Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Keeping My Focus in the Right Spot

Greetings my friends and happy holidays! Tis the season for insanity, late nights and short tempers (where's the Valium?!). I have been consumed with my family, carpools, book reports, mounds of dishes and laundry, gift-brainstorming, parties and cookery. That has been plenty to keep me riddled with anxiety and exhaustion and none of which has included any of the 'elf-on-the-shelf' antics or gingerbread house or snowflake crafts - that may have done me in. Living in the swirling vortex of Christmas and regular life has also inevitably pushed my blog and all my grandiose plans for it to the back burner (or more accurately to a Bunsen burner in the garage).

Well, I'm good with that. While we are on the subject of time, blogging and family, I have a few things to say. I love blogging and I love hearing from people that stumble upon my humble little site. It's nothing fancy, profound or professional; the photography among other elements attest to that. I'm good with that as well. My family will always be my first priority and in so doing I try to keep everything as simple as possible. I don't set-up the perfect shots of ingredients and the process I follow when in the kitchen nor do I use back-drops, different plates or other items for appeal or to incite excitement - I'm trying to just get the dang meal on the table to feed the masses! I hope in some way my lack of prowess in some areas of blogging will be a simple reminder to "keep it real" and I firmly believe that we have to model reality for our kids. In this day and age keeping ourselves rooted in reality has become more difficult and reality itself is becoming obscured. At the end of the day, I'd rather my family remember me as an involved and mostly happy mother as opposed to a woman who is frantic and aloof with attention focused everywhere else but where it should be - on the people in my life which is my greatest blessing.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Sausage Rolls for Dinner

This recipe has to be an all-time, kid-winning favorite. This was the one meal my brother and I looked forward to the most; it probably had the most requests and disappeared the fastest from the table. I hadn't had sausage rolls in probably twenty years until a couple of months ago when I dug up the recipe from my mother and it was an instant success with my kids (and from the standpoint of ease in the kitchen for the chef, a hit for me as well).

There are two ways to make these and these days I opt for the healthy version because at most it takes only ten more minutes of my time. The way my mom used to do it was buy Rhodes frozen French dough loafs in the freezer section at the grocery store. To my chagrin, Rhodes hasn't jumped on the happy bandwagon and dumped the high fructose corn syrup in their recipe quite yet. I just can't bring myself to buy them with an obesogen being the third ingredient on the list. Bah. So, I attempted these making my own bread dough and they turn out just as fabulous. The bread dough takes ten minutes to prepare and require 2 hours to rise. The other items you will need are mozzarella cheese and Jimmy Dean All Natural Sausage (no nitrites, nitrates or MSG, yay!). If you choose to go the Rhodes route, simply get two loaves out 1 hour ahead of time, place on a greased cookie sheet and allow to thaw (not rise) in an unheated oven with a pan of hot water underneath.

Sausage Roll Goodness! Recipe
Mix 1 T active dry or bread machine yeast, 1 1/2 T Evaporated Cane Sugar and 1 1/2 cups warm water and allow to stand for ten minutes or until bubbly.

Then add 1 tsp. salt, 3 T oil (I use grapeseed oil), 1 egg yolk and 4-5 1/2 cups flour, divided. Start with three cups of flour and add until the dough is only slightly sticky to touch. Form into a ball (mine is never very pretty, so don't worry if it isn't smooth), cover with plastic and allow to rise 1 1/2 to two hours.

Punch down dough and pinch into two separate dough balls. I use pampered chef mats to roll the dough out into an oval. Don't roll out to flat.
Once the dough is rolled out, sprinkle down the middle with mozzarella cheese. I don't have an amount for you on this one - I just eyeball it based on how cheesy I want these puppies to be. Layer the cheese with one pound of cooked sausage. Top with more mozzarella cheese.
Once topped with cheese, fold the bottom edges in and tuck under the two sides. I have normally pinched the edges together in the past which worked fine but the last round I used a folding method that I felt worked better. As long as the sausage cheese are wrapped happily in the dough, you're good.
Grease a cookie sheet and flip the roll from the mat onto the cookie sheet. These mats made this process so simple. Anything you can use to flip the roll over placing the seam-side down will help you and your frustration level. :) Melt some butter and brush over the top of the dough. Sprinkle with just a touch of mozzarella cheese for appeal if you wish, but not necessary.
Bake for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown at 350 degrees. Slice like bread and serve with fresh fruit or a green salad. I've also served with Green Bean Casserole and that worked out good as well. Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy. These are easy and delicious!
As you will note, I rolled the center of this dough just a touch too thin so watch as you roll. Below are the pampered chef mats that are perfect for this recipe as they are flexible, light and the dough doesn't stick.
Add this to your quick-fix meal list and enjoy often!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Angry Letter and Healthy Venting

It's four o'clock. My toddler has been happy and playing nicely all day. At 3:45pm MST, that all goes to hell. The door opens and Preston walks in - immediately the energy shifts and cue the circus music. It wasn't bad energy; Preston was quite happy actually. Those two boys just feed off of each other, one things leads to the next and then there is screaming and crying and mass hysteria. My head starts to throb and I start to panic realizing that it is only Monday. My husband had the day off and we spent the morning running some errands. At about 3:43pm he comes into the office and says that he is going to go for a bike ride; when he gets back he'll clean the windows and do some other stuff. I was good with the bike ride but as he started talking about his other chores and the screaming started two minutes later I held up my hands - "Really? You're going to wash the windows at 5:30 tonight?" His response in a very cheery tone: "Or you can do it some other day this week."

Grrrrrrrrrr. Now, my brain starts spinning story lines - something that we all do but don't think much about or pay much attention to. It looks something like this: "I can clean the windows? What, he thinks I don't have enough to do on my own? He thinks he needs to tack on one more thing to MY list? Just because he wants go for a bike ride right now and then make more busy work for himself tonight when all the kids are home and fighting and crazy and I'm trying to get dinner on the table and carpool and sh&* the windows will now become my chore? Right. Yes, pass the buck and let me do the windows because I don't have my own list of to-do's, none of which I accomplished today because I was spending time with you on your day-off doing your stuff!"

Usually it then morphs into other areas of frustration that you have been repressing (you don't spend enough time with the kids, you need be around more, you work too much, etc.) - you get the idea. Ever notice how arguments morph from one issue to another and by the time you are done you don't even know what started the problem in the first place? It's your internal storyline. The storyline is only a problem because we are creating a thought process for the other person that may or may not exist and it is almost always done when we are emotional and have requirements that are not being met. Most of the time comments get made with no malice or wrongful intent, they simply come out and our interpretation skews everything. I feel pretty confident (now) that he just didn't think through the timing, the consequences of 'circus hour' and the fact that he could do the windows later on in the week without such a dramatic impact - say Saturday morning. Just that one comment "you can do it" timed perfectly with the toddler screaming at Preston was just enough to prompt me to do the unspeakable - write the angry letter.

