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Welcome to The Evolution of Mom. We are real moms, living real life. Sometimes it's beautiful and sometimes it's messy, but it's always authentic. So please, grab a cuppa coffee and join us on this journey of motherhood.

Step Away From the Plants

Have you ever heard the phrase, “wait until after Mother’s Day to plant?”  Here it is the middle of April and the flowers are for sale…in droves…and they’ve been for sale for weeks already!  The racks and racks of flowers stand at attention at the garden center, just waiting for someone to scoop them up.  This drives me absolutely bonkers.  Inevitably, the bad weather comes and the plants are still there, on the same racks and by now, half dead and begging for attention.  I want to scream when I see a cart crammed full of annuals that aren’t going to be able to withstand one of Colorado’s April or May storms.  I want to flip my “trust me Ma’am, I’m a plant professional” badge.  Do they even exist?  I digress…

flowers

I know we’re all ready for spring.  I’m just as ready as the next green-thumber.  When I get around those flowers at SchmallSchmart, I want to buy a cartload and plant them too.  It’s like a gigantic magnet that draws me in.  But…..I have to resist.  It’s TOO EARLY.  Let me say that again….It’s TOO EARLY. Step away from the plants and put your hands up!  Plant now and you’ll be planting again, which translates to spending more money!

In Colorado, we have bipolar weather.  It’s 80 degrees one day and snowing the next.  You’ve seen people wearing coats and flip flops right?  Our weather is confusing!  Tender annuals can’t take that.  One exception to this rule is pansies.  Go ahead and plant those babies!  As a general rule, wait until after Mother’s Day to plant your tender annuals and vegetables.  If you want to be absolutely sure, wait until Memorial Day.  Your plants will thrive as the soil temperature warms up.  East Coasters, I’m not sure what to tell you.  Your weather must be clinically depressed, because it’s always snowing there.  Just wait it out, I guess?

If you’re getting that urge to plant something then turn to your garden.  It’s the perfect time to plant cold hardy crops.  These crops thrive in the cooler weather.  Cold hardy crops can be planted again at the end of summer for a second harvest, when the night time temperatures begin to fall again.  This week, I planted radish, lettuce, spinach, and onion.  They’ve all started sprouting despite the cold weather this past week.

If you’re jonesing to plant flowers now, take a deep breath and pick out some perennials.  They will come back year after year and can handle the cool, crazy weather until it finally warms up for good.  I planted Phlox, Hosta, black-eyed Susans and Liatris a few weeks ago.  I’m planting some shrubbery this week as well.

Not sure which plants will thrive in your area?  I’ve got you covered.  Find your plant hardiness zone here.  Knowing your plant hardiness zone will help you find the plants that will thrive in your area.  Here in Colorado, we are a zone 4 or 5, depending on the location.  Take a walk or drive around your area and see what other people are growing.  If you see something you like, snap a pic and take it with you to the garden center.  When you are ready to shop for plants, never depend on the employees at the store to give you the correct information, especially at a big box store.   Always do your homework before you go and take a list of plants that might work well in your area.  If all else fails, Google it while you’re at the garden center.

So when you see those plant zombies being pulled toward those big racks of bright, beautiful flowers steer clear and resist buying.  Wait just a few more weeks.  Your wallet will thank you. Your success rate will skyrocket and so will your gorgeous flowers.

This week’s DIY:  If you are getting that urge to plant something, grow a sweet potato vine on your windowsill for your container garden.  Sweet potato vine is my FAVORITE plant for container gardening.  Its trailing lime green foliage makes a big impact and it’s super easy to grow.  If you start it at home, it’s a big money saver.  You can start several sweet potato vines from a single sweet potato for less than $1!  Pair it with dark purple petunias or hot pink Wave petunias for a stunning display in your container garden.  Put one of these babies on your porch for a full season of color.

Hanging Basket

Buy a sweet potato at the grocery store, stick three toothpicks in it and put it in a jar, pointy side up, in the windowsill.  Fill it about 1/3 of the way up with water.  Within a few weeks potato will grow roots on the bottom and will sprout foliage out of the top.  Twist the sprouts off the top of the potato and put them in another jar of water.  Once they sprout roots, you can plant them in your container garden.  Easy peasy and voila, you have a nice trailing plant for your container garden for virtually nothing except a little bit of patience.

