Celebrate · Family

Wacey is THREE!

Today is our biggest little cowboy’s third birthday, and all of the cliches are true. I can’t believe how fast time has gone, I can’t imagine life without him, he’s the funniest little boy I’ve ever met, and he will always, always have my heart as the boy who made me a mama.

Three years ago at the time this post is published, I was tired after having been up since the very wee hours with what I suspected were actual labor pains (I was right). I was fussing about my hospital bag, and whether or not it was actually time to head to the hospital (it was). We didn’t know that it was going to be a long day, and that I should have eaten more for breakfast and maybe stopped at Starbucks on the way into town, or that just after eleven that night we’d be a family of three, all of a sudden. We did know, though, that it was a big day, maybe the day, and we were so right.

Our Wacey James is a chocolate-loving, giggling, ranchy goofball. He spends his days playing with anything with wheels, making up stories about his toys, reading books, visiting the horses, getting up to hijinks outside, eating snacks, palling around with me and Buster in the stroller or with daddy is the pickup, and watching movies since that’s the only way we can get this busy boy to slow down. He’s constantly looking after Buster (to make sure he’s safe and also not playing with any of his favorite toys), making him laugh, and letting us know when he’s up to no good with a very loud “Oh no Buster!”

He’s got his colors down, and we’re almost there on numbers (seven and nine are elusive), and he’s so excited about letters–he’s got W (“double Wacey”) and B (“B Buster”) down, and since he’s now memorizing his books and telling them back to us I bet the other 24 letters aren’t far behind. He’s not potty trained but I’m not fussed in the slightest–this boy learns and does everything in his own time, and when he’s got something down, that’s the end of it, so I know it’ll happen sooner or later and I won’t push him because it’s never once helped. He never crawled, and has run since he figured out to walk and has been talking a mile a minute since he learned how to speak.

Wacey has always been an easygoing sweetheart. He’s three, which means we have our fair share of fits and tantrums, and his palate is…limited, but even when he’s in a sour mood, his fallback is exuberant and it rubs off on all of us. I love how he walks into our room in the morning and says “Awake.” with this silly little smile, and his next words are to ask for breakfast. Or how he gets this specific look on his face when he’s asking for something he knows is a long shot, or how he reminds me regularly that Gaucho is not a toy, he’s an animal, after we had a conversation about how he can’t just assume Gaucho is going tolerate being treated as a practice bronc. He says the funniest things, like most toddlers, but of course I’m convinced he’s the funniest. He just ran into my room and yelled “TEXAS!” because that, for some reason, is what he calls “Bob Wills is Still the King,” and he wants to dance, and of course I’m off to go do that immediately.

I could go on and on about this sweet boy forever. But, I’ll leave it here, and say happy birthday to my first born, my blue-eyed boy who looks just like his daddy. I’m so excited to celebrate you, sweet boy, today and at your party this weekend, and every day in between and after that.

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Family · Personal

Family Pictures

Last (last) weekend, a momentous event occurred.

Picture it: all four of us. Clean, wearing real pants (or a skirt in my case), hair fixed, real shoes on…the whole nine yards. Up drives a flatbed pickup. To our front door. And out steps…Oprah Winfrey.

Just kidding. She’d never drive around in a truck. Well, maybe she would out here because these roads are hazardous to car tires as the two flat tires on my Subaru can attest.

But, I digress.

Oprah didn’t show up. What really happened was that we got our family pictures taken, which might make me even more excited? We worked with an amazing local photographer, Dunlap Photography, and I’m so tickled that we found such a dynamite photographer in our dusty little corner of the world. Especially one that comes all the way out to our house! The UPS guy doesn’t even come all the way to our house.

The Schwann’s guy does, though. Just in case you’re wondering.

Anyways. Jaymie came out and shot a pile of amazing pictures and I’m so thrilled. It’s been a long time coming–we should have gotten them done months and months ago! It was hard to narrow down my favorites, but I put in the work just for you because I know how invested y’all are in our family pictures.

(Okay, not, but hey, at least these prove that I do have actual hair.)

Disclaimer: if you follow me on Insta, I’ll be sharing these nonstop for, well, ever. Or at least until our next sesh. Sorry, but not sorry.

