Give Me Back My Bread!

My adventure into a Low FODMAP diet:

A few years ago I was diagnosed with a hiatal hernia. I went to what felt like ten different doctors (ok, it was only like 3) who kind of chalked my tummy troubles up to “It’s not that bad…it’s all in your head…stress…blahdy blahdy BLAH”. One doctor even said, “So it sounds like what you’re going through isn’t really dangerous as much as it is annoying.” Well, Mr. Condescending McCondescender Man, sure, it’s not dangerous, but what I was going through was interfering with my every day life. I felt incredibly sick every day and it made me not want to do anything. I just wanted to lay down and not move. Finally a doctor decided to do an endoscopy and found something wrong- which, THANK YOU, I’ve been telling you that for how long now?!

Anyway, after I was diagnosed and put on meds I was also told to watch my diet in terms of fried and greasy foods. No problem! I could have fried chicken on vacation but maybe not greasy pizza on a regular basis. Easy enough. And my symptoms did get better but for the past couple of years I’ve still struggled with IBS related symptoms. There were days when I just didn’t feel well and I didn’t understand why. I thought maybe I was lactose intolerant. It seemed like if I ate ice cream or something with milk I would feel sick. So I cut out all dairy. And it helped! Until it seemed like it didn’t.

Finally I was able to get into a new doctor where, ugh, I once again left so frustrated. I don’t think I’ve ever met a gastroenterologist who was friendly or empathetic. Each one lacked even the slightest bit of bedside manner and talked to me like I was not only stupid, but just not important to them. This doctor did seem smart so I listened to what he said through gritted teeth, even though he asked me, “Do you know what a hiatal hernia is?” No, I’ve just been living with it for the past three years but I have no idea **insert sarcasm**. His response: “Well, what is it?”

BIGGEST EYE ROLL EVER. My response: “Well I’m clearly not going to say it as elequently as you would like so why don’t you just tell me”. BOOM. Mic DROPPED ON YOUR DOCTORS OFFICE FLOOR. In actuality, it was said in more of a mumble and probably sounded like, “I don’t know how to say it properly because I’m just a poor little girl without an MD and I’m dumb so tell me please Mr. Doctor of All Things Man”.

He didn’t sense my sarcasm or my irritation.

He told me to go back on the meds I was only taking as needed, and it did absolutely make sense, but on his way out the door he gave me a packet and said he wanted me to try this diet. No explanation. No encouragement to seek help from a dietician before starting it. No “This is going to be tough, but just try to stick it out for a month and here’s what you do after that”. He just gave me the paper and went on his way.

When I had time to look at the packet, I saw what I was supposed to be giving up: BASICALLY EVERYTHING! No wheat, milk, soft cheese, fruits with pits, certain veggies, onions, garlic, honey, on and on and on and on. Some of these things are easy- so many products are made gluten free these days. But do you know how many foods contain garlic and onions? BASICALLY EVERYTHING! It all started making sense, though. I cooked with garlic and onions almost daily. I would have a bad reaction after eating a baked good and just assumed it had dairy and that’s why I wasn’t feeling well. Turns out- it was wheat, ya’ll.

The first week was a rollercoaster of emotions. I felt overwhelmed with my lack of options. I didn’t know how to cook without my staples of garlic and onions and I was at a loss of what to make for my family that still tasted good but wasn’t bland. I cried some tears and got the heck over it. This was the new reality for at least the next month.

So I dove in. This diet is called the Low FODMAP diet. FODMAPS are Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols and they are molecules found in foods that people with IBS and IBS related issues can’t process properly. They are basically a feast for the bacteria found in the intestines where they ferment causing discomfort, constipation, reflux, and other gastrointestinal issues. If you don’t suffer from IBS then your body is able to properly absorb these molecules without problems. Here’s a great resource if you are interested: Shepherd Works Low FODMAPs

Luckily, we live in the world of Pinterest where recipes and resources are a plenty. I did some research. The point of this diet is to be a sort of cleanse but serve as an elimination diet. Basically you go cold turkey on all of the food items on the naughty list and then after roughly a month or so (depending on the severity of your symptoms- for me it was 1 month but can be as much as 2) you slowly reintroduce foods back into your diet. So I made some adjustments and was able to still make some yummy meals. It got really challenging to eat out or on the go, but I was starting to get the hang of it.

After my month was over I decided to try to introduce wheat back into my diet. Because, bread. I actually did this accidentally because we had chili one night for dinner and I used crackers (I completely spaced and wasn’t thinking). The next day I felt AWFUL. All of my symptoms came rushing back. So, that explains that. No wheat for me. My symptoms took a good week to go away and now I am hella nervous to try something else.

