Saturday, May 24, 2014

Acknowledging the Need for Help

Why is it we find asking for help to be so difficult?  Whether it be help around the house from our spouse, from friends and neighbors to help you out in a pinch, or to seek out professional help when you feel you've lost your way.  As a mother, why is it so difficult to speak up, to put our own needs first for a change?  We do a phenomenal job noticing when our kids or spouse may need some help and are usually quick to jump in to try to make everything right.  Why do we wait hours, days, months, years to finally speak up on our own behalf; to take notice and realize that perhaps we simply need some help?

If I had to suggest a theory, I would say it's because we're parenting in a competitive, self-sufficient, image-conscious era.  We want everyone to believe we have it together, that we can manage whatever is thrown our direction and manage it well.  We may feel if we ask our friends and neighbors for help, they may view us as a mother who is in over her head.  If we ask our spouse to help unbury us from the pile of household tasks we may fear being viewed as incapable of caring for the kids and managing the house, or worse, just lazy.  If we seek counseling from a professional, we may fear being viewed as weak.  As mothers, we try to steer clear of feelings of inadequacy, embarrassment, and shame.  If we are trying to avoid these feelings, asking for help is certainly out of the question, right?

Wrong.  At least it shouldn't be.  I struggle to seek out help, but lately I've tried to accept those invitations from others who have offered!  As a person who likes to feel independent and self-sufficient this is difficult.  I like to believe I can manage everything on my own and will be just fine, but truth be told I can't.  The sooner I embrace this, the better.  The sooner we as mothers let go of our need to appear to have it all together, to be Pinterest-perfect, the better off we will all be.

Being a mother is the toughest job we'll ever have.  It is an exhausting, exhilarating, emotional roller coaster ride.  Our "work" is to raise a part of the next generation and ensure we are providing a laundry list of important life experiences, values, and plenty of guidance.  This is a pretty big undertaking and to think we can do it only in conjunction with their other parent, with little help from others, is absurd.  There is a reason why it takes a village.  Let's make sure we are accepting the help the village is willing to provide.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

A Gentle Reminder

Our faith is important to us and we do our best to attend church every Sunday.  This is no easy feat with our four kiddos, but we have tried to make the best of it.  Our church does not have a nursery, but even if it did, we have strong feelings about attending mass together as a family.   We often joke about our reasons for attending, since some Sundays it is hard to focus at all on what's being taught.  A few years ago we may have taken some "time off," but now we just forge ahead.

At times we may question how much any of us are getting out of mass, but there are moments I find myself completely amazed at how much our children are absorbing.  Today my youngest son came up the stairs holding a bright yellow plastic golf club raised up high.  When I asked what he was doing he replied, "This is my cross!  I am walking it up."

This was followed up with chairs being turned over so the legs could be candles, a blue stacking cup being used as a cup with "the drink" and then serving as the holder for "the chips."  I was instructed to walk up and get a chip and a drink, scolded for not saying, "In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" in time with him, and informed he was "God" (until I asked if he was pretending to be Father Joe, which he was, so we talked about him being a priest, not God!).

Church would not be complete without playing the piano and singing at the top of his lungs, an animated story about Jesus Christ, and of course, putting out the candles once he was done with mass.  Clearly this was my sign:  our kids, though they may not appear to be, are paying attention. It was a gentle reminder:  our children are watching.  This isn't just about church, but life in general. Our kids may not appear to be attentive, but they are watching with open eyes and listening with open ears.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Food Challenge: You Can Make These Easy Staples!

Are you trying the food challenge?  Today I'm going to share three simple staples you can make from scratch:  Sloppy Joe's, Taco Seasoning, and BBQ Sauce.  Read the ingredients on the labels of these items at the store and compare it to the following recipes.  Don't you want to know what's in your food?  It's not hard to make these...I promise!

Sloppy Joe's

1 lb. ground beef
1/4 c. chopped onion (if desired)
1/2 t. garlic powder
1 t. prepared yellow mustard
3/4 c. ketchup (preferable organic)
1 T. brown sugar
1 t. salt (less if you desire less sodium)

Brown ground beef in a skillet.  Add in remaining ingredients and mix around allowing to heat through.  About ten minutes.  Serve!