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I can’t get enough of the ones of the boys, especially. Oh, how I love this little ranchy frat house family of mine. I’m already excited for our next sesh!

Bert’s and Wacey’s shirts: plain old white pearl snap Wrangler
Buster’s shirt and jeans (that barely buttoned): Oshkosh
Wacey’s boots: Old West
My skirt: Francis + Benedict (CHECK. THEM. OUT.)
My shirt: Ralph Lauren

 

Family · On The Ranch · Personal

Back in the Saddle

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Every mama I know marks the first years of motherhood by a series of milestones not only for the baby—first bath, first laugh, sitting up, crawling, walking, speaking—but for herself. It starts small—first time to the grocery store with the kid(s). First time out without the kid(s). First time exercising, first time sleeping well, first time you start to feel like yourself again. First time some of your old clothes start to fit, first time out with girlfriends, first time you realize that you’ve got this, whatever this is.

And then comes the bigger things: maybe first time back to work, or first time deciding that you are going to stay home. First time starting a small business so you can stay home. First time realizing you’re in a routine, and not only can parenting be wonderful, but it can also be really fun. I love the firsts, especially around the fourth month when the baby’s personality starts coming out, and mine starts coming back. Then, even though there are the inevitable hard days and meltdowns and breakdowns, at least I feel like myself doing it, and not a weird sleep-deprived zombie blob who doesn’t know what she’s doing.

Now, don’t think I don’t feel like a weird sleep-deprived zombie blob after ze bebe in question is four months old. Because sometimes, or lots of times, yeah, totally. But around 4-6 months, I’ve found (the two whole times that I’ve done this) that things start to level out, and I start feeling more the Cassidy the Mother instead of someone I don’t know very well who is surviving and taking care of all the things but isn’t very connected to herself because hormones and alien skin pouches and newborn sleep cycles and pumping and oh yeah getting the hang of a whole other person. You know?

(Cassidy the Mother [is this an allegory?] sounds weird, ya? I can’t say Mama Cass for all of the obvious reasons. Or, maybe I should say Mama Cass for all the obvious reasons.)

So. We have babies, and every time we come back to ourselves, our husbands, our children slowly, slowly, and then faster and faster and bam! We’re back, baby. Or at least back enough, because I was talking to a teenager (young adult? I don’t know, the kid was in college), and I’m never going to be that back. That ship sailed awhile ago, but the land on the horizon disappeared almost exactly three years ago and there’s no going back.

I’m not sad, though, because golly the fraughtness (that is a word; I say so) and the drama and the uncertainty of being that age. No thank you, hard pass, been there done that, no mas.

Anyways. I’ve had two babies. Each time I’ve gone through almost the same milestones for myself and watched for the same for my babies. Yesterday, I hit another one, and it made me very contemplative, as these things can do.

Bert looked at me on Saturday and said “Let’s ride tomorrow.” And after thinking of all the reasons we shouldn’t–so much to do–I said “Let’s.” I’m not going to tell you how long it’s been since I’ve been horseback. This isn’t a huge, huge deal to me, to be honest, because I know it’s a season and someday, when the kids are all in school, I’ll ride as much as I want.

But, as my husband helpfully pointed out, if I waited oh, ten years to ride a horse it would be a) a travesty because we ranch for heaven’s sake b) ridiculous because we have nice horses and I really enjoy it, and c) I’d have to pretty much start over, at least muscle-memory-wise, in a ten-years-older body, and I hate starting over, and feeling old, so better now than later. So, we snuggled Buster in the stroller, saddled some horses, and rode in the round pen. Wacey played in the pen next to us, roped with Bert, rode with me, and it was prettttty amazing.

When we were done, the horses were put up, and I was sitting on the sofa marveling at how tired I was because Lord, we used to ride all day, I remarked to Bert that I felt good riding, that I felt like I actually had a pretty good seat, which was surprising considering the muscles that are used for riding are also the ones that are pretty consistently wrecked by pregnancy and childbirth, and I’m not exactly exercising consistently. I expected him to laugh a little and say something nice while also saying no, I looked like a sack of potatoes, but he said “I thought so too. I think you looked better than before, actually.” Friends, that was great to hear, because so many things are so hard after having a baby, and it was nice to have something be not so hard. Or that getting back in the saddle was, really, just getting back in the saddle and picking up where I left off, or maybe even a little ahead.