It’s a journey, for sure. I remember reading the book “Skinny Bitch”, which I only half recommend. They promote a very strict vegan lifestyle, which I just can’t get behind. Especially now that my options are even more limited. But one of the chapters that stuck with me is the relationship of people with food- the idea that food should just be a way to survive, not an indulgence, that our relationship with food has evolved into an unhealthy obsession. And while I understand where they are coming from, if you have to eat every single day, multiple times a day, shouldn’t it be enjoyable? And that’s why this diet has been so challenging- it’s been hard trying to find ways to still find food fun, comforting, and delicious. But that’s also why it’s great- it’s teaching me to be creative and learn about food.

Do you have tips for living gluten free? I would love to hear them!


NYC Shenanigans

Hey y’all!

I have always dreamed of taking my girls to Disney World. The princesses, the rides, the joy of every one around you… it all sounds like it would be incredible to witness and experience. However, as many of you know, Michael is in the Army and there is really no way to schedule dates in advance because they always change. Always. So I was talking about how badly I really wanted to go and he told me that he didn’t want to be the reason that the girls don’t get to go and for me to go ahead with it. Reluctantly, I asked a few people to go with me but it’s foolish to think people could just drop everything and go. Then I was asked why I wouldn’t just take them alone, and my answer was this:

I never got to experience Disney as a kid and I wanted to act like a child, too! Haha! I wanted to ride the rides and with two small kids, I couldn’t just leave them on a leash while I went!

So Michael and I decided that we will wait until 2019 when they are 9 and 7, though we might try Disney Land while we are on the west coast, but everyone knows that’s not the same. Michael and I knew that he had a 4-day weekend coming so we decided to plan an overnight getaway in the city so our girls could be little tourists, instead! And y’all, we had SO much fun!


Our trip started at 4:30 a.m. and we drove straight through, only stopping for gas once along the way. Well, and Starbucks. When we first got into the city, it was a serious culture shock for us as far as the traffic goes. We had never taken our own car into the city before because my mom used to live across the GW bridge in NJ so we were used to taking the bus in. Holy. Moly. I remember looking at the GPS and it saying it was going to take us 45 minutes for 5 miles! WHAT?! It was nuts. Pure, nuts. Our first stop was a parking garage near the Best Buy on Lexington and low and behold, there was one across the street. Michael had to get a piece of equipment for his Go Pro and I had to get my new lens! (Insert heart eyes) After Best Buy, we walked to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I remember watching Gilmore Girls in high school and Blair Waldorf would claim the Met steps as her throne, so I wanted to take some pictures with my girls on the same steps (because I’m ridiculous). The museum was so beautiful and surprisingly HUMONGOUS inside. It felt like every room had ten rooms attached. After that, we found the nearest Chick Fil-A, which was just like 3 miles but still 30 minutes away (insert eye roll), but I didn’t care. We don’t have one where I live and there was nothing stopping me from getting to one. After the craziness of taxi drivers and people bombarding the crosswalks, we made it to the hotel.

We stayed at the Ritz-Carlton in Battery Park. There aren’t enough words about how amazing that hotel is. They treated us like gold. They let our girls pick out toys in their “treasure chest” and put balloons in the room as a kind gesture. They upgraded our room to a room with a view of the Statue of Liberty and it was awesome! They had a telescope in the room so we could zoom in on it. We felt so out of place with how fancy everything was. They had a shoe shining service, a spa, TWO TOILET PAPER HOLDERS, a bathtub and a shower stall, and fancy white robes. We spent about an hour there before heading out to the 9/11 Memorial. The memorial was so beautiful and sobering. There were names of all the people that died that day with flowers every so often on one of the names from either the friends or family. We entered the museum and they have an expo in it that shows personal artifacts of that day, missing person papers, things that fell out of the windows, and it was so sad. There were people crying everywhere and it really just shows that no matter the struggle of life, we all have a soft spot for that awful day. It was just life changing.


Michael and Savanna then went on top of the new World Trade Center (Madison is scared of heights), and he said that the elevator going up showed the city changing over the years before showing you what it is today. I saw his Go-Pro video of it and I wish I could show everyone! Madison and I went to Starbucks while they were there and she says it was her favorite part of the trip because it was just her and me. Cue my melting heart. By the time we were done with that, it was time to go back to the hotel and go to bed.

