Avoiding the “Freshman Fifteen”

Ok, I’m not actually a freshman, but last month I went back to school (Texas State) as a transfer student. Interestingly, it has actually allowed me MORE opportunity and motivation to work out. How is that possible, you ask?

First, I have a 1.3 mile walk from my parking lot of choice to my 1st class. I COULD use the shuttle service, but I’ve found it is faster to walk than wait for the shuttle. Oh, and it smells nicer, too. (All those bodies on one tiny shuttle: woah!) So, I choose walking. And it’s not a straight, even path either. There are LOTS of steps, both up and down, as the campus flows with the natural hill country landscape.
Second, I’m taking advantage of the fact that my tuition includes a membership to the campus rec center. It is amazing! There are plenty of cardio and weight machines, a nice free weight area, basketball courts, racquetball courts, even a couple foosball tables. They also offer group fitness classes like yoga, cycle fit, guts & glutes, TRX, 30/20/10, Zumba, bootcamp, etc. So far, my schedule has only allowed me to use the main gym area (free weights and cardio and weight machines) and to participate in the yoga classes, but I’m hoping I can get in the 30/20/10 class at least a couple times this semester. 30/20/10 consists of 30 minutes of cardio, 20 minutes of strength, and 10 minutes of abs and stretching. My gym routine has been 3 days a week, 2 of which I am focusing on lower body with this 12 week program that I found on Pinterest. I like it because it combines heavy weight/low rep with light weight/high rep to get the best of both worlds. The middle day, I have been doing upper body weight training, but I have not yet found one “routine” that I like the best, so I’ve just been switching it up.


Some of the exercises in my lower body program

The final thing I have been implementing is moderation in my eating. Sure, I occasionally get a Starbuck or add waffle fries to my Chic-fil-a Salad or Cool Wrap. But I don’t go crazy about it. My favorite breakfast lately has been a container of Noosa Yoghurt and 2 of Jamie Eason’s Carrot Cake Protein Bars. If you haven’t tried Noosa and you like yoghurt (or yogurt), I highly recommend it!


That Strawberry Rhubarb! YUM!

So, 5 weeks in, how is this new schedule and routine working? I’d say quite well. The first week, I didn’t lose any weight, but for the next 3 weeks I consistently lost 0.4 pounds per week. I’m not necessarily looking to lose weight as much as I am looking to build more muscle and lose a little of the extra fat that I had gained from being more sedentary than I used to be. I’m not sure on any weight loss for this week as I don’t weigh myself every day. I won’t be upset if I didn’t loose anything as this week I have not made it into the gym or yoga due to studying for 4 tests (2 down, 2 to go). I have continued to eat in moderation, which has helped me avoid stress eating, which I can sometimes be prone to.


So, to sum it all up, here is my personal solution for avoiding what many experience as the “freshman 15.”

1. Walk or use steps when you have the option.

2. Exercise. It doesn’t matter if you can do a little or a lot, just use your body and you will get stronger.

3. Make healthy eating choices; eat in moderation. A treat here and there is not going to sabotage you. In fact, it may keep the binging tendencies at bay if you are prone to them.


Now I’m off to continue to study for the 2 tests I have next week. Wish me luck!🙂

My Plan for Success: Meal Planning (Freezer to Slow Cooker Sites)

The day has arrived, the first day of school! This year, it isn’t just my kiddos going back to school; I am as well. As my 3 children excitedly prepare for new schools, new teachers, and new friends; I am doing the same thing. I have no idea how this day will go. Will I get lost? Will I make it from 1 building to the next in time? Will I be the oldest person in my class, including the professor? So many questions! But 1 question I don’t have to ask is: What will I feed my family? Because that question has already been taken care of.

Last week, I went through my freezer and wrote down what we already had. Then I scoured some blogs for recipes of Freezer to Slow Cooker meals so that on the nights when I will be getting home in time to eat dinner, it is already made. I used multiple sites because I wanted a variety of recipes and also, just 1 site would not have had enough recipes for my picky children (each picky in his/her own special way).

