Taco Pizza

I’m a busy mama of four hungry boys. It is no small task to come up with healthy, inexpensive meals that will please my crew! This is certainly not the healthiest dish on our family menu, but it’s quick, easy, inexpensive, and with just a few substitutions, can be a decent weeknight dinner. We’re trying it out tonight, so I’ll let you know how it works. Enjoy!

Taco Pizza Recipe

Fitness After Baby

I follow a lot of different fitness and nutrition related blogs, magazines, and publications, and many are just noise. “Eat real food” and “move your body” aren’t generally exciting enough to garner lots of online attention, so even supposedly health-oriented sites are going to engage in “click baiting” their followers. It is what it is.

Fitness Magazine is one of those Facebook pages that shows up in my feed, and I generally roll my eyes at whatever “get fit quick” scheme they’re posting about today, but this one kind of stuck in my craw:

You Won’t Believe What This Fit Mom Looks Like Two Days After Giving Birth

Now, my complaint isn’t with Diary of a Fit Mommy. She makes sure to keep it real with her posts, reminding us that she does ” plan on trying bodyweight exercises possibly in a few days as my body allows. Right now, it is all about listening to my body and not overdoing it” and ” I am not too stressed about how I am eating right now as its all about eating enough to breastfeed my toddler and newborn, but clean eating has been what’s getting those extra pounds off in the meantime.”

Mamas (and mamas-to-be). Sit down. Look at me in my eyeballs. Are you listening? This is not a race.

Do you hear me?

You are not in a race to “get your body back” or “get back into racing shape” or “lose the pregnancy weight.”

It’s true that I managed to get into the best shape of my life after my third baby, but that was after three other pregnancies and a lot of trial and error. And it did not come without cost. So grab a cup of coffee (you know you need it) and let me tell you about my health and fitness journey.

If you’ve read my bio or known me for any length of time, you know that I was always a skinny girl – small-boned, no boobs, big butt. It’s how God made me. Like so many other teenage girls, I struggled with body image, dieted because I thought I was supposed to, wasn’t physically active, and didn’t give my actual health a second thought. When I got pregnant with my first, I ate everything in sight. Everything I saw in the media told me that I could eat whatever I wanted because I was pregnant, I was sick as a dog and food made me feel better, and I was SO anxious for people to be able to tell I was pregnant! Lo and behold, 42 weeks and 60 pounds later…I was just fat. Thankfully, a light bulb came on and I knew that breastfeeding and nourishing my baby was more important than weight loss. Although I was desperate to fit back into my pre-pregnancy jeans, I was more concerned with my growing baby. With the help of a health-and-fitness-minded friend, I began learning about nutrition and exercise. I ate lean protein, whole grains, fruits and veggies, and low fat dairy. I walked and did VERY light strength training and/or yoga most days of the week and within a year I had lost 70 pounds.

I got pregnant again when my first baby was 11 months old, and this time around my healthy habits stuck with me throughout the pregnancy. He was a smaller baby with some kidney issues and was born 4 weeks early. I gained a mere 28 pounds. I was less anxious to lose weight this time around – likely because there was less to lose! – but I was also struggling with severe post-partum depression and the general chaos of two-kids-under-two at home. It was then, however, that I discovered running. Partly because I was getting more fit and the walking was getting easier, but also because running gave me endorphins and a chance to get out of the house without the kids; running was a saving grace. I continued eating healthy, breastfed for 20 months, and was much more concerned about fueling my running habit than fitting into my old jeans. I built relationships during this time. I learned what my body could do. I began to see my body as a tool to living a great life rather than an enemy to be forced into submission.

Then came the dark days.

When baby #2 was just over 2 years old, we found out we were expecting baby #3! When we went in for our first ultrasound, the doctor found fluid on the baby’s lungs. He said that it could resolve, or it could be a fatal heart defect that would lead to miscarriage around the end of the first trimester. At exactly 12 weeks, I had gone for a run with a friend and came home to find bleeding. When we went in for an ultrasound the next morning, there was no heartbeat. I was devastated.

My body again became the enemy.

I ate very little, drank a lot of wine, and ran. I ran miles and miles. I ran fast because if my body wasn’t going to give me a baby it was certainly going to give me SOMETHING. I decided I wanted to compete. I didn’t want to just run races, I wanted to win. So I did.

I consulted with coaches, followed their training plans, and met my goals. I brought home trophy after trophy, medal after medal. I ate well, I took my vitamins, and my body did what I told it to do. Physically healthy, sure. Mentally healthy? Not by a long-shot.

