I heart National Parks

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Family growl in front of Double Arch

This past year we decide to purchase our first National Parks pass. At $80 we figured using it a few times would more than pay for it and it did. Living in Utah where there are 5 national parks and 7 national monuments, there were plenty of places to visit and we even did a stint in California at Channel Islands National Park where I completed my first ever backpacking trip.

I’ve decided to start a series on our adventures and what I’ve loved about each park/monument we’ve visited and why it’s our goal as a couple to visit every National Park in America. Below you can view a list of the places we’ve been so far and I’ll link them to their corresponding posts as I write them:

  • Natural Bridges National Monument
  • Hovenweep National Monument
  • Dinosaur National Monument
  • Channel Islands National Park
  • Arches National Park
  • Bryce Canyon National Park
  • Zion National Park

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Eating Well – My postpartum weight loss lifestyle change

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We all struggle with our weight, whether it’s losing or gaining. Getting married seemed to bump things up a notch and carrying our first baby led to some “changes” too. At 215 lbs in my hospital bed, the delivery nurse asked me how much I weighed and I kept saying “115” to which she responded, “I don’t think so.” This was probably part labor brain and mostly the fact that I had never been over 200 lbs in my life.

At 4 months postpartum today, I weigh 188.2 lbs and am steadily losing thanks to some eating changes we’ve made in our home.

Learning from the past

3 years ago after realizing I’d gained some weight during our first year of marriage I did really well at losing 10 lbs over 4-6 months, reaching 166 lbs. I remember feeling so good about myself. I got there the usual way, exercising more and eating less, but I honestly still wasn’t eating the right foods. Carbs were my staple which fill you up fast and equal a TON of calories. I’m no nutritionist but this time around I wanted to look into other options. Obviously getting some veggies in there was the right thing to do, but it wasn’t until I read this article, “How to Lose Weight Fast: 3 Simple Steps, Based on Science” that I was finally ready to take the plunge and make some changes.

Key Scientific Takeaways

According to the article above, the scientific approach to losing weight involves a diet of protein, vegetables and fat and dropping sugar and carbs altogether. Basically: Paleo + Dairy. You can read the article to learn more about why they say fat’s “ok” and thoughts on fruit, but my main takeaway was that protein boosts your metabolism and eating less carbs, lowers your insulin levels, making it easier for fat to be release from fat stores and used as energy. When we eat tons of carbs, our body burns that for energy and adds the rest to our current store of fat cells (woot!).

Now carbs doesn’t just mean bread, nope sorry friends, it also includes, corn, potatoes and other starchy veggies (suddenly the cauliflower rage is making sense).

53 Days and Going Strong!

We’ve been making this lifestyle change as a family for about 53 days now and I’ve gone from 198 lbs to today’s 188.2 lbs. A chunk of that weight loss at the beginning was water weight – which you can read more about how that works in the article, but the rest has been a steady decrease of about 1 – 1.5 lbs a week and it’s been amazing. I haven’t even started phase 2 yet! (actually exercising) 😉 .

I’d say my favorite part of eating this way is actually feeling full and under my calories because there are no carbs in my pantry calling to me and I’m finally stocking my fridge with vegetables. On the calorie note too, you don’t actually have to count them. I just do sometimes as I’ve been tracking my journey through the free version of MyFitnessPal. When I do track, they’re always naturally low because of all the veggies. I say “naturally” because I’m literally making no effort to keep them low, just eating veggie and protein based meals. Carbs are seriously calorie hogs!

So do you not go out with friends anymore?

I will mention that our new meal plan has not made us social outcasts when it comes to food and friends 😉 we do eat carbs and sugars on the weekends and have had a few cheat meals throughout the weeks now and then (last week was my birthday and I went a little nuts). I will still try a recipe that calls for a bit of bread crumbs or a tablespoon of flour to thicken a sauce, and I love that we eat this way because it helps us to balance things, indulge now and then and it’s also diversified my recipe repertoire!



Upcoming Weekly Recipe + Grocery Lists!

On the note of recipes – I’ve been exploring Pinterest mostly and have found myself getting into a really good habit of planning out the month’s meals and even creating grocery lists for myself ahead of time. We’ve been rating the meals too using Pinterest’s new “Try” option (good idea by the way guys!) and curating some future staples (here) as this is not a diet, but a lifestyle change – it’s important to think in those terms.

