surprisingly, there weren’t any rooms left with the Free Dining promo at either Port Orleans resort, so we stayed put at Coronado Springs. Looking back? I can’t say that we wouldn’t have liked Port Orleans better, since we’ve never been there and can’t compare, but Coronado Spring was FINE. More than fine. We had very few complaints.

My friend, Kim, recommended Coronado Springs because of its Mexican vibe, its great, HUGE pool (with a water slide!), and activities for the kids. She told me they do a “Waterfall Opening Ceremony” every morning with the kids, and that there are pool parties with games and activities. While we were there, we noticed that they had “campfires” in the evenings to make s’mores by the pool, and that they also hosted movie nights at the pool, too (Disney favorites, of course). Unfortunately, as I mentioned in my previous post(s), we did not have pool weather while we were there. And most nights, we were still at the parks during the s’mores and movies—but if our trip had gone according to plan, I’m sure we would’ve taken advantage. They also served breakfast by the pool every morning—complete with the famous Mickey waffles—but since we never ended up staying at the resort for a “rest day,” we didn’t experience that, either.

{Photo Credit: MickeysDreamVacations.com}

Our plan leading up to our trip had been to take a day or two to relax a bit and enjoy the pool and the resort, but given the weather, we chose to spend all six full days at the parks (with one evening in Downtown Disney) to keep ourselves occupied. Next time we go to Disney, I hope we do get to enjoy the resort a bit more!

We had a standard room, and within the resort, we were able to request certain preferences—close to transportation, close to lobby, close to pool, etc. We chose close to transportation so that we didn’t have to trek too far to catch a bus each morning when we headed out for the parks. We were in Ranchos 6A (here is a resort map, if you’re curious). As you can see, we had a bus stop right outside of our building so all we had to do each morning was roll out of our room with the stroller, take the elevator down, and cross a small parking lot to the bus stop. Very convenient for us.

Now, it WAS fairly far away from the lobby and the restaurants (labeled as areas A and C on that map I linked above). The restaurant thing was no problem—the times we ate on site at the resort (three times total, I think), we were fine to take the winding walk around the lake. The scenery is beautiful, it’s quiet… as long as you’re not in pouring rain, what’s not to like?

The only time our room location was a real disadvantage for us was on the morning we were leaving. It was disgustingly early (like 4:30 a.m.) and we had to drag all of our belongings—three suitcases, backpacks, stroller, still half-sleeping children, etc. what seemed like 5 miles. In the dark. And go figure, it was muggy and HOT that morning (after being in the 40s for most of the week we were there, ugh!). Still, even knowing this, I would’ve still made the same choice to be closest to transportation.

The room itself was nice and clean. Not tremendously outdated or anything, at least not in my opinion—except the tub/shower area could’ve used a little work. We had two double beds, one for Michael and myself and one for Nora to sleep in. We requested a crib for Vivienne and they brought a standard Graco Pack-n-Play (we always bring our own Pack-n-Play sheets from home since you never know what you’re going to get from the hotel).

We were worried leading up to the trip how we were going to handle all four of us sharing a room. We have done it numerous places—at my dad’s, in the Poconos, on our beach vacation last summer—but it was always in a house, where Michael and I had somewhere else to hang out in the evenings, after the girls were in bed. Here, we knew we would pretty much have to hang out super quietly, lights out, possibly in the complete dark, while the girls slept.

But, as it turned out, one nice “bonus” feature about our room was that there were two big wooden sliding doors that separated the “bedroom” from the bathroom vanity/closet (and then a regular door that separated the shower/tub/toilet from the bathroom vanity/closet). So naturally, we put Vivienne’s crib in the closet/vanity area so that we could put her to bed and shut the doors, keeping light and noise out from our conversation, TV, etc. It was really nice how that worked out! Plus, by the time we were back at the hotel and putting the girls to bed each night, they were so exhausted that it didn’t much matter. Nora generally didn’t have any problems passing out, even if we had the TV on (very quietly). The thing was, Michael and I were pretty beat from the full days as well, so we were falling asleep pretty early ourselves! We all got a lot of sleep on this trip.

{Not our photo, but this is exactly what our room looked like. Photo Credit: EasyWDW.com}

As far as amenities, the room had what you would probably expect. The mini fridge was definitely nice, for us to put our bottled water (as mentioned in a previous post, we ordered a case of bottled water with our stroller rental from Kingdom Strollers), as well as milk for Vivienne. Oh, and complimentary WiFi is always appreciated, of course.

Our room was always cleaned nicely while we were out for the day, and we always had fun towel shapes/animals to come back to, waiting for us on the beds. One day, the cleaning staff took some of Nora and Vivienne’s toys that had been lying around and incorporated them into the towel design. Nora got a huge kick out of it and left a “THANK YOU” note on the bed (that she wrote herself, so cute) the next day, but I don’t think we ever had that same cleaning person again because despite leaving the note every day, no one ever acknowledged it in any way (they probably had no idea what it was referring to!) and the toys were never involved or moved again.