One thing I did learn from this time was what it felt like to really push my body to the max physically. So when I became pregnant again I knew how to back off my intensity to stay active during pregnancy but not push too hard. I ran throughout this entire pregnancy, even running a half-marathon at 14 weeks, and 3 miles the day before I went into labor. Check out this doozy:

I'm the enormous one on the right...
I’m the enormous one on the right…

Four days later I had that baby! Then I waited a WHOLE two weeks before I went running again! <insert eye roll>

What I had failed to learn while breastfeeding my other babies was that nursing needs to be ESTABLISHED before beginning any sort of diet or exercise routine. Rather than resting, eating, and recovering from childbirth, I was in a big old rush to return to racing shape. Baby was born on April 12. I was running again by April 26. I was doing a 6am boot camp class by May 28. By mid-June my little bundle of joy was a scrawny, screaming nightmare. With the help of our pediatrician and a fabulous lactation consultant, we discovered that my milk supply was down to practically nothing and baby #3 was diagnosed as “failure to thrive.”


We began supplementing with formula and I went to bed to eat, nurse, and try with all my might to get my milk supply back. Although we continued nursing until he was 20 months old, I was never able to get back enough supply to exclusively breastfeed. And for what? I sacrificed my baby’s nutrition (by unknowingly not giving him enough to eat…this isn’t a statement against formula feeding!) so I could get my body back? So I could get back into racing shape? Yes, I ended up getting in to the best shape of my life after baby #3, but even with my hurry it took almost two years. I ran two marathons, pr’d all my race times, completed Insanity and Boot Camp, tried Crossfit, and gained a passion for health and fitness that has led to me becoming a certified group fitness instructor and personal trainer. I will always look back with guilt and regret, though, at what I put my little nugget through. My child was hungry and it was my fault. That hurts.

Why was I in such a hurry?

I was in a hurry because of headlines like the one in Fitness Magazine. I was in a hurry because I let the appearance of my body determine my value. I was in a hurry because being “mommy” wasn’t enough.

By the time baby #4 came along I, and my mom squad, had learned a valuable lesson. My friends watched out for me, took care of me, and reminded me what a magnificent thing my body had just done. I was reminded to rest, eat, and soak in all those tiny, baby moments. Those newborn and infant days are so short. I have the rest of my life to be thin or fit or strong (or all three!). I am now 14 months out from the delivery of what will likely be my last baby. I am almost back to my pre-pregnancy weight, not quite back to my pre-pregnancy fitness level, but far past my pre-pregnancy wisdom.

I took things slow this time around, remembering all along the way that this is a season. It is a very short season. It seems like just yesterday my 9-year-old was a chubby thing with a pacifier in his mouth. Last night he ran in his first cross-country meet. My soon-to-be-8-year-old, the tiny one with kidney issues, is now a video game loving, tender hearted boy who adores his kitty and is begging for a pug. My “failure to thrive” baby? Well, his last check-up showed us that he is a BIG boy, destined for offensive lineman (if I’ll let him). Baby #4 isn’t a baby anymore, but a toddler.

Mama, take care of yourself. Most of all, soak up these moments. Linger in bed with that newborn and just breathe in his smell. It’ll be gone before you know it (and replaced with some of the foulest odors you will ever encounter, but I digress). Look at your body and know that by giving life, it has done something amazing and monumental. Any outfit, number on the scale, or fitness accomplishment will pale in comparison to growing a human from scratch.

When an athlete crosses the finish line at the IronMan event here in Chattanooga, you don’t ask “so, what’s next? Because there’s this Crossfit competition in two months that I think you’d be great in. You should hurry and get ready!” You let them enjoy the accomplishment. You let them rest. You let them eat and stare at their medal and relish hearing “YOU are an IronMan!” Then we let them sit the heck down because they are tired.

Let’s do this for mamas, shall we? Let’s stop assuming that there is some urgency in returning to “normal.” Let’s look at new mamas and say “you’ve done an amazing thing. Enjoy it, rest, and let me bring you something to eat.” Because friends, making these guys is the greatest thing my body will ever do…

Made from scratch
Made from scratch


A Long Road to A New City

Oh friends.

This year.

I feel like I need to go back and just rehash what all has happened and get everyone up to speed. To be honest, I haven’t really taken the time (uh..HAD the time) to process how drastically things have changed. So let’s go back to August of last year.

In August of 2015 we were living in our dream home. This was the home that we would live in forever. We imagined welcoming our grandchildren into this home. This is the house that, for the first several months after we bought it, I would pull into the driveway and think “I can’t believe I get to live here.” Y’all. This house.

