In our kitchen:: Skinnytaste's "Orange Chicken Makeover"

Wednesday, April 30, 2014
This one will be a regular staple in our kitchen. It was so easy and good.

Claire especially loves asian inspired chicken meals and this was no exception. The kids also love sprinkling their own chicken with the sesame seeds! We serve it over rice typically. For those watching the calories on MFP, what's pictured on the plate is about 488 calories since I added a 1/2 cup of rice.

Find the recipe here:  Orange Chicken Makeover




On crying in the dressing room.

Thursday, April 24, 2014
We've all been there, I'm sure. Especially those of us whose bodies were transformed after becoming mothers.

I've cried out of sadness, frustration, and disbelief. Throwing tops and pants to the ground because when you hold them up you think "hmm, that looks about right". But our eyes play tricks on us when it comes to our bodies. We transform so slowly in either direction that sometimes it's hard to realize what we are once it's time to buy new clothes.

Of course body size isn't everything, yada, yada, yada. But when you've been working as hard as we have, it is kind of a big deal. And despite the puppies and rainbows a lot of people try to throw, the majority of people do, in fact, care about their body image and its related size.

The last time I cried about clothes was as I stated in the last blog, on Christmas Eve morning when I tried on nearly everything I thought should have fit. But it didn't. I ended up squeezing into a dress whose popped buttons around my mid section were hidden by a giant belt. Any of the jeans I had I was barely able to button and if I got them on it wasn't pretty. It wasn't pretty at all. Tears of sadness, frustration and wtf, how did this happen?! (I mean, duh, I had 3 kids, so technically, I DO know how it happened, but it doesn't make it an excuse, or ok).

Today, I had tears again. But they were a very different kind. A kind I've never, ever experienced before. Tears of happiness because it finally hit me how much I've transformed my body as I looked for a new pair of jeans at American Eagle.

I've officially dropped 3 whole sizes at American Eagle and Old Navy. Three. It blows my mind. The size I bought today I could not have gotten over my knees pre-kids. Pre-kids. While the scale still has a higher number than my high-school/early college weight, I'm smaller than I have ever been, because I have muscles and I'm toned. I have hated my butt and thighs my ENTIRE adult life, and now that I finally got off the couch to do something about it, I'm smaller than I've ever been. and.I'm.happy.

I grabbed the size I thought I had reached (based on looking at their measurements online.). They worked. I put them on easy. Just for kicks, I asked the girl to get me the next size down.

They went on, I wasn't pouring into them and they fit like a glove and buttoned with ease. I stood there in disbelief, tears running down my face, as I texted Ryan, "OMFG",  wearing two sizes smaller than I had when I worked there 8 years ago prior to marriage and kids.

On the bottom, the pants I could barely button at Christmas. On top, the pants I purchased today.


I know there is a fine line between what's "accepted" and what's "too big" or "too skinny". I don't know if I've reached the latter in some people's eyes, but I am barely 5'2". I don't get a lot of wiggle room being this short. and I still have curves. and I'm not starving myself. i eat. I've had tons of people tell me I looked great before. My starting weight put my BMI at the very top of average. One more point and I would have been considered "overweight".

When I started this journey with Ryan, my realistic expectation was to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight and size. I tossed old jeans at Christmas out of the frustration that they'd NEVER fit me again. As it turns out, I'd be tossing them anyway as they'd be too big now.

Never could I have imagined I'd be smaller than what I was pre kids. Pre-kids Jenna may have weighed a little less than this, but she wasn't fit, in the least.

I obviously won't share numbers or size outright, but I'm an open book. So if you really want to know how my size and numbers and measurements have fluctuated, you can message me.

So if you are reading this and have been that girl/mom crying in the dressing room or closet like I had so many times, DON'T GIVE UP. You CAN do this. You can change your body to what makes YOU happy, as that image is different for everyone. This is why I wrote this. We CAN make the changes we want to see. I didn't believe it myself 4 months ago. I'm here because of hard work, determination, and a crazy supportive husband who didn't let me give up.

Read my previous post for even more motivation. :)






In our kitchen:: Grilled Chicken Sandwich with Pineapple and Guac

Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Hey! I'm actually delivering!

As promised, here's our/my first food post.

