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It Came Just the Same

Monday, March 30, 2020

On Friday we found out that our diocese officially cancelled masses through April 19. While I think we all knew this was coming, I have to admit it was truly a gut punch to hear that we will not be assembling for Mass on Easter Sunday. EASTER SUNDAY. 

I am still trying to wrap my mind around this. Easter is the most holy of days in the church year. Easter Sunday is always so beautiful: looking around church at all the people who maybe haven't come in a while, all the people spending time with their families, all the bright and beautiful colors people are wearing after a long Lent and an even longer winter. Even if you don't go to church, I believe Easter is still -- like many holidays -- a time that you want to spend with your extended family, a happy occasion to look forward to. 

After hearing the news, I sat there for a few minutes, just stewing. Easter is cancelled? EASTER is CANCELLED?! I thought about how I won't be able to celebrate Bert's first Easter in the usual way. About how my sweet sister-in-law Alex won't get to join the Catholic church as she has long been planning. My previously upbeat attitude took a sharp turn downward, and I was just ready to throw in the towel. But all of a sudden, out of nowhere as I was mopping the floor, a line popped into my head:

It came just the same. 

You know this line too. Of course, it's from Dr. Seuss's classic book How the Grinch Stole Christmas. And while that story is about another holiday, the more I thought about it the more I realized that the lesson of that book can absolutely be applied to our situation now. More than "can be" -- MUST. 

Remember all the things the Grinch did to "steal" Christmas from the Whos? He thought if he took all their stockings and their toys and their food that Christmas just wouldn't arrive. He would stop them from joining together and singing praises. But remember how confused and surprised the Grinch was when he realized that nothing he did would ruin the Whos' Christmas? Dr. Seuss writes:

Every Who down in Whoville, the tall and the small,
Was singing without any presents at all!

He hadn't stopped Christmas from coming! It came!
Somehow or other, it came just the same!

My friends, will this Easter be weird, painfully weird? Oh yes, it will. But the thing is, even without the egg hunts and the Easter baskets and the picnics and, most importantly, church, Easter will come. Easter cannot be cancelled as I first thought. No amount of social distancing, of illness, of empty grocery stores can stop Easter from coming. Jesus will still be risen, a sign of hope in our hurting world. Like the Whos, we must not focus on what we are losing this Easter, but instead we must focus on what we still have, what we are gaining. 

The virus hadn't stopped Easter from coming! It came!
Somehow or other, it came just the same!

Springtime Bert with his bunny best friend, Benedict.

Happy News

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

I feel like I've been handling all of this pretty well, but last night I kind of hit a wall. I know you might think that being forced to stay at home wouldn't be that different from my usual life of staying at home with Bert, but it really has been. I found that I've really come to rely on our weekly trips to the library, our Target runs, our random errands, and our walks with our friends. Joe has been home a lot, but he's also had to leave for work still, too, so I've been feeling somewhat isolated, as I'm sure so many people have. I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that it's been in the 50s and raining the past few days, but I was thrilled to wake up today to sunshine and a temperature that will reach the 70s today. Indeed, the rest of the week should be mostly sunny and will also be in the upper 60s to the low 80s (!!!), and I truly think that will help. As soon as I could this morning I opened a bunch of windows, opened all the blinds, and lit a springtime candle. I am thanking God that this is all happening when we have the opportunity for open windows, walks outside, and lighter evenings instead of in the depths of December and January. It makes me a little sick to my stomach to even imagine that, so I won't.

I have been surviving by making Bert new foods to try (this morning was his first day trying Greek yogurt, and I mixed some peaches and banana in for him) and working on our house. We have a lot of work to do in both the front and back yards of our house, and we are taking every opportunity to work on it. It just feels good to get outside, to sweat, to feel dirt in our hands.

We have also tried not to watch *too* much news. I do turn it on in the mornings to just check in, and I do try and tune in when there's a White House update, but other than that, I really need to avoid it. There are so many opinions, so many people placing blame, so many people arguing -- it's just too much. And all that hoarding?! Still happening?! Sheesh. Here's what Bert thinks about all that selfishness:

I bet you feel bad now, don't you?
Are you feeling a little down also? I think you might be, so I thought it might help all of us to hear a little good news. I scoured the internet to bring you some happy stories!

1. Some awesome people I know in Huntington have organized a "scavenger hunt" for families in town that can be done from the comfort of their cars. Check this out. Isn't it amazing?