The next morning, we went next door and had a delicious breakfast at a little bakery before TRYING to go to the American Museum of Natural History. Y’all. Parking. Is. Impossible. We really tried to go but the parking garages near that museum were just robbing people. $40 for 1 hour of parking?! I couldn’t bring myself to do it. We just decided to skip the museum after almost a half hour trying to find a street to park on. The girls got to drive through Times Square and down 5th Avenue and then Chick Fil-A round 2 before heading back home. On our way back home, we stopped at the Crossings Premium Outlets near the Poconos and I bought my very first (and second) Kate Spade bag(s) and a wallet. I have been waiting so long to buy one and finally just went for it. We found some incredible deals at the North Face Outlet also. $45 for a pair of winter boots and $89 (originally $300) for a winter jacket for Michael? I think yes. And we also got some knick knacks for the girlies. Cue a couple of Starbucks stops and we finally made it home around 8.

Even though we didn’t stay long in the city, we made great memories with our children and that’s all that matters. We also learned that next time, we will take a train in instead of driving. We would have saved so much time if we would have taken the subway everywhere we needed to go. Our girls have already told their teachers about their excitement of the vacation and I’ve already got an email saying Madison won’t stop talking about it, haha! Must have done something right!

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Why We’re Done Saying, “Oh, We Have Time”

Yesterday we had a big wake up call. You know the kind- they slap you in the face and shout, “Hello!? Anyone in there?! Ok cool, just checking. How’s your heart?”

Wyatt woke up from his afternoon nap around 4:35. Most of the time I let him lay in his bed for about 5-10 minutes to wake up. Once he starts talking I go in and get him. He usually needs that time to wake up completely, find his lovey and his paci if he lost it, and start singing or chatting to whomever he thinks is listening. Up until yesterday, he was working on going from sitting to standing and doing a great job! He will use his walker or us as support to climb up but he has never done it in his crib before- partly because the railing of his crib is like a sleigh bed and rounded so it’s not very easy to grab onto and also because he sleeps in a sleep sack so he doesn’t have much stability. On Sunday for the first time he went from laying to sitting by himself in his bed. We should have known then.

He decided yesterday to test his standing ability and he succeeded. The problem is, he also failed miserably. He fell out of his bed onto the floor. I heard a loud boom but because I was hearing it in stereo (through the monitor and also because the living room is not far from his room) it sounded at first like thunder. Then I heard his cry and my heart dropped. I ran into his room and found him laying on his tummy on the floor by his crib. I panicked. I scooped him up and held him to me while he cried. I took him into the living room and called my husband sobbing and shaking. Through my tears and Wyatt’s he couldn’t understand what I was saying and I couldn’t really hear him either. I hung up the phone to check Wyatt for injuries and texted him that we needed to go to the ER.


Wyatt didn’t have any visible injuries. He wasn’t screaming like he was in any pain, just crying like he had been scared and I’m sure it hurt. But I needed a doctor to tell me he was ok and I needed to know I wouldn’t wake up in the middle of the night to an unresponsive child.

We are so, so, so lucky. Wyatt doesn’t have a scratch or bruise. 30 minutes after falling he was laughing and crawling on the table of the ER room. It just so happened that we knew the nurse working and our neighbor is an ER doctor at the same hospital so he was checking on us and his doctors were amazing. The doctor working that night just happened to be the pediatric doctor at the hospital so we really couldn’t have been more blessed. On our drive there our neighbor told us the ER had received a record number of patients today so to be prepared for a wait, but because he was a baby with a potential head injury, we were shown straight to a room. The nurses and doctors and everyone who works at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital were kind, sympathetic, attentive, and fast.


I think if we’ve learned anything from this it’s to throw out the phase, “Oh, we have time”. Because we don’t, not when it comes to children. They grow and develop so fast that when you think you have time they prove to you that they’re faster than you. We thought we had time to lower his crib because he wasn’t pulling up in his crib yet. Stupid, we know, obviously we should have lowered it once he started pulling up out of his crib.

We thought we had time to baby proof until he started roaming around the house all of a sudden one day and went straight for the electrical sockets.

We thought we had time to get him a new carseat and research until he was all of a sudden too long for his infant seat.

We thought we had time to study his newborn features and laugh at his old man hair and relish the moments he fell asleep on our chest and those were gone before we could even notice they were disappearing.

We don’t have time, but also, we do. We have years with this little boy, for him to show us that we are simultaneously failing and succeeding. We are swimming and treading water. We are loving and attentive parents but we make mistakes.

We dealt with our emotions in different ways last night. My husband drove his car like he stole it to get gas and probably drank a glass of bourbon to calm his nerves. I drank a glass of wine like it was a shot and ate an entire bag of gummy bears. So, you know, healthy. But we woke up this morning with extra kisses and hugs for our little boy. Charlie let him play with the light switch a little longer than normal even though he needed to get ready for work. I rocked him a little longer than was necessary before his nap. Because we don’t have time so we need to soak up every minute that we can.