Although we didn’t get to spend much time at it, the pool was really nice, and beautiful. The pool area is pretty enormous, and the pool itself is pretty huge, too. When we arrived on that Sunday afternoon, it was our one pool-worthy day—the temperature was in the 80s.

We tried to check into the hotel upon our arrival (which was maybe around 12:30-1:00?), but our room was not ready. We were told that we would get a phone call and/or text message on my cell phone when it was okay to head to our room. We dropped our suitcases at bell services, grabbing some shorts, bathing suits, and sandals out of our bags before handing them over. We first headed to lunch right at the resort, but then went and spent time at the pool.

Once I changed Nora into her bathing suit and put on one of the children’s life jackets (provided for free, a variety of sizes hanging right next to the pool! so nice!), she literally walked right into the giant pool and began swimming out into the middle of it. Michael didn’t even have his bathing suit on yet! Thankfully, there were lifeguards around to help if something had gone awry, but she managed to swim over to the other side and get back out until Michael was ready to take her swimming. Vivienne was not feeling well and we wanted her to nap, so I was sitting quietly with her and walking her around in circles in a calmer area of the pool to try to get her to doze off. During my travels with the stroller, I discovered a cute little toddler-sized pool area right nearby the main pool. Would’ve been great for Vivienne if we had ever had another chance to go back and use the pool again!

I think it was after 4:00 p.m. by the time I started saying “WTF?” about our room. I still had not received a phone call, nor text message that our room was ready, and it was getting kind of late. I posted something on Instagram and someone there mentioned that it definitely should’ve been ready by then. I called the front desk from my cell phone, still at the pool, to inquire about what was going on. Turns out our room was ready, we just did not get the call. :( So that was definitely disappointing. I had a sick baby (suspected ear infection) and it would’ve been great to get into our room earlier than that so I could’ve laid her down to nap instead of trying to make do with a stroller nap. Who knows how long it had been ready without us knowing. Although, I got to hang out in the sunshine by a pool for a few hours, so… hard to complain too much.

On that first day, we ate at Coronado Springs (specifically, Pepper Market, the quick-service restaurant on the property) for both lunch and dinner since we didn’t venture off resort property at all. I will go into more detail about our dining experiences in a post I am planning about dining, but for the sake of making this a complete review of Coronado Springs, I will say that we loved Pepper Market. It was one of our favorite quick-service restaurants of the whole trip, with a good variety of food to choose from. We ended up eating dinner there another day, so three times total and it was great every time.

{Pepper Market. Photo Credit: Walt Disney World}

There were a couple of nice little cabana bars on property, too. One right outside of the dining/lobby/front desk area—situated right on Lago Dorado (the resort’s lake)—and another (with a little quick-service dining, too) at the pool. We grabbed beers “to go” on our way back to our room a couple of times, but we didn’t get to enjoy them otherwise. First of all, we had tired kids at the end of each day, and secondly, it was always freezing once the sun went down so we did not partake. But if you’re going and you will have child care back at the room, or you’ll otherwise be able to occupy your children… the bars are nice! :)

Finally, transportation from Coronado Springs was great. If you look at a map of Disney World, you’ll find that Coronado Springs is closest to Animal Kingdom, but it’s also pretty close to Hollywood Studios and Epcot as well. Magic Kingdom is the furthest away, which may be a negative to some people, but I will say that the bus rides were not long, no matter where we were going. It may have taken 10-15 minutes to get to Magic Kingdom? I’m totally estimating, but it wasn’t bad at all. We rarely had to wait very long for buses to come to the stop outside of our building, either. One morning, we *just* missed an Animal Kingdom bus as we were walking out to the stop, and of course, we were heading to Animal Kingdom that morning AND we were already running a little late for a breakfast dining reservation. So, of course, that was the one time it took like 15-20 minutes for another Animal Kingdom bus to come. That’s just our luck, though!

{On the bus our first full day. Poor Vivi was still sick; look at her pathetic little face!}

I really enjoyed our stay on Disney property, which allowed us to take advantage of the dining plan (especially since it was FREE!), as well as the bus system that took us easily to and from the parks. I do recommend Coronado Springs to anyone looking for a moderate level resort. When we go back someday, we’ll probably opt for one of the Port Orleans resorts if we can, just to have a different experience and try something new, but I also wouldn’t hesitate to stay at Coronado Springs again.

Disney 2016? (Just kidding.)

 

We had a pretty great Easter weekend, and I hope all of you did as well.

I had off from work on Friday, so my weekend with the kids started a day early (Michael still had to work). We had awesome spring weather (finally!) on Thursday and Friday, which meant that we spent a lot of time outside. I left the office a little early on Thursday, ran a couple of quick errands, and then grabbed the kids from daycare a bit early and took them home to play!