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Potato-Rooting

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Chicken with Lemon Leek Linguine

Well here it is! The recipe picture with the most likes on our Facebook page (to vote for next week’s recipe, follow the link!). It’s simple and delicious. This is an absolute favorite in my house.  I found this recipe in a Cooking Light magazine a couple years ago. I have not modified this recipe much as it is pretty darn perfect just the way it is.  It’s simple, very few ingredients and quick to make even during the week. There are never any leftovers with this meal.  It serves about 4, unless you have a husband who eats for 2 like mine. Most of these ingredients can be found in any kitchen.  I normally have to buy just the leeks. I hope you all enjoy this meal as much as we do!

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Ingredients:

-8oz package Trader Joe’s Garlic and Basil Linguini (or any other linguini you prefer)

-2 Large chicken breasts trimmed of all fat and cut in half horizontally

-salt and pepper

-¼ cup unbleached flour

-3 tablespoons butter, divided

-5 garlic cloves, chopped or pressed

-2 leeks cut in ½ and chopped (Trader Joe’s has the packaged, trimmed and cleaned)

-½ cup low sodium chicken broth

-juice of ½ a lemon

-parsley

Preparation:

1. Cook pasta according to package directions:

pasta

2. Salt and Pepper both sides of chicken to taste. Place flour in a shallow dish and dredge chicken in flour, shake to remove excess flour.

3. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Place chicken in pan and cook both sides 3-4 minutes:

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Remove chicken from pan wrap in foil to keep warm.

4. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in skillet:

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add leeks, garlic, salt to taste. Sauté approximately 4 minutes:

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Add chicken broth and juice of ½ a lemon, cook 2 minutes or until liquid is reduced by ½. Add 1 tablespoon butter.  Add pasta to leek mixture, and toss to combine all ingredients.

5. Serve pasta with Chicken, garnish with parsley and cheese of your choice:

linguine_chickenclip art joyce(1)Joyce

The Gift of Life

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Friends,

Tonight I am honored and humbled to introduce an amazing woman, Rachel.  Though we have never met in person she  walked me through one of the most difficult moments of my lifetime. I “met”  Rachel (via Facebook)  through a friend after my mom had an AVM burst in her brain that left her on a ventilator and just one step above brain death. There is little I can say to describe that time; it is almost as if we were all living in a fog. But throughout each day, Rachel would send me messages and share her experiences with Organ Donation. She was there for me; a stranger, but a hand to hold through a loss  when it seems like no one really understands. My mother, though no longer with us lives on in two women through organ donation. She always wanted to be an organ donor, and always said, “They can take anything they can use.” I thank Rachel for her wise words, comfort and love during that horrifying time. I don’t know that there will ever be words to explain the depth of my gratitude toward Rachel. As it is National Donate Life Month, and I knew we here at TEOM wanted to share something on Organ Donation, I reached out to Rachel to share her story, and well, I assure you, it will touch your heart. Love, Alicia

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“My life will never be the same.” 

This was the text I sent to a friend of mine on December 5th, 2007 as I sat in the waiting room of the Neuro ICU at Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee, WI.    Why would my life never be the same?   Sometime in the last 24 hours my sister slipped into a coma and was now fighting for her life.     I guess maybe my mom made me watch too many Lifetime movies over the years, but the phone call I got just a few hours before was a call that only people in those Lifetime movies got.     The caller said “Your sister has gone into a coma and is in the hospital, you need to get here right away.”   WHAT?   How is this possible since I had just talked to her two days ago on the phone when we discussed the new job I had started at University of Wisconsin – Madison?

I raced to the hospital from Madison without a clue as to where I was going.  Thankfully a cousin of mine lived in the Milwaukee area and gave me directions.   As I walked into her room my first thought was how pissed off she was going to be that they had shaved part of her hair off.   She had just got it colored and was complaining about the cost.   I stood there in the room taking it all in and it started to sink in that this wasn’t good.   She had wires coming out of every part of her body and the beeping from the machines was incessant.   I closed my eyes as hard as I could and thought now when I open them this will be all gone because this has to be dream.  Sadly it wasn’t a dream and I spent the rest of the night between her room and the waiting room.

Over the course of the next few days it became obvious that my sister wasn’t going to be coming out of her coma.  Her medical team was so frustrated because they had no idea why she was in a coma.  The pressure inside her head was off the charts and they couldn’t even lay her flat to do an MRI.   In a very morbid way the physical changes that were taking over my sisters face and body made it easier to start dealing with the thought that I was going to lose my sister, it wasn’t her laying there in that bed.   On December 9th my dad and step mom sent us all home, there was so much uncertainty surrounding my sister’s condition that the doctors had no idea if this would go on for days, months or years.    That evening the doctors removed a small piece of my sister’s skull in order to relieve the pressure.  On Tuesday December 11th my sister was declared brain dead.

