Our Trip to Disney World!

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Well, we were officially bitten by that Disney bug. THAT PLACE IS SO MAGICAL. I am already plotting a way to get back, to soak in more of the merriment and glee and charm. There is just nothing quite as wonderful as the silliness of getting dressed up in full-on Mickey gear every day, spending the entire day playing with your kids in the greatest amusement park on Earth, and celebrating in between with treats. Just because, Disney.

My Mickey angels.

My Mickey angels.

That morning monorail commute.

That morning monorail commute.

I'd live there.

I'd live there.

My baby by the pool on one of our off-days. He did so great at Disney, I was super proud of him!

My baby by the pool on one of our off-days. He did so great at Disney, I was super proud of him!

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I have a thing for good landscaping. And the Grand Floridian has GOOD landscaping. #goals

I have a thing for good landscaping. And the Grand Floridian has GOOD landscaping. #goals

This is what we did when we weren't at the parks. We loved our hotel so much! Details in the next post ;)

This is what we did when we weren't at the parks. We loved our hotel so much! Details in the next post ;)

He wanted to chase those ducks.

He wanted to chase those ducks.

Don't get me wrong - Disney is a trip, not a vacation. But we honestly had so much fun together. We were super tired, but blissfully happy, too. PS while I am typing this Stevie has been out of town for a week and OMG he has to come home. I miss that handsome piece of man.

Don't get me wrong - Disney is a trip, not a vacation. But we honestly had so much fun together. We were super tired, but blissfully happy, too. PS while I am typing this Stevie has been out of town for a week and OMG he has to come home. I miss that handsome piece of man.

Everett met Mickey twice and LOVED him. Daxton hated every character he met. Please note both of their faces in the next few photos - they couldn't feel more differently about meeting characters. Pretty priceless.

Everett met Mickey twice and LOVED him. Daxton hated every character he met. Please note both of their faces in the next few photos - they couldn't feel more differently about meeting characters. Pretty priceless.

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Meeting Mickey for the first time! Prepare yourself for Daxton's reaction...

Meeting Mickey for the first time! Prepare yourself for Daxton's reaction...

This will be shared at his wedding.

This will be shared at his wedding.

Seriously. I should feel bad for him but I'm still dying laughing. Poor second children, they really don't get the same empathy from us.

Seriously. I should feel bad for him but I'm still dying laughing. Poor second children, they really don't get the same empathy from us.

I asked if she wanted to switch dresses. I don't think she heard me over Everett's compliments of her gown.

I asked if she wanted to switch dresses. I don't think she heard me over Everett's compliments of her gown.

Dax tolerated Cinderella. Everett legit fell in love. And don't let Stevie fool you - we was a tiny bit enamored too.

Dax tolerated Cinderella. Everett legit fell in love. And don't let Stevie fool you - we was a tiny bit enamored too.

... which made me feel a lot better about asking Prince Charming what he was doing a little later. I might have frightened him. I'm 30 now, apparently that's cougar status ;)

... which made me feel a lot better about asking Prince Charming what he was doing a little later. I might have frightened him. I'm 30 now, apparently that's cougar status ;)

After he met Cinderella he crawled into my lap and played with my hair for a full 5 minutes. Something about meeting the princess made his little love-struck heart so tender! I already know I'm going to be such an insane mother-in-law because HE'S MY BABY FOREVER.

After he met Cinderella he crawled into my lap and played with my hair for a full 5 minutes. Something about meeting the princess made his little love-struck heart so tender! I already know I'm going to be such an insane mother-in-law because HE'S MY BABY FOREVER.

Our hotel lobby! So cool!

Our hotel lobby! So cool!

So many treats. I'll highlight my favorites in the next post.

So many treats. I'll highlight my favorites in the next post.