Vivienne was hysterical because she was scared to walk around outside. She would stand in the same place or take teeny little steps on the driveway and grass, whining the whole way and giving me a look like, “Ohmygod, Mommy! Why am I standing out here? What are you doing to me?!” The fact is that she was just starting to learn how to walk last fall, and I guess after spending the ENTIRE winter indoors—which up here is about, oh, five months—she had forgotten how to play outside. Poor New Yorker baby! :) I’m confident she’ll get the hang of it in the coming weeks.

On Friday, it was cold in the morning but warmed up quickly as the day progressed. When I came downstairs from showering, Michael told me that Nora hadn’t eaten much breakfast (unusual for her), but we didn’t think much of it. He left for work and I played with the girls for a bit. I brought the bin of 18-24 months and 2T summer clothes up from the basement and brought the girls up to Vivienne’s room to play while I did some work in Viv’s closet. Half of the clothes in her closet were still 12 months, which haven’t fit her in a few months, so Nora helped me remove all of that stuff and pack it away. Then I went through the spring/summer clothes and got all of that organized. Hopefully we’ll be putting those on her very soon!

After this, Nora was being very whiny—also pretty unusual for her. She complained about wanting to “do something,” but was turning down every offer I had for playing games, coloring, etc. I texted Michael like, “OMG, she’s driving me crazy and it’s only 10:00.” He suggested she make Easter cards for the family and of course, she ate that right up.

I helped her with her cards for a while (wrote the names and such down for her to copy) and then I packed everyone up for a quick trip to Target to buy tights for the girls’ Easter dresses.

Once home, we didn’t even go back inside. It had warmed up considerably so I set the girls loose outdoors for a while. I tried Vivienne in the Power Wheels Jeep with Nora, seeing if she was strong/stable enough to sit up on the seat now (instead of sitting on the floor like we did in the fall, ha! I still can’t believe the thing doesn’t have a little seat belt!). I told Nora to stay in the “slow” mode and they did great. Vivienne loved it and Nora enjoyed herself, too.

Suddenly, though, Nora said she’d had enough. Again, kind of unusual for her (see the pattern yet?). It was time to go inside for lunch anyway, and once inside, Nora collapsed on the couch, bundled up under a big blanket, saying she was cold.

I fed Vivienne and took her upstairs for her nap, and came back down—all this time, Nora was just resting on the couch, doing nothing. No TV, no iPad, no books, etc. If my kid is happy just resting on the couch with no entertainment whatsoever, there’s probably something wrong. I finally had a chance to take her temperature and it was over 103 degrees. What.the.hell. She was just sick like this 2-3 weeks ago, and now it was hitting us again. While I made a little lunch for myself, Nora passed out sleeping on the couch.

I left her there to sleep while my mom and my brother came over with his kids. The kids played outside while both Nora and Vivienne slept, and I cleaned the interior of my car.

Eventually, Nora woke up, I gave her a fever reducer, and she came outside. At first, she wanted to just sit and watch, but then the fever must’ve come down because she was up and playing with Hunter. We played the rest of the day outside, until Michael came home from work and we went in for dinner.

Nora was restless through a lot of the night on Friday night, waking up frequently and calling out for us. After a few more doses of meds (alternating Tylenol and Motrin), she ended up coming into bed with us around 4:00 a.m., completely burning up. Thankfully, she passed out snuggling with me and slept through until around 7:00.

We were due to have Easter breakfast (a day early) at my mom’s at 9:00 a.m., and then celebrate with Michael’s side of the family at noon. Given that Nora had nothing more than cold symptoms, and the fever had broken—and this whole high fever thing has been her M.O. for cold viruses this winter—we decided to go on as scheduled. Nora rallied at my mom’s for breakfast and the Easter egg hunt.

We went directly from my mom’s to my in-laws’, where Nora was okay for a little bit but then went downhill quickly. She spent most of the afternoon on the couch watching Disney Junior, but it was nice to get a chance to catch up with everyone and celebrate the holiday together.

We headed home after 5:00 p.m. and planned to color Easter eggs before bed. We all got into pajamas/comfy clothes and settled in. Michael and Nora played a board game while the eggs were boiling, and then, while we waited for them to be done, I asked Nora if she wanted to snuggle with me on the couch for a bit. She climbed up with me and closed her eyes, while Michael and I just talked and Vivienne played. Next thing we know, Nora was sleeping soundly in my arms. Poor thing was burning up again.

After a little bit of reveling in the snuggles, I carried her upstairs and we tucked her into bed. I roused her long enough to get some more meds into her, and she drifted back off. We put Vivienne to bed and relaxed!