For the record, I wouldn't call us foodies quite yet. I wouldn't refer to myself as a master chef either. We like easy food, quick food, and good food. Though I definitely wouldn't consider myself a food snob either. So chances are, if you have impeccably high standards, you may not like all the stuff I share since we are generally pretty easy to please. We've just found yummy to us, healthy recipes on this ride and since I have enough people asking for links, I'll start posting them here!

Almost all of what I plan on posting will be reviews of tried and true recipes from skinnytaste.com

This one, is pretty much ours though, and it's so easy.

What you see pictured is just under 300 calories (294 to be exact) using 4 ounces of grilled chicken breast. Use more chicken if you are looking for more calories. We also used a 110 calorie hamburger bun (this is Mrs. Baird's brand. not sure my Minnesota friends have that or not).

Recipe::

1. Cut up fresh pineapple into desired slices. (We used one per sandwich.)

2. Prepare guacamole. This is what I'm now referring to as Ryan's famous guac. (This was enough for approximately 3 sandwiches)

Ingredients::
1 ripe avocado
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1-2 tablespoon of chopped cilantro
1/3 cup cooked frozen corn
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh pineapple (can you can if in a hurry)
1 tablespoon of lime juice
1 teaspoon minced garlic
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste. 
(can also add in 1 chopped roma tomato--we just didn't have one)

Directions:: Mash up avocado, then add in the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Works best to prepare right before serving.

3. Season chicken to your liking before grilling. I'm not sure we added anything because of all the flavors in the guac and pineapple.

4. Grill chicken and pineapple. Pineapple only takes about 3-5 minutes each side, so you'll want to put your chicken on the grill first. We did not marinade our pineapple, but we have tried this recipe in the past as a side and it's fantastic too.

To keep it at right around 300 calories, make your sandwich using a 110 calorie bun, 4 ounces of chicken, 1 pineapple slice and 1/4 cup of the guacamole.

I'd LOVE to see if anyone actually makes this. I mean, it's pretty basic, but delicious.


And, if you run your mouse over the top of the picture, you can pin this guy right to pinterest, so go ahead and do that too!

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How we dropped 44 pounds in 13 weeks.

Monday, April 21, 2014
Let me first start by saying that I'm not writing this post to brag so I would hope and assume no one reads it as such. I've had so many people privately messaging me asking how we dropped the weight, what we've been eating, what exercise we were doing, etc. etc. etc. This is for you people!

Secondly, I am not an expert, and I won't pretend to be. This was literally our first real run at being healthy and fit at the near ripe ages of 29 and 30. A few jogging stints in college, and a run at Jillian Michaels in 2012, but that's pretty much it.

After crying on Christmas Eve day in my closest because nothing, literally NOTHING other than crappy old maternity clothes fit me, I knew it was time to stop making excuses. The stuff that wasn't fitting me at 5 months post partum was stuff that I HAD been wearing between the other two kids (and I had never dropped back down to pre pregnancy weight, hanging on to 5 pounds each time). While breastfeeding certainly helped me unload a lot of Norah's baby weight without doing much, my regular trips to the freezer for ice cream definitely wasn't my best choice. Each of my three pregnancies, I will admit, I used to eat whatever.I.wanted. While I did tone down the ice cream consumption slightly with Norah, I basically ate whatever I wanted, gaining 45, 35ish and 35ish pounds respectively each time.

Technically, my heaviest weight ever, 2 weeks prior to having Norah::

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My other fall back between kids was knowing how much I gained (let myself gain) while pregnant. Between kids 1/2 and 2/3, knowing we wanted to get pregnant again, I saw little point in working hard only to gain another 40 pounds down the road. Our decision to not having any more children after Norah was my original fuel for this lifestyle change (only, Halloween and Christmas came first.)

I had read a ton of good things about the T25 exercise DVDs( buy it here. ) and so on a whim I put them on my birthday list. Yes, I made a "birthday list" for my 29th birthday. A guy needs a little help sometimes, and that's ok. :)

Thankfully, without much talking, Ryan was on the same page about finally getting healthy and the DVD set was what he decided to gift me, and gift me early (along with another highly rated DVD).

So our journey began on January 6th. T25 comes with some nutritional guidelines and a few recipes. We originally figured out that I'd be doing 1200 calories while Ryan would get 1600.