I was overwhelmed by how excellent everything is at Disney World. Yes, the rides are a blast and there is something for everyone (our 10-month old loved it just as much as our 3-year old!) But the true magic of Disney is in the immense attention to detail - there is literally no trash on the sidewalk of Main Street. The characters and cast members are phenomenal, treating each person with such importance and care. When we got our Magic Bands on the first day, the man who gave them to us at the Admissions office looked at Everett and said, "Are you Everett?" Everett nodded to him shyly. The he went on, "Oh! You're Prince Everett! Mickey told me to look out for you. Welcome to Disney World, Prince Everett!" The rest of the day, Everett held his head so high and proud. He felt so special at Disney World. It's not just that Disney is charming and fun - it really is a special place that makes each person feel a personal significance. It was so beautiful.

And the shows! Coming from a former actor nerd, I can honestly say that he shows are truly Broadway-esque. Especially "The Lion King" at the Animal Kingdom - it was a stunner. Disney's approach to excellence and follow-through is truly astounding. And the experience of staying at a Disney hotel, using the Disney dining plan (oh my word, the FOOD!!!), and playing in the parks for 3 days was honestly such an experience that I just want everyone to go and laugh their brains out with their own family. It's seriously good for the soul.

But don't get me wrong. You've got to be prepared to go on a trip like Disney. You can't just let Disney happen to you, because it can easily take all your money and leave you with nothing but exhaustion. You gotta play the game smart. Thankfully, we had a dear, dear friend of ours plan our entire Disney vacation, from the hotel to the tickets to the fast passes to the meals and everything in between. Alyson Pitzer is a Disney travel agent and is compensated by Disney to plan trips, so we didn't have to pay her anything, but she took care of every single detail. I am sharing this with you so that you can reach out to her, because believe me, unless you are a Disney insider and you know all the ins and outs of that world, you are going to want some help. This post isn't sponsored in any way (but gosh, Disney, feel free to sponsor me ANY TIME AT ALL), but I really wanted to share her info with you guys so that you can get a leg up and have the most magical trip experience of your life.

I'm going to share a few most posts this week with our itinerary and my personal tips and tricks at Disney, so make sure to check back here for those. There was just no possible way to squeeze all things Disney into one blog post! Also, if you have any specific questions, please leave them in the comments section so I can address everything! I have lots to share but I know for those of you planning a Disney trip, there are a lot of questions you probably have in your mind. This is the week to ask me as I compile everything! xx

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A Rustic Pear Galette + a Giveaway for "Sheet Pan Suppers Meatless"!

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This post is a sponsored conversation on behalf of Workman Publishing. All opinions are my own.

Happy Friday friends! I'm excited to share a quick, suuuuuper easy autumn recipe with you, in partnership with Workman Publishing! I've always been intrigued by the idea of whipping up a rustic, autumnal galette, but to be completely honest - it seemed too fussy. It seemed like the kind of thing that only *real* bakers can achieve, and I should just stick to by-the-book pies. I was wrong! This recipe was EASY and make me feel like one of those fancy-lady bakers. Come on over to my place, it's getting all FALL up in here!

This recipe is from Sheet Pan Suppers Meatless, a new cookbook by award-winning food writer Raquel Pelzel, which is her latest effort in creating wholesome, meat-free meals using just a humble sheet pan. The one-pan approach appeals to busy mamas like me who have more than enough dishes to clean at the end of the day, but especially caters to vegetarians, vegans, those who follow a gluten-free diet and anyone who's interested in adding meatless meals to their lifestyle. The sheet pan approach uses three techniques to prep all the meals - roasting, baking and broiling, all of which allow the flavors of the food to marinate and intensify, creating savory meatless meal options. Flipping through the book, I was honestly surprised by how many recipes I wanted to try out. I don't follow a vegetarian lifestyle but I can certainly see the benefit in implementing more vegetarian meals into my family's repertoire. Don't laugh - but maybe my galette (which is basically a pie) will be a gateway. Perhaps we will progress to actual vegetables next week ;)

I'm sharing Raquel's recipe today, but make sure to hop on over to my instagram for your chance to win a copy of Sheet Pan Suppers Meatless along with a prize pack! More details below, following the recipe.