Motherhood has consistently reminded me that I can do hard things, that the human body is amazing (but also gross), and that getting back into things that remind me about myself are very, very important.

Which leads me to this aside: If you saw my stories yesterday, you’ll also know that my riding pants finally fit, which is a BFD for me because if you know me at all, you know I have very specific ideas about how work/riding pants should fit, and that I hate buying new pants, and that I found my last few pairs of these unicorns at a tiny feed store in Pennsylvania, and that they’re the last jeans to fit, usually, because of how they fit and the lack of stretch.

I don’t think we need to “bounce back” after baby (ew, stop), but for me it’s so nice to feel at home in my favorite clothes again. And to not have to wear unacceptable pants to ride in.

So, if you’re a mama who is in the early days, or wondering when you’ll recognize yourself, it will happen. It can take a long time, or a not-so-long time, and it can definitely vary by kid. If you’re a mama, or any person, really, that is worried about getting back in the proverbial or literal saddle, do it. Take a leap of faith! It might work out, it might not (like the last time I tried to put on my riding pants, or actually buy everything on our grocery list with both boys in tow), but at least you’ll know that it’s not time yet, and to try again soon.

Happy Monday! Try something new this week!

Family · Personal

We’re Back!

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Hi! Howdy! Hey!

We’re (sort of) back in business! With a combination of more mobile data and using my phone as a hotspot, we *sort of* have internet access. It’ll work for now, but we’re really hoping that the fiber-optic that is supposed to happen in the next year or two actually does happen, and sooner rather than later. Also our address still doesn’t exist, so that’s cool.

Anyways, Misadventures of Rural Living aside, we’re finally moved in. Almost all the boxes are unpacked, and while I haven’t hung up any pictures or curtains yet, it’s all ready to go so that’s something, right?

A quick update on me and mine:

Wacey—will be three in a month (WHAT) and is hilarious. He’s talking so much, and is exercising his voice a lot to tell us just how independent he is. We’re getting a lot of “No!” and “What’s that?” and the way he says “peanut butter sandwich” isn’t even phonetically type-able but I hope he says it that way until…forever. He wants to drive trucks and ride broncs and go on a train more than anything in the world, and is the sweetest little boy when he’s not telling us “Nono likey dis!!” and even then, he’s pretty sweet. We’re throwing him a party

Buster—is almost ten months, weighs over 27 pounds, and is the happiest, silliest giant chunk of Jabba rolls you’ve ever seen. He’s *finally* eating some table foods without choking (he’s a major choker) and has never met a puree he didn’t like, except for carrots, for which I blame him not at all. He’s sort of crawling, mostly dragging himself along the floor eating every tiny thing he can get his hands on. He’s a pretty good sleeper (because people love to know about that, I guess) and will sleep through the night about half the week, and wake up once the other nights. Mostly he wakes up because he pees through every diaper ever invented (yes, we’ve tried them all, and yes, he’s in the right size). Diapers just aren’t meant to fit husky babes, I guess.

Bert—is really enjoying his new job. I think this ranch is going to be a little better fit, and so far he’s been really happy in his work, which makes me happy too. His heifers are due to start calving on the 15th, so expect baby calf pictures any day! He’s really looking forward to a slower spring than we’ve ever had (commercial calves are much less work, and we don’t AI here), and is excited to ride some colts and eventually get some leather work and exercise in. He got the flu over Christmas, which is awful, but is on the mend except for a weird lingering dry cough to which we all say “What gives, flu?”

Dogs—Gaucho is still fat and loyal, Rivet is still canine anti-social but wants to be a mean-looking lap dog, Punch is still hyper and sort of annoying but very loveable, and Scooter is still a loud, crazy, silly puppy.

Me—I’m so glad for a new year. While I would never, never wish away last year because #Buster but also because we learned so much both individually and as a family, it was a hard year and I’m not sad to see the back of it and have a fresh start and keep moving forward. I’m going to be spending the next week or so on the blog reflecting and talking about goals for next year. I think this is going to be a good year! Non New-Year’s, I am dealing with a little sickness, too (an infected tear duct. Humans are disgusting, y’all) but am also on the mend and so thankful that these are the only health issues we’ve had as of late. I’m excited to get back into a real exercise routine (maybe a February #RuralWellnessChallenge?)