My original split was then 300 for breakfast, 300 for lunch and 300 for dinner, with 2 150 calorie snacks in between. I can't speak to what my average calorie intake was prior to this, as I have no idea. What I do know is it did take my body awhile to adjust to what was likely a pretty decent calorie drop. I will admit there were nights I cried because I was starving. After doing a little research (because I told you we were newbs, and everything we learned we learned from the internet), it was imperative that we got some form of protein in us after working out. Only, we were working out after the kids went to bed and thus I was all out of calories. After talking with a few people who knew a bit more about healthy living than us, I finally figured it was necessary to up my calories slightly, and add the protein in after workouts. 1200 is the absolute minimum anyone should consume, especially with the intense daily cardio we were doing.

We used this calculator ::  http://iifym.com/tdee-calculator/    to figure out our TDEE (Total Daily Exercise Expenditure) and our BMR. Bascially, your body burns calories just by going about your daily life. After figuring out our TDEE along with our average calorie burn doing the T25 workouts, we took it down by 15% (I think). This gave me a goal of 1038 net calories (consuming about 1350 to include an after workout protein drink).

We used the myfitnesspal app to track our calories every single day. There is no way we'd be eating even close to what we were suppose to without it. Once you start tracking calories and examining nutrition labels, it is INSANE what is in some stuff. This was a super important piece of our puzzle. Once we started weighing, measuring and counting, it was completely eye opening to see what "real servings" were.

The first week of counting calories was rough. We had the MFP app, but sitting there trying to weigh spaghetti noodles and meat and making sure we were getting the proper amount was a MAJOR pain in the ass. Major. Had we continued measuring stuff out using any old recipe, I would have quit (or, likely, been super grumpy and annoyed) the calorie counting long ago.

Enter the next piece to our puzzle :: The Skinnytaste Blog . I had a few pins from her (and had made stuff in the past off this blog randomly), but once we started trying out her recipes, we didn't look anywhere else. I LOVED, and I mean LOVED that the calorie and serving size amounts were all there for you. Cook, measure and eat. SO.MUCH.EASIER. It helped that nearly every single thing we tried we absolutely loved (because when you eat healthy and watch calories, you can STILL eat amazingly delicious food, I promise!). We have made very very very few things in the past 15 weeks that weren't from her blog. And, she's coming out with a cookbook later this year---yes please! Because it's in blog form, she has categorical links on the side so when meal planning I could just click on whatever we were in the mood for (grilling, crockpot, asian, italian, etc) and blog after blog would pop up.

If you take a gander over to my Made it, Tried it, Loved it board on pinterest, you'll see a number of our favorites pinned (make sure you focus on the ones pinned from skinny taste, as I'm sure I still have a few not so skinny recipes saved on there). Unfortunately, I didn't keep up with it and I definitely don't have all our favorites pinned. If you're looking to get started with some yummy recipes from her, some of my absolute absolute favorites were the Asian Glazed Drumsticks, Avocado and Mango Salsa, Cilantro Lime Shrimp, Orange Chicken Makeover, Chicken and White Bean Enchiladas, Crock Pot Buffalo Chicken Wraps and the Slow Cooked Jerk Pork with Caribbean Salsa. I have a new-found deep love (and obsession) with all things avocado, mango, shrimp and salmon. Never have tried salmon prior to this and have learned to love shrimp!

While I was determined to get fit, I wasn't going to not live life. By nature of my fairly limited calorie intake, some things had to go completely. Cow's milk (which I'm sure I drank at least 16 ounces a day of), ice cream, junk food like chips, cookies and candy were essentially erased from my diet. We replaced cow's milk with almond milk (unsweetened vanilla and dark chocolate are my favs!) I wasn't going to give up pizza though. Or wine. Or beer. Or frozen yogurt. Or going out at all. We had cheat days, and we had days where we say, went out for pizza and beer, but didn't go hog wild. You CAN do this and still have the deliciousness that is pizza and beer.

So, back to T25 for a bit. It kicked our ass. It kicked our ass for a long time. We were in zero shape. I won't talk about my husband, but I was in flubby shape. Flubby, for sure. The first time we did it, my heart felt like it was going to jump out of my chest. We couldn't get farther than like 3 minutes without having to rest.

What we loved about it so much was that it changed daily. There was no Jillian Michaels screaming the same crap at you day after day (don't phone it in!--blerg). The first 4 weeks were the Alpha level and the 2nd month was Beta. Each workout had a different focus (upper body, lower, abs, cardio, strength, etc). The program comes with a calendar to lay out all the daily workouts which covers Monday-Friday (with two on Friday).