An hour or two after putting her to bed, we heard Nora crying on the monitor. We went up to check on her and she was communicating with us, but still half sleeping. She said that she was scared because “Sadie’s plates keep moving.” (Sadie is our niece, about the same age as Vivienne.) Does this happen to anyone else’s kids? They have super weird and vivid dreams when they are feverish? Because a few weeks ago, when Nora had a fever, I actually slept with her because I was worried about her. The whole night, she kept saying the most random stuff in her sleep. Anyway, when we asked Nora about the plates the next morning, she said that they had feet! LOL.

Nora made it through the whole night in her bed, and we woke Sunday to filled baskets from the Easter Bunny.

Nora definitely seemed to be doing a bit better, so we decided to attempt church. We all got dressed and ready for 11:00 a.m. Mass.

Church went well—both girls were good. Nora was really patient, and Vivienne was sufficiently distracted with snacks and by setting her loose to toddle in the aisle a bit (we were in the “overflow” room—actually a gym—so it was okay). And we didn’t run into any nasty witches in the parking lot, either. Side note: Reading through my post from last Easter weekend, it’s funny how similar it was to this weekend. All the way down to working on the closets and cleaning out the car! Ha! Except it was SNOWING when we got out of church yesterday, so we certainly weren’t enjoying 70 degrees again this year.

We went directly from church to Wegmans to do our weekly shopping since we didn’t have the chance to go Saturday. Once home, we all got into comfy clothes again and we laid low the rest of the day. I finished and filed our taxes (latest I’ve ever done it, oops!), watched Frozen, made dinner, did baths, then bed.

Despite the weather and Nora’s sickness, it was a really nice weekend—the four of us had plenty of time to spend together, and with extended family, and that’s all that matters, right?

Fingers crossed that Easter signifies the real beginning of SPRING! Bring it on, Mother Nature. Pretty please?

 

So, that was the longest blog drought ever. I’ve never gone a full month without posting, but somehow, that’s what has happened. I am in a serious rut with this blog, my little space on the world wide web. I’m honestly struggling with it. Over the past several weeks, I have—on more than one occasion—thought about writing one last “goodbye” post, or just letting the whole blog slip quietly into the shadows forever.

It’s strange that something that once felt like such a big part of my life—such a huge part of documenting it, of saving my thoughts and experiences for reflection in the future—has fallen so far down on my list of priorities. Already, Vivienne’s growth and development is far less documented than Nora’s was. I know that this phenomenon is completely normal, dating back decades into the past when parents would take far less photographs of each subsequent child, and would fill out far less of the baby books (if they even got around to buying one). So I try not to feel too guilty about that. Honestly, maybe she’s better off for it. I’ve never fully been able to understand whether this blog is a gift to my children (for someday), or whether it’s really just a gift for myself.

And Nora—well, she’s a real live person now, you guys. Of course, she has been for quite some time, but there is definitely a shift that has happened in the last year. I’ve felt it, the transition from toddler to GIRL. And with kindergarten approaching in the fall, we are entering a new stage of our lives—the school years. It is crazy to think that this stage will carry us through to high school graduations. I can’t even.

Anyway, there has obviously been some deep thinking going on around here. I would love to get back to the glory days of my blogging. Pick up the pace, gain new readers, document my world, explore my thoughts again. But I’ve struggled with how much effort I’m willing to give it. How much time can I spare in a day that already feels so full? And it’s full of mostly really wonderful things. LIFE. LIVING. LOVE. BREATHING.

Things are in a great groove right now. My marriage is good. My kids are awesome. I love my job. I feel good about myself and where I’m at with taking time for myself with CrossFit. We’ve been making time for friends and seeing them more (although there are still some others we need to re-establish regular connections with). I think I’m feeling more at peace with my life right at this moment than I have ever since we’ve started our family. I’ve found the balance that we as moms crave so deeply.

But damn it, that balance has not included blogging. I’ve found myself wondering why that is. Is the lack of blogging—one less thing to worry about—contributing to the better sense of balance? Or is the lack of blogging actually because I feel more balanced?

On another note, March was a crazy month. I traveled twice for work, I was subsequently busy at work, and we had a lot going on otherwise. Preschool events. Parties and get-togethers. More illness (ugh). So, April. I’m feeling really good about April. Even though the weather forecast is still pretty disgusting—68 degrees today, but then we struggle to get over 45 for the rest of the foreseeable future—spring is in the air. It’s a time of rebirth.

Maybe I can breathe new life into this blog.

Or maybe not. I honestly don’t know. Even when I think about blogging, there are many times when I don’t know what I would even write about. But I’m going to try to make a concerted effort this month, and see how things shake out. If it falls by the wayside again, maybe it is really time to let it go. We’ll see. I make no promises.

I can only try.

 

A few years ago, before she turned two, we had Nora evaluated by early intervention for her speech, when we were concerned about her lack of words.

Today, Nora was evaluated again. Girlfriend has words—a lot of them. She doesn’t stop talking. But this time, it was about understanding what she says.