2. Public Relations students at Marshall University hold a fundraiser every spring to help the Ronald McDonald House. Of course, since school is no longer being held in person and every event in the country has been cancelled, they can't hold their normal fundraiser this year. Instead of just going home, doing their online classes, and blaming the virus for their inability to help RMH (which they could totally do!), they are holding an online fundraiser because they are so dedicated to their mission! Check it out!

3. The NCAA has lifted a regulation that does not allow student athletes to use their likenesses for crowd funding. This was in direct response to Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence and his girlfriend raising money online for family relief and support for virus victims. Lawrence and his girlfriend, also a student athlete, also plan to write letters of encouragement to those who are suffering. I've always liked this kid a lot (and have shared this video with students in the past), and I'm proud of him for using his fame for good.

4. A student I know from Fatima (who is the nephew of our very own Aunt Sarah and Uncle Drew!) is writing letters of encouragement and love to nursing home residents whose families cannot visit them. How cute is that?! I think I will write some too!

5. Aunt Jena's school is having a virtual spirit week so that students and teachers can connect! Each day is a different theme, and teachers and parents are sharing photos on social media. Although I don't have a classroom this year, I can truly understand the heartbreak of losing students without any notice. I'd be devastated. I think this is a wonderful way to help teachers feel like they still have their babies and help students know they are still loved and supported.

6. Amazing author and illustrator Mo Willems is teaching a daily drawing course for children called "Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems"! He is the creator of one of our favorite books, Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus. I just read it to Bert yesterday.

7. Bert has learned no new skills and accomplished absolutely nothing, but here's him looking like a Bert-rito!




8. There are so many cool virtual field trips! Check it out:

San Diego Zoo

The Louvre

Mars (seriously!)

National Parks

There are so many more, too!

9. And finally ... I accidentally hoarded bananas. I know, I know. I put 9 of them on my Walmart order. Then the app told me the bananas weren't available, so I found some organic ones that were, blah blah. Long story short: between the time I originally added the bananas to my cart and the time I actually checked out (a day or so later), the bananas became available again. So when I went to pick up my order ... 21 bananas, a mixture of regular and organic. And last week the max you could order was six! The Walmart people probably think I'm insane. I already cut up five of them to freeze and will likely make Jane and Asha some dog ice cream too. I can't believe I did that! Luckily Bert, Joe, and I eat them every day.

I know there have to be more happy stories out there! Will you share some that you've seen? Also, if you need any fun ideas for Language Arts or Social Studies for kids in grades 5-8, please let me know. I'm happy to dig some things out, and it would be fun for me to do!

Spring

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Bert woke up this morning at 7 a.m. as he usually does. Joe went in to pick him up and change him as I began to prepare to feed him. Although Bert wakes up happy, he usually starts crying pretty soon after when his brain catches up with his stomach and he realizes he's starving. As he does, Bert started crying as Joe was changing his diaper, and I heard Joe say, "Buddy, you don't have to cry. We've never let you down."

And I stopped in my tracks because ... Joe is a father reassuring his child that he doesn't have to cry because he's never let him down. And I immediately thought: this is exactly what God is saying to us right now, too.

I admit that I have been rather calm about all this, until yesterday when news began to come out that said that the virus may be more harmful to children than previously believed, specifically to babies and toddlers. Most of you know that my son was born with several health complications that landed him in the children's hospital for several days, and my mind immediately went to seeing my son suffer once again. I had to actively remind myself that God has taken care of my son before, and I have no reason to believe He won't this time, too: He's never let us down.

One of the strangest things about all of this is the lack of Mass. My grandfather, the oldest member of our family, is almost 90, and he has never seen this in his lifetime. As of yesterday evening, there are NO public masses anywhere in the United States. None. I said to Joe last night: did you ever think that here in the United States of America we wouldn't be able to go to Mass? It's so unthinkable that it's laughable. But here we are.

We were blessed this morning because our wonderful parish priest, Father Jack, said a Mass that was broadcast on Facebook Live. Joe, Bert, and I sat on our kitchen stools participating with Father Jack as we watched him on our laptop. Father Jack said something that really struck me. He said that God is using the situation we are in to give us a glimpse of what hell is like. Hell is total physical isolation from God and others; it's the ultimate social distancing. And don't we all hate this? As Father Jack also said, we are made for community and family and this is our time to look at all the things in our lives that we take for granted and begin to show our gratitude for them.