It took us something like 5-6 weeks before we could do an entire 25 minute workout without stopping. Nothing to brag about. 6 weeks before we were in somewhat of a shape for a mere 25 minute workout. But it was good. It was around the same time that my body was locked into this and I actually craved and looked forward to our nightly routine. For our post workout drink, I typically had a cup of almond milk mixed with half a scoop of vanilla protein powder (we used this one from costco). We also mixed the protein powder with the dark chocolate almond milk which was equally delicious.

After the T25 program was officially over, I moved on to this one, Brazil Butt Lift, which had stellar reviews on Amazon. A little light on the cardio and intensity as compared to T25, but this is absolutely the reason I'm wearing the size I've never worn before at Old Navy or Target, even though I'm sitting about 5 pounds heavier than my "college weight". My butt is smaller than it's ever been, and I've ALWAYS for as long as I can remember, hated my butt. I have muscles in my legs that I've NEVER had. This one toned me in all areas for the first time in my life and I love it.

Unfortunately, we didn't take official before and after pictures. I have a few here and there, but nothing official. This one was from about 3 weeks ago, 1 day after buying shorts for the first time in 7 years. 7 years.
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I officially met my goal weight two Fridays ago on April 11th. 3 weeks prior to that I announced my determination to Ryan that I was going to reach my goal by his birthday, which I did!

I'm happy with every single area of my body except my tummy. It was stretched out to the max three times, and while it absolutely looks better than it did on January 6th, there's still some work to do, so I'm going to keep on keeping on. When I flex, I can at least feel the muscles, they are just hiding under that little layer of extraness that just needs to go home.

This is the best before and after we have which I posted on fb a few days ago.

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In total today, we have each lost 22 pounds and I'm currently sitting 1 pound lighter than my goal weight. Last I checked I think I was at 23% body fat, so I want to drop that number a bit more too.

I lost 4.5 inches off my waist for a 14.8% change. 4.5 doesn't sound like much until you take that tape measure and wrap it around yourself to show what that 4.5 extra inches used to look like. holy crap.

I lost 6 inches off my rear end for a 14.4% change. 6 freaking inches. 3.5 inches off my thighs. Thank you Brazil Butt Lift. Thank you.

I also lost 4 inches off my chest and 2 or 3 inches off my arms. (Those measurements aren't tracked in MFP which is what I have in front of me right now).

So in total, 22 pounds and about 20 total inches lost.

So if you want to know what we did, essentially it was good ol' diet and exercise made possible with T25, Brazil Butt Lift, the myfitnesspal app, the Skinny Taste blog, and a lot of determination and supporting each other along the way.

Any other questions, feel free to comment and ask!

How to pull off the surprise of a lifetime (aka, Ryan's 30th Birthday Party!)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


I'm not entirely sure who will read this. I'm mostly writing this for Ryan so he knows how crazy this all was and so that we remember it, but here goes::

So. waaayyyyy back in early October, about 6 months ago, I had this crazy idea for a surprise birthday party for Ryan's big 30th milestone. I can admit to being certifiably crazy since I was actually in the midst of planning Claire and Norah's double birthday/baptism weekend when I started researching ideas for Ryan's party. I wrote nearly every local craft brewery in town and got the scoop on whether or not they offered events, the costs, what was included, etc. I made a list and tucked it in my back pocket somewhere. I also wrote all our family and friends so I could get a rough idea of the number of people I could expect to make the trip.


Once the October celebrations were over, we quickly moved on to a quick road trip to Minnesota for Thanksgiving, and then it was Christmas craziness and then it was January. Ryan was gone for a week to Europe, so it was the perfect time to solidify the venue and date.

Thankfully, I was fortunate to work with some pretty awesome people across the board. The first was the event guy at Lakewood Brewing Company. Naturally, they needed a deposit to hold the party date, and naturally, the birthday boy oversees all of our finances. I convinced Craig at Lakewood to have good faith in me and hang on to my check until party day. Otherwise, the cat would have been out of the bag a long, long time ago.

Because they had a flat fee and then charged per person over a group of 25, I needed a general number of guests pretty far in advance to know how much I'd need to budget for. Enter my next Sherlock Holmes skills of tracking down one of Ryan's most talked about co-workers so that I could get a very general idea of the number of coworkers Ryan worked closely with and would want invited to his party. Between my emails to his coworker Kevin and my facebook messages to Lalit, another co-worker, I swear I was chatting with these guys more than Ryan was.