And I did. In this day and age, it's the angry email but whose keeping track. This is something I have gotten very good at because I enjoy writing and can communicate effectively through writing; it has always been an effective means of getting the monkey off my back. My biggest problem is that I usually push the 'send' button and my uncensored frustration safely arrives in the hands of my victim. Yes, this is bad. There are two ways to deal with negative emotions and that is either through expression or repression. I was recently in a class taught by a LCSW  who talked about the ills of venting and healthy ways of managing angry or negative emotion. She was very defensive of emotions in general - anger, sadness, frustration are all healthy and fine emotions to have, it's how we manage these emotions that can lead to problems. With that being said, the angry letter/email is great method for emotion management, you simply don't push the 'send' button and instead click 'delete.'  So here is the gist of it...

Expression puts that negative emotion on others and can damage the relationship. Expression usually is a verbal purging of emotional poison on another person. Repression is simply swallowing (hard) that negative emotional poison which damages you in various forms including, depression, displacement, anxiety, physical ills and acting-out. One way or another that emotion needs to be processed for our sake and for others. Writing a letter and then getting rid of it allows for expression without damaging the relationship or ourselves; get it out and get rid of it - consider it a catharsis.

It sounds ineffective and too easy right? Admittedly, I wrote my letter and almost pushed send because it made some really terrific points that I felt my husband should know about and when I was done I was still frustrated. Two points here: First, I remembered Dale Carnegie noting that you can never really win an argument. In this case, I thought I was right and that I knew better and my letter was simply an attempt to sway him to my side/perspective. Consider being on the receiving end... when someone has attacked you do you remain open in that moment or do you tend to defend yourself and stand your ground? As humans, our instincts are always to protect ourselves. When you give it a little time and humility, it is easier to see where that person is coming from. Those conversations are best handled when it is not reactionary and both parties are calm. I'm almost certain my husband would have apologized but also defended himself. We could have gone round about it circles taking turns expressing and defending.

Second, I looked at the situation and my own requirements. I recognized that my requirement was that he do his activities when it doesn't infringe on me and my activities and needs. With him leaving, I was left with the kids and the one major item I wanted to cross off my list today was work on my blog which I was not going to be able to do if I didn't want my kids screaming and eventually beating on each other. I also had the sense to recognize that he really didn't work through the big picture when he opened his mouth; he wasn't considering that help with the kids would be good. Always look at what requirement you are placing on the other person.

In the end, he came home and helped with dinner and the kids and it was okay. I wrote my letter, deleted it, and then focused my attention else where and my frustration did dissipate. By the time he got home, I was fine.

What methods do you use to diffuse anger and frustration positively?

Monday, October 28, 2013

Online Tutoring for Kids K-5 Review Announcement

I have parent teacher conferences next week at which point I will really get to find out how Preston is faring. Does anyone else get anxious for these brief fifteen minute meetings? Just me? Bah. I received (or rather found it in the depth's of Preston's backpack, crumpled and ripped) a preliminary 'report card' that has been newly refurbished using some number system. And they base the numbers off of how well the student is understanding the concept - not necessarily grades on their work. May I say that I'm not quite sure what I think about this? Do they make the number based from test scores? Do they grade the work that is turned in and base scores from this? Is it more standardized testing through Common Core? Regardless, let me say this - I was Honors and AP English throughout school. I bombed the AP test at the end of the year; I didn't get any college credit for taking the class and I had to take a placement test my freshmen year of college. I was put in a remedial writing class. I remember asking a question at one point during my remedial class and the teacher lost it with the rest of the students. "Why aren't any of YOU asking questions? We've got a student here that should be in Advanced Placement classes and she's the only one asking questions!!" Needless to say, he wrote me a glowing recommendation to take with me anywhere I needed and I aced the class. I aced all of my writing classes. I can't test. I don't know what happens whether my brain turns to sludge, I over-panic and over-think or what, but I don't do tests. Are they really a fair measurement of our progress and learnedness? Is that even a word? I seriously doubt it.

Anyway, stepping off my soap box, I am excited to announce that I will be doing an online tutoring service review. Preston will be utilizing the online tutoring service from K5 Learning. We'll be giving it a whirl for six weeks and our focus will be on reading and writing. The site offers help for kids aged kindergarten through fifth grade on math, reading and writing. They have free assessments and a 14-day free trial. I'll keep you posted!

You can find out more about them as on their website as well as their facebook page at the following addresses:

Website: http://www.k5learning.com

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Letters To Communicate

I remember the days when my mom would drive me down the canyon to ballet class. For quite some time I really didn't like it. She made me stick with dance until a few years went by and I finally said I was done. Ironically, several months later, I realized how much I absolutely loved dance class and how much I was missing it. Wonderfully enough, she started taking me again and from that moment on I've had a passion for dance. On occasion she would stay and watch - which I'm sure she loved. I couldn't stand it! I wanted her out running errands - I guess I've never been one for focused attention. Preston however, who just started taking karate a month ago, loves it when I stay to watch. I try to stay for at least one class a week when either my husband or step-son can watch the toddler at home; I've tried to watch class with the toddler but even just saying that aloud is a joke; he just wants to be on the mat kicking and yelling like the big kids and it just doesn't work. On Tuesday this week I was able to watch Preston in action and I couldn't stop smiling with pride; I've never seen him so focused and determined.

This may sound terrible, but these proud moments don't happen as often as I would prefer. He's been one tough cookie and some days I wonder how I've survived thus far. Right now though, I am so profoundly impressed with him - he has made incredible strides over the last couple of years and even in the last couple of months. Karate has been such a force for good for him. Last week Preston volunteered to lead his peers in the repeating of the 'I Vow.' I inwardly cringed sure that he wouldn't be able to do it and would be down and frustrated after his attempt. Once he got going, he knew it, lead with confidence, received high-fives from his classmates and I was so impressed. At class this week the teacher would call out what move to do and Preston didn't hesitate - he was sharp and on task. He's also been determined to not be absent or tardy to class, participate in the Reflections competition and get above a B average so as to achieve his Distinguished Dragon award. He is also pursuing his Patriotic Award. And I'm astonished every morning when he appears for breakfast dressed and has already made his bed without me nagging three times about it. What the? Is that possible? Seemingly small feats I know but really quite huge in reality. He even showered before school this morning so he could have sharp-looking hair. For the kid who doesn't care about chocolate shake on his face and sporting the essence of 'bed-head' I tried to just roll with it without giving away my excitement (have you noticed that kids want to do the opposite of what you want?).