Stay tuned for some New Year’s posts. I’ve also resolved to stay pretty active on Instagram (@cassidyamelia) so follow us there too!

 

Family · On The Ranch

Is a Detour a Detour When It’s Actually a Plan?

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Whenever I’m shopping for clothes, I have several considerations:

  1. Is it machine washable? I have kids.
  2. Is it comfortable? I have kids.
  3. If for work: will it withstand cows, mud, muck, but also my kids?
  4. If for not work: will it withstand detours on the way to town? I have a cowboy.

Before I dated Bert, I had just dated boys from town. Where they would pick you up at your house, you’d get in the car, drive to your destination, get out of the car, and go inside. You’d spend a hopefully pleasant evening, maybe take a little stroll out to ice cream after dinner, and then you’d be delivered back to your door.

Cowboys are a little different. They will pick you up, but you’re never quite sure in what, and you’ll get in, but you’re never quite sure how easy that’s going to be, and you’ll drive, but you’ll probably have a pit stop or twelve on the way, and you’ll end up at home eventually, but it might be a little later than you planned because things can get western in a hurry, and I don’t mean that in a euphemistic, trying-to-be-polite-for-Grandma way, I mean that in a flat-tire, dirt-road, steer-caught-in-a-roll-of-wire, rodeo’s-in-town kind of way.

Thus, I learned early on to wear things that wouldn’t be ruined if we were driving a nasty ranch truck, or ended up at the pens or in the middle of the pasture (I now own almost no flats for this reason), and that could be worn easily getting in and out of a truck or a tractor without flashing the entire state or getting something hung up. Also to make reservations an hour later than you think they ought to be, or forgo those sorts of establishments altogether.

If I had a nickel for every time I’d heard “Oh, I just want to check on/drive past/go look at the horses/cows/water/fence. It won’t take long. Don’t worry, you won’t have to get out.” I would have enough nickels to buy this amazing Johnny Was beauty I saw at a boutique last week, and a coat to wear over it when I have to get out in the rain to open 47 gates on the way to check cows on the way to dinner.

Case in point: over the weekend, we decided to go into town for dinner. We all got in the pickup, and then it was “Oh, I want to check on the horses on the way.” Uh huh. Of course you do.

 

Family · On The Ranch

Salt and Mineral and Desolation (hey, hipsters, get your album titles here)

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It’s Monday! I’m proud I know what day of the week it is, and what day it is (never forget) because lately I’ve been in a time warp of gray paint, funny sleep schedules, and dusty pickup adventures with these boys of mine. Not having a schedule is doing a number on my brain.

Because I’m a nosy Nelson (but is it really nosy if you live here?), and because the ranch is (literally) 62 square miles, we gathered up the boys yesterday morning and went on a little ranch tour while putting out salt and mineral for the cattle.

(Salt blocks and tubs of mineral supplement the animals’ diet to make sure they’re getting, well, all their salt and minerals. They’re sort of like the bovine equivalent of a Flintstones vitamin to account for various deficiencies in the natural environment.)

We saw the bulls, the heifers, some of the older cows, and a whole lotta cactus. In these pictures, we’re on the side of the ranch that’s not gotten much rain this year, so that’s why it looks a little crispy. Also, we haven’t escaped the haze that’s fallen over the Western United states (Lord, send some rain up to those fires, please sir).

Loading the boys up and driving around is one of our favorite things to do. Often, we’ll bring some bottled “fancy” soda and a bag of chips along and make it a little date. Wacey gets a big kick out of sitting next to Buster in the back seat, and Buster gets a big kick out of Wacey so it’s a win-win-win-win.