Next up was invitations. Knowing how much other handmade stuff I had high hopes of creating, I actually opted out of creating a paper-cut invite (similar to the ones you've seen at the kids' parties). I just ordered up a digital file on etsy and printed it with my regular lab I get all my cards/announcements from. Of course, I had cute (I mean manly, beer related) ideas after all was said and done, but it worked. I had the lady pull the colors from Lakewood's main logo and there was born my overall design theme. Red/yellow/black, and then I pulled the whole rustic wood look from Lakewood's beer bottle labels.



I LOVE a perfectly executed (obsessively, maybe) theme, so I was super excited to find wood patterned paper that was a near perfect match to their background. The birthday banner was the first thing I started constructing sometime in late February or early March. I can't quite remember the long ago details. What I do know is that once the calendar flipped to March 1st, I started flipping out since I had SO MUCH to do, a business to keep running and children to take care of all while maintaining my secrecy. I mean, what was I suppose to tell Ryan I did all day when the house was a mess and I STILL had to go upstairs to work at night? Every weekday naptime in March was dedicated to some sort of crafty project. 

As a lot of you know, we use a cash budget on a weekly basis for all the everyday needs (gas, groceries, Target runs, etc). Knowing my financially alert husband would quickly catch on to money disappearing without clear explanation from me, I started aggressively selling everything that needed to go, and everything that had been sitting around for some time because "yeah, I'll totally sell that!" (6 months later, lol). So, out went nearly every piece of "too small for Henry clothing". All the girl clothes, the swing, the infant bouncy seat, the bjorn, Claire's extra Minne party stuff, my breast pump, etc. You name it, if we were done using it, it was gone. I also got lucky and picked up a few second shooting gigs and somehow managed to stash that money away too. I affectionately began referring to my stash as my secret drug money to anyone who knew about it. It sat perfectly tucked away (along with EVERY single other thing I was making) in the midst of my newborn prop drawers. It was literally the only place in the house I could guarantee Ryan wouldn't go. 

As March quickly passed by, I sent out emails/fb messages to all our far away family and friends and Ryan's old coworkers as I had planned this elaborate birthday wish video from everyone who wouldn't be able to make the trip down to the Lone Star State. Of course, in the midst of this along with daily messages/texts from other people coming to the party, I had to turn off all notifications on my phone so that it basically wasn't beeping non stop. There were seriously so.many.details to think about to keep this all under wraps. 

The main party favors were a wooden bottle cap opener (again, obsessively over excited about perfectly matching themes, so I was jumping up and down when I found these guys), along with corkboard coasters that I later glued bottlecaps on. Both had to be purchased by Ryan's mom since they were online, and one had to be shipped somewhere else since it was going to come UPS and UPS always shows up after Ryan's home. I can tell you that from like March 15th through April 12th, I was probably the most stressed I've ever been trying to keep up with all this. 

As you scroll through the pictures, I made everything. I made the signs in Photoshop and printed them with my lap. I made the coasters. The paper signs. The labels on the favors. Spray painted some crates. Cut the cupcake wrappers. Glued the tiny minuscule beer foam onto the tiny beer mug that served as my cupcake toppers (which would turn out to be one of the FUNNIEST stories throughout this whole thing). 

After Henry went back to school from spring break, the girls and I traveled down to Lakewood so that I could scope it out and take pictures that I would include in my directions to my party setter-uppers. I.was.so.excited. I loved everything about it. Totally in line with my rustic theme. Craig even had brand new 6 pack holders I could take (I used those to hold snacks on the table), let me know that all I'd need was a phone or ipad to hook up some music to their big speakers. They had tables, chairs, everything. It was all coming together. 

After all of my stuff was complete, I spent an entire morning doing mock set ups of my tables so that I could take pictures and again, include in my likely way too detailed directions to Ryan's family who would be hiding out a a hotel from Fri-Saturday and doing the set up for me since I wouldn't be able to leave Ryan on his birthday without him thinking something was up. 

Everything was then sorted into totes and taken over to my friend Ashley's house for safe keeping (and because I was literally running out of room especially with having to purchase pop and snacks and water yet). 