I mentioned in my recent post about kindergarten that Nora’s preschool teacher told us at her parent-teacher conference in January that she thought Nora could benefit from some speech therapy for her pronunciation. We were given a referral to speak to the necessary people in our school district, and then we set up an appointment for someone from one of our local agencies to come and evaluate her. This process took over a month, but today was the day.

Last night, we told Nora that a couple of “teachers” would be coming to our house in the morning to play with her and ask her a lot of questions, like taking a test. “Yay!” she responded. This morning, she was really excited for their arrival and asked us, “They’re coming only for me, right? Not Vivienne?” She wanted the attention to be all hers. :) 

When the two women arrived—one speech pathologist and one developmental psychologist—Nora did not hesitate to lead them into the family room and settle in on the floor with them to begin. WITHOUT Michael and me (we stayed in the kitchen). The speech pathologist worked with her while I answered numerous questions for the psychologist, and then they switched. The whole process took about an hour, and Nora was being tested the entire time. Even though we called them about her speech, they performed a comprehensive preschool evaluation on her. They looked at her speech-language, cognitive, motor, and social skills, and in several different areas within those categories. Then they scored her in those areas and reported back to us their findings.

First of all… speech. The reason we had her evaluated in the first place. Not surprisingly, she qualifies for services because of her trouble with sounds. I think the pathologist said that she identified 22 (or uh… 19? 29? somewhere in there) different sounds that Nora has trouble with. They determined she is “moderately delayed” in this area, thus qualifying her for speech therapy. Otherwise, Nora scored well within normal limits for her expressive and receptive language skills, even putting her in the range of 6-7 year old children in some areas. So, said the pathologist, for a little girl with so much to say, we should get her some help with pronouncing it all. :) 

I know next to nothing about speech pathology, so it was interesting to hear her explanation of it. She said that young children take shortcuts with pronouncing certain sounds. It’s easier to say “baff” than it is to say “bath,” or “dovel” instead of “shovel,” so they do. As they grow, the more and more they hear and say these sounds, their language and pronunciation evolves. But with some children, the wrong pronunciations basically become a bad habit, and it takes some extra work to re-train their brains to speak the words correctly.

Anyway, the speech pathologist is recommending twice weekly speech therapy for Nora, for 30 minutes each time. She said that she thinks that with the therapy, Nora will make some really huge strides pretty quickly. But given that we will receive her therapy through the school district, she will only receive it during the school year, which will leave us with only a couple of months before summer vacation. In all likelihood, she will probably need to pick back up services at school once she begins kindergarten in the fall.

That was the other interesting thing that came out of the evaluation today. As I mentioned, a developmental psychologist also evaluated her on cognitive, motor, and social skills. Nora scored on the high end of “normal” (or even above the normal range) in all of these areas. They marveled at her attention span, since she sat through the entire hour of testing without issue, never once asking if they were almost done, never getting up, etc. As part of their questioning of us as her parents, they noted that her birthday falls within the timeframe in which some parents decide to hold back their children an extra year before school, and asked us our plans. When we told them we had long debated but that we’re currently planning to send her (barring any major issues arising between now and then), they said that in their opinions, she is READY. The speech pathologist even said that she thinks it’ll be better for her speech improvement and therapy for her to be in kindergarten.

It’s amazing, the little signs that life gives you when you need a little extra reassurance that you’re doing the right thing.

Nora will still have her kindergarten screening at her future school in May, at which point she’ll be evaluated by additional professionals—including another speech pathologist—but I’m feeling good about all of this. We’re getting her the help she needs for speech, she’s obviously growing and learning at preschool, and we’re on track for kindergarten.

Pardon my gushing, but I’m just so proud of this girl. I don’t get an opportunity to write about my kids that much anymore (and sometimes I struggle with whether I even should, but that’s a story for another day). I KNOW I’m biased. But man, I love her to pieces.

And for the record, I’m really going to miss it when she no longer says that her sister’s name is “Bivienne.” :) I will cherish her “baby talk” as long as it lasts, even if she was supposed to outgrow it by now. I know that one day, all too soon, it will be a memory. And she’ll seem all that much older then.

Why must they grow so quickly?!

 

Looking back, I’m not even sure what possessed me to do this. I am NOT a dieter. I have never done South Beach, Atkins, The Zone, etc. I *did* do Weight Watchers in 2006 after I put on some post-college desk job weight and it worked well for me—I lost 20 lbs. and after gaining just a couple of pounds back shortly after quitting, I have been maintaining my weight pretty successfully ever since.

The difference between Weight Watchers and the other “fad diets” I listed is that it’s not restrictive. At all. It’s about portion control and balancing your unhealthy choices with healthy ones. No one told me I couldn’t have a giant brownie or two slices of pizza if I wanted them, so as far as diets go, it was something I could do. I also felt it was the best choice for long term. Nothing was being taken away. And that balance—that mindset—is largely how I’ve been eating for the past nine years, even if I’m no longer counting points.