With all of these wonderful accomplishments swirling in my head, I sat down to write him a letter. This was the topic of conversation when I met last with his therapist. I asked her how I can communicate with him good or bad because he intrinsically shuts down when my mouth opens (ah, I remember those days myself). She suggested writing him letters. Keep them short, to the point, and don't re-state anything - those were my only parameters. That was the moment that I recalled the stash of letters that I kept from my father (yes mom, I have several of yours as well!). Most of the letters I got were from when I was in trouble but his words were so profound and I knew that he was right about everything he said; I kept them for future light reading - even twenty years into the future I still pull them out. I remember also a small post-it note he left on my desk one day after I went to a church canning assignment despite the fact that none of my friends that signed up to go went. I went because I had already committed to doing it and I remembered one of his letters about being a woman of my word. I was there with several older gals from my church and it wasn't the most fabulous four hours I've ever spent but it wasn't bad either. The note said something along the lines of, "I'm proud of you for honoring your commitment especially when you didn't really want to go and your friends ditched out."  I put the note under my bathroom sink and saw it every time I threw something out. I was recently disappointed to find that it had most likely been thrown out after a remodel. It was so simple but I had kept it and even sneaked peaks at it years after I had been married and moved out.

Good praise or bad news for them, in letters I've said what I need to say and they can go back to it again and again if they choose. It is also done in a neutral environment without warring words and egos which means chance of reception on their part is going to go up. What other means of communication have you used that have proven successful?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Our Life In Captions

Has anyone noticed how life is currently being lived through captions? When I see my neighbor my mind automatically recalls the last image she posted on facebook of her and her hubby at the biggest football game of the season and how tragic the loss was. When I see my friend I instinctively recall her picture-perfect trip to Maui complete with snorkeling, giant ice-cream sundaes, zip lines, helicopter rides and the most amazing sunset you've ever seen. And of course there are pictures of what Sally had for dinner last night, Joan's amazing bedroom re-model, the antics of that crazy little elf on the shelf, and little Lizzy's second birthday party complete with princesses, ponies and the cutest damn table decorating job you've ever seen. Oh, let's not forget the professional portraits of those personalized mini-cupcakes for each of the guests and a puppy in the party favor bag.

No wonder we are all on Xanax and anti-anxiety meds for trying to out-do the last amazing idea we re-pinned on pinterest and making every day look like a scene from Leave It to Beaver - complete with the perfect house, perfect kids and everything in place as it should be. We are truly living our lives 'out loud' for all to see posting the highlights of our creativity, cleanliness and poutiest pic we got in just the right amount of light for our profile page. And then of course we get to deliberate over the perfect tag line, hash tag, and tag the people you want most to admire your photos; not to mention then write the wittiest blurb about yourself and your activities since the Zucker Brothers got together and invented slap stick comedy. Or on the flip side, post the most touching, heartfelt videos and quotes that you find and write something inspiring and selfless that leaves your followers riveted and eagerly awaiting your next post.

It's a strange new way in this technological web to sell your identity to the world and a far easier way to keep your audience 'wowed.' There is a trap here to fall in to and that is that you aren't being enough. It's a killer to think about what we need to do to keep up with everybody else's awesomeness. The whole online fantasy and whimsical dream world we weave is nothing more than a smoke and mirrors parlor trick that perpetuates itself inevitably creating a state of 'never enough.'

"If you compare yourself with others you may become vain and bitter, for always there will be greater or lesser persons than yourself." Author Unknown (To me at least...)

"Dear Brittany,
How true if we create the definition of ourselves by how we compare to others. Then our own self image will be wavering constantly as it will be projected onto us by whoever we are with. We will have no core to life, no "I am me" center, no "this is my life,  I am who I am and I am a valuable human being and I choose to make my life extraordinary." But rather, "compared to you I am a heap o'trash (and by the way I hate your guts and hope your teeth rot and your face breaks out in warts)" or "compared to you I am not too bad."

The problem with this is several:
1) Our happiness is dependent on how we feel we compare to the people around us
2) We are projecting what we think the other person is thinking into their head and respond to life based on bull--it. I mean based on anything but reality.
3) When we are around people we act how we think they think we should act in order to be accepted by them. Then our lives are truly bunk. If we try to please everyone we become meaningless to everyone.

Develop your own inner strength so that your definition of self is from within rather than from what you think others may think of you." My Dad

Variety is the spice of life. Why do we feel the need to pigeonhole ourselves into something amazing 24-hours of our day and keep people posted about it? My favorite part of facebook is the blooper reel or the not-so-impressive moments of people's day-to-day rituals and doings. And how can we really appreciate all the good without the bad? I know those high moments with my kids are much more glorious when compared to the day before moment when one kid threatened to beat the other kid with a rubber garden hose just as the Flander's drove by singing happy church songs in their brand new black Escalade. Bah! Who the hell cares?

So, we could continue on our anti-depressant IV drips or shift our perspective and be excited for Sally's delectable dinner, remember some of Joan's great re-model ideas if you ever choose to demolish your own bedroom (or have no shame in hiring it out and not lending a single, inventive, amazing idea to brag about), give mad props to the moms who are clever enough to create incredulous and dangerous scenarios for their elf who really spends no time on the shelf, and be grateful that you didn't spend half as much as little Lizzy's mom on a princess and ponies party that your own toddler will have forgotten by 5pm that same day. If we look at everything through bitter eyes, everything is going to appear as a competition. If we choose to see everyone else's captions as fun moments to share with them or easy conversation starters next time you bump into them somewhere else besides cyber space, the world just become a more easy-going and happier place for you at least. If nothing else, you can cheer on everyone else that does seem to think it is all a competition.

Now excuse me, I've got to get back to my doily decorating and three dimensional sidewalk chalk murals.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Simple Starch Replacement

If you are in the market to lose weight (or maybe you just over did it on a vacation and need to get back into your groove) one of the golden rules is to cut-out carbs after four o'clock in the afternoon. This is near impossible when you are feeding a family of ravenous males. With that being said, it turned out to be pasta night on Tuesday and my husband had actually made an enticing spaghetti sauce that I really wanted to partake of but inwardly groaned about those naughty starchy noodles that would have to go benath. I considered just spooning the sauce out of a bowl but didn't want to deal with the eyeballs that would be looking in my direction disapprovingly at the onset of the meal. So I quickly decided on a green bean substitute for the noodles and it was delicious! Veggies make for a great pasta replacement - just watch out for some veggies that are notorious for their starch (white potatoes and carrots for starters). Employ and enjoy!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Cold and Flu Season Fight Plan

Sigh. The kids are back in school. With school back in session, cold season is quick to follow. Yay! Did you ever see Outbreak with Dustin Hoffman? It creates a lovely image of someone coughing in a movie theatre and everyone inhaling those tiny little bacterial microbes and before you know the entire population is dwindling; I'm pretty sure that's what it looks like in the typical classroom. Although, kids do get super creative at actually inviting germs into their systems by licking and sucking on their hands after touching a door knob or even deciding to chew on some unknown object on the school playground - it's totally awesome to consider. Alas, it happens and then they come home from school candy-coated in all sorts of diseases and roll on the floor, use the dog for a Kleenex and sufficiently man-handle the most used surfaces in your house. But of course, we ourselves don't fall blameless in this - I watched a fellow sneeze into his hands and then pump his gas. Do you ever consider how many hands have been on the gas pumps? Then you touch your steering wheel, answer a call while driving and walk into your house and start putting groceries in the fridge before you washed 'gas pump sneeze-man' off your hands. So, without further a do,  here is my yearly Cold and Flu Season Fight Plan.