This. House. I still get sad and a little sick to my stomach when I see it.
This. House. I still get sad and a little sick to my stomach when I see it.

It would grow with us and was on a cul-de-sac in this wonderful little neighborhood with the sweetest neighbors. My big boys had this friend who lived just a few doors down and they would play together, trick-or-treat together, ride bikes together. It has a garden and a big back yard and beautiful trees. The view when I would drive home from working out in the mornings was breathtaking.

Every morning I would have to slow down and just take in those mountains.
Every morning I would have to slow down and just take in those mountains.

My husband worked FROM HOME as a software developer. I had a real, live actual grown-up in my house with me all day. When the kids made me bonkers and I needed to leave to run or get coffee or sit on the porch and just be quiet, I had my backup. Every morning I got up and went to this most wonderful gym where my instructors were Godly women and my friends were members and we would sweat and laugh and share our lives. My in-laws lived 5 minutes away and would watch the boys almost anytime I needed them. My mom was in an assisted living facility 20 minutes away and every Thursday the boys and I would take her lunch and spend the afternoon with her. We had found the most amazing church where we all had friends and longed for Sunday to come so we could go fellowship with this imperfectly perfect group of people.

Y’all. Life was good. So good. I had my friends and my family and this great church and my hubby right with me…we were so good.

Ok, so my husband hated his job. He was looking, though, and our prayer was that he would find something local or remote because we could never ever leave.

In August, when Lego Boy #4 was barely 8 weeks old, the hubs sat me down. He was being laid off. The developer jobs had been sent to Manilla and the position they created to keep him with the company was being eliminated. They were giving him severance, but in two weeks, our family of 6 would have no employment. I’d been out of college for nearly a decade and had never used my degree. Even if childcare wasn’t an issue, there aren’t a lot of jobs sitting around for philosophers who have been in the thick of child-rearing for the last 10 years.

Hubby was confident that this was an answer to prayer. He’d been so unhappy at work for so long, but couldn’t bring himself to give up that income with a family counting on him; it was like God said “here. I’ll do this for you.” He was calm. Cool. Collected. I was sobbing, wondering how we were going to buy Christmas presents.

Job after job fell through. Resume after resume went unanswered. A positive interview led to a family trip to Atlanta and a near-certain job offer, only to be turned down. Friends, this time nearly broke me. Its easy to praise God when you’ve got a nice house, great health insurance, and a fancy gym membership. Take that stuff away and I’m sorry to say that I became desperate and sour. Oh, I smiled and said “I’m just trusting the Lord has a plan!” but behind closed doors, I despaired.

Less than a week before the severance package ended, the hubs was introduced to a recruiter. Three days before his last paycheck, he was offered a job.

Three hours away.

We would put our house on the market (our beautiful, perfect, dream house). Hubs would stay in a hotel during the week and come home on weekends. I would be a single mom Monday-Friday, trying to sell a house in the dead of Winter. He took a pay cut, and would have to pay for the hotel and travel expenses out of pocket. We couldn’t afford a Christmas tree or presents.

On November 30, the hubs left at 5am and drove straight to a new job. My sweet, strong boys came to expect mama to break down and cry on the regular. The older two would take the littles and give me quiet time to just sob and pray. My fitness dreams were put on a back burner and I subsisted on poptarts and wine. My workouts involved cleaning, lifting heavy boxes, and holding on for dear life to my last bit of sanity. This was a dark time. From November 30, 2015 until March 4, 2016 I was in survival mode. “Don’t die, don’t damage the children, don’t be crazy.” That was just about all I could muster.

But that amazing church? They brought meals during the week. One sweet family, with two kids and one on the way, would let my boys come hang out so I could clean and pack. Our church community group came over and filled holes in the wall, showed up with coffee and wine, and we were given a Christmas tree. Someone bought my kids the exact things they wanted for Christmas and had them shipped to our house. People prayed and then showed up to help. Through those tough, tough months, I saw Jesus in the people around me. As I look back, those friends were light when all I could see was darkness.

When our house didn’t sell and our savings was gone, we decided to put our house up for rent. It was rented fairly quickly and with the help of some dear friends, I loaded a truck (ok, like three trucks and a couple of SUV’s) and moved to Chattanooga, TN. With my husband. Thank you Jesus.