Because we live in Wisconsin the weather was of course not cooperating, we had just gotten a horrible snow storm and most of the family was unable to get back to the hospital.   On the morning of December 12th the folks from the Wisconsin Donor Network approached my parents about the possibility of organ donation.   YES!   There was no question that my sister wanted to be an organ donor.    Because they were never able to determine why my sister was in a coma it took a number of hours to find recipients.    In the end there were two gentlemen in Illinois that had hours to live who were brave enough to take the chance on the gift of life from my sister.   My sister’s liver and one kidney were going to be the best gift anyone could receive so close to Christmas.

 

Rachel and BeckyTop Left: Becky on our cruise doing the Swim With The Dolphins (Becky loved dolphins, she had a dolphin tattoo on her leg and our parents put a dolphin on her headstone.  I’ve had a couple of times in NC and FL where a dolphin has “visited” I know it was her; Bottom Left: Us two idiots trying to snorkel, she got bit by a tiny jelly fish not long after this pic was taken Bottom Center:  Becky and I in front of the ship we cruised on; Center Right: Eating chocolate covered key-lime pie on our cruise in Key West ,Top Right: Becky and I before dinner on our cruise, one of my favorite pictures of us.

Because of an amazing handmade shawl I received the night my sister became a donor angel, I decided to check out more about the WI Donor Network.   I attended their volunteer training and that started the most amazing journey I’ve ever been on!   I got to meet other donor families, recipients, live donors and so many folks that supported organ donation.   I’ve been fortunate to volunteer at a wide range of events which have given me so many chances to educated folks about organ donation.   There are two OPOs (Organ Procurement Organizations) in WI, one based in the Milwaukee area the other based at the UW-Madison hospital.   Because I lived in Madison I made contact with the OPO there.   That opened up even more doors as a volunteer.

Madison was fortunate to hold the Transplant Games in 2010.  The games are an Olympic style sporting event that showcases those recipients that are at least seven months out from their transplant.  I took the week off of work to attend and had the most amazing, supportive week I’d had in a long time.   The opening ceremonies were spectacular.   The donor families were the last to enter the event hall and we were met with such love that the tears came in volume.   Being a child of the 80′s it was pretty awesome to have Larry Hagman there to speak.   Mr. Hagman was a liver transplant recipient and continued to be a champion of donation.   He loved to have a moment where recipients proudly showed their scars to the rest of the group as a badge of honor.

My grandfather had died earlier in 2007 and while that was such a sad event it was something that was easier to deal with as he was 83 and died of a heart attack.   The loss of someone when it’s so unexpected it’s one of the hardest things we can deal with.   The last sound I remember [during my sister's hospital stay] was the helicopter arriving from Illinois; this meant it was time to disconnect my sister.   Seven years later I’m finally able to deal with the sound a Medflight helicopter makes, no more panic attacks thankfully.

Becoming a volunteer was my way of dealing with the hellish loss I felt when my sister died.  Volunteering has given me the chance to meet some of my closest friends.   The other donor families I’ve met have given me such strength.   The recipients I’ve met have shown me that while I lost my sister, her gift has given others the chance to live and go on to do amazing things. One of the most rewarding things I’ve been a part of is the board of directors for Donate Life Wisconsin.   This has allowed me an even bigger platform.   I’m part of the group that works with the DMV centers across the state as they are our front line in signing up new donors.   A few years ago Wisconsin started an online registry and our group is tasked with developing materials to help support the DMV’s effort to get people on the registry.

I think of my sister every day and I miss her more than I could have imagined.  I’ve had so many great experiences being a volunteer and have met so many people but would give them all up in a heartbeat just to have her back. 

~Rachel Maske~

To sign up to be an organ donor, please visit : Donate Life, Register Now.

To get involved with a local chapter of Donate Life, please visit: Donate Life, Contacts.

Mom Tested: Advocare’s 24 Day Challenge

Remember waaaaay back three four (gulp!) FIVE…months ago when we gave away an Advocare 24 Day Challenge kit for one of our readers to try and review? No? Me neither. Five months is well beyond the scope of my poor short term memory.