Today, as I step back into the college lifestyle, I’d like to share these sites that had some really helpful (and tasty looking) recipes that I will be using in the coming months and years. Enjoy!🙂


Sidetracked Sarah –  54 Crockpot Freezer Meals – Recipes & Shopping List


Crock-Pot Ladies 10 Easy Crock-Pot Freezer Meals


Who Needs a Cape?7 Meals in 1 Hour Slow Cooker Crockpot Freezer Meals


Hip 2 SaveFive Slow Cooker Freezer Bag Meals (Make 5 Meals in Just One Hour)


Mommy’s Fabulous Finds – 10 Easy Crockpot Freezer Meal Recipes


I hope you find these links helpful. I know I sure did!


Exciting News! We’re Homeowners.

Monday was a big day for our family. After almost 9 years of marriage, my husband and I finally made one of our dreams and goals a reality: we bought our first home.

We actually moved into our home on July 31st because we had put in our 30-day notice with our landlord after being told originally that our closing date would be July 15th. It was a crazy day of loading up the moving truck, cleaning the old place, signing the temporary lease, unloading the moving truck, eating pizza from the local restaurant down the road, unloading the moving truck some more, dropping the moving truck off at the overnight drop-off, and falling exhaustedly into bed to get a few hours of sleep. It was very much worth it though.

We LOVE our new place. We have 1/2 acre of land, some of which is wooded and rocky, so it is perfect for privacy on that side. The largest portion of the backyard is fenced in which gives the kids and dogs a great space to run around. my husband is planning a chicken coop for us to build this winter so that in February we can get some chicks.

Looks great so far!

Looks great so far!

The area we are living in now has a LOT of deer. Because of the deer and the rocky ground, I will be needing raised beds and an enclosed are for my garden that I am planning for next spring. Something a lot like this:


Our new house has 5 bedrooms. Our oldest is probably the most excited to have his own room. He plans to eventually decorate it with a Florida Gators theme. something like this:

The little 2 haven’t exactly settled on any special theme for their bedrooms. Right now, they’re just happy to have their own rooms and nice, big house.

Our bedroom will have a purple and grayscale color theme. I am a HUGE elephant lover so last week I went to Pinot’s Palette with a friend and painted a fantastic elephant.


It kind of turned into a Mardi Gras elephant and I like it! Also, the camera angle is off, not the painting.

Our kitchen is amazing, as is our master bathroom. I love that I now have a side-by-side refrigerator/freezer! I also love that our whole family can be in the kitchen and it doesn’t feel like we are on top of each other. The master bathroom has 2 sinks, a built-in vanity, a garden tub, and a shower. I’m pretty sure it is bigger than any living room we have previously had.

I am so pleased with this home we have been able to buy. Mostly though, I am looking forward to all the memories we will be making in this home.🙂


Here are some pics of our home:


Master Bath – taken while still unpacking, hence the garbage bags on the floor

New Orleans Souvenirs on my Bathroom Counter

New Orleans Souvenirs on my Bathroom Counter

I LOVE my kitchen!

I LOVE my kitchen!

And I love my fridge/freezer.

And I love my fridge/freezer.


in the wooded area of our property

in the wooded area of our property

Playing "Wise Old Grandpa and Wise Old Grandma"

Playing “Wise Old Grandpa and Wise Old Grandma”

A Man and His Dog on the Front Porch

A Man and His Dog on the Front Porch

As we work on some of our projects over the winter, I will be sure to blog about them. I will share as much information as possible in case anyone is interested in using our ideas for their own.

Let It Go!

Hey all! Long time, no type, I know. It is probably going to be that way for a while though as life here in the Payne Family is busy, busy, busy.

I wanted to pop in and share a bit about what God has been whispering into my ear over the last week or so. No, contrary to the title, it doesn’t have to do with Disney’s Frozen. Sorry!


Before I start with my newest life lesson, I should update you a bit. I’ve been a stay-at-home-mom for almost 9 years now. During that time, I have both homeschooled and sent my children to public school. I have also taken online classes through Grand Canyon University to work on my Bachelor of Science in Psychology. Now, in just a few short days (9, but who’s counting?) I am going to be a part-time stay-at-home-mom and a full time student at Texas State University to work on my Bachelor of Arts in Family and Child Development and also my teaching certificate. This is really exciting for me and also a challenge. So here comes my very important lesson.