We’ve now been here for 5 months and, although this life doesn’t look like the one I had (and lets be honest, that life was easy and awesome and I miss it), Chattanooga is an amazing city. I have met some great people and have so many new opportunities. I have the pleasure of babysitting for a little boy just a few months younger than my #4. I’m a member of a YMCA less than a mile from our house and I’m working on getting my group fitness certification so I can start teaching and sharing my love of health and fitness in a new and exciting way. I was just invited to write for the Chattanooga Moms Blog . The homeschooling opportunities here are off the charts, and James and Jonathan just started running Cross Country for the local homeschool team. There are museums and incredible restaurants, a vibrant downtown and an outdoors community like nothing I’ve ever seen. We hike and bike and run and explore and it is oh-so-very family friendly. It was a tough road, but I have no doubt God has great things in store for us in Chattanooga.

Stay tuned…

Big Changes

So very much has happened over the last several months that I haven’t been able to share. Yet here we are on the eve of a huge change for my family that effects not only my fitness (and diet, fo sure!!!), but every part of our lives.

(Before I overshare and tell y’all a bunch of stuff that my mother would panic over, just know that my house has a security system, a huge dog, and I am well-trained in the use of my many firearms. Try something and die. No joke.)

When my youngest of four was a mere 8 weeks old, my husband was laid off. Don’t get me started on the corporate blow-hards that made the decision to lay off the father of four children whose wife homeschools and has yet to use her college degree to make an actual paycheck. Don’t. Even.

He was given a severance package, which was an incredible blessing, but as he looked for work close to our home we came up empty over and over again. Interviews went nowhere. Resumes went unanswered. Our determination to stay local or to work remotely waned. With just over a week left of his severance package (um…health insurance!!), my hubs started working with a recruiter. He got an interview and an immediate offer…for a job just under 3 hours away.

We are on the eve of my husband spending Monday-Friday in a hotel, with me at home with our four children. He will be home on weekends until our house sells. Sweet. Mercy.

Part of me is 100% fine. Military wives do this for years. Single moms do it forever. But it’s a huge change for a gal that’s used to being able to get up every morning and hit the gym with her friends before coming home to face the day.

This week is survival.

We adjust. We learn. We figure out what is going to work and what isn’t. We clean and stage and get our house ready to go on the market. I snuggle my babies and help them learn. We hold each other and face big change together.

I hope to eat moderately healthy and not drink too much wine. I hope to run when my mother-in-law can watch the boys. Maybe I’ll do some push ups and squats.

Y’all, sometimes life happens and being fit has to move to a back burner. This week I just don’t have the mental space to deal with a training plan. Fitness is in my blood now, though, so I know that it will never be unimportant. This week, though? We live.


Bright Spots in Rough Days


We’ve had a rough few days around the Lunges and Lego house. Illness of a couple of different sorts, an overwhelmed, under-rested mama, and a tight budget has made for some trying times.

Today has boasted snotty noses, crying, one temper tantrum, a serious lack of naps, pee on the couch, poop on the wall, the discovery of Lego Boy deceit, mess that increased throughout the day despite repeated attempts to clean, not nearly enough caffeine (as evidenced by Lego Mom falling asleep sitting up), beds that still don’t have sheets on them at 5:08pm, ungodly amounts of spitup, and the overwhelming desire to just find a non-sticky spot in which to lay down until sometime next week.


I got to work out this morning.

I had food to eat (moderately healthy food).

There was laughter at the fact that our history book repeatedly referenced “booty” as we read about pirates.

That time I fell asleep sitting up? I got to hold the baby for nearly two hours.

The oldest Lego boy built a Minecraft world for Lego Boy 3 (who is 3 years old and doesn’t really “get” Minecraft). Theme? Paw Patrol.

The deceitful Lego Boy got to hear his mama apologize, too, and we went before The Throne together to ask forgiveness.

When I go to bed tonight, I will remember that His mercies begin anew every morning and, despite the fact that we have to go get flu shots (eek!) tomorrow, I will be filled with the love of a God who knows my every struggle.

There are bright spots in every day, and the brightest was definitely a performance of the Thriller dance by two of my amazing boys. I’ve already shared this on my Facebook page and the overwhelming response made me see that a little laughter is great for everyone! So, y’all enjoy a Lego Boy Original…


What A Difference A Year Makes

I just glanced through that last post from nearly a year ago, and WOW! So, that test result I was waiting on? It was positive. Oliver Boys

Meet the four Lego boys. Two days after I last posted, I found out I was pregnant with Lego Boy #4. While I should have kept up with my health and fitness journey while I was preggo….sweet fancy Moses, I was SO TIRED. Long story short, I continued to work out, ate as healthy as I could manage, gained 37 pounds, and had a healthy baby boy.