When my sister in-law asked about what we ate, I told her I’d share my lists with her – which led me to the idea, “Why don’t I just make that a regular feature on Good Morning Susan?” And so following this post I’ll start writing a weekly update on our new Low-carb/Paelo+Dairy journey, what we ate, what was yum and what was gross and what to buy if you’re down for giving it a shot too. I’ll try to include my progress in those posts as well and am curious to see how eating better will benefit my liver for the next pregnancy – in a few years 🙂 .

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3.5 Years Later: Our Wedding Photo Book

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I’d like to start off by stating that this is actually not a sponsored post for Zno.com but a true personal review on a pretty sweet deal I found for a free Flush Mount Photo Book 😉 . If I ever do get to the point where I’m writing sponsored posts I’ll be sure to include a disclaimer 🙂 .

While scrolling through Facebook last month I found a tailored ad for free photo books from Zno.com. Normally I ignore these and continue on to the next corgi video but I gotta tell ya, Facebook is finally getting the hang of things and is really starting to send me stuff I really like (darn it all!). So I of course “clicked” and started reading about some “free trial” for Flush Mount Photo Books that looked pretty flashy. I combed through the fine print and figured out that it indeed was free, minus the shipping and handling, which I felt was pretty fair, all things considered. You do have to stick to their standard print finish and page thickness and only order a book with no more than 16 pages (each “side” is 1 page), but I felt that’d be just right for the project I had in mind and went for it.

I decided that it was finally time to put together our very own Wedding Photo Book after being married for 3 1/2 years. We made a bunch after the wedding for family members that couldn’t be there, but never got around to printing one just for us. After reading up on Flush Mount Photo Books I decided that I wanted our book to be a little more special and to feature only high quality photos from our special day, our “favorites”, and to tell the story in only 16 pages. Needless to say I was more than impressed with the results and will treasure this book for a long time. If I were to buy this book the total cost would have come to around $50 so at just $10 for shipping, it was definitely worth it.

Zno.com seems to be all about high quality photo products at affordable prices (the kind of stuff professional photographers try to sell you) and I have to say they hit it right on the money with this one. The disclaimer on their free trial page states that you have to order your free item within 30 days of registering with the site and that they’re offering these free trials for only a limited time so I say jump on the bandwagon now before it’s too late!! I haven’t received any spam mail from them either which is cool – or that might be gmail’s new “promotions” tab feature doing it’s job 😉 .

I’ve kinda been sold and have put together Lydia’s baby album already (hospital and newborn shots) – just waiting for the extra moola to purchase it. I want to have at least one special book for each kid, so I better get on buying that before she turn 3 1/2 😉 . I don’t think I’ll do a Flush Mount for the baby book because of all the pages I’m including in it; but their Layflat Books actually look comparable, so I think I’ll go with that.

Check out how a few other pages turned out from our wedding book below!

Happy Free Book Making!

<3 Sariah


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So this happened… 3 months ago !!! #soinlove

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Beetle’s Birth Story

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Photography by: Villa Photo

I did not have Beetle in a birthing center like I’d hoped. We had her instead at American Fork Hospital. I did have a midwife with me though and I did give birth without an epidural, but to be honest the most important thing to me is that she’s here and I’m here and we’re both healthy and safe. My sweet sweet Beetle really is the best thing to ever happen to me, to us and we’re so happy to have her in our lives. Our little bug.

I started writing this story 3 months ago, fresh from the hospital, but had the hardest time finishing with life and postpartum hormones. That last line about my precious bug? — Led to me bawling for 20 minutes 🙂 but that’s a special thing too. Never have I felt so much love for another human being and you know what, I may or may not have just had the urge to cry some more just now…but back to Beetle’s birth story.

I wanted to share our story not only in gratitude to my family and the excellent team of midwives, nurses and doctor who helped bring her into the world, but to remind myself that rarely in life do things go according to plan. What matters though is that they always work out and that the Lord’s hand truly is constant in our lives.

The final “bump” pic!

Alex! I think I’m peeing myself!