Exercise has always been harder for me. It was always something I had to MAKE myself do, and then once I had Nora, I fell off the exercise wagon big time and I didn’t pick up anything I was able to stick with until I started CrossFit almost seven months ago now. Since I had my weight under control, I figured that if I wanted to look better, all I had to do was get the exercise part in order. Build some muscle, some definition. Tone up, slim down. I haven’t been overly unhappy with my body. I have my insecurities, sure, and I wish I felt more confident in a bathing suit on the few occasions I wear one but overall… I’m cool with myself.

I’ve noticed results from CrossFit, but nothing earth shattering. And after starting CrossFit three days a week, I found that I actually GAINED a few pounds. The scale was a little disheartening, actually, because like I said before—prior to this, I had been maintaining my weight within a pound or two for eight freaking years. I start CrossFit and then suddenly the scale goes UP?! What? I know, I know, “muscle weighs more than fat” and all of that, but still.

Before the holidays, a good friend and fellow CrossFitter put a bug in my ear about doing an upcoming nutrition challenge. “Diet made a huge difference for me,” she said. “Just wait. You’ll do it and slim down so much that you will want to eat like this [paleo] all the time.” I suddenly found myself feeling like maybe I should give it a shot. Even if it went against everything I stand for. LOL. I talked to Michael about it and he was on board. I figured we had to do it together if we were going to be successful, so once he was in, we were doing it. We anxiously awaited January 19, the start of the next challenge.

Our challenge was through Lurong Living. They organize big nutrition challenges several times a year and CrossFit gyms across the nation organize teams to participate. Our gym always puts together a team and this time, there were 22 of us. The basics are that you eat a clean, paleo diet. Lurong has resources on its site for participants—a food search (to see whether or not certain foods are “legal”), recipes, a diet plan should you want to follow it, etc. Every day, we logged our nutrition based on their scale. We scored our meals as Elite, Pro, Starter, or Cheat. The cleaner you eat (Elite), the better, and the more points you earn. We also had a benchmark WOD (workout of the day, for you non-CrossFitters) we performed during Week 1, then again during Week 5. The idea is, obviously, to see whether or not your change in diet positively impacts your performance in the gym. Lurong also assigned us “mini WODs” each week, which we performed in addition to our normal WODs for extra points. Our coach/owner of our gym took our weight and measurements at the beginning (January 19) and at the end (this morning), too, because we earn points based on weight loss and lost inches as well.

I signed up for this craziness. I was mostly just curious. I wanted to do it as an experiment.

So, Week 1 was rough. I posted about it back in January. I was really hungry for a few days, then that gave way to huge amounts of rage on Day 5. I have a friend who told me then, “When my husband and I did the paleo challenge for the first time last January, days 4-5 were so awful! I was cranky, had massive cravings and wanted to punch my husband in the face!” Yes, that. Except for maybe punching Michael, because I never blamed him for this mess. IT WAS ALL ME. :) But I could’ve punched SOMEONE, that’s for sure.

I was going to say that Weeks 2 and 3 were probably the “easiest” of the five, but I realized that’s not really true. The thing is—this whole experience was a rollercoaster. There were days when I felt like I pretty much sailed through without any issues, and there were days when I felt like the end could not come soon enough.

I had several really bad days, or at least stretches of hours. There were a few times when I contemplated quitting. I knew I couldn’t keep up this level of diet restriction long term, and I didn’t feel like I was seeing results (I was weighing myself at home, couldn’t help it). Or, at least, the results I was seeing were not enough for all of this freaking effort. The rewards were not outweighing the costs in my mind.

What were the costs? you might wonder. Well, aside from not being able to eat any sugar, carbs, legumes, dairy, etc…

The food prep was killer. Just killer. If I had someone to cook for me, I am fairly confident that I could eat like this at least 90% of the time (because hello, sometimes you really just NEED a cupcake. Or a sandwich). But as full-time working parents to two really young kids… no. Just no. Over the course of the last five weeks, I spent HOURS in the kitchen on Saturdays and Sundays. I would do anything and everything I could do to make meal prep easier during the week—chop veggies, pre-cook chicken, make sweet potato “rolls,” make salads, recipes for lunches, etc. Honestly, this was the part I was most pissed about. I get a limited amount of time with my girls, and with other stuff around my house, and I felt like I missed out on a lot of that because I was in the freaking kitchen so much. And the days when I was feeling particularly rage-y about the challenge were on the weekends, during major meal prep, or when we had not done enough to plan or prep and I was overwhelmed with just the thought of making dinner after work.

And meal PLANNING—something I do on a normal basis anyway—was a beast. Not having a repertoire of familiar and tried-and-true recipes was really hard. Every week, I was searching multiple sites, reading comments on recipes, making a huge grocery list, etc. It took forever. But it is KEY. Like I just said, the most difficult times of the challenge were when I had not planned or prepared enough.