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Rustic Pear Galette:
Excerpted from Sheet Pan Suppers Meatless by Raquel Pelzel (Workman Publishing). Copyright © 2017.
Ingredients:
- 1 piecrust dough (you can make your own or use a store-bought version)
- 3 medium-ripe Barlette or Anjou pears, cored and sliced into 1/4-inch thick slices
- Finely grated zest of 1 lemon (I adore my microplane grater)
- 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 large egg
- 1tbsp. butter

Method:
1. Remove piecrust from the refrigerator and let it warm up to room temperature.
2. Line a rimmed sheet pan with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat (I have yet to graduate to one of these, though perhaps this should be my year). Place the pears in a medium-sized bowl and toss with the lemon zest and juice, 1/3 cup sugar, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.
3. Whisk the egg, 1 tbsp. water and a pinch of salt to a small bowl.
4. Unroll pie dough onto the prepared sheet pan and pile the pears in the middle. Leave a 2-3-inch border around the edges.
5. Cut butter into small pieces and scatter on top of the pears. Loosely fold the edges of the dough around the pears, pleating the dough as you go, leaving the tart open in the middle.
6. Brush the dough with the egg wash. Refrigerate the tart on the sheet pan for 30 minutes or overnight (if refrigerating overnight, wrap pan in plastic wrap).
7. Bake tart at 400 degrees until the crust is golden brown, 30-40 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack, slice into pieces and serve.

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Giveaway!
I'm excited to offer you the opportunity to win a copy of Sheet Pan Suppers Meatless, along with a Kate Spade cooking mitt and a Sur la Table sheet pan! To enter, visit this post on my instagram and follow the post instructions. U.S.-based addresses only.

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My Journey with Postpartum Anxiety.

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Warning - super long post. Today I'm sharing my heart with you all about a subject that is very personal and dear to me. The postpartum experience is a sensitive one and I share this because I want others to know that if you've experienced this - you are so not alone. And I also share this because I want others to understand what some mothers go through during postpartum. Be kind, you never know what people are battling with.

This is a space for real talk, so let's have it :)


I've waited a long time to write this post. I wanted to write it when I was all better. When I finally had a fresh perspective and wasn't in the middle of a messy open heart of spewing feelings and emotions. But here I am, typing these words, on a day when I experienced more anxiety than I have in months. Today I cried, I snapped at my children, and spoke unkindly to my husband.

I don't like to admit these things and I certainly don't think this kind of behavior is okay, but you know what? It happened. I'm not perfect, though I am trying my best to improve my character, my tone of voice, my heart stance. My patience.

In this season, I've learned to tell myself:

1. I am not an anxious person. Even when I feel anxiety, it's not who I am.

2. My anxiety doesn't define me.

Okay, let me back up a bit.

I never realized that I dealt with postpartum anxiety the first time I had a baby. I didn't even know that was a thing. I didn't realize until after Everett's 1st birthday that I was starting to feel better. "Have I been feeling worse and not realizing it??", I remember thinking to myself. I reflected on the previous year, the first year of my baby's life. Becoming a mom was the most incredible experience that had ever happened to me. Everett was a riot and a joy and so full of personality and passion. But. He was also exhausting, colick-y, and such a mama's boy. I couldn't leave him with a sitter because he would have full-out meltdowns. I had more than 1 sitter think that he was legitimately dying when I left him (to this day he still can still enact this special talent of blood-curdling screaming and body slamming himself to the ground, which he does every so often to keep us on our A-game.) He spit and hissed if we dared to offer him a bottle. He never slept. He didn't want to be held by anyone but me. And Stevie. And my mom. But if anyone else held him he barely tolerated it. His mission was to be with mommy always.