Taco Seasoning

1 T. chili powder
1 t. paprika
1 t. cumin
1/2 t. ground coriander
1/2 t. oregano
1/4 t. to 3/4 t. cayenne pepper (adjust to your desire; we use none!)
1/2 t. garlic powder
1/4 t. onion powder
1 t. salt (reduce or omit if desired)
1 t. ground pepper

Mix together and store in an airtight container.  Use 2 T. per pound of meat and add 1/2 to 3/4 c. of water.  Works best to triple or quadruple the recipe and store it!

BBQ Sauce

2 c. ketchup (preferable organic)
1 c. water
1/2 c. apple cider vinegar
5 T. light brown sugar
5 T. sugar
1/2 t. fresh ground pepper
1/2 onion powder
1/2 t. ground mustard
1 T. lemon juice
1 T. Worcestershire sauce

In a medium saucepan, combine all ingredients and cover.  Bring to a boil.  Turn down and simmer for 1 hour and 15 minutes uncovered, stirring frequently.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Food Challenge: A Better Snack Choice

Are you up for the food challenge?  Perhaps you're not ready to go all in, but maybe you'll start small and choose a few things to change.  Whatever route you take, whether big or small, will move you one step closer to teaching your children to make healthy food choices as well as improving the health of your entire family.  Once you get the ball rolling, it's easy to keep it going!

Today we are going to tackle the ever-important topic of snacks (at least to the kids!).  I'll list some of our favorite snacks and give you a few ideas how to spice up snack time around your house.  I would like to preface this post by saying I am not a die-hard real food follower.  Our entire diet is not organic or GMO free, but I would say close to 80 to 90% of it is.  This has been a slow transition over many years, but I am happy to say we have made it work!  I understand all organic is not made equal and there may be better sources out there, but finding food to work with our peanut and tree nut free requirements can limit our choices at times.  All of the suggestions I have for you fall into the nut-free category!

Alright, let's get to it.  Kids love snacks.  I'm pretty sure they love snacks more than meals!  I have some kiddos who eat like birds at mealtime, so I want to make sure their snacks have nutritious benefits and some substance.  Food manufacturers would like us to believe we should be feeding our kids Goldfish crackers by the handful and packets of sugary crap for lack of a better term.  I bought into this way of eating for awhile.  I used to stock up on all sorts of these foods, but no more!  It may be tough at first, but in time your kids will adapt.  It's junk....filled with dyes, artificial flavors, preservatives, and offers very little nutrition and a pile of empty calories.  It's time for some new options!  Next time it is your child's turn to bring snack to school, think about choosing a healthy option!  All of my suggestions are free of food dye and are GMO-free and/or organic.  I find all of these items at Target unless otherwise noted.

Pre-packaged Ideas:

  • Cascadian Farm Chewy Chocolate Chip or Oatmeal Raisin Granola Bars
  • KIND Dark Chocolate Chunk or oats and honey Granola Bars
  • The Daily Crave Veggie Straws of Chips (Marshall's or TJ Maxx)
  • Annie's Homegrown Organic Bunny Fruit Snacks
  • Annie's Homegrown Organic Graham Crackers
  • Annie's Homegrown Organic Cheddar or Graham Bunnies
Dairy Ideas:
  • Horizon (Hy-Vee) or Stoneyfield Farm Squeeze Yogurt
  • Horizon String Cheese
  • Applegate Farms Cheese Slices (Hy-Vee)
  • Stoneyfield Farm Greek or Regular Yogurt
  • Organic Lifeway Kefir
Alternative Candy Options:  (Hy-vee, Marshall's, or TJ Maxx)
  • Yum Earth Organics Lollipops
  • Yum Earth Organics Sour Beans
  • Yum Earth Organics Gummy Bears or Worms
Snack Ideas:
  • Fresh fruit (organic if possible)
  • Fresh veggies
    • Ants on a log (celery, Sunbutter, and raisins)
    • Veggies and Annie's Homegrown Organic Cowgirl Ranch Dressing
  • Air popped organic popcorn (Hy-Vee) topped with organic unsalted butter paired with organic apples
  • Yogurt parfaits (Stoneyfield Farm vanilla yogurt topped with Cascadian Farm Oats and Honey granola; you can also add fresh berries in layers, too!
  • Muir Glen or Archer Farms organic salsa and organic blue corn or white corn chips (Simply Balanced found at Target)

Monday, May 12, 2014

A Challenge to Change

I'm going to go out on a limb here and write about a topic near and dear to me:  food.  Especially the food we are feeding our children.  It may ruffle a few feathers, but I'm okay with that.  I would like to encourage you to be open-minded and just consider entertaining implementing some of these ideas.  By no means am I a food savant, but I feel pretty strongly about what I'm about to share with you.