I’m kidding. Sort of.

I remember the time well, actually. In a PTSD sort of way. It happened to be the time when we were knee deep in entries for our Black Friday giveaway, the Season of Giving campaign, holiday prep, and all sorts of buggy Blogger problems. It was also about the time we started the big overhaul with our new blog host. Yikes. While we were not-so-elegantly juggling the mess, Jen bravely tackled all twenty four days of the challenge, and provided us with plenty of colorful commentary along the way. As a busy mom of five, and a fabulous, full time author, she already has a full plate, so for her to give us such a thorough review for all of you is just awesome.

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Here’s Jen:

Day 1

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When I think about drinking coffee, I realize I only have it 3-4 times a week. And it’s not for the caffeine, it’s for the taste. I drink pumpkin, vanilla, hazelnut, you get the picture – the flavored – fun stuff.  So, drinking Spark everyday might be my undoing. Lol, I say that because after 30 minutes I did feel like I was more awake than normal, but 15 minutes after that, I was talking to myself and felt like a 2 year that downed an entire bag of chocolate M&M’s. If you don’t have kids, head to the mall and sit next to the indoor playground on day school is out! Now, let’s see how long this lasts. Am I going to be able to give the warm yummy goodness in the morning? I’m not sure, but for the next 24 days I will.

One hour and I’m still jittery.

Two hours after the Spark and I’m finally feeling like I can function and don’t need to run a marathon. Surprisingly not crashing though.

Ten hours later there wasn’t a crash!

OMG all the water – drink pee, drink pee, drink pee and now I feel a little bloated.

Is it strange that I had dreams all night about lettuce and vegetables???

Day 2

Woke up tired and had a slight headache. Could have just been old age ;)

Took the Spark and again was bouncing off the walls for about an hour and felt very anxious. Possibly need to craft an aluminum hat to keep the aliens from head probing.J just kidding! My headache is gone though. May try to split into 2 portions. Take half instead of morning coffee and then second half before lunch.

Oh my the fiber… Gotta get a little creative with that stuff! Blended with water, blueberries and strawberries. Tasted good, but got really thick after about a minute. I actually used a spoon to get the rest out of the bottom of my cup. Tomorrow maybe a little more water!

Been following the food suggestions and the water consumption. Oh my the water! I feel water logged and bloated! Phew, the bathroom is really close. Might need to invest in Depends for the next few weeks, haha!

No dreams about food! Must have just been something I ate yesterday.

Did I mention I hate swallowing pills. Cant wait to see what it’s like during the max phase.

Day 3

Fiber time, ugh. So yesterday I made a fruit smoothie and it was really thick. Today I decided to add an additional cup of water to the smoothie. Well, that didn’t work! It was still as thick, but I had I an extra cup to “eat”. Thank goodness I have 4 more days to think of more creative ways for drinking it down.

Oh the Spark. Since I’m not a regular coffee or energy drinker, this stuff had me going.  Mild paranoia is what I would have called it, LOL! Today I mixed the entire thing up, drank half for breakfast and then the other half at lunch. This worked so much better for me. I could focus, had no delusional thoughts of aliens or cleaning my neighbor’s house or jitteriness.

Spark

A new symptom (if that’s the word to use because maybe it’s food related?) Gas. Hmmm, not very lady like. Bubbly stomach followed up with the gas. YUCK!
After about 2pm no gas cleared up. Should I be constipated though? day 3 and no cleansing, if you get what I mean. hmm. Since there is no fiber tomorrow I wonder what’s going to happen?

Today I did find myself missing my at work handful of gummy worms! Aren’t they they best? But, I fought the squirmy temptation and walked right on by and ate a carrot instead.

Day 4

The great cleanse.

The end.

Day 5

I found myself needing to run out so I wasn’t going to be home to take half the Spark in the morning and the rest at lunch, so I took it all again at once without thinking. When I got to the grocery store I realized what I did. Fearing for those around me while shopping, I was ready to run out to my car if things got a little “crazy”. To my surprise, nothing happened except a very speeding shopping experience and unloading of my car. Woohoo Spark!

Day 6

My pants feel great!

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And no, that’s not a reference to the cleanse. I think I’m up to 9 pounds shed so far. Fantastic to report the water logging has stopped and the bloating disappeared. I think my body is getting used to all the water and I’m actually waking up a night needing more.