I was anxious about all this. But what is there to do? He was my baby, and I wasn't going to traumatize him by continuously putting him in situations that caused him to turn into a werewolf. I'm certain I've given in too much and probably made so mistakes with him, but gosh, I have done everything to my best ability. That boy is my prize, my treasure. Unfortunately, I didn't identify that I probably needed some extra support during that first year of his life until the year had already passed me by. The thing about becoming a parent is that you think what you're experiencing is normal - everyone is tired. Everyone is running on coffee and adrenaline. But now I know that not everyone experiences panic attacks when they go into church with their baby. Not everyone sweats through their clothes at just the thought of a stranger asking to hold the baby. Not everyone is brought to stressed tears when people look at their baby, talk about their baby, even if it's a compliment that is being spoken. Not everyone feels dwarfed by the smallest tasks of the day when they include taking the baby with them. Having your chest pound and feeling like your throat is going to close and your airways are constricted is not normal. I thought this was normal. I didn't know this was a sign of a deeper problem.

Not until after the year was over.

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These symptoms drastically improved after Everett's 1st birthday. I was stunned at how lively I was beginning to feel again. I chalked it up to my changing hormones, but still, I wondered why I had experienced such a swell of emotions for an entire year.

The more I talked to other women, especially other moms, I realized a common theme. So many women dealt with postpartum depression but didn't realize it until after they were on the other side of it. I remember at my 6-week postpartum visit with Everett, I filled out the mental health checklist, the one where they identify feelings of postpartum depression. I wasn't battling feelings of deep sadness, or having urges to hurt myself or my baby. Those weren't my symptoms. I still laughed, still had fun, still had motivation for life and work. But these feelings were compounded by intense situational anxiety. I had a hard time wanting to leave the house because I couldn't predict what might happen. This sense of paranoia wasn't really like myself - I've never been a fearful person. I knew I didn't feel like the old Kristen, but I just thought this anxious feeling is how all new moms feel. So I left that appointment knowing that I wasn't depressed. But still, I didn't feel quite right.

I didn't know that postpartum anxiety was a thing. I thought it was depression or happiness, black or white only. I didn't know there were mannnnny shades of clinically defined emotions in between.

Fast forward to my second pregnancy, labor and delivery with my second son, Daxton. My emotions were sky high during that last month of pregnancy, and when I look back, I can't help but laugh at how super hormonal I was. After having an unexpectedly long labor and c-section with him, during my recovery I experienced a resurgence of the anxious feelings. This time around, I knew that those feelings weren't my personality, and at my 6-week appointment with my Doctor, I told her so.

Even though my recovery was extremely challenging, this baby boy was a completely different person from my first. Daxton was calm, he was quiet, he slept peacefully, he took a bottle, he rested in anyone's arms. He was the definition of peace. And yet, I was still experiencing the feelings I had when Everett was a baby. I began to realize that perhaps it wasn't the situation (or the baby), that had brought on those feelings of anxiety. It was just me. Or I guess I should say, it was just my hormones. I shared everything I was feeling with my doctor - especially about how I felt and the situations that triggered the anxiety. She asked me lots of hard questions and offered me a medication. Ultimately, I told her I didn't want to take any drugs and instead wanted to find alternative solutions. She was completely on board and helped me formulate a plan - I would begin exercising again (a natural way of detoxing anxiety), I would resume journaling my feelings (surprise surprise - I like to write), and I would meet with a counselor. I felt settled in this plan.

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For the next few months I did just that. I met with a counselor (wow, did I learn a lot about myself!), started exercising again (I heart you, Pure Barre!), and got lots of prayer from my friends and family. I also visited a naturopathic doctor and got on some supplements to help balance my hormones. All of these things helped.

But friends, they just didn't help enough.

My anxiety was still present. I felt a heaviness in my chest almost all day every day. It lifted when I was being counseled, and most of the time it was gone while I was exercising. But other than that, I couldn't get my tightened chest to relax, I couldn't take enough deep breaths to calm the vibration inside.

So at about 4 months postpartum, back to the doctor I went. This time, I went back to my OBGYN, the one who had sliced me open on the operating table. The one who asked me all the right questions and had once offered the anxiety medication. I went back to her, explained where I was at, and accepted her offer of a prescription.

