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2016 – Year In Review

2016 was a busy year and, as you can tell, the blog posts suffered! In an effort to catch up, this will be a year-end 2016 blog to give you an idea of what happened this year!

I started off 2016 by cutting back my work schedule from three days a week back to my original two-days-a-week. I had changed my schedule to three-days-a-week in the fall of 2015 – grandmas still watching the kids Tuesdays & Thursdays, but we got a nanny to come over to the house on Wednesdays. That schedule was OK, but over Christmas break I decided I didn’t like being away from the kids three days a week. So I spent 2016 working only two days a week (and working some extra evenings and weekends as necessary). This was a good move on my part because not only did it give me more time at home with the kids, it also gave me the opportunity to focus on cooking our time-consuming Paleo meals.

Paleo?! If you don’t already know, Zach was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in November of 2015. (Read the blog post for Zach’s account of his MS Diagnosis) After completing several rounds of steroids to relieve his MS episode and getting stabilized on three-day-a-week MS shots, Zach decided that he’d start 2016 on a Paleo Diet – which would benefit him and his fight against MS. I was a caught off-guard by his desire to change his eating habits, because it would greatly affect how I cooked dinners (which also were generally his lunches the next few days at work). My dinner plans were always very simplistic: minimal ingredients and a LOT of processed/boxed foods! Sounds terrible, right? Well, it was easy and manageable – I’d been cooking the same way, planning ahead for the dinners on days I worked, ever since I went part-time when Ellie was a baby. I knew what meals were easy and what the kids would eat. I had it down to a science and I liked it that way. I had also JUST attended a Wildtree freezer meal workshop where I’d prepped 10 freezer meals, most of which contained foods that are NOT on the Paleo diet! Trying to wrap my head around changing how I prepared dinners was over-whelming at first. So – we powered through the foods we already had on hand and started the shift towards Paleo eating (for dinner especially) but also snacks, breakfasts, etc. We bought Paleo cookbooks and started trying all sorts of new recipes. It was exhausting – I felt like I was constantly in the kitchen – prepping meals that required 20+ ingredients… I was VERY thankful that I was only working two days a week at this point!

Fast-forward now, to a whole year of eating Paleo – we have had THE BEST food I never knew I could make. I make all sorts of dishes and we’re loving the variety! I have gotten faster at chopping, prepping and planning Paleo meals. We’ve eaten more cauliflower rice than I ever thought possible and it’s SO MUCH better than regular white rice! I still plan for “easy dinners” for the nights that I work, but they are frozen paleo meals that I’ve made earlier in the month and I plan ahead to make sure all ingredients that need to be cut/prepped in advance are done the night before. Zach keeps up with making his paleo granola to eat with yogurt and fruit for breakfasts and we make breakfast for dinner at least one night a week so that he can have re-heated egg-dishes to break-up the yogurt monotony for breakfast every day. I plan ahead enough to make sure that I can have Zach’s help in prepping when necessary and we even make some standard snacks that the kids like. We do make “different” meals for the kids a lot of nights – I always make them eat the meat we are eating, but will give them normal breads and pasts in lieu of our paleo breads and “pastas”.

Zach not only started eating right, but he also started working out more consistently than in the past! Working out combined with eating right, he lost 60 pounds in just a few months and we had to buy all new clothes for him every season this year! I suppose that’s a good problem to have! He’s to the point now that his weight is stable and maintainable and between working out and eating right, he’s the healthiest he’s ever been – even with MS! At 36, Zach is fit and in all of his life, he has never called himself “fit”! He’s enjoying the new him and taking pride in taking care of himself!

While eating these Paleo meals myself, I have found what works for me to maintain my weight – between eating Paleo for dinner, and “normal” foods for other meals – for me, as long as I can balance it all, I’m doing ok! I have definitely eaten more fruits and vegetables in this single year than I have eaten in my previous 35 years combined! I have tried to cut back quite a bit on sweets and generally only use pure maple syrup and honey for sweeteners. I still have to have chocolate (focused more on dark chocolate now) and I still can’t resist some homemade treats (like homemade chocolate chip cookies).

After what felt like a stressful end to 2015, the beginning of 2016 just flew by once we got our new normal figured out. Ellie finished out her Pre-K school year in May and did an awesome job learning her letters and numbers! She really enjoyed her teachers and her friends at school. Ethan started becoming very interested in car emblems in March and April – being able to name just about every car type on the road, based on their emblem! Once he mastered car emblems, he became interested in the names of cars (i.e., Kia Soul, Honda Accord) and quickly picked up reading all of the car models in no time! By the time summer was over, Ethan was reading everything! Both kids took swimming lessons in April, in preparation for our fun summer ahead! This was Ethan’s first “class” at a rec center and he did great!

In June, we took a week off of work and spent time in Telluride and Glenwood Springs. We had a cabin in Telluride and spent the days walking around town, riding the Telluride gondola, going on little hikes and of course “swimming” in the hot tub. One afternoon the kids got to ride horses and they had a blast! Then we spent a few days in Glenwood Springs at the Hot Springs Hotel – the kids loved swimming and riding the waterslides! It was a great family vacation for us!

In July, just days before Ellie and Ethan’s scheduled Gymnastics classes at the rec center, Ellie fell on the playground and broke her arm! Luckily, Zach was with us at the time and I didn’t feel as scared having to take her to the ER all by myself! She was a trooper at the ER, only freaking out every so often because she was worried she was going to need a shot – she didn’t really care that her arm was in pain! ha! She got an adorable watermelon cast from her hand to just below her elbow and it was waterproof! So, despite the fact that she was in a cast, she was able to play and enjoy the water this summer! She missed out on Gymnastics classes, coloring and writing with her dominant hand and she couldn’t ride her bike for a month, but she got her cast of just days before school started and didn’t miss a beat at all when it came to her hand-writing! Ethan had fun in his Gymnastics class and yet again, showed us he was ready for school by paying attention and following directions in class.