And it really made me think because according to Sister Lucia, one of the Fatima children, the final battle between God and Satan will be over marriage and the family. I think we could all agree that we are having marriage and family problems in the world right now. How else could God shift our focus back to our families and force us to really spend time with them than through a situation like this?

I realized this morning that it's Spring. SPRING. What a miracle. And here in Georgia it will be 77 degrees and sunny today. After we watched Mass this morning, Joe and I opened all our windows. We took the time to really clean our house -- not just the usual Thursday cleaning, but all the things we never make time for like scrubbing out our windowsills (those things are gross!) and really mopping our floor with Pledge and not just a quick wipe with the Swiffer. I put away our Snow Lodge candle and pulled out the spring-smelling Cactus Blossom candle I bought right before all this happened.

Are we scared? Yes. Well, I am. Joe, as always, is calm. But I look around my house and realize that Joe is home, we are healthy, our house is clean and smells fresh, and there is fresh air and sunshine pouring in the windows. Those are all blessings. We have to continue to find them where we can.

And remember: Buddy, you don't have to cry. I've never let you down.

Bert thought his legs looked especially toned and trim in this outfit, so he wanted to share a picture of himself with you!

Go Home and Love Your Family

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

You know when people are asked the question, "What do you want most?" and we all make fun of that cliche answer "World peace"? The truth is, I think all of us would absolutely like to see world peace, we just truly have no idea how to go about it. Or, perhaps, we have so many ideas that we can't agree on or implement one to see if it would work.

Well, years ago Mother Teresa (now Saint Teresa of Calcutta) told us all very simply what we needed to do to achieve world peace:



This quotation has been on my mind the past couple of days as we have all been trying our best to navigate the unprecedented situation we find ourselves in. Right now, we are all being forced, more or less, to be at home with our families. Only our families.

I would obviously never wish for this virus to happen. The amount of death, sickness, fear, selfishness, and other negative things that are happening is truly awful. Like many, I especially worry about our children, making sure they have enough food and worrying about the ones with questionable home lives. But the truth is, this is where we find ourselves and any amount of wishing we weren't or placing blame or whatever else isn't going to help anyone right now. I think what we're left to do right now is try to find any good we can in this situation. And here's what I've been thinking about that:

I think most of us would agree that Americans are very "busy" people. I think busy is sometimes worn as a badge of honor for people, like we feel if we are not busy busy busy then we're not doing what we're "supposed" to do. I can be very guilty of this also. When I first became a stay-at-home mother this school year, I found myself "justifying" my day to Joe when he got home from work (even though he didn't ask and didn't care): I would enumerate the list of ways I had contributed to our family that day -- laundry, cleaning, making dinner -- as though taking care of 1-month-old baby, or, heck, just simply being a person in this family, wasn't enough. I had to train myself to think differently, and I'm still working on it. I feel like most people I know are always running around: they don't have time to cook dinner or eat as a family, they don't have time to read or rest, they don't have time to do things just for fun. Do you know anyone like this? But think about what's going on now. We are literally being told -- almost ordered -- to just stay home. We can't go to work or school. We can't go to restaurants or bars. We can't go to the movies or the library (sob!). Kids can't go to afterschool activities or sports. Heck, we can't even walk in the park with our friends unless we stand six feet away from them. The only thing left for us to do is to stay at home. That's it. We have to stay at home with our immediate families.

Maybe we could see this aspect as a blessing? A way to promote world peace, as Mother Teresa said.

Again, I know that there are many people who have incredibly difficult home lives. There are also so many people -- many I know and love -- who are doctors, nurses, paramedics, law enforcement, and people who provide products to these industries and who do not have the luxury of deciding to stay at home. But for those of us who are able to stay at home maybe we could take this opportunity to slow down, reset, and rediscover our love of a simple life at home with our families?

Joe is having to work some right now. He is trying to do as much as he can from home and limit his out-of-home work to smaller places and spaces. But he has been here for breakfast these past few days, and it's been so nice. He usually only eats with us on Saturdays and Sundays, but this week Joe has been able to feed Bert his breakfast. It's been so wonderful for both of them. Joe has been here more often, which means instead of seeing Bert only from 7-8 a.m. and then again from 6-7 p.m. Joe gets to see him during a usual day doing his usual things that Joe hardly ever gets to see. I choose to see this as a blessing to our family.