"It's a very mild dose", she told me.

It took me a few weeks to actually fill the prescription. All the naturally-minded instincts within me wanted to resist taking a medication. Wanted to resist the need for it. But something else within me begged to get back in the game again, to shake this anxiety loose, to be in the moment with my family, to enjoy this season, to finally relax. And if a little white pill was going to be the answer to all those prayers, then so be it.

I finally filled it.

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Within 2 weeks on that anxiety prescription, I began to feel like myself again. Not drugged, like myself again. I felt like the medication was a bridge, bringing me back to the best version of myself. Laughter came so much more easily, social situations were enjoyable again, going to church was suddenly just not a big deal, and everything that had previously caused such a heightened mess of twisted stressors inside my heart didn't trigger that response anymore.

Thank goodness for my husband, my steady rock, who has been holding my hand throughout this entire journey. My slow recovery process, my mess of emotions and my ugliest moments haven't scared him away in the slightest (at least not that he's let on!), and I am the luckiest woman in the world to have him as my partner. My mom has been like a fairy godmother angel, coming to help with my boys on days that were just bad. I couldn't have survived this past year without her encouragement, prayer and parenting input and support. It didn't hurt that she would also come by and clean my bathrooms, fold my laundry and take my boys on stroller walks so I could have a few minutes to myself, which I mostly spent updating this blog of mine.

Basically, friends, it's been a messy journey. I'm not out of the woods yet. I have days where the chest pain returns for a few moments, but that is truly so rare now. Most of the time I am able to overcome pangs of anxiety when certain situations trigger it. I am so happy and free, and thanks to my incredible support system, I am blessed blessed blessed beyond what I deserve. Thanks for being part of my journey and taking the time to read this heart of mine. If you struggle with postpartum anxiety or depression, please talk to someone who can get you some real help! It is such a game changer, there is no reason to delay your healing. Today is your day for success and victory and whole-body healing!

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This post is a lengthy one so I will share my coping tactics in another post. I hope this snapshot of PPA was helpful to some of you who have dealt with this, and hopefully, this helps shed some light on what some mothers go through during the postpartum journey. We are all in this motherhood gig together and we have every good opportunity to lift each other up in prayer and encouragement!
 

Almond Butter Energy "Milkshake" (Whole30 Compliant!)

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During Whole30, you aren't really supposed to indulge in anything sweet. In fact, the whole purpose of Whole30 is to "slay the sugar dragon", and detox your body from it's incessant desire for sugar. But if I hadn't made a few gateway "treats", I wouldn't have survived Whole30 either time I did it. This little recipe is a great trick to have up your sleeve if you're jonesing for something indulgent or seriously need a snack, especially if you're breastfeeding and need the extra calories and energy! All the ingredients included are Whole30 compliant, so it's technically safe, but be aware that these kind of snacks are sort of frowned upon if you're trying to do the program as strict as possible.

But doesn't it feel kind of good when you bend the rules a little? I'm not talking about shoplifting here, people. It's just a pretend treat.

Go ahead, have a milk shake and laugh in the face of DAIRY.

Ingredients:
- 1/2 banana
- 1 cup coconut milk (from a can)
- 3 ice cubes
- 1 pitted date
- 1 heaping tbsp. almond butter
- 1 tbsp. coconut oil
- 1/2 tbsp. chia seeds
- a dusting of cinnamon

Method:
1. Combine all the ingredients in a high-powered blender and mix on high until completely combined and smooth. The consistency should be thick and creamy, just like a milkshake. Makes one large glass or two smaller servings.

Go on with your bad self. Happy Whole30 to you!

P.S. - My 3 year old took this photo of me. He's either getting really good or he really wanted that milkshake, which I gave to him immediately after we photographed it ;) Treats for everyone!

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P.S. - Looking for more Whole30 meals ideas? Check out my quick reference meal guide to my tried-and-true favorites!