Things I learned while driving around yesterday:

  1. There’s a lot of rocks. I knew this before, but golly, they weren’t kidding when they made this place and decided it would be rockier than all seven movies (yes, seven, I Googled it so it must be true) in the Rocky franchise
  2. In this part of the world, a water tank is something in which to store water in, and a drinker is what the cattle actually drink out of, which we (used to) call water tanks. So tank=storage, drinker=what we used to call a tank.
  3. I will never, ever get tired of watching cows chase a pickup because they think there’s cake. I had to do some pretty fancy finagling to get a gate shut before the girls got through because they’d crawl on the back of that flatbed if they could.
  4. Bring more beverages. It’s hot and dusty and it takes, like, three hours to put out eight blocks of salt. Also chapstick.
  5. Buster can sleep through anything in a truck. Like, we could be in a monster truck crawling over boulders and not a single hoot could be given by that fat ole baby.
  6. We live in the middle of nowhere. My parents called it desolate. They were right, but without all the sad/heebie-jeebie connotations of desolate. I prefer “remote,” “real, real ranchy” (although we live within 50 miles of a decent-sized town so we’re not super ranchy), or “secluded.”
  7. I laugh on a very regular basis about how I grew up in town, was in a sorority in college, thought I was going to be a lawyer, and now live in a little house on a ranch in a desert in New Mexico. Like, who would thunk? Also, who woulda thunk that I (mostly) love it? I mean, God, obviously, but who else? No one, y’all. No one.
  8. I love having an excuses to wear my big ole hat. The bigger the hat, the bigger the hair, the bigger the inseam on my high-waisted jeans, those closer to God, as far as I’m concerned.
  9. We have a little canyon on the ranch called the Arroyo del Macho and that’s pretty cool.

In summary: putting out salt and mineral is fun, I like my family, and everything is cooler if it has a name in a foreign language.

Happy Monday! Love, Me. PS try these cookies. Unless you’re participating in a fitness challenge in which one of the categories is to limit sugar. Then wait till next month. Trust me here. Trust fall into my open arms, which are beefy because Buster, and trust me.

 

 

Family · Food

September Meal Plan

I get asked a lot what I do for meals, particularly since we have to be pretty savvy about buying groceries since we live in a rural area, so I thought I’d share what works for us! Especially because this is the first time in TWO MONTHS I’ve actually sat down and meal-planned, since July and August were basically a wash what with all the traveling to interviews and moving and being packed and in between houses and such.

So, at the very end of each month I try to sit down and plan the next month’s meals. I don’t have a formula (“Taco Tuesday” or pizza every Friday) because I find we get sick of meals fairly easily so I try to mix it up a little. We don’t have the luxury of takeout or a quick dinner out if I don’t feel like cooking, so I try to avoid getting in a rut. That being said, I make pretty much the same set of meals each month with one or two new ones thrown in to try, and have a few easy go-tos if we’re home late or I don’t feel like spending a bunch of time in the kitchen.

With each meal, I try to serve a green vegetable–often roasted broccoli/asparagus, or sauteed green beans–alongside if there aren’t already vegetables included in the recipe. You’ll notice that we eat meat every night; I have a husband with a metabolism of a racehorse and a work ethic of, well, a cowboy, and an appetite to match, and going meatless doesn’t work for him at all. We also eat a lot of pasta–see previously cited husband. I firmly believe that everything is fine in moderation, so I try to have more vegetables and meat on my plate than pasta and keep the portions smaller for myself.

You’ll also notice we don’t have tons of beef on this month’s menu–our freezer is almost empty and I’m not sure when we’ll be processing our next cow! I think it’s soon but I’m not sure what schedule our new ranch is on. I’m also trying to conserve our pig a little bit, too, since I’m not sure when we’ll be getting another. A lot of these recipes are the same as the ones in my pre-Buster big batch post, too. We  know what we like, I guess. At least once a month I’ll get a wild hair and throw out the calendar in favor of something new, but that’s not always easy since the grocery store is real far. My wild hairs tend to occur in town in the middle of the grocery store with my Pinterest dinners board open!

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Pasta prima: pasta with whatever vegetables I have on hand plus chicken or sausage, topped with pesto. Sometimes I make homemade but I usually just use Kirkland’s jarred pesto from Costco. This is one of our favorite things and it’s really veggie-heavy and quick so we have it a lot.

Stir-fry: I use this recipe, but use a frozen stir-fry veggie blend and it works beautifully. This is also a go-to when we’re low on produce since we use frozen veggies! We also like this with cooked chow mein stir-fry noodles.