Thursday, December 22nd, 2016 started with my usual wakeup call to pee at 3:40 AM. Of course I was late to the game, and stood up with a trickle, thinking to myself, “Oh geez…”

That trickle suddenly became a gush and in my half asleep and very confused state all I could think to do was yell, “Alex! I think I’m peeing myself! It just keeps coming and I don’t know why…I can’t get it to stop!” after which I realized, ah, this must be the stereotypical water breaking scenario that only happens to 15% of pregnant women about to go into labor…

After cleaning myself up, we called the midwife, woke my Mom and texted the rest of our family and work contacts that the big day was here. 2 hours of adrenaline later I was back to sleep, awaiting the natural progression of contractions and more.

Around 10 AM I checked in with my midwife team to confirm that my water really had broken (just in case!) and we set a castor oil drink date to get the party started.

Alex made me scrambled eggs with cheese, two pieces of toast, milk and then loaded our bags into the car. The birthing ball had to be deflated, my feet were still swollen, fluids were leaking away and still no contractions.

At Birthing Your Way in Lehi I met Sadie, a visiting midwife from Michigan who would be with me every step of the way. I had a team of 3 midwives behind me, but Sadie was my main companion in what turned out to be a wild ride.

Waiting in the Lavender Room

Itchy arms and legs

I drank the castor oil with some almond butter and mango juice while Sadie took a call from my Certified Nurse Midwife, Carol. The call took a while but my Mom, Alex and I were happy to sit and chat in “the Lavender room”. Sadie came back 20 minutes later with some news.

At my 38 week prenatal we drew some blood for lab work as I had been feeling a lot of itching in my arms and legs for the past week. The concern was that I might have Cholestasis, but the team wasn’t too worried yet as the typical symptoms include itching more in the palms and bottom of your feet + high blood pressure, both of which I was NOT experiencing. So again we took some blood just in case and I went home to attempt a raw diet and instructions for what liver failure symptoms feel like, what to do then, etc.

Those test results unfortunately never got back to me and whatever the cause may have been, or who’s fault it was really doesn’t matter anymore. Luckily I was prompted to ask about the results at my 39 week prenatal the following week, which happened to be the night before my water broke (December 21st) – which is why I didn’t get the results until the morning of December 22nd when I was waiting in the Lavender room after drinking castor oil (p.s. – Castor Oil? Don’t do that. Just don’t.).

Anyway…now that you’ve got the back story: Carol’s call was to let us know that my Liver Enzymes were off the charts – a week ago, but with my symptoms having decreased since then, they recommended I go in for another blood test to see if anything had changed.

So off we went to American Fork Hospital. We drew some blood, requested immediate results to be sent to my team and then went to grab some lunch at Rubio’s and Zupas. By the time the togo bags were in hand, I was in early labor with contractions 8 minutes apart.

Second Results

Upon returning to the birthing center in Lehi we were informed that my Liver Enzymes were worse, and if I remember correctly: 2 or 4 times what they normally should be (either way it was bad) and I was asked to deliver at a hospital immediately. The reason being that if anything were to happen to me, only a hospital would be able to help and clearly it made the most sense to be in one with the probability of something going wrong at this point being much higher than it was 2 weeks ago.

I felt calm and brave and knew this was the right choice. My midwife Sadie was surprised I was taking it so well, but to be honest, in my opinion, who in the world wouldn’t put their child first? But alas I guess those determined people exist…stick to the birth plan! But for me, Beetle having a mom to grow up with was most important and I wasn’t taking that risk.

I cried and cried and Alex gave me a priesthood blessing and all the while I just knew everything was going to turn out right; but it was still scary and I’m so glad I had him and my mother there to comfort me.

After confirming our insurance covered the OB my midwives recommended, we left the birthing center for an emergency transfer to the American Fork Hospital — in a car Helaman, not an ambulance 😉 😛 (all this time my contractions had continued to party-on and I believe were at about 5 minutes apart once we made it to the delivery room).

At the Hospital

Sadie asked if we would like her to stay with us in the hospital and we said we did. Carol later met us there too to greet us and answer any additional questions. I’m so glad they came as it was a great comfort.

The nurses were informed that I wanted to do a natural birth and were very supportive of that, but wanted to make sure I was prepared to do an emergency C-section if it came to that point. I said that I was and we moved forward with doing another blood test and a urine test to try and figure out what exactly was going on as the Liver Enzymes were my only unusual symptom. Blood pressure was great, swelling was normal, etc. etc.

After finding no trace of protein in my urine, they decided that it was safe enough for me to proceed without a C-section but wanted me on Pitocin right away to get things moving faster as giving birth was the only “cure” to solving the Liver Enzyme problem.