I spent a couple of days being very upset (I mean actually crying upset) over the selfishness I was reading about online and seeing on the news: all of the hoarding of supplies and not leaving things for others. It was really getting me down, but then I realized that there was nothing I could do about it and that I needed to focus on better things. And when I looked around I realized that I was seeing people donate to food banks, the school cooks and bus drivers in my home county of Cabell, West Virginia, making sure that children have food to eat, people offer to do shopping for the elderly and others at-risk, people sharing their toilet paper and paper towels with others, people calling to check on each other to be sure everyone is okay. Personally, many of my friends have checked in with me to be sure we're all doing okay. Our local friends have called and texted to see if they can get anything for us at the store or add anything to their grocery pick ups for us. Guys, this is amazing. What a wonderful display of community.

I was also telling Joe last night that I have already become more grateful for the things I have previously taken for granted. One thing we're low on is paper towels, so Joe and I literally ask each other in a situation now, "Is this a good use of a paper towel?" I'll admit that I am a HUGE over-user of paper towels, and I am learning now not to be. I am also especially grateful for my Walmart grocery pick up I have been doing every Tuesday at 11 a.m. When I couldn't do it this week, it was hard for me. I miss my schedule and my nice pick up guy! (I'm worried about him and hope he's okay. We see him basically every week!) I am no longer taking for granted that if I want a dozen eggs I can just go to the store and get them. As a first-time stay-at-home mom who previously worked outside the home and was "busy" (see above!) and who now is home with a baby all day, I am definitely not going to take for granted the opportunities I have to get outside the house and see people, now that I can't. Most importantly, I will not be taking for granted going to church, now that that has also been taken from us. (Still cannot believe this. I talked to my grandmother yesterday. She is 86 and my grandfather is almost 90, and neither of them has ever known Mass to be cancelled.)

These are indeed tough times. There are so many unknowns. It's easy to let fear and panic take over, but I really don't think that will get us anywhere. I think we have to remember what Mother Teresa said and go home and love our families. We also have to find the best in ourselves and remember our responsibility to each other.

Joe and I do a nightly devotional, and it always starts with a verse. The following verse was last night's. I was simply floored when I saw it. It is not a verse I am familiar with, but I thought it was so pertinent to what is going on right now.



May God continue to bless you, your family, our nation, and our world. If there's anything I can do to help you, please let me know.

Bert Alert - March 2020

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Some funny little things in the life of Bert lately:

- We were away from home somewhat late last Saturday evening, and so Bert ended up in bed for the night wearing a long sleeve onesie and black socks (no pants). Bert is -- how should I say it -- not a svelte person, and Joe took one look at him lying there in his crib and called him "Pugsley." I about died laughing, and the nickname has stuck. We love you Pugsley!





- One of my favorite things about Bert is how he opens his mouth up wide every time you put something anywhere close to his mouth. Even when he nurses, he will just lie there with his mouth open waiting to latch on. He's been doing the same thing with food, only it's more hilarious. If he even sees the spoon close by, that mouth is open!







- ... unless it's green beans. He tried those for the first time yesterday, and I have never seen his mouth shut so tightly! Once he tasted those, nothing could make him open that mouth! Little does he know, he'll be trying these again today! Ha.







- In case you ever wondered what the bib of a baby who recently sneezed while eating carrots looks like, here you go!



- I told Joe the other day we have to start thinking about getting some baby gates, and Joe was like, "Well, he still can't sit up, so I think we have time." And it's true. Bert still can't sit up. Honestly, he's not even trying. Most people were like "Your arms will get so toned carrying the baby around!" Uh, what has actually happened is I have chronic back pain and I think he sprained my left forearm with his fat.

Taken in the seconds between me propping him up and him face planting. I give this a D-, Bert!



And that's what's new with Bert!

I am Like You I am Like You

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

I was re-reading my favorite poem last night, and it made me think of someone I love very much, and so I shared it with her.

But then I realized, I love you, too, and maybe you should read this also.

It's called "Come Closer" by Anis Mojgani, and you can read it here. I have also included a video below where the poet is reciting this poem himself.

Guys, I beg you ... listen to these words:

He made you and he was happy
You make the Lord happy

Did you hear that? Did you hear that?

It's all lovely. All of it.

May we all remember that everyone -- no matter how happy they look or seem on the outside, no matter how perfect their life looks to you or if you can't believe they'd have any reason in the world to feel bad -- is hurting. Something is hurting them. You would not believe the amount of people you encounter on a daily basis who are not sure they will be able to make it another day. Truly. We must speak life into each person we meet, always. Guys, we have to. We must. People are the only important things in life. Relationships. The rest of it, it doesn't matter. It just does not matter. Loving people is what matters. It's the only thing that matters.