Once I finished everything and had it sorted and ready for removal from the house, I thought I was in the clear. I did it. I managed to completely create and coordinate one of "my parties" without Ryan so much as finding a scrap of paper by my computer. However, the last two weeks or so would prove to be the biggest test as Ryan picked up on some odd stuff. 

1. About two Fridays before his party (maybe 3), he brings home Lakewood's Hop Trapp. We tried the Temptress at Christmas time, but he has otherwise never brought this beer home. Never. When he put that on the table, I didn't know if I wanted to cry or laugh. Or both. I nonchalantly stated "Oh, this name sounds familiar, have you had this before?" Nope. he never had. Ok. PURE coincidence. 

After we sat down to dinner he goes "Hey, this is down in Garland! We should get a group of people together and go down there!". At that moment, I thought he knew. I totally thought he knew and he was messing with me. He had his "I want to say something but I won't say anything smirk" on his face. My first thought was someone at work had slipped. I had covered all of my tracks as absolute best I could. So it was work, or he snooped on something. Because really, there are a ton of breweries down here. The fact that he had never mentioned tour one around here before and THEN suggests the very one we were having a surprise party for him at?!?! Either way, it was the most difficult thing in the world to not utter a smile and say "Yep, we should. Sounds fun."

2. My cupcake toppers needed toothpicks. Oddly enough, we were out of toothpicks (they are one of those things you seriously only need to buy every few years.) But, nope, this just so happened to be when we were out. So I had to buy some. and I mistakenly bought flat ones. When he saw them, he not only complained about them (and it's now a running joke that I don't know how to buy toothpicks), but he actually drilled me on why I bought them, and how I POSSIBLY could have remembered to pick them up unless I needed them for something. Toothpicks. After doing my best to cover everything, the damn toothpicks almost ruined me! 

3. His parents made him these awesome wooden 6 pack holders for Christmas. I wanted to swipe one for my dessert table to hold the forks and napkins. I did think better of it, wondering if he'd notice, but, since I wanted everything compartmentalized into it's respective totes, I said to hell with it and jacked it from the pool table room. Of course he noticed. Of course.

**edited to add**

How could I possibly forgot the fake turned real BBQ!?! Little did I know that my coverup would end up costing me more money as I basically had to say "whatever, sure! sounds good!".

Ryan decides we will be simple and do hamburgers and hot dogs. After I tell him to invite another guy from work (whom I emailed later and let in on "yes, it's fake, just say yes"), he decides he wants to be a little more fancy and do pulled pork. Well, for endless opportunities, it was only fitting that we purchase a smoker. He texted me Thursday or Friday asking my opinion on dropping some money on a smoker. After briefly trying to talk him out of it, I knew I couldn't press anymore. We were getting a smoker. Followed closely on Saturday morning with 30 lbs of pork. Thank goodness we WERE having 10+ ppl at our house on Sunday. Otherwise, yeah.

And of course, what's a BBQ without beer? After he asked if I bought it, I couldn't lie and have him come home looking for it, so a giant Costco size party pack of Rahr was brought home. Go big or go home. I just shook my head knowing that Ashley/Scott and Liz/Matt were gifting Ryan PLENTY of beer. I swear we will have enough beer for a good portion of this year.

Of course, about 30 minutes before we were to be heading out the door, Ryan was not dressed and fussing with said pork. He needed plastic wrap. Only I left our giant costco size at Ashley's house when I was wrapping cupcakes. Oops. No, Ryan, I just don't know how the plastic wrap got up and walked away. Seriously, it was down to the wire on stupid stuff almost ruining me. 

I can't remember if there were more. As of 3 weeks before the party, Ryan thought we were doing date night on Saturday and a BBQ with friends on Sunday. After all these things started happening, I thought I'd pry one more time to see if he'd let on about knowing something about "date night" with his give-away smirk. On the Monday of party week I laid in bed and asked him what he thought we were doing for date night and if he'd snooped on anything. The answer was no, but it caused him to be convinced I was planning "something", to which I just deflected to our fake Sunday "BBQ". 

So, Thursday arrives and out of no where Ryan declares that "Hey, maybe I should work from home tomorrow for my birthday!". Umm, the hell you won't! I have a giant cake and 48 cupcakes to make. I mean, that was what ran through my head as I quickly said "No, no, I've got some birthday stuff to do for Sunday. Work from home on Monday, mmmk?"