Certainly, you’re seen one of the memes that say, “LET GO AND LET GOD.” Well, that’s not exactly what God is saying to me. Yes, He is ultimately in control. And of course I should have my ultimate faith in Him, which it is most of the time. (Hey, I’m human, if I said all the time I’d be lying.) When my husband and I had been married just over 2 years, we went through a season of about 8 months where we were about 1000 miles apart except for a few weekends and short weeks at a time. During that time, God revealed to me that I had been relying on my husband for security rather than on Him. It was very humbling and such a relief to understand that I didn’t have to place all my faith in a human man who could not fulfill me 100%, no matter how awesome he happened to be. And trust me, my husband is pretty flipping awesome!


This time however, God is teaching me a different lesson. You see, I tend to be a bit of a control freak. That has worked out quite well for me as a stay-at-home-mom. It isn’t going to work out so well as a mom venturing back into the college world, however. As a full-time stay-at-home-mom, regardless of how my children were schooled or whether or not I was taking online classes, most of my days were spent either at home, running errands, or our with my family. Now, I will be spending a few days a week away from my home. My husband has recently taken a position in San Antonio where although he has more responsibility, he also has a bit more flexibility and will be able to pick up where I may have to leave off because of my academic responsibilities. I am going to have to let go of some of my control over the needs of my children and household and let my husband take care of those needs. Oh, man! I can’t even tell you the anxiety I have over it.


Let me reassure you that I know my husband is 100% capable of taking care of these responsibilities. I also whole-heartedly believe that husbands should take care of their share of child and household responsibilities when their wives are working in or out of the house (school counts as working for me as it will be taking up almost the same amount of time as a job). I just don’t want to give up that control. It is hard! God keeps reminding me though that “though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.” (Ecclesiastes 4:12) As much as I would like to be able to do everything on my own, that is not God’s intention for me. He wants us to need each other’s help so that He can be glorified and we will be blessed when we receive that help. He wants me to LET GO AND LET MY HUSBAND.

Next Monday, I will get that chance. I start classes that day, but my 3 children do not start school until the following day. That means my husband has to take a personal day and spend the day at home. On top of that, the only day that was available for my kindergartener to get his required immunizations and my daughter to have her (much overdue) well child check up was that Monday. Of course! So on my first day of school, not only do I need to ask my husband to take a personal day from work, I also have to miss a doctor’s appointment for the first time as a mom. My Type A personality can’t handle this! Thankfully, the clinic had the new patient forms available on their website to download and print out so all he even needs to do is sign them in and ask the questions I have written out for him in the folder.

I will say it again, my husband is 100% capable of taking care of things while I am away. It’s not that I don’t trust him or even that he doesn’t want to do it. And it’s not like he hasn’t done it before. When our youngest was just a baby, he stayed home alone with all three kiddos while I was on a girls’ weekend getaway and they all did just fine. He even did our daughter’s hair and got to church early that Sunday. Seriously, if the guy is responsible enough to hang crazy-heavy things from the ceiling right above where hundreds of people sit, stand, and walk; he can handle 3 kids, 2 dogs, and 1 house cleaning schedule.

I guess part of my anxiety is that I really haven’t asked my husband to help with some of these things. I liked being in charge of them. I didn’t ask for help because I didn’t want the help. Now I have to ask for the help because I really need it. I loathe being needy! But I’m going to let go anyway and let my husband help.

There’s a quote that goes something like, “Behind every great man is a great woman.” (I tried googling who said it, but it came up unknown.) I think the same can be said about a woman. As I strive for success and greatness in school and later in my career, I need the support of those closest to me. The greatest of those people is my husband. I know that just as I have supported him in his career goals and ambitions by staying home with our children so that he wouldn’t have to worry about it, he is willing to do the same for me now. I know that we really are equal partners and by not allowing him to do his part, I am actually harming both of us. So, I will trust God and LET GO AND LET MY HUSBAND.🙂


Influenster #TLC VoxBox Product Review

Yay! Time to review another batch of FREE products I received from Influenster to review. This VoxBox was the #TLC VoxBox that was all about the TLC moms give to their children and themselves. The box included the following for me to review: Neosporin Neo to Go, Shell Fuel Rewards, Puffs to Go, Ivory Bar Soap, Avon Anew Reversalist Express Wrinkle Smoother, and Breyers Gelato Indulgences.