Whatever is hurting you, please know

I too at times am filled with so much fear, so much fear, but like a hallway must find the strength to walk through it.
Walk through this with me.




I am like you 
I am like you

Walk through this with me
Walk through this with me



Dedicated to you. You know who you are. And I love you. So much.






Don't Overthink It

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

I stood there considering my options. I looked them all over carefully, reading about each one, holding each one. I circled back to where I started and began the process all over again. I thought about how I might feel about it when I got home, how Joe might feel. What if I made the wrong decision?

I am, of course, talking about the monumental choice of which Wallflower scent to purchase at Bath and Body Works.

If you're sitting there thinking ANNA. COME ON. Well ... you'd be right.

I am a classic and chronic overthinker. I overthink what I'm wearing, what I'm packing, what I'm writing in an email, what someone said to me six years ago, what I might say in a conversation before I say it.

For years I thought that was just my personality (if I even thought about it at all). But I recently read a book that gave me a new perspective on overthinking. That book is Don't Overthink It: Make Easier Decisions, Stop Second-Guessing, and Bring More Joy to Your Life by Anne Bogel, commonly known as Modern Mrs. Darcy.

I forget when I first began reading Anne's blog -- I know it had everything to do with my love for Jane Austen -- but I have been doing so for a number of years. She recommends great books and creates helpful reading challenges like the one I'm participating in now. She's written two other books, and I was fortunate enough to join the book launch team for her newest book, Don't Overthink It (which means I got to read an advance copy -- yay!).

I knew this book was for me early in the first chapter when I read one of Anne's definitions of what overthinking looks like: "Sometimes it looks like worry. We might feel stuck reviewing something we've done in the past or imagining something that might happen in the future. ... We might lie awake at night wondering what our friends think of us or if a loved one seems tired of us or if our library fines are getting really and truly out of control." After reading this, I immediately wondered how it was possible for Anne to have looked inside my head! In this book, she offers a truly helpful perspective on overthinking plus concrete suggestions on how to stop doing it.

One suggestion I particularly like regards making sure your decisions reflect your values. She recommends putting this in practice in small decisions as well as large ones. Anne writes,

"Our lives should reflect who we are and what we care about. We may think we know what we value but find that those values don't actually influence our decisions."

At first I was like um, yes, my decisions do reflect my values, don't everyone's? But the more I thought about it, I began to question if I was really making value-driven decisions. For example, last Friday our church had its first Fish Fry of the Lenten season. Joe and I talked about going, thinking about Bert's bedtime, our eating out budget, and our desire to drive 30 minutes on a Friday evening. We decided to go. Come Friday, Joe came home from work early so we could leave for dinner early,  but even that afternoon we continued to debate whether or not we wanted to go to that dinner, going through all sorts of reasons as to why we might or might not like to go. We ultimately decided to go, but in retrospect, our decision could have been made quickly and easily if we had originally just said to ourselves, "We value our church, we love it there, and we value supporting church events, so we're going." Bam. Done.



My most favorite thing about Anne's book is she reinforces an idea I have been learning about over the past year from my therapist, Sharon: that our thoughts have a huge effect on how we live our lives, and we must "learn to tend our thoughts with care." This directly relates to  what is called "schema." Psychologically speaking, Schema is "an outlook or assumption that an individual has of the self, others, or the world that endures despite objective reality. For example, 'I am a damaged person' and 'Anyone I trust will eventually hurt me' are negative schemas that may result from negative experiences in early childhood." (Source.) Sharon is a big believer that schema is everything. For a lot of people, myself included, schema is negative, meaning thoughts that automatically come to mind in many situations are negative ones. These automatic negative thoughts (or ANTs as Sharon calls them) must be actively fought against. As Sharon says, your schema fights for survival and one must work hard (trust me, I know) to essentially retrain the brain. As I read the chapter in Anne's book devoted to this idea that our thoughts affect everything in our lives (Chapter 7 -- "Tend Your Garden"), I found myself nodding along so hard because I already knew this was true because of my own life, thanks to Sharon. I'm not even sure that Anne is aware just how spot-on she is, psychologically speaking, with her words on thoughts. I mean, read this:

"It's a mistake to give all your thoughts equal weight. Some thoughts do not deserve to be taken seriously, so don't dignify them with a response. That only serves to empower them, because the effort you use to combat the unwanted intrusive thought only serves to strengthen it."