1.) EAT WELL. People underestimate this one. Most of your body's immune defenses are in your gut. If you have digestive issues, have been on anti-biotics (these kill the good AND bad bacteria in your gut), or are a heavy starch or sugar eater, watch out. You are starting the race at a disadvantage.

The Sugar Factor. It's so sad that there is a sugar factor and that it is bad. I have the biggest sweet tooth (should I tell you that I save the frosting from cakes and brownies for the last to eat them straight? Makes me salivate just thinking about it). The sad truth is SUGAR DEPLETES THE BODY OF ESSENTIAL VITAMINS AND MINERALS.

"All sugar, whether natural or refined, requires B-complex vitamins, calcium, and magnesium for digestion. Complex carbs such as fruits, vegetables and starches, contain enough of these nutrients to assist our bodies in their own digestion. However, simple, refined sugars (white and brown) do not assist our bodies. Therefore, the body must call up its own reserves of these nutrients in order to digest this kind of sugar. B-Complex is taken from the nervous system, and calcium and magnesium are robbed from the bones and teeth when these sugars are consumed."

"Sugar impairs the functioning of your immune system by weakening the white blood cells. White blood cells are essential to your state of health; they eat-up foreign invaders and seek to destroy cancerous cells. Flu Season starts in America around Halloween and continues through the Spring." (45-47, Dr. Bob's Guide to Stop ADHD in 18 Days)

Interesting stuff! Now listen, I'm not a total fanatic and I have my treats but eater beware! Make sure you are eating well, getting enough sleep, keeping your hands clean and cuing in to your body's stress signals. This is why mama always forbid sugar the moment a sore throat cropped-up. However, by then you are already too late.

Here is one final bit to chew on that I find fascinating; also from Dr. Bob's book: A 12 -ounce can of soda contains 9 tsp. of sugar. An 8-ounce serving of fruit-flavored yogurt contains almost as much. Your white blood cells can process a certain amount of bacteria in 30 minutes. Twelve teaspoons of sugar (equal to a frosted brownie, mmmmm) lowers your immunity by 60% - your white blood cells can process 5.5 bacteria in 30 minutes opposed to 14 bacteria when no sugar has been consumed.) That's nuts!

And finally, if you are avoiding the bad stuff, make sure you are eating the good stuff! Clean, real foods! Salads are a great way to get your veggie on (homemade salad dressings are the key here!), healthy fats and oils, good quality proteins.

2.) SLEEP, SLEEP and SLEEP some more. I'm finding that sleep is something that needs to be written into our planners. It is nearly impossible to get to bed at a decent hour these days with all of the running around we do and everything we fill our days with. Funny though that we skimp on the one part of our day where all the magic happens.

"You release most of your slimming hormones when you sleep, like HGH (Human Growth Hormone, which helps control and regulate appetite). Conversely, when you don't sleep, you release hormones like cortisol (which promote fat storage) and grehlin (which stimulates appetite)." (177, Slim for Life).

True, Jillian's information is all about your slim. I quoted it here simply to give you an idea of some of how your sleep affects your body processes. Interesting that you start storing fat when you aren't getting sleep eh? Sleep is when muscles repair, growth happens and immune systems are bolstered. Get your 7-8 hours of shut-eye and pencil your bedtime into your planner depending on what time you wake-up. I get up to work-out at six so I know that I will have to skip it if I go to bed later than eleven.

3.) Stop sweating the small stuff. Or in other words, it's time to stop the stress. Stress also lowers your body's immune system and ability to fight infection. Do you remember the last time you ran yourself ragged skimping on sleep, eating poorly and stressing out about that thing? You wore yourself out and became wide-open to illness. There is no better time than now to take care of yourself and stay calm!

4.) Wash your hands and keep surfaces clean. We've heard it a million times, but it has to be re-said. Keep your hands washed and away from your eyes, nose and mouth. Give your kids a chance each day to participate on 'Germ Patrol,' meaning they go around the house with an antibacterial wipe and scrub down all door knobs, light switches, cabinet knobs and TV buttons and remotes. The wipes are easy and quick to use, just be sure to wash your hands well when you are done. Make everybody wash their hands after they blow their nose or exit the bathroom regardless of what they were doing.

Okay, so you've done what you can to prevent illness. Now that it has bypassed all of your barricades, this is what you do when you start feeling 'off.'

1.) At the first signs whip out the following:

- Umcka. I found the syrup to be more potent than the chews.

- Herbal Tea. Herbal tea makes me shudder; I've never been a fan. Until I found Celestial Seasonings Cinnamon Apple Spice tea. To make it a truly delightful concoction, I add one drop of cinnamon essential oil and 1-2 drops of Wild Orange oil. Give it a good stir and oh it is divine. I favor DoTerra Essential Oils.

- Coconut Oil. Cold-pressed, un-refined coconut oil not only boosts your metabolism but is also anti-bacterial AND anti-viral. Three tablespoons a day is the key. It is totally unpleasant but I just plug my nose and swallow a spoonful. Don't be afraid of the fat, really.

- Essential Oils. If I can be totally honest here, I have had more success with essential oils than I have with OTC meds. Melaleuca works better on a cough than Robitussin. Peppermint oil behind the ears and being diffused in a room works amazing as a decongestant. Lavender and peppermint oil help bring fevers down. On Guard, Thyme and Oregano taken in a capsule have antibacterial properties. I take my oils with me everywhere I go. Invest in them and you won't regret it.

- Vitamins. Vitamin D is actually more important in fighting bugs than Vitamin C (although C is still important). Try to get a vitamin that is plant-based and made from food versus synthetically (chemical/fake) made products (most of the stuff available at your grocery store is pointless). I like Standard Process.

- My delicious autumn soup. :) There was a chill in the air a couple of days ago and my husband caught the fall bug (excitement for autumn) and started craving my autumn soup to the point that that is what I made for dinner last night. It is delicious, healthy comfort food. The recipe is on my recipe page. Throw everything in the crock pot and anticipate the goodness.