Speaking of grocery lists… the trips to Wegmans were insane. Tons of stuff in the cart, tons of time to find new ingredients that I wasn’t familiar with. And the total at the cash register?! Wow. Our grocery bill for our family of four went from about $120 a week to $240 a week. One week, it was $275. Picture my eyes popping out of my head, because… yeah. I still maintain that in our “normal” lives, we eat pretty healthy. It’s pretty balanced. But if you REALLY clean up your act like we did for the challenge… eating this clean is EXPENSIVE. A huge family pack of meat that would typically last us 2-3 weeks was now only lasting a week. So every week we were buying meat, and when you add that on top of like $80 worth of fruits and vegetables plus the specialty/organic ingredients we were buying… it gets out of hand quickly. I do think it would’ve been cheaper for us to do this challenge during the summer months, when we could hit up the huge public market and get most (if not all) of our produce there. But then we would’ve had to trek down there every week, which is a feat and a commitment in and of itself. And this is not to sway anyone away from trying to make positive changes to their diet for budget reasons. It was just our reality during the challenge.

Cravings and such were okay, actually. I mean, my boss brought in donuts one day and I thought I might die because I wanted one so badly. I steered clear of the kitchen but I sat at my desk and literally could not stop thinking about them sitting in there. LOL. But most of the time, I really did all right. Don’t get me wrong—I wanted bread, I wanted cake, I wanted chocolate, etc.—but I also learned that my willpower is stronger than I ever thought it was.

I also learned that I like more foods than I thought. I was not at all fond of raisins before, but when one of my fellow challengers mentioned that they make a good “dessert” in place of chocolate or candy, I tried them and fell in love. I am the type of person who really wants a little taste of something sweet after lunch and dinner, and I found that eating a few raisins did the trick. I became really well acquainted with cauliflower—we made “rice” a lot. Brussel sprouts are another thing that grew on me. And pretty much the only packaged snack that is considered paleo legal is the Larabar (only certain flavors). I bought a few and tried Cashew Cookie first. It tasted like a piece of cardboard. I then tried Apple Pie and again, fell in love. It’s hysterical because my coworkers and mom have all been like “Those are gross, they taste too healthy/too plain/etc.” and I have been like “YES, but when you have not had sugar in weeks, they.are.glorious.” I actually remember trying a Larabar during my “no dairy” days when nursing Vivienne and I also thought they were nasty (although I can’t remember what flavor I tried at the time). Go figure. Your perspective and tastes change, that’s for sure.

Another big lifestyle change was a drop in the frequency/quantity of our drinking alcohol. I mean, please don’t take this the wrong way—we don’t go crazy. But we usually enjoy a couple of beers on a Friday night, and then might have a few more beers or a bottle of wine on Saturday night. On the challenge, we could only have ONE beer or a 6-ounce glass of wine per night. We rarely even bothered to take advantage. Honestly, as far as the challenge goes, this was one of the easier things for me to give up, simply because I’ve done it before. Twice. For NINE MONTHS. But still—yet another restriction to live with.

I’ve been thinking about this recap post for a few weeks now and I was all ready to come here and tell you all that I think that the diet is kind of a crock, because I followed it REALLY closely and ate REALLY cleanly for five weeks and I hardly lost any weight. And I don’t feel all that different, either. People swore I’d have a lot more energy, feel less bloated, etc. and I don’t feel that I’ve noticed many changes. BUT then this past week, I started to notice that my pants were maybe fitting a bit differently.

And then I had my measurements taken this morning.

And then I brought up my “before” picture and my “after” picture side by side in Photoshop.

Now I’m kind of eating my words. You know, before I ever even publish them.

The thing is—my results are definitely not drastic. Maybe people who are not me will not even notice the difference. But here is where I let it all hang out. Literally. Because yeah, I’ve decided to share my pics with you all. The pics that I took after rolling out of bed first thing in the morning, bleary eyed, no makeup, not showered, bedhead. Pasty white in the middle of winter. Half-nekkid. *DEEP BREATH* OHMYGOD HERE WE GO.

Yep. So there I am. *cringe* I better hit publish on this post before I chicken out.

Really, I only see a small difference in my abdomen. It’s perhaps a little more toned, and my tummy is perhaps just a teeny bit flatter. (By the way, is there anything worse than looking at straight-on photos of yourself? Haaaate that angle.)