I think we can all agree, to some extent, there are environmental factors contributing to the rise in food allergies, serious illnesses, and the overall decline in the health of Americans.  In my opinion, the biggest culprit is our food.  The rise of childhood cancer, food allergies, and autism are frightening.  As a society, we are always questioning why this is.  I truly feel at least part of the equation is the food we consume. Over time, our sources of food have changed, genetically modified organisms have been introduced, and processed food has taken over the market.  As a mother of a child with a life-threatening peanut and tree nut allergy, I have found studies correlating the rise in food allergies with the introduction of GMO's to be very disturbing.

Over the course of the past five years, we have significantly changed our diet.  We primarily buy organic and non-GMO food and avoid food dye, MSG, high fructose corn syrup, among many other additives.  You may feel like it's a little over the top, but I've seen with my own eyes the effect food dye has on two of my children.  One is at home with me all day and one goes to preschool.  Since we keep it out of their diets at home, my son rarely consumes food dye anymore, while my daughter does if she has a snack that contains dye at preschool.  It takes me all of about ten minutes after pick up to know if she's had it or not.  She is hyper, out of control, and very hard to calm down.  My son used to be the same way, but has greatly improved since we have eliminated food dye from his diet.

You may be wondering where I'm going with this.  Well, let's cut to the chase.  I would like to encourage you to open up your pantries and read what is in your food.  Is it full of words you can't pronounce?  Does it contain food dye (there are so many foods, like Kraft marshmallows, that do)?  How much of it is healthy versus a filler, an unhealthy choice?  You may feel like it's not a big deal, but you are your child's first teacher and their role model.  What message are you conveying to them about food?

WHAT YOU FEED YOUR CHILD IS IMPORTANT!  Ultimately, we control what food is brought into our homes and what our children eat.  Say goodbye to the junk.  The food that provides very little nutrition, but plenty of empty calories.  At first it may be a challenge, but eventually it becomes second nature.  My kids still request Fruit Loops and Goldfish crackers, but I gently tell them no and tell them why we don't eat those foods.  It's okay to say no.

Think it costs too much to eat organic?  While it can be more expensive, your budget won't change much if you cut out the sugary snacks, frozen meals, and processed foods.  Think you don't have the time to cook?  Meal planning, prepping ahead, and/or making crockpot meals can greatly reduce your time in the kitchen in the evening.  Afraid your family will revolt?  They might at first, but over time they'll adapt.

My kids have grown to love fruit smoothies, fresh fruit, or air popped popcorn for a snack.  We enjoy trying new recipes for dinner and special treats.  It may not always be fast or convenient, but at the end of the day, it feels good to know you are putting the health of your family at the top of the priority list.

Stay tuned for some fun, easy ideas for snacks that don't come out of a box or a plastic bag!


Sunday, May 11, 2014

Toss Away Those Mother's Day Expectations

I must admit, for some of my mothering years I had great expectations for Mother's Day and often times felt let down once the day came to an end.  I would vow to not clean a thing, cook, or engage in any other activity requiring effort to keep up the house.  I envisioned my children behaving like angels and an opportunity to relax and have some time to myself.  It's a bit embarrassing to admit, but it's true. This year I have mentally taken a different approach to this day and I must say, it has been a refreshing change.  I set no expectations in my mind and have been so surprised by and appreciative of the sweet gestures of love from my not-so-little family. I've even done a load of laundry...gasp!

Today we are honored because we are mothers.  We spend each day doing our best to ensure our family is well taken care of on all fronts.  Each day we wake and serve our families and we do this for two reasons:  out of love for our family and because God has called us to do so.  Our purpose is to teach, guide, and nurture the children we have been blessed with.  It requires a lifetime commitment, an abundance of patience, and the ability to keep moving forward even when we want to curl up and sleep for days due to the pure exhaustion of raising our family.

Let us never forget how lucky we are.  It could be very different.  So many women long to be mothers, but don't get the opportunity.  Some women must leave their families long before they are ready.  Some women mourn the child they have lost.  Some women wonder about the child they gave up for a chance at a better life.

On this Mother's Day, let us take the opportunity to be grateful for our blessings, embrace this club we are so privileged to be a part of, and appreciate the gestures of love our families have graced us with today.  I hope you all have had a wonderful day!