And yes, a ton of water, lots of sleep, chicken noodle soup, no sugar and no stress. (I've long since ditched Campbell's for all of its processed nastiness and since found a soup that I LOVE that doesn't have any of the junk in it, Annie Chun's Chinese Chicken Soup. You can get it in bulk on Amazon). And people, if your kid is sick, keep them home and help stop the spread. If your kiddo has a fever, they are contagious for up to 48 hours once the fever has broken. Good luck. May the force be with you.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Chocolate Chia Pudding

I have a wicked sweet tooth - have I ever mentioned that? It can get me into trouble sometimes despite mostly having figured out how to keep myself in check. With this natural need that requires suppressing, I've been on the lookout for some honestly tasty treats that could possibly not even count as a treat. One day, I came across a recipe for a chocolate chia pudding (that I immediately tried and turned out sub par) - it still had an underlying hint of dirt flavor to it which required extra goodies to make it enjoyable. In fact, after my last serving I figured that I didn't need to make chia pudding again. Then, I started having a sweet tooth craving and decided to have another go at it and today it turned out marvelous! Sweet enough, rich enough, thick enough and healthy enough - a perfect afternoon snack. The chia resembles a tapioca texture which I love and such a great source of those omega fatty acids!

Chocolate Chia Pudding
1 1/4 Cups Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk
1/4 Cup Coconut Milk (Canned) or a little less (a healthy fat and gives it a little creaminess)
1 T Superfood Cacao Powder
1 1/2 T Cocoa Powder (I used NOW's Cocoa Powder)
1/2 Scoop Sun Warrior Protein Powder
1 T Pure Maple Syrup
5 Drops Vanilla Crème Stevia
1/8-1/4 tsp Almond Extract
1/4 Cup Chia Seeds

Here's the secret - put all ingredients in a blender with the exception of the chia seeds. Blend up real good so there are no clumps of powder. Add the chia seeds and stir those babies in. Refrigerate for 4 hours or more. You may need to stir once or twice to separate the chia seeds and give them space to blossom. The almond extract was AWESOME and just for a hint of extra texture and indulgence, I throw in a few semi-sweet chocolate chips. This really is a power snack and treat rolled into one. I'm going to have start buying chia seeds in bulk now that I've perfected this snack!

Makes 2 nice-sized servings.

Photography Disclaimer - I'm not a photographer. I'm a mom with crazy kids and I choose not to take the time to do big photo shoots of my food. I'd rather eat it and get on with the circus that is my life. All I'm saying is, I know this picture is lacking. I'm okay with that.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Family Vacation, Part I

So. Big sigh. We just got back from a little family vacation to Wyoming. I was so excited about it and excited for the kids to love it and to eat out, make smore's, laugh, get away and just party. I guess vacations are like labor in that you forget how horrible it can be and you get anxious to do it again soon after. Now, for starters, is it just the men that I know or do all men get angry getting ready for the road and the following oh, thirty minutes into the drive? We were actually right on time for our departure (which in itself is truly astounding) so I'm not totally sure what happened here.

I know there must be a clinical term for this syndrome. "Loading-Zone Self-Imposed Isolationist Anger" syndrome where they want help loading the car but then when you try to help you aren't doing it right and they get angry that they then have to do it themselves. Go figure. Or perhaps the "Late Departure Depression" syndrome; this is when you set a completely unrealistic goal for when you want to depart and it is not surprisingly ever met leading to an adult tantrum right as you get in the car to leave on your fun-filled, happy-go-lucky trip. This one never fails; never in my travel experiences have we ever left when we wanted to.

There is also the "Pre-Drive Testosterone Car Check" syndrome. This is when the man, being the real man that he is, piles upon himself the added obligation to at the last minute change the oil (on his own), air filters, rotate the tires, wash and wax and vacuum the car all the night before you head out. This issue is always compounded by the female version of this which is "The-House-Must-Be-The-Cleanest-It-Has-Ever-Been Disorder" (which similarly must be done the night before). Either way, this is where the real-life version of 'Clash of the Titans' happens in the home because Mr. Testosterone is secretly mad that the wife didn't just take the damn car to Jiffy Lube to get the oil changed, drive through the car wash and vacuum out the car herself - because honestly, she is the one home all day. On the other hand, Mrs. Estrogen has flames shooting out of her eye balls because the kids are running around the house like a scene out of 'Raising Arizona' and the man should be inside helping her clean and getting the kids packed (because why couldn't the man have dealt with the car stuff earlier this week?).

Or is it just "Trip-Induced Psychosis" which is simply that any time you get ready for a trip, the man goes nuts regardless of the circumstances. At any rate, this is always how the trip starts out and I don't know why I expect anything less. I'd add fun pictures to accompany this little diatribe but flaming eyeballs always prevent me from capturing these most thrilling of moments. More to come - that's just getting out the door.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Agree With Thine Adversary Quickly

There seems to be a theme in my life at the moment and it is this: Be the bigger person or in other words, agree with thine adversary quickly. It’s popping up in my marriage, with ex-spouses, and even friends asking for advice in their relationships. It’s a tough road to take because there are definitely moments when I’m in the right (it's okay - it does happen that sometimes you ARE right and sometimes you ARE wrong) and justified in my frustration. I have to stop and consider two things:

1)      Is it worth the contention

2)      By engaging in this conversation is the outcome going to be in my favor

Usually, it isn’t worth the contention and the outcome won’t be in my favor because of two other things:

1)      You can’t talk logically with an irrational person (anger and frustration – aside from crazy – render a person irrational)

2)      People need their point to be the one that sticks

The issue often morphs into being about who will win the argument or about who ultimately is right. In the end I’ve found that most people really don’t want to give up their stance because in some small way it might mean that they aren’t totally right (pride) OR that there could be another way to look at the scenario. The human psyche is a great and fascinating and terrifying beast all at once. In the end, I have to tell myself that I have no control over other people and all I can do is continue to be a good and honest person myself. And then finally, once I make the decision to agree quickly with mine adversary, I have to also make the decision to let the issue go. I find the 'letting it go' part to be the toughest but most important element (and the one that will allow you to be ulcer-free). I'm learning that even with adults, life is smoother when you pick and choose your battles and learn to be flexible. Yes - sometimes taking the high road makes me so damn mad, but I'm a work in progress. :)

Friday, July 5, 2013

Welcome to the Terrible Two's - For Real

Look at that angelic face. Oh so deceiving! I feel like I might spontaneously turn into a gelatinous mass and ooze through the wicker weave of my chair as I sit here. It's scorching hot outside, moods are scorching hot inside and I'm contemplating why I am exhausted. But then I hear the sound of a plastic car falling to the floor, immediate crying and then the sound of more cars being flung in anger and hitting other household items. The terrible two's have finally struck my home with a vengeance. I have a third little Chernobyl reactor in this home and I suppose I'm wondering if I'll survive the fallout. People do - somehow. How do people with multiple kids under the age of five do it? My head might explode if I sincerely try to figure that one out.