This was numero uno reason why I made my parents stay away until mid Friday morning. I KNEW that if they showed up Thursday night, Ryan wouldn't go to work Friday. Of course, they get lost Thursday night and can't call me because I played like I didn't know they were coming. Did I mention that the 40th birthday will NOT be a surprise yet?!?!

So Friday the day before party arrives and I suffer no caketasrophes and get everything made and created without any disasters. Everything's again transferred to Ashley's house for safe keeping from prying eyes. At this point, I was ready. We just had to pull a believable story of why my parents showed up, and then it'd be party day. 

I orchestrated a happy hour with Scott so that Ryan wouldn't surprise me by coming home early. Once we knew Ryan was finally on his way, Henry, Claire and my parents hid in our bedroom closet (as Ryan's first stop once home is usually to change). He walked in the door and since it was uber quiet and the kids didn't run up to him like they usually do, I said "Oh, they are playing hide and seek or something. They've been in our bedroom for awhile, better go check on them". All 4 then popped out of the closet and scared the crap out of Ryan. 

They came up with some bogus story of surprising the both of us to get back at us for the Thanksgiving surprise. Ryan never asked me if I did indeed know they were coming. I finally, finally relaxed and started to believe he DIDN'T know anything at this point. Of course, I didn't sleep that night. Probably at all. I cancelled our original "babysitters" via text in front of Ryan since my parents had showed up, and everything was falling into place.

Party day arrived. We went about our day with breakfast in bed, presents in the morning, and blew the candles out of my not-so awesome "dummy cake". Apparently, I had used up all my cake boss skills on my barrel cake and left none for my sorry excuse for a bottle cap cake. Even Henry said "Umm, is THAT the kind of cake daddy wanted?" (said with a sound of clear worry and uncertainty).
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my handsome 30 year old :) :) :)

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I tried convincing him that I MEANT to make the indent in the middle. You know, like what happens to a real bottle cap when opening? LOL.
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Ready for "date night"!
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I needed to get out of the house with Ryan by 3:45 to allow my parents ample time to get 3 semi-cranky, non-napped children party dressed and out of the house in time to be chauffeured over by our neighbors Brent and Megan. Thank god for that. My parents never would have made it otherwise. Sorry mom and dad, but we know that's true. Someone they managed to get out of the house on time, Ashley, Scott, Liz, Matt, Liz, Adam, and Ryan's mom and dad  were all already there setting up and everything was going smoothly. Ryan and I stopped at one of our new fav places, mash'd for some moonshine drinks to kill the time.

Liz had a list of guests and was to text me something random about food (we frequently share recipe ideas) once all the guests were there. Everyone was there on time and I got that text about "eggplant" (lol) once we were about 15 minutes away. 

I finally told him we were going to Lakewood for their public tasting (and re-told the funny story of how he almost blew it bringing it home the other week) once we were 5 minutes away. We laughed and he seemed excited to be going. 

We pulled up, and the pictures can tell the rest. :)

Ryan had an awesome time. I had an awesome time. 2/3 of our kids were a little cranky, but there were enough relatives to keep him occupied. Somehow we pulled this off and I hope Ryan remembers it for a really long time!

A big big thank you to my friend Rachel Hicks (www.rachelmeaganphotography.com) for capturing my insane attention to detail and for all the candids that I am so glad to have. It was AWESOME getting to enjoy myself and not have a camera around my neck for a change. And one more big thanks to everyone else that helped! Ashley and Scott for letting me overtake their house with party craziness and an insane amount of chocolate and helping set up with Liz, Matt, Adam, Liz and Tom and Susan. My parents for getting the kids ready and out, Brent and Megan for getting my parents and kids TO the party, Meagann and Lalit for being in on my babysitting and BBQ scheme, Kevin for helping with the projector for the video, and anyone else that had a hand in something (SO SORRY IF I FORGOT ANYONE OR THING!) This was an amazing weekend and I couldn't have done it without you all. 

I love you Ryan! 

If you haven't watched this yet, you really ought to. Cute kids and a singing wife for one of my most epic videos yet (for those that don't know, I do.not.sing in front of anyone but my kids. It was the icing on the cake of all these surprises for Ryan!). 

Here's it is! 



And here are the gorgeous images captured by Rachel! (And a few more deets added by me today!)


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