Neosporin Neo to Go

This came in SUPER handy on vacation. I not only used it on 2 of my 3 children, but both my sister-in-law and my brother-in-law used it as well. Those waves were a bit vicious at times and because of the hurricane that had swept through days before our arrival, there were a LOT of shells scraping us up as the waves drug us back up to shore. Neo to Go was really convenient and fast. Everyone who used it was pleased.


Shell Fuel Rewards

This was a perfect time for me to receive this. Apparently you can grab a fuel rewards card for free inside any Shell gas station. We activated the card right away and my husband uses it almost every day right now as he is driving his motorcycle from Austin to San Antonio and back again for work. The 3 cents off per gallon adds up! There are other ways to save even more, like dining rewards and shopping rewards, but we haven’t used those yet.


Puffs to Go

This is just a cute, handy, purse-sized package of Puffs tissues. Perfect for messy faces and snotty noses. Also, I’m wishing I’d have had my purse next to me the other night when I was re-watching Doctor Who with my husband (his first time). Man! Re-watching the first time The Doctor meets River is brutal! I don’t normally cry during movies and TV shows, but Silence in the Library and Forest of the Dead were SO overwhelming when I really, truly understood what was happening. Journey’s End was a rough one, too.  (Yeah, my nerd side is showing. Oh well!)


Ivory Bar Soap

Who hasn’t heard of Ivory soap? I am currently using this as my bar soap in my shower. Other ways to use Ivory are to make your own laundry soap or have a fun science experiment and stick it in your microwave and watch it expand.


Avon Anew Reversalist Express Wrinkle Smoother

Okay, I gotta be honest, I really don’t have many wrinkles just yet and the ones I do have didn’t seem any different after using this. I tried it both under and over my makeup without any noticeable change.  It did have a nice, silky feel though.


Breyers Gelato Indulgences

Since they couldn’t send me this in the mail without it melting all over everything else, they sent me a coupon to redeem it in my grocery store for free. I picked up the Tiramisu flavor and it was SO good. I was even a nice mommy and shared a little with my kiddos. I will definitely be picking this up at the store from time to time. Other flavors that they have available are Vanilla Caramel, Raspberry Cheesecake, and Triple Chocolate. (That Triple Chocolate would go great with the Puffs and some Doctor Who!)


So, what was my favorite product in this VoxBox? Definitely the Breyers Gelato Indulgences! The Neo to Go was pretty handy to have as well.


*I received all of these products complementary from Influenster for testing purposes.

My Big “Fat” Secret

I haven’t posted in a LONG time, I know! Life this summer has been super busy.

The kiddos have been randomly participating in the Super Smash Bros Brawl tournament that is put on each summer by the Austin Public Library. ‘A’ has made it 3 rounds in once and the other 2 have both lost in the first round each time so far. They are troupers though, and keep going back for more.

We are also planning a move in the next couple weeks. Currently, my husband is driving from Austin to San Antonio every day. Depending on how light or heavy traffic is he has anywhere from a 90 minute drive to a 3 hour drive, one way. That’s a LOT of driving. In the fall, I will be attending Texas State University to work on a Bachelor’s degree in Family and Child Development. So, we will be moving to a small town in between his workplace and my school. The house we have chosen is amazing! The details are still being worked out, so I will post more on that when it is a done deal.

Oh, and we just got back from vacation! We spent the first (and largest) part of in in the Outer Banks of North Carolina for my in-laws’ 35th Anniversary. (We also spent a day and a half in our beloved city, New Orleans.) It was the first time in 5 years that the whole family was able to get together. We had a blast! I’m pretty sure my favorite (and the scariest) part was crab hunting on the beach at night. So fun!