My parents came by last night for a fourth of July hamburger and chips and dip dinner (and please notice this gorgeous lemon meringue pie I made from scratch) and it was the first time they had been around my little guy since becoming a tantruming two-year-old. My mom mentioned that she read that the name "terrible two's" came from the fact that at this age, their little brains are growing and changing so fast that they struggle to process everything coming their way so they simple freak out. Ironically, this is similarly what happens in 'explosive kids' (The Explosive Child. Read it). Although their issue stems more from underdeveloped lobes and mis-fires in the brain (which can be worked through over time). So, I've got an emotional teenager, explosive child, and tantruming two-yeard-old. Regardless of all the facts about brains, the unregulated and passionate emotional flare-ups happening around here might transform me into something slightly resembling Chet from Weird Science after Kelly LeBrock finishes with him.

This isn't why I have been MIA however. Summer overall has taken a toll with all my reactors running around the house and preparing for a trip to Texas. I took Curly (as we often refer to the two-year-old when he gets angry and does a dance similar to Curly from the Three Stooges) on a flight to Texas (on my own) and that is when the diaper really hit the fan. Aside from quick reactions, he is also very strong-willed and independent (people nicely refer to him as 'active' but that is such a tiny piece to this whole equation); he prefers to not be by my side and to make this happen as quickly as possibly. This is why I now have him on a leash everywhere I go (including the airport). He was laying on the floor in the security line and threw himself into a heap on the ground when he didn't get to board the airplane first, meanwhile my luggage is falling all over the place obscuring walkways and I'm dropping boarding passes and sweating profusely. Totally awesome.

Once we got to Texas his schedule was shot to hell. We spent most of our time outside in sweltering humid heat, he continued to meltdown all over the place and for the majority of the time, over nothing - my husband and I couldn't figure out what the devil he was so upset about (he totally lost it for a good twenty minutes just as we walked in the gates of SeaWorld). It was helpful that we didn't have an agenda and we just sat down with him and let him scream while people either smiled sympathetically at us or gave us a dirty look. Either way, whatever. I know we aren't the first people to deal with this and we won't be the last. My goal is to develop a sense of humor about it. My other goal is to continue to employ my mantra of maintaining control of myself when I feel about ready myself to meltdown. Speaking of which, I had to laugh when I took this picture because Curly at first was at the edge of the couch just watching Preston, like a tiger in the grass and then got down onto all fours, sneaking along and waiting for the opportune moment to strike.

Sigh. The trickiest part amidst all these reactors is keeping my own reactor cool. While perusing the web I came across a gal who blogged about her year-long temper sabbatical (something about an orange rhino). She noted that the biggest change was not in her but in her kids and the changes she saw in her own children's behavior and reactions to life's situations; it was inspiring. While taking this challenge on for myself would obviously not be original, it could prove to be an adventure of its own and I'm always up for a challenge. Just look at that cute little bugger. That picture was taken right before he spilled my water all over the table. Go figure. :)

Monday, June 17, 2013

Just Your Typical Day - No Words of Wisdom Here

Today was amazing. Preston leaves his toys all over the house then totally flips out when Bentley stumbles across one of them and claims it to play with for five minutes. Riots ensue, tears are shed, and tantrums are thrown. It's totally awesome. Then I go to Kohl's to find a simple ring to wear on my ring finger while my wedding ring gets fixed and Preston insists that something must be bought for him. He leaves disgruntled and frustrated that not only could he not find something of interest, but NO money was spent on his behalf. He would have been excited to pay for a cardboard box out of the stock room in the name of spending money. Not sure where he gets this from as money does not burn holes in my pockets. I know that when I decide that I want or need something, I go searching (but the 'you-won't-find-it-if-you-are-looking-for-it-or-need-it' law has never been broken). I only seem to find items when I either don't have the money to spend or I'm not looking. Grrrr.

At any rate, out of pity I tell him I'll at the least buy him a cookie. But his whining and antics about poor Preston not finding anything to buy (with my money) then drive me in the opposite direction and there ain't going to be no cookie-buying, cardboard-box buying or even scrounging up something pleasant at home with that pity-party-racket going on. (I won't even go into the total meltdown that happened after I told him to stop whining about his chores or he'd get another chore to do - and then did. Amazing. And I only wish 'amazing' was being used in a positive context).

And now, he's reading and happy and calm and wanting hugs and ready to be tucked in and I'm all 'funned out.' Oh well, go to bed and start a new. In the meantime, I also seem to be cursed with sprinklers that are attached to a house in my name. They suck - as in sucking the life out of my grass. I watch all the zones come on and the sprinklers appear to be hitting all the necessary spots, but the quickly browning and crunchy grass that is appearing in ragged spots would suggest otherwise. My 'apparently competent' sprinklers appear to be less than competent and I get to roam the yard in five minute shifts dragging a tangled mass of heavy green hose around my large side yard. I love it!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Here's To Summer!

Let the games begin! Well, not quite. It's more like let the complaining, whining, hot tempers, and long days begin! On their first day at home, by ten in the morning I had already heard, "Can we get going and do something? We're way bored." I love how they pin it on me like I'm the 'Cruise Director' and in charge of their daytime happiness. This is when I start praying mightily and making sure to take my Confianza for beyond-my-capability-patience. On the flip side, Preston woke up happy, made his bed without being prodded and got dressed before ten. His attitude flipped when we started talking about the Summer time schedule and regulations. 

We're doing what we normally do in the summer, which is extreme structure. They are expected to practice their math facts three times a week (particularly multiplication and division) and to write in their journals or write a story two days a week (one day in print and one day in cursive). They will be reading two books a month and doing small book reports. There is the summer time chore chart and every time I hear the words, "I'm bored," they get to create a list of ten activities that they can do that doesn't include television or friends. There is no daytime television - the possibility of earning a movie in the evening which is dependent on good attitudes and a probable extra chore.

I'm going to do a trial run with Preston regarding homeschooling and tomorrow is our first field trip to an air force museum. We'll be learning about aircraft and the Wright Brothers, and how flight has influenced the outcome of wars. I plan on several trips the library, zoo and aviary, as well hikes and park time (although the park has to happen before the heat becomes unbearable for me) and picnics. I suppose I'll do a few trips to the pool but I admit that I'm just not a pool girl and the fact that my last few pool experiences disgusted me, I'm not going to go out of my way to get them there (and if you are curious - first pool-side experience was watching a kid barf in the pool from the side lines and my kids almost swam through it. Second time- we had to be cleared from the pool while the staff went fishing for floaters. Third time - my husband pointed out the swirling, foaming brown water pushed into the corner of the hot tub by the jets and the nasty film from the foam left behind on his swim trunks. Needless to say, public pools are creepy gross!).