Roast chicken: I used Ina Garten’s recipe for the first time for this one, and it got rave reviews! I’ll definitely make it again.

French dip sandwiches: I use my mom’s recipe in the slow cooker. A roast (this time I used a maybe 4-5 lb chuck), a packet of Lipton’s French Onion Soup mix, a bottle of beer, and a cup of water. I’ve found that roasting on high for an hour and a half or two hours for a thinner/smaller roast or 2-3 hours on high for a bigger/thicker roast works for us. I think I have a slow cooker than runs a little hot, though! I serve on deli rolls with curly fries.

Spaghetti and meatballs: I make a big batch of freezer meatballs, and throw them in some sauce to cook. I’ve found success with lots of recipes, so pick our fave! Our favorites are ones with Italian sausage and ground beef.

Baked Cajun chicken: This is one of our very favorite recipes! I like to make it with halved or quartered baby reds and fingerling potatoes, and it’s also good with wingettes and drummies.

Tacos: ground beef, cheese, sometimes cilantro-lime rice, sauteed peppers and onions, and the fixins. I use either this taco seasoning or a packet of McCormick’s. We sometimes do fajitas on these days instead.

Potstickers: this is one of my favorite easy meals. I used to (and sometimes still do) make a big batch of homemade potstickers and freeze them, but more often than not I get a bag of frozen ones at Costco and serve with sesame noodles.

Pork chops and potatoes: thinly-sliced pork chops fried in a skillet with breakfast potatoes (diced potatoes, peppers, and onions).

Chicken cutlets and basil orzo: pounded-thin chicken cutlets breaded with panko, parm, basil, oregano, salt and pepper, sauteed in olive oil and served with orzo baked in chicken stock and then mixed with basil and parm. Loosely based on this recipe, which is one of my faves (sans olives) but Bert doesn’t really like lemon so I don’t make it much.

Short rib sandwiches

Italian sausage and pasta: sliced sauteed Italian sausage with marinara and sauteed red bell peppers served over penne, rigatoni, or something similar.

Lemon brown sugar chicken

Cajun chicken pasta: I use the PW’s recipe but with, like, a quarter of the cream. I can’t tell the difference! Our vegetables of choice are also peppers and mushrooms and red onions. After trying many different Cajun seasonings, this one is our favorite.

Breaded pork chops with wild rice

Ground Italian sausage (we use bucatini noodles)

Chicken Parm: sort of like this one. I use cutlets, bread them, bake them, and then add the sauce and parm about five minutes before taking out of the oven.

Beef with snow peas: I like, quadruple the amount of snow peas. You can use lots of different cuts for this one, I tend to use up round steaks with this recipe. I slice and marinate overnight and add a splash of apple cider vinegar to the marinate to help the tenderizing process.

Homemade pizza: I still haven’t found a crust I love love yet, I’ll let you know when I do. We like to do sausage and mushroom with caramelized onions and a little smoked gouda on a wheat crust.

Breakfast for dinner: biscuits and gravy, hashbrowns, breakfast potatoes, waffles, sausage patties…it’s whatever we feel like!

Chicken, Broccoli, and Sweet Potato Sheet Pan Dinner. This is new this month, so I’ll let you know!

Whew! That was long. If you’ve stuck to it this far, I’m impressed and thank you. Now, this is just dinner. For lunches, we do things like sandwiches, or Bert will make a frozen pizza or a burrito (I know). Lately, I’ve been really liking a sort of snack-lunch approach with crackers, sharp cheddar, a huge amount of fruit, and maybe some salami, with baby carrots or sliced cucumber for a snack later on. Neither one of us is big on breakfast, so I’ll have a bowl of cereal or peanut butter toast, and Bert has…black coffee.  Wacey has a Nutri-Grain for breakfast with a midmorning granola/peanut buttery/cheese stick snack, and likes to have a peanut butter sandwich or quesadilla and a pile of fruit for lunch. He usually eats some variation of what we’re having for dinner, often with extra fruit and some yogurt.

We are not perfect eaters, but I try to make sure we’re all getting lots of fruits and vegetables and whole grains and good sources of protein. We also don’t eat a ton of sugar, and try to limit snack-y snacks (I see you, Cheez-its).

Happy Wednesday, I’m going to go eat.