Charlie and I were chatting over text while I was writing this and laughing about an article I sent him talking about the benefits for children to play in the dirt and how he will be in the mud with Wyatt and I’ll supply all the necessary tools- shovels, cups, rakes, and then hose them both off afterwards. And as I typed it my heart tightened with the thought that if he had just fallen slightly differently, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. We wouldn’t be dreaming of our son playing the mud in our backyard. And I held back tears as I looked at him in the monitor to make sure he was ok.


We have time. We were given more time. We won’t waste it.

Be The Change You Want To Be

In the summer of 2016, I had a mentorship with Amanda of Amanda Hedgepeth Photography and it was one of the most life changing moments I have ever had. Sure, I learned a lot about my camera and how to find the perfect light, but what really stuck with me was her niceness. She is literally the most kind person I have ever met. Like CRAZY kind. And that inspired me, and I’ll tell you why.


I was forced to fend for myself at such a young age. It is what it is, yeah it sucked, but it happened. I dealt with so much more than the average kid. Ask me in person and I’ll tell you my whole life story, haha. But having to endure certain experiences as a child, teen, and young adult, I’ve ALWAYS had to learn how to speak up for myself. So up until last year, everyone has known me to have ZERO filter. I said what needed to be said. I said what didn’t need to be said. I always fought so hard for things to go the right way at all times. I was and still am, not good with rapid change. I needed consistency and to feel heard. 

I think a part of me has always waited for the moment when I would know and see a significant change in my personality. Most people say that nobody can really change. But I disagree. I think you can change if you really want to. If you are somebody that looks at themselves and dislikes what they see, make the change you need to love yourself. During my mentorship with Amanda, a lightbulb went off. If someone is capable of being this sincere and amazing, then I want in on it too. So ever since, I’ve tried so hard to be more kind. Do I have days that I suck? Absolutely. Do I have days where I have to be the bigger person? Of course. But I don’t intentionally go out of my way to be mean. If negativity comes my way, I try to ignore it or let someone else be “that person”. And I think some people just wait for a reaction out of me which encourages me to do the opposite. 


When I decided to  change the things about myself that I didn’t like, I discovered a whole new community around the same time. Y’all, the photography Instagram community is seriously the best. I follow so many inspiring professionals that are just so excited about life. The creative community is something I strive to be involved in. I want to be just like them. I want to be humble and inspiring, too. Why focus on being negative when there are so many things to be positive about? I have two healthy girls. I have a husband that would drop anything for me. I have jobs. There are three Starbucks within a 15 mile radius (of course I threw that in there). Hulu and Netflix exist. My family loves me. God loves me. 


So I guess the point of this post is to maybe inspire someone else. Be the person you want to be. Create changes that you will stick to. Don’t tolerate the negative people. Be the bigger person, always. Kill with kindness. Tickle your children and hug them until they fight you on it. Be involved. Be creative. Be humble. 


Charlottesville Girls Day

I love being a stay at home mom. I really do. It’s the perfect job for my introverted, shy soul. I truly enjoy my kid and being around him, but, as you know, being a stay at home mom gets a little overwhelming at times. Your work day never ends- it’s literally 24/7. There’s no break, even when you have an incredibly hands-on co-pilot like I do. About a month after our son was born we moved to Roanoke, away from our friends. And that has been the hardest part of the move- not having them around to catch up with on the weekends and hug. So we met in the middle- Charlottesville, VA- Virginia’s wine capital, for a baby free day and it was perfect.

Our first stop was Pippin Hill Winery where I pumped in the parking lot (because, like I said, it’s a 24/7 job) and then headed in for a beautiful view, some incredible french fries, and their Meritage Reserve.

Pippin Hill Winery

Pippin Hill Farm

Pippin Hill Farm

Pippin Hill Farm

Our next stop was Veritas, which is one of my favorite Charlottesville wineries. Partly because of the overall ambiance, and mostly because of their incredible wines. I barely considered any other wine before settling on a glass of their Claret, and now seriously considering opening the bottle we purchased from there in 2012 that’s sitting on our wine shelf.

Veritas Winery

Veritas Winery

We wrapped up our day with an impromptu coffee shop trip and pedicures. It was so great being with these girls. It’s cliche, but we really did laugh and we really did cry. Our goodbye hugs were prolonged because I just couldn’t hold in the tears of missing them so terribly. The love I have for these girls is immense and the excitement I have for what the next year in each of their lives holds is overwhelming.


My Nikkis- here’s to a year of baby showers, new toes to kiss, bachelorette weekends, dreaming of a European engagement shoot, and a long awaited wedding.

The best part is, our baby who I have never spent more than 2 hours away from, had an incredible day with his dad. Baby boy didn’t give two hoots when I walked out the door. That kid loves his dad to pieces which makes sneaking away that much easier. ❤