At this point, about 6 PM, my dad, brother and sister-in-law had all stopped by to visit me, with the news of my hospital transfer. Once the nurses started the Pitocin though, it was time for family to leave and me to get to work. Carol left then too, but Sadie, Alex and my Mom stayed to the end as promised. By then I was 2 cm dilated and 85% effaced.

Singing Beetle into Existence

The only birthing class we had taken was a 3 hour course called Comfort Measures with Doula, Jennie Gundersen and it was a lifesaver. The focus was on natural ways to manage labor pain and I was all for it. My Mom gave birth naturally to all 4 of us, so I figured, why couldn’t I do it too? She taught us about everything: essential oils, massages, music, rebozo wraps, pressure points, visualization and even repeating a mantra or sound. It all seems a little nuts at first, but we did pretty much everything on the list and it ALL helped, but I think the most important thing she taught was how to be a supportive birthing partner.

With tears in my eyes now and probably for the rest of my life when I tell this story, I’ll never forget the love, patience, attention and attentiveness Alex gave to me during my labor. It was one of the first times we’ve ever truly worked together as one and I honestly cannot take all the credit for giving birth to Beetle because of everything Alex did for me.

Each contraction I found myself humming a tone and holding it out as long as I could to distract me from the pain. My Mom said it reminded her of an Alpaca and that it was as if I was singing Beetle into the world. It not only helped me but also gave Alex the cue that a contraction had begun. During those moments he’d massage my hands with essential oils or hold me if I was standing.

Every now and then the nurses would check to see if my contractions were improving which was often followed by an increase in my Pitocin dosage. Those moments were by far my favorite…but eventually we made it to an acceptable point and the dose increases stopped — praise the Lord.

After laboring for 2 hours the nurse measured me at 3 cm dilated and 95% effaced. I quickly calculated and decided that that possibly meant I’d be there for at least 14 hours more — 1 cm every 2 hours right? Soon after, maybe an hour or so later, I figured it was time to get in the tub as I’d heard it helped a lot with pain and was sometimes relaxing too — if that’s possible during labor. We started running water and if she hadn’t already by that point (I can’t remember) the nurse came in, put on a portable contraction and heart-rate monitor and we wheeled my IV into the bathroom.

The view from our recovery room

Transition in the Tub

I remember that the tub did help, and while it wasn’t a huge difference I’d definitely do it again. The tub not making a huge difference to be honest probably had a lot to do with me actually transitioning during that period. I can’t remember if I was in the tub for 1 or 2 hours, but the one thing I do remember is that my labor was HAAAAARD.

The piggy backing contractions became almost unbearable and I remember saying “I think I want an epidural” at that point with probably the saddest face. Being in transition of course, this wasn’t possible, and Alex and Sadie encouraged me to keep going and reminded me that I could do it. I remember starting to chant that phrase in lieu of my humming “I can do it! I can do it!” and wanting to cry with each new pain. I remember even saying, “I want to cry but I can’t make any tears come out”.

That 1 or 2 hours were some of the most difficult, but the one thing that made it most bearable was Alex holding my hand and helping me to visualize myself someplace else by describing my surroundings: from the beach to the mountains to even a forest I think, where I was following little Beetle who wasn’t wearing any shoes. I remember that part because for some reason I asked him in Spanish why she wasn’t wearing any shoes. He was there the whole time, no matter how tired he was or how late it was getting.

I eventually reached the point where I was ready to leave the tub. It was getting cold and I wanted to get back in the bed (The beds now kick butt by the way — at one point she had it setup where I was literally sitting straight up). Upon reaching the bed, which seriously took forever because there was getting dressed, going to the bathroom, moving all the gear, etc. all while continuing to transition with piggy backing contractions, the nurse came to check my dilation again and found me at 100% effaced and 9 cm!! I had done a HUGE bulk of the work during that one tub session and couldn’t believe my ears. Just 1 cm left!!