I know, I know - I sound like the meanest mom ever. Little pool time, assignments in the summer. To that I say BAH! I know that my kids need the consistency and they both need that constant stimulation. My fourteen-year-old seems to forget information almost instantaneously (that is not a joke) and despite his grumpiness toward the summer regiment, he really does NEED it. I also read several articles last spring regarding keeping them working through the summer in that in that short, three month time frame they lose some crazy high percentage of information they lost during the school year. The brain is a muscle and it needs to be worked regularly to stay in shape! Here's to summer! Cheers!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Facts About ADHD

I just finished the book "The Time Keeper" and it was fascinating to consider the birth of time and how it has evolved.  Our day revolves around time - what we have to get done, when we need to get up in order to cross everything from our to-do list and the fact that electricity has artificially prolonged the length of our days. And with that, we only fill it with more stuff to be done. Could ADHD be a bi-product of too much to do and the increasing need to multi-task? How often do we simultaneously check emails, browse pintrest and talk on the phone while dinner is simmering, the laundry is drying and your kid keeps coming to you for help with homework? No longer do people just 'be.' Waiting for a table at a restaurant - how many people (even those with others with them) have their eyes glued to their phone? At lunch the other day I watched two women sit across from each other and hardly chat and instead spent more time checking their phones. I think it's weird and I don't think it is a good direction to be going in. What will become of us at this rate?

I'll get off my soap box now but I've also been coming across some great articles on ADHD as of late. I pasted in some great tidbits from an article I read but apparently forgot to paste in the link to the rest of the article - sorry! Regardless, the facts about ADHD were what struck me the most and are oftentimes the facts I try to get through some peoples heads (including my husband's!). Understanding what having ADHD really equates to in the real world is so key in how we as parents help them.

Facts about ADHD
  • ADHD exists
  • ADHD is highly heritable
  • People with ADHD have value
  • People with ADHD have low self esteem and low self awareness
  • People with ADHD need to know that they are not alone
  • People with ADHD thrive with structure and encouragement, just like anyone else
  • People with ADHD cannot pay more attention just because you told them to
  • People with ADHD cannot pay less attention just because you told them to
  • People with ADHD will say inappropriate things
  • People with ADHD will do inappropriate things
  • People with ADHD will punish themselves for those things
  • People with ADHD will forget things, lose things, break things
Lastly, I’d like to point out the commonality in all these facts, people with ADHD – are People.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

I Know It's Not About Me, But Sometimes It Just Is

A good friend of mine the other day quoted his wife as saying, "I know it's not about me, but sometimes it just is." I had a good laugh over that one because it really is quite true. And actually VERY NECESSARY. What I am about to divulge may not be any big ammo for a case you WANT to make to your husband or special someone, but it is key to the health and thriving of your family. We've all heard it before but please repeat after me:

"If Mama Ain't Happy, Ain't No One Happy!"
Preston had another (I get almost giddy that I get to use the word - another) great day yesterday and spent the rest of his waking hours playing with Bentley. With his natural tendency to be un-self-aware, it got a little rough at times, but I was pleased with the interaction (Preston has been slightly hostile to the younger brother that likes to play with the bigger brother's way cool toys). Preston was very loving, pleasant to be around and actually followed through as I made a very concerted effort to make eye-contact with him when making a request. When he starts to mellow out and be pleasant and manageable, I start thinking about what has been going on that helps facilitate the change in his behavior. I've had this thought before but for some reason this morning, the light bulb went on above my brain - IT'S ALL ABOUT ME. I have been calm, patient, loving and workable. That's it. Because I've been in a good place, he has been in a good place.
Kids feel safe when they know the parents are in control. In this case - me. Even when he is having a rough day (school, friends, having eaten something with colors in it), time-outs and discipline go so much smoother if I've got my game face on and am emotionless and appear (fake it till you make it) unaffected. Part of the Love and Logic thinking is that the parents always take really good care of themselves in front of the kids; doing what you need to do to stay calm, patient and loving is integral. You really don't have control over anything else but yourself - and that can make giant waves. Take some time to figure out what you need in your life to help you be more balanced and level-headed - does your diet need tweaking? Do you need more sleep? Would journal writing ( and/or mapping/bridging) help? Monthly massages? A night out where you don't have to cook? Whatever it is, make the necessary changes. Being a parent is the toughest job you will ever have (I don't care what anybody else says - it just plain is) and you've got to take care of you in order to be able to care of those around you. Especially those tiny little minds that are soaking in everything you do and say and feel (yes, our energy can say a lot about us) like a sponge. Take care of yourself a little better and I think you will see some small and great changes in your home.
Blended Family Parenting Side note:
As a blended family with a yours, mine and ours; parenting gets a little tricky. Preston will often times be very resistant to my husband. I've had my therapist, books and a random person at the park note that it is the best practice of step-parent to play a 'consultant' role and stay out of parenting/disciplining the step-child. There will always be a different bond between that of a blood parent to their child vs. step-parent to step-child. There is also a level of trust and love that takes time (and what the length of time is will differ for every child) to build between these new people that just appeared out of nowhere that are now living under the same roof and we're all of a sudden a 'family.' My step-son has been very accepting of the whole situation from the get-go; that's his personality (I got really lucky on that one), but it's been tough for Preston and that is largely due to his personality (not to mention that kids with ADHD struggle with transition).
My therapist made a key distinction for me recently regarding enforcing vs. parenting. My husband, by nature of his work, is very busy and in an out regularly. That leaves me here as the person in charge fairly consistently. As the 'consultant' parent to my step-son, I can enforce the rules of the home but leave parenting issues to my husband to address. This applies also to my husband and Preston. My husband asked me at one point that without playing a 'parenting role' how does he be a fatherly figure to Preston? Simple: by example. I learned more from my parent's examples and little notes of encouragement on my bed than I did from any lecture or major discipline. They're watching us people. Make it count.
What do you do to take care of you?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Reminder on Anger

Okay. I'm a monster three-days before my period. I've said it before and I'm admitting it again. It's awful! I hate it because I feel like a different person and my blood boils almost immediately - there is no chill-out time. Talk about Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. So, as I'm in the throws of my alter-pre-menstrual ego, one morning at breakfast Preston says to me, "I'm thinking I don't have much of a relationship with you anymore." Dagger to the heart. And URGH to my PMS non-tongue-biting impulse that I know was the underlying cause of this comment! I told him that he was certainly entitled to his feelings but I needed to know why he felt like that. He didn't have an answer for me but I knew from the moment he said it where the issue was stemming from - off-the-cuff blow-up's.