Amen, Anne. Amen.


If, like Anne and me, you have found yourself losing sleep at night over a short email from a colleague or boss; stood in an aisle at Target for an inordinate amount of time trying to decide between two brands of granola bar; or put flowers in your cart at the grocery store, then put them back, then picked them up again all while debating their $5 price tag, then your life will be changed for the better by reading Don't Overthink It. I'm super excited because I get to meet Anne and have her sign my copy in less than two weeks!

 And, #buytheflowers



Morning Smoothies!

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Joe and I are moderately healthy people. By that I mean, we try and eat fresh fruits and vegetables and lean meats, but we also eat pizza every Friday, and we love donuts and desserts too. One thing we've talked a lot about recently is how we need to make food-related adjustments now while Bert is still too young to observe what his dad and I eat and how much and when. One of our plans to help with this is to plant a garden of food this spring. We are blessed with a yard that offers ample space to plant, and we have been looking at the types of things we'd like to try and grow. I need to investigate more, but right now we are hoping to grow tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, strawberries, and herbs of all kinds. (We already have TWO pear trees that offer an ABUNDANCE of fruit. Sadly, pears are low on the fruit favorites list for Joe and me, but we are learning to like them. They'll also make great baby food!) I have a hope that we won't have to buy as much produce from the store and instead can go outside and gather lots of things we need. I also have a dream of Bert playing in the dirt, helping plant and harvest the garden, and picking all his summertime snacks straight off the vine.

One thing I thought of that would help us get more nutrients is to have a smoothie with or for breakfast. I don't know about you guys, but sometimes my food plans for the day can go by the wayside for any number of factors, no matter how much I plan, but starting the day with a healthy smoothie at least guarantees that we've had some sort of serving of fruits and vegetables in a day. I've made smoothies in the past, and one thing I've learned is there's really no "recipe." But here's what I've been playing with that I like:

- Plain Greek yogurt (This is the "liquid" base for ours. I love Greek yogurt! It is low in sugar and high in protein. We just use the Great Value brand for the sake of economy. I just put "some" in. If I had to guess, maybe half a cup? I don't know, I'm poor at physical estimation.)

- Half a banana (This is great for us because I only like bananas that are green, but smoothies are a great place for bananas that are a little past their snacking prime. No waste!)

- Whatever fruit we have on hand (We always have fresh apples, red grapes, strawberries, and blueberries. Lately I've also been buying frozen mango, raspberries, and peach slices. It's fun to play with the combos to figure out what you like!)

- A handful of spinach (Yep! I pluck the stems off of ours and just toss it in! You can't taste it at all, and think of the nutrients!)

AND THAT'S IT! If I don't use frozen fruit, then I'll add a couple ice cubes because we like them really cold. But you don't have to! And if I feel like it's a little too thick, then I'll add in a splash of almond milk.

I'm hoping to add more things in the future, like maybe some kale or a splash of elderberry syrup. (The other day I bought some off of a neighbor who makes herself, and I'm really excited. I plan to make some gummies with it, so I'll let you know how that goes when I do it!)

Some fruit combos we've been liking are strawberry/mango and blueberry/peach. But I really can't see you going wrong with any fruit combo! I'll usually toss a handful of grapes into every smoothie. We've been doing our morning smoothie for several days, and Joe told me this morning that his (maybe about 12 oz.?) smoothie fills him up till about 2:00 p.m. Wow!

Right now I use a simple Ninja that my aunt got me, which works just fine, but I'm looking into buying a blender (we don't have one) that's geared toward smoothies to see if I can make them just a little more smooth!

As an aside, one thing that has been absolutely LIFE CHANGING in terms of us eating more fruits and veggies is that -- if it's a snacking-type food -- I wash and cut it up as soon as I get it home from the store. We don't have cartons of strawberries or blueberries or random bags of baby carrots or grapes lying in the fridge. I bring these things home, wash them and cut them up (if applicable), then store them. Yes, it's more work up front for sure, but I am willing to spend the extra 15 minutes up front for the ease of grabbing them for smoothies, to put in yogurt or fruit salad or lunches, or as snacks. SO MUCH EASIER and so much more likely we'll eat them and they won't go bad. 

Let me know if you have any great smoothie ideas!

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