The school year started and Ellie loved her Kindergarten teacher right off the bat! She quickly made friends and tested into First Grade math! She has math homework every night and she’s slowly learning how to sound out words and is a pro at her three-letter sight words! It’s impressive to see this kid learning new things every day and generally enjoying school. Ellie’s most difficult part is waking up every day to go to school! Ellie is very artistic and loves drawing, coloring, painting, etc. She loves singing and dancing and will “perform” around the house any chance she gets! She has a very funny sense of humor but gets upset when we laugh at the funny things she says – she doesn’t quite understand that what she’s saying is funny and it’s OK to laugh!

Ethan started off the school year in the preschool class and by October his teacher requested that we move him up to the pre-K class and start the early entry process for Kindergarten for him in 2017. The teacher said he was just too advanced for the preschool class. He was very kind and sociable with the other kids but would benefit from the academic challenges of moving up to the next class. She knew he would be bored out of his mind by the time he reached Kindergarten at the rate he was going. So, the week after Fall Break, Ethan moved into the Pre-K class and took off running! He’s doing great in class and so far the only thing he’s struggled with is using scissors! (Fact: I hadn’t given him scissors to use until now because Ellie didn’t start using scissors until she was 5!) So that’s one skill we’ve worked on at home more than others. Ethan can do simple to not-so-simple math and can read just about any word you put in front of him. He still doesn’t know how to sound out words, but if he’s seen/heard the word once, he’s got it down! He loves math and numbers and is constantly thinking of how the world works with numbers. He cares a great deal about what time it is (he loves to translate between am/pm time and military time) and about the calendar – knowing today, tomorrow and next week when it comes to dates and activities! He also has quite the sense of humor – saying things at just the right time and it amazes us what he correlates! We will start the early entry Kindergarten assessment in January – it is a long process and I’m honestly not looking forward to all that we need to do, but in the end it will be so worth it!

At six years of age, Ellie is about 44 inches tall and weighs around 42 lbs. At four years of age, Ethan is about 42 inches tall and weights around 42 lbs.! They both wear size 12 shoes. Ethan looks best in 5T clothes and although Ellie CAN fit into 5T clothes, she mostly wears size 6 clothes. It won’t surprise me if this time next year Ethan as already surpassed Ellie in height and weight – he’s going to be a big boy and she’ll probably always be a petite girl – which, is OK with us! 🙂 I have been asked on several occasions if they are twins! ha!

In December, both kids took ski lessons and did awesome! We didn’t know until this year, but the Colorado Ski Resorts give free ski passes to K-5th Graders (plus under-4 is free). So although I didn’t think we’d get our kids in skis this early, we jumped at the chance to put them in ski lessons this year – instead of US buying ski passes, just to spend time on the slopes teaching the kids. While the kids are at ski lessons, Zach and I just hang out and enjoy a kid-free-day walking around the mountain-town shops! Ellie did AWESOME at her lessons – her athleticism definitely shows when she’s on skis! Her teachers have said she’s the best in her class! Ethan did well, but he’s definitely still so little and just standing up and making it down the very flat hill is decent progress! They both have another lesson planned for mid-January! We probably won’t take them skiing any more this season, but we’re all really looking forward to next season!

Christmas with these kids was so fun this year. We started the Elf on the Shelf tradition and for the month of December Ellie JUMPED out of bed to go find the Elf! That was my favorite reason to have the Elf around our house! ha! We gave away some toys to our friends before Christmas this year (like in years past) but I made the kids aware of it this year and they were very gracious in giving away some of their toys – that was pretty special! At the end of December, we spent one night (two days) at the new Great Wolf Lodge in Colorado Springs. We went to a Great Wolf Lodge in Kansas City in 2015, so it was definitely neat to go back again – this time, so much closer to home! With the kids being older, they were able to ride more slides this time and they just had a blast! This adventure will definitely be on our “once-a-year” list every year now that it’s so close to home!

We are excited for 2017! Ellie and Ethan will both continue to work hard in school and we have Gymnastics and Swimming classes scheduled for both of them in the spring! Zach is still doing great at work and we are hopeful that this upcoming year has him traveling less (at least less internationally). My work is still stable – I really enjoy the schedule I get to keep and I definitely enjoy the project I am leading. At the end of 2015, I started selling a jewelry line called KEEP Collective. It was a lot of fun to start and I still enjoy the jewelry, but haven’t been very gung-ho about selling it to all of my friends and family – mainly because I didn’t want to become a nuisance! I really enjoy doing in-home parties, because I really like sharing ideas with ladies in person, but could definitely pass on the on-line selling aspect! Selling a product like this is difficult because it’s not a necessity or a consumable, so once someone buys something, they generally only think to buy more for gifts, not necessarily for themselves again. I finished up 2016 by selling enough to continue my active status and still get discounted jewelry for my own hobby and gifts! We’ll see what 2017 brings, but I’ll continue selling KEEP with my laid-back approach and go from there!

Although this blog post doesn’t cover all that went on this year, hopefully it was a summary enough to catch you up on what we’re doing and as we move into 2017! I didn’t even post pictures on the blog this year – but at least I was able to keep up with posting pictures on other social media sites!

Happy New Year!

p.s. Don’t be surprised if the next blog post you see is wrapping up 2017! 🙂