Officially, I lost 8.6 pounds. Now, as I mentioned in my post about Week 1, this is kind of a farce. I ate like it was going out of style the weekend before the challenge began, so on Day 1—to my shock and horror—I was up 6-7 pounds from where I had been consistently weighing in before that. Not surprisingly, I was already down 6.5 pounds like two days into the challenge, so yeah… clearly it was bloat. So don’t be fooled. My REAL weight loss was only about 2-3 pounds. Which is why, you can imagine, I was getting so discouraged by the scale the last few weeks. Which is why I should’ve stayed off of it, but gah, I just couldn’t. But you’d be much better served if you did. BECAUSE…

My measurements this morning revealed that I lost a total of 8 inches. THAT was surprising to me, and was really what made me feel like an idiot for thinking poorly of this whole thing. I lost inches everywhere except for my arms (they stayed the same). I’m going to chalk that up to the fact that I’m lifting weights like a boss. LOL I’m just kidding. But really, I am working on toning them obviously, and arms are one of the areas where I’ve noticed the biggest changes from CrossFit alone.

As for my benchmark WOD performance… the workout was a 7-minute AMRAP (as many reps as possible in the 7 minutes), alternating between 5 front squats (with 65 lbs.) and 7 burpee bar-jumps (burpee + two-footed jump over your barbell). The first time, on Wednesday, January 21, I scored 63 reps. We repeated the WOD on Friday, February 20 and I scored 74 reps. So I saw improvement there, too. Although, I will say that everyone at the gym—even non-challenge participants—did this same WOD with us, and many of those who were not doing the challenge still saw improvement in their scores, so I’m a bit skeptical about the correlation between the diet and the WOD performance. Just for full disclosure.

So, am I glad I did the challenge? Yeah, I guess I am. It was really hard, and is typically not the type of diet I would ever subject myself to—but maybe that’s why it was good that I did it. I challenged myself, for real. It was not easy. But along the way, I did learn quite a few things about myself and about eating that I feel like I can carry forward into my “real” life.

Would I do it again? I don’t know. I don’t think so. For “maintenance,” my coach at the gym suggested we try to eat like this 80% of the time. I don’t know if I can do that, honestly. But maybe. Breakfasts and lunches were not as big of a deal as dinners. So maybe I can eat clean for most breakfasts and lunches and dinner is more “normal.” We’ll see. Now I’m curious to see what happens going forward. Can I maintain the progress I made without eating like a caveman? Time will tell. And if I ever feel like I want to commit myself to further slimming down, I think I would be more likely to use what I’ve learned to eat like this on my own—and potentially allow a few cheats, which I did NOT do until this past Saturday night. With a few cheats, I’m sure it would be more bearable. My friend—the one who encouraged me to do this in the first place—eats paleo in her normal life, but she has 1-2 days a week that she allows herself to cheat. It works for her and doesn’t affect her progress. So, just like Weight Watchers, I suppose it is about finding balance.

Now, I want to add that I feel like this—or Whole30—can be really great tools for people. Myself included, because like I said, I learned a lot. There are people from my team at the gym who lost 15-20 pounds or more. In five weeks! So clearly, this WORKS for people. And if I can do it, anyone can. It’s just 30 days (or five weeks, depending). You can do anything for that long (and that’s what I kept telling myself every time I was tempted to quit or cheat).

I hope this is helpful or somewhat interesting to those of you who wondered how I was doing along the way. And if you have been contemplating doing a challenge yourself, I do think it’s worth experimenting with. Different bodies react in different ways and yours might respond really well to this type of thing. So give it a shot. Report back. :)

I thought this whole thing would be a great opportunity for me to photograph, blog and share a bunch of new recipes on my blog but… nope. I never got around to photographing or blogging any of it except for a few iPhone pics thrown up on Instagram here and there. But I know people are always interested in paleo recipe resources, so I’m going to drop a few links here for some favorites that we’ve discovered. Most of these are totally being added to the meal rotation, even now that we’re done!


Paleo Pad Thai from Against All Grain
Paleo Chicken Pot Pie from Life Made Full
Paleo Chicken Fingers from The Healthy Foodie
Roast Chicken Soup with Vegetables from Against All Grain
Sweet Potato Buns from Predominantly Paleo
Fresh Balsamic Crockpot Chicken from Paleo Fresh
Buffalo Chicken Salad from PaleOMG
Foolproof Homemade Paleo Mayo from The Healthy Foodie
Sweet Smoky BBQ Sauce from Lexi’s Clean Kitchen

As of this morning’s weigh in, I was officially done. Today, I’ve had: my usual smoothie for a post-workout breakfast; a small handful of cashews for a mid-morning snack, veggies and hummus for lunch (hummus is not paleo, I missed it so much! but it’s also not bad for you, so… rock on!) with just a few pita chips (loved, but they tasted saltier than I remember!); and a small box of raisins. Tonight, though, we are having some pasta and meat sauce with a veggie for dinner, and I plan to indulge in a little bit of ice cream. Everything in moderation, right? At least I didn’t run out this morning and get a donut. One of the guys at the gym asked me if I had a cheeseburger stashed in my purse for after weigh-in. Noooo, but not a bad idea. :)

So I’m still trying to be good, but also celebrating being FREEEEEEEE! Happy Monday, my friends.