Photo Credit: Paula Payne at http://inpayne-paula.blogspot.com/

Photo Credit: Paula Payne at http://inpayne-paula.blogspot.com/


The pictures taken that day are part of my reason for posting this blog today. And I’m sorry to say, it’s not exactly a fun one. You see, another picture that was taken that day, and has recently been added to Facebook was one of my husband and I.

E&J 2014

Photo Credit: Paula Payne

I seriously wanted to cry when I saw this picture. At the time when I first looked at it, all I thought was “look at how FAT I have become!” Now, you may be saying “Are you crazy? You’re beautiful! You’re in a beautiful place with a man who loves you.” And you’d be right. Those things are true. But to me, in that moment, that wasn’t MY truth. My truth was that over the past couple years I have gained about 20 pounds and have “let myself go” so to speak.

The problem was, I did a mental flashback and compared this picture to one from 5 years ago. Then, I actually placed a real picture from 5 years ago next to this recent one. This was the result:

July 2009 vs July 2014

July 2009 vs July 2014

The thing is though, I had to remind myself that in that picture from 5 years ago, there is a LOT that is not seen. What you can’t see here is that I was silently suffering from an undiagnosed eating disorder, depression, and anxiety. I had starved and overworked my body to the point that I had to supplement my baby with formula because my body didn’t have enough fuel to make enough breastmilk to feed him. What you can’t see here is that in the picture on the left, I thought I was so FAT and GROSS when I looked at myself naked in front of the mirror before stepping into the shower. The woman on the right sees her image as curvy and feminine and beautiful. That girl on the left gave into those demons that whispered lies about her body and her worth. The woman on the right knows she is worth so much more; she believes that she is full of strength and dignity (Proverbs 31:25) no matter what the camera might reflect.

A little over a year ago, I came across a blogger named Amber. She had posted a blog called Cellulite: It’s Time We All Just Get the Hell Over It. Everything she wrote really resonated with me. I read some more on her site, Go Kaleo (Kaleo being a joke about Kale and Paleo diets) and joined a Facebook group that she started called Eating The Food (ETF) that was kind of like a support group for people who were dealing with eating disorders and body image issues or were just trying to quit the diet-cycle and needed encouragement. I have learned so much over the last 16 months of trying, succeeding, failing, and trying again at ETF.

One big thing I learned was that I was not eating enough. I went here and calculated my BMR (basal metabolic rate) and my TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) based on my age, height, weight, and daily activities. BMR is basically the number of calories that your body would need daily if you were in a coma. TDEE takes into account all of the activities you do each day (exercise, housework, walking from place to place, etc.) and the amount of calories needed to fuel that amount of activity. My BMR is currently 1,367 calories. Honestly, 5 years ago my goal was to be UNDER 1,200 calories a day AND I was working out for at LEAST an hour each day, usually more like 2 hours. No wonder I was in such a mess psychologically!

I probably do a lot more that this daily, but this gives a pretty good idea.

I probably do a lot more that this daily, but this gives a pretty good idea.

Another thing I have gained from ETF is a heck of a lot of body positivity. That group is amazing! I don’t post a lot (cause I’ve got 3 kids who keep me super busy and away from Facebook), but when I do they are always so encouraging. For example, this morning I posted about my body-image dilemma about how my body has changed over the last 2 years, and especially compared with pictures from 5 years ago. Here’s some of what they wrote to me:


I’m going to be totally honest, you are smoking. Your figure is HOT. I know it’s hard for you to see, I’m the same way with my old pictures, but you look amazing now. You’ll get to that happy place, it just takes time.


Jen, I know I’m looking through different eyes, but you look great in that photo. You are also standing with a man that you love in a beautiful area. 


When I get into these moments, getting active somehow is the best way for me to break out of the negative ED headspace. Your body does amazing things! Taking a walk, doing a little yoga, etc., reminds me of that, somehow reconnects mind and body to work together🙂


I don’t particularly like my picture taken, but something another member of this group said on someone else’s similar post has really stuck with me: when you try to take a picture of the moon with a camera, do you notice how different it looks than in real life with your own eyes? The moon never looks as beautiful in the digital representation so I’m taking the same view. I will never look as good in photos as I do in real life where my awesomeness aura can be measured on the Richter scale!