I learned some valuable lessons with Lego Boy #3, when I started dieting and exercising too soon and lost my milk supply. I was still able to nurse him, but had to supplement with formula for the first year and it was a struggle. I’ve been a lot more careful since the birth of #4. I took two weeks completely off from working out, did two weeks of just walking, two weeks of walking with a little jogging, 2 weeks of walking/jogging and a day or two of strength training, and since then have been getting up and doing whatever feels doable. Some weeks are great and I workout 5 or 6 days. Some weeks are sleep deprived and miserable and I only workout twice.

I’ve lost a grand total of 18 pounds, so I’m almost halfway to my pre-preggo weight after four months. I have no doubt that I’ll be back and better than ever, but it isn’t an actual race. 😉

Stay strong, mamas.

You Tell Me: What Do You Believe About Mental Illness?

I am taking a break from my regularly scheduled Workout and Meal Plan posts…partly because these last couple of days have been insanely busy and I have no idea what I’ve shoved in my face hole.

I also feel like, since this is my blog, I can talk about whatever I want. This does have to do with health and wellness and little encouragement (I hope), so it fits. It’s also personal, although I’m not really comfortable sharing to what extent.

In different communities, there are different beliefs about mental illness. Medication is hotly debated, as there are some who feel that they absolutely could not function without some sort of chemical help, and others who believe its a spiritual problem, or something to be solved with counseling, or dealt with through alternative means. I’m curious what you think and why.

When I say mental illness, I’m referring to any disease of the mind, from depression and anxiety, to learning disabilities and addiction, personality disorders, and the like. You don’t have to share personal experiences if you don’t feel comfortable with that, but I would love to know why you believe the way that you do. Please, be kind. Remember that, although you’re sitting in front of a screen, you are talking to real human beings, made in God’s image, so don’t type anything you wouldn’t say to your closest friend.

I’ll say that I fall somewhere in the middle. I absolutely believe there is a time and a place for medication when it comes to mental illness. It seems, though, that we face a few very specific problems in our country: we over-diagnose “mental illness,” many people expect an easy out in the form of popping a pill, and many mental issues are actually spiritual problems.

So, talk to me. Show me your side. Be encouraging.

And know that, if you are suffering from any sort of mental illness, there is hope.

<3 Jama

To Be An Encourager

So often the most important lessons we learn come from having to face the opposite of what we want to be. Being faced with a constant barrage of “You’ll never be able to do that!” and only the occasional “I’m sure you’ll do great!” has taught me how very important it is to be an encourager.

You know the type…you call so-and-so to tell them some fantastic bit of news and they have only bad things to say. “Oh, that’s so hard. I’m not sure if you’ll be able to do it” or “I can’t believe you’re happy about that! I knew someone who did the same thing and failed miserably!” You dread calling these people with your good news because you know that they’re going to rain on your proverbial parade.

Then there are those that are a constant ray of sunshine. You could call these people and tell them that you’ve joined the Communist party and plan to blow up the universe and they’ll say “That’s fantastic! I’m sure you’ll be the best Communist bomber this world has ever seen!” I love those people. And I want to be one (the encourager – not the Communist bomber… 😉 )

It’s not easy to always see the bright side, to instantly have faith that those you love are going to succeed, but I think it’s a quality to be admired. I want to be the type of person that my family loves to come home to and share a bit of good news, knowing that I’ll have only positive things to say. I don’t want to be sunshiny in a false sort of way, but I do want my family and friends to know that I have faith in them.

I’m working on being Mrs. Sunshiny Support to my husband, which is much harder than one might expect. He comes home and tells me that he’s thinking about spending $100 to join some sort of gun club and I think, “You want to spend how much on what?!?” I say, however, “That sounds like fun, dear! Tell me about it.” The more we talk the more I discover that he knows that $100 is a lot to spend on joining a gun club, but that he has saved money by driving a car with better gas mileage and using his phone as an MP3 player rather than buying an IPOD…I realize that by expecting the best I usually get it! Plus, I get to talk to my husband more because I’m no longer the wet-blanket that poo-poos all his exciting news. What a treat!

Then I think of my son. I want to be the kind of mom that he looks forward to talking to. I want him to run home to tell me all of his exciting news, knowing that I will offer him the utmost support. I don’t ever want him to dread telling me some bit of exciting news for fear that I’ll only have the worst to say.

So, I’m thankful (sort of) for the wet blankets in my life. I appreciate those people who have taught me how to be the type of person that I want to be, simply by being an example of what I don’t want to be.