There has been no crash from the Spark, no waking up with headaches either. That is a huge plus for me because I work on computers for 12 hours a day and by the end of my week my head is killing me

Day 7

Sugar, Chocolate, holiday cookies! I want them all. Today seems to be a low for me. Could it be that time of the month (soon) or am I really just missing the sweet stuff that much? Oh and bread. I have not had any bread since I started because all I had at my house was white flour stuff! Tortillas, English muffins, bread. I decided to do another run to the store and buy some whole wheat bread.

I have found myself enjoying breakfast in the morning so much more now. I toast half of a whole wheat English muffin put a few pieces of fresh spinach on top then add 2 egg whites!

My family ordered pizza! I hated them all as they sat around the table and flashed the extra bacon topped slices in front of me. I cheated and had a bite, but it was just one I promise.

I did make some mini banana bread muffins. They were made with whole wheat flour, half the sugar (plus it was raw sugar) and everyone though they were awesome. That satisfied some of baking cravings. Time to see what I can do with holiday cookies.

Here are my end of the challenge notes and summary! Woohoo, I made it!

So, I tracked my progress everyday throughout the challenge. By the time I hit the last 2 weeks, I felt like I was a pro and there wasn’t anything new to report daily. So, I summed up all of my notes collectively for the end.

Day 11

I replaced my normal breakfast with the meal replacement shake.

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Since I was drinking my meal, I knew I was going to be hungry within an hour. Of course, like everything else I had assumed about the challenge, I was wrong. I wasn’t hungry and made it all the way to lunch!
My biggest struggle with the second half of the challenge, all the pills! OMG, I was swallowing so many pills of different shapes and sizes that it became a source of humor for my family to watch me do.

Like shots, the kind with a needle not the fun alcohol type, I don’t like swallowing pills. I have to do this funny shake with my head back, so the pills get as far back as possible before I can swallow them. That gesture became a daily joke in my house. “Look, mom is about to do her pill dance,” my three year old would announce to the rest of the family. They even tried to record it, but I squashed that dream of theirs very quickly!

Why I decided to do this between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I’ll never know, but I did. Giving up my glass of wine during holiday celebrations wasn’t going to kill me, but fighting the urge to snack at parties was going to be the death of me. I was very selective when I would reach for something from the goodie table. You have no idea how much cheese is used during the holidays! Cheese dip, chunks, crumbles, sauce, you name it - it has cheese in it! Crackers, crackers are what I ate at the holiday parties!
I survived the 24 Day Challenge! The fiber is long gone and all those pills have been swallowed. So how am I doing 2 weeks later?

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Down ten pounds, still, and feel great. I have managed to get rid of all white bread and bleached flour in my house. Only whole grains for my family now.

Maybe this is a little bit too much information to share, but you’re gonna get it from me! Before the challenge my bowel movements weren’t regular and fiber didn’t help. Actually, I’ve always been that way. Now, two weeks later, I am regular. YAY! Let’s see how long this lasts.
The Spark, am I addicted? No. I was able to stop taking it and didn’t suffer headaches or nervous shakes. I don’t crave it and will be just fine if I don’t have another sip of the stuff. Now, I still have some and even bought more because I do enjoy it. But I didn’t want to continue drinking it after the challenge ended because I wanted to see how my body would react. I’m going to give myself two more weeks and then I will add it back to my daily routine.

So to sum it all up for those out there who may still be skeptical about it. Can you live without it? Yes. Are you completely healthy, never eat out, never have a soda, work out everyday – then you can probably live without it as well. However, for those of you who enjoy the not so good for us, easy to grab, processed food, then yes you really can benefit from the 24 Day Challenge.

I’m not going to lie and say it was easy, because it’s not. There is some willpower needed to stay away from the “easy” food. But, once you get into the groove of eating healthy and planning your meals instead of grabbing something, it does become easier. And here I am, 2 weeks later, and still 10 pounds lighter, ready to ring in the new year with a glass of wine but much healthier eating habits!

AdvocareCollageAnd there you have it, friends! We have to give a big shout out to the Advocare rep that gave us the kit to try out and review. Thank you Mike! And to Jen, for sticking with the entire twenty four days, and sharing the good, the bad, and the (sometimes embarrassing) ugly. For more information on the product reviewed, follow the link HERE.

If you’ve tried this product yourself, we want to hear from you! Share your story and help moms like you make the best decision for themselves. What would you recommend? Try it or skip it? Don’t be shy. Tell us why!