Try not to look at it as heavier = worse. Heavier can also be just a different version of yourself. Not better or worse, just different. You know how sometimes we enjoy changing up our hair color or playing with different styles? You are right now enjoying the experience of being this size instead of that size. You are still you underneath and are, as always, beautiful!


Jen, a lot of us have been through what you’re experiencing right now. 

What I like to tell people is to take more pictures!!!! For a while, I was taking pictures of myself daily. Then study the pictures – post them here if you want – study them and find all the POSITIVE things in the pictures. Soon, you’ll see pictures of yourself the way we see pictures of you. You’ll see the beauty and health and happiness first.


Both bodies are good bodies and I think you are already making progress in recognizing the state of mind you were in for the left photo. 


Seriously, how great are these people! They also have a TON of experience in all kinds of fitness from running to yoga to crossfit to you name it.


So there it is. I’m posting it out there for everyone on the internet to see. My big “fat” secret. I’m posting it because I don’t want to be ashamed of how I used to treat my body. And I don’t want to feel ashamed for my now healthier, properly fueled body. I’m also posting this as encouragement for anyone out there who is currently dealing with an eating disorder and/or body image issues. It does get better, if you let it. Yep, there are times when those urges attack at full force, but my hunger for life (and delicious food) gives me the strength to just say “no” to ED and say “yes” to ETF.

Today I have learned to look at this picture this way:

'Smiling on the Outside, Dying on the Inside' vs 'Smiling on the Outside, Joyful on the Inside'

‘Smiling on the Outside, Dying on the Inside’ vs ‘Smiling on the Outside, Joyful on the Inside’

The woman on the right looks different, not only on the outside, but also on the inside. And that change on the inside is the most important change of all.


Be blessed, my friends.

FREE Summer Reading Programs – 2014

Summer break is in full swing! Today I’m linking up with Women Helping Women over at Teaching What is Good and I thought I’d help all you mamas (and daddies) out by giving you a list of FREE summer reading programs that I am aware of. For the most part, my 3 children don’t need a whole lot of motivation to read, but it never hurts. To help us with reading ideas, we are going through the Indie Bestsellers List posted on the Austin Public Library’s website.

*At the time of this posting, all reading programs are free. The information posted here is information that has been provided at this point and it is subject to change. Those changes may not be updated on this post. Please review the details provided by the companies themselves to verify that the information is still true and valid.*


So here’s my list of reading programs that are free. If you know of any others, please let me know in the comments so that others can check them out.


Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge: Reading Under the Stars

Read & log your minutes: Read as many books as you can and log your minutes in your dashboard.

Take weekly challenges:Reach weekly minute milestones and answer challenge questions to earn virtual rewards.

Enter Sweeps:Enter for a chance to win awesome books every time you reach a weekly reading milestone.


H-E-Buddy Rockin’ Summer Reading Club

Challenge: Read 10 books

Prize: An H-E-Buddy Rockin’ Summer Reading Club T-shirt

*This will cost you a stamp since you have to mail in the form.


Barnes & Noble Summer Reading: Imagination’s Destination

Challenge: Read 8 books

Prize: a free book


Pizza Hut: Spark Your Greatness Summer Reading Challenge

Challenge: Read 5 books

Prize: a chance to win the grand prize


Half Price Books: Feed Your Brain Summer Reading Program

Challenge: Read 15 minutes each day for a month

Prize: $5 HPB Bookworm Bucks and a chance to win a $20 HPB Gift Card


Pottery Barn Kids: Summer Reading Challenge

Challenge: Read andy 8 titles from the recommended list by July 31

Prize: a free book while supplies last


Your Local Library

I’ve never lived in a town or city where the local library didn’t have a summer reading program for kids. Here in Austin, there’s even an Adult Summer Reading Program! How cool is that? And their theme? Destination Outer Space. Super cool for a SciFi gal like me!


So there is the list of summer reading programs that you can sign your kids (or yourself!) up for. Again, if you know of more, please let me know in the comments so that others can participate as well.


Have a fantastic time reading with your kiddos this summer!