Time to Push

Over another hour or so (my final active labor count was 6 hours) I made it through that last centimeter and it was time to push. Yes, I totally felt like I had to poop. The time was about 11:45 PM and my doctor was over at another hospital with another mom in labor. It was time to get started though, so away we went…

The nurse instructed Alex and my Mom to hold my legs bent and for me to take a deep breath and bare down hard when it came time to push. I unfortunately mistook this for (I still have NO REASON WHYYY) holding my breath during each push too, and so began the next 30 minutes of fear, pain and confusion which for many weeks afterwards made me feel like a failure in all things labor and birthing (I have literal OCD and then there was that week of Postpartum Depression – but I made it so everything’s fine 🙂 )

Yep, I held my breath. The #1 thing NOT to do and it will forever be on my list of things to avoid for next time – that and drinking Castor Oil. Luckily I never fully passed out during the process but I do remember a period of “coming to” a couple times where I had forgotten that I was giving birth to a baby and also told people that for some reason I couldn’t breath, hyperventilating, etc… The pushing period was also the time when I felt like I most needed my Mom. I think that was because by that point I knew she was the absolute only person who knew how I was feeling.

Near the end of my pushing when baby Beetle was of course ready to come out was when the nurses began panicking a little as my doctor was still on his way and Beetle was a lot closer than he was. I think one of them even asked me to stop pushing? I was like, um, no. I believe one of the nurses too said to the first nurse – “She can’t stop pushing, she’s doing this naturally!”. When they mentioned that the doctor wasn’t going to be there, I definitely said “Oh forget him!” and of course soon after that at 12:20 AM on December 23rd, out she came with a little flick of a twist and a nice long tear. She cried for a second and that was it. She’s remained a fairly relaxed and quiet child to this day — so far.

The doc arrived soon after to deliver the placenta and to do some much needed stitching. I say “bless that man”, because apparently he did an amazing job according to my midwives. I sincerely appreciate his thoroughness though because I believe it was not once, twice, but three times that he said, “Oh wait, I think I see more” and it was time for another numbing shot (whoever invented those, bless you too!).

Little Beetle had arrived at 6 lbs, 6 oz and 19 inches long. The contraction pain of course all stopped — isn’t that amazing how that works? (outside of the healing pains) and I was STARVING.

Remember the Castor Oil?

While they did give me some warm broth to drink during labor for general nourishment and hunger pangs, I was only able to drink a little as my good friend Castor Oil made me feel nauseated during the whole labor ordeal with friendly Castor Oil flavored burps –TMI? I never officially threw up, but oh did I want to. Needless to say, I was happy to give Beetle some Grandma and Daddy time while I made friends with the delicious turkey sandwich, apple and cookie that the nurse brought me. It was seriously amazing.

So I guess that’s that. They soon wheeled me and Beetle to a recovery room I think one floor down and there we stayed all day Friday the 23rd till the afternoon of Saturday the 24th when we left just in time for Christmas the next day. They checked my blood a couple times during our stay to make sure my Liver Enzymes were decreasing, which they were, and Beetle was supplemented with some formula to get her blood sugar up as she was having trouble nursing at first. Family came to visit, the food was actually awesome for what they say about hospital food and I took home all the tucks I could get (the box of which unfortunately fell in the toilet when I got home 🙁 ).

The Final Diagnosis?

After a couple follow up postpartum visits my Liver Enzymes eventually returned to the correct amount, but they never were really able to determine whether it was truly Cholestasis or HELLP Syndrome — similar to Preeclampsia — as someone forgot to either measure my bile count or to even keep a record of my hospital blood tests…but whatever I guess, people are human.

They say that while I do have a greater chance of it happening to me again, than to say a person who never had these complications before, it’s really only a 10% chance…but hey it’s also a 15% chance to even have your water break before labor, and I come from a mother who’s the master of being the minority when it comes to medical cases soooo I guess we’ll just wait to see what pregnancy #2 brings. Give me some time though, it’s only been 3 months 😉

Rarely in Life and Motherhood do things go according to plan

I’d like to close this post with one of the sentences I began it with as this has continued to become all too true as my journey through motherhood continues to progress and change:

I wanted to share our story…to remind myself that rarely in life do things go according to plan.


I breastfed Beetle during her first month of life only to find that she wasn’t gaining as much weight as expected and was continuing to drop in percentile with each doctor visit. After being asked to supplement nursing with formula I realized how little food she was getting from me and eventually came to the difficult decision of moving to 100% formula feeding. Never have I regretted that decision. Like this birth story, it wasn’t my plan and it was so so hard to do, but again, like I started this story, it’s most important to me that Beetle is fed, healthy and safe. I think a theme has arisen, and may all current and future mothers take note to where this may apply in your lives as I know I’m not alone.

Photography by: Villa Photo

<3 Sariah


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