Kids are not motivated by anger nor do they see through it as to why you are angry. I may be angry when the kids break one of my glass bowls because they were throwing a ball in the house which is against house rules (because ironically, stuff breaks. Crazy, I know); but they only hear that you don't like them. Have you ever had your kid storm off in their own fit - after you throw yours- and say, "You just hate me!" In fact, I totally have a memory of doing that to my Dad. Anger decreases your influence and your influence is all you have. This is why popular parenting techniques have you remove the child from the situation, (or yourself) and stop the bad behavior by timing them out (1-2-3 Magic) or use empathy with a natural consequence (Love and Logic). Both of which allow for time for you to cool off before you say something really stupid which then warrants some damage control. My son has been seeing my lack of a patience as less love for him and therefore, a weakening relationship. On the up-side, what a wonderful reminder that I'm the adult and that I do have control of me. And now I get to have some one-on-one game time with my little guy to fit in some positives and a little fun.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Muffin's For Lunch and Surprisingly Tasty Cookies

Decided on a whim a couple weekends ago to drag the family to Vernal to check out all the dino bones. I used to travel with my family growing-up and it is something I would like to do more with my own family. The memories and laughs that came from those trips are what stand out in my mind. The only struggle with my own family is that I have two volatile kids and a toddler. Yikes! Nevertheless, dino land was still a boat load of fun.

En route to and from our destination, I picked up Slim for Life by Jillian Michaels which kicked off my next upward swing in, shall we say, extreme pantry habits. I totally admit that I go in spurts when it comes to my 'extremeness' regardless of the fact that I no longer buy any foods, ever, that have ingredients from the naughty list on them. However, it took until a couple weeks ago to kick my remaining holiday sugar addiction. I also dove back into Dr. Bob's Guide to Stop ADHD in 18 Days; both books re-freaked me out on the scary stuff that goes into our food. With all that being said, my newest project is weaning Preston from white bread (can you believe it! I buy white bread! Only because it was the only bread he would eat after months of experimenting with home made bread recipes - it still doesn't have stuff from the naughty-list on it) and peanut butter - as in peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I've heard on more than one occasion from more than one source about mold that lurks in peanuts and peanut butter causing allergic reactions in kids that also causes bigger problems for kids with ADHD.
Jillian Michael's

I've had to get creative with lunch alternatives considering that Preston is almost the world's pickiest eater. I pulled out all of my cookbooks and scoured the recipes considering what ingredients could be tweaked and what he would enjoy and eat. I came up with the following:

~ Denver Sandwich/Homemade Egg McMuffin
~ Turkey and Cheese Pita Sandwich
~ Chocolate Cashew Butter Roll-Up (Homemade Crepe)
~ Omelet/Frittata
~ Grilled Cheese
~ Bagel Pizza
~ Baked Crispy Chicken Tenders
~ Poppy seed Vanilla Muffins
~ Bagel and Cream Cheese with Turkey
~ Homemade Waffle Sandwich (Homemade Waffles with Cream Cheese, Cinnamon and Agave Center)

Not bad sounding eh? I've got to find  a good insulated lunch box for him to use. Anyone have one that they love? I also went straight away to Trader Joe's and bought some Stevia prepared to try it with cookies. I found a cookie recipe online and the end result was fascinating - they looked gorgeous! I sat down to indulge and it had the consistency of sand. Literally. The last few batches of cookies I've made Preston actually asked me if they were the 'sand cookies.' Suffice it to say, I threw them all out. Oh well. I reckon that's what happens often with many a food blogger. Second time around I used a recipe that I had on hand and just tweaked it and they turned out delicious! My husband (hard to please when it comes to food) LOVES them (and I don't dare tell him there is only 1 T. of maple syrup and pure applesauce in them). They have a cake-like consistency which is not what I was going for but not sure I can get them to be like a Paradise Cookie without using actual sugar. Regardless, these really did turn out great and everyone in the house loves them. Not to mention protein from both the yogurt and the powder. All the minerals from the fresh ground spelt and what - I love it!!

And this week I swapped out Preston's sandwiches for homemade Poppy seed Vanilla Muffins which he has been enjoying and potentially add a Tupperware container of my fabulous scrambled eggs (the trick is to take them off the burner while still really moist - almost not done). I'll rotate those out for something else on the list next week. We shall see how he continues to do with the increase in B Vitamins and the lack of peanut butter. In the meantime, here is the recipe for my cookies and the muffins!

Chocolate Chip Happy Cookies
1 Stick Unsalted Butter
1 tsp. Stevia
1 T. Grade B Maple Syrup (next time I'm going to throw in 5-10 drops of Butter Toffee Stevia instead of the Maple Syrup. Or use Brown Rice Syrup which should replace some of the flavor of the missing brown sugar)
1 Egg
1 Egg Yolk
2 tsp. Vanilla
1/2 Cup Applesauce
1/2 Cup Fage Yogurt
2 1/3 Cups Whole Wheat, Spelt and/or Brown Rice Flour (I use a combination)
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1 tsp. Sea Salt
1 Scoop Vanilla SunWarrior Protein Powder
1 Cup Chocolate Chips

Melt 1 stick butter and mix with 1 tsp. Stevia and maple syrup for about a minute. Add 1 egg and 1 egg yolk and vanilla. Whip 2 minutes. Add yogurt and applesauce, mix one more minute. Add pre-mixed dry ingredients. Fold in chips.

Bake at 375 degrees for 6 minutes, leave on tray.

Vanilla Poppy Seed Muffins
1 3/4 Cup Wheat and Spelt Flour
1/4 cup Xagave
1 tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
1/4 tsp. Sea Salt
1 Beaten Egg
1 Cup Plain Yogurt (I like Fage - 24 grams of protein!)
1/3 Cup Coconut Oil
2 tsp. Vanilla
1 Scoop Vanilla Sunwarrior Protein Powder
1 T Poppy seeds

Prepare muffin tin. In medium mixing bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt. poppy seed and protein powder. Make a well in the center of the dry mixture.

In another bowl, combine egg, yogurt, vanilla, Xagave and coconut oil (add the coconut oil last and working quickly as the coldness of the yogurt may make the coconut oil to begin chunk-up). Add egg mixture to dry mixture and stir until just moistened. Batter will be stiff and lumpy.

Spoon batter into muffin cups about 2/3 full.

Bake at 375 degrees for 18-20 minutes until just browned. Makes 12 muffins.
*So, Preston loves these. I personally feel they could use a little more sweetness. Next time I will add a several drops of Vanilla Crème Stevia.

Orange Flavor Variation
I quite like the orange variation but Preston didn't and my hubby wasn't a huge fan either. At any rate, I added 2-3 drops of Wild Orange Doterra Essential Oil to the yogurt and a bit of orange zest and cut back the vanilla to 1 tsp. Fragrant and tasty.

Chocolate Chip Muffins
1 Cup Brown Rice and Spelt Flour
1/2 Cup Almond Flour
1 Scoop Chocolate Sunwarrior Protein Powder
1 T Cacao Superfood Powder
1/4 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
1/2 tsp. Baking Powder
2 Eggs
1/3 Cup Coconut Oil
1/2 Cup Applesauce
1/2 Cup Plain Fage Yogurt
1/2 Cup Xagave, divided
1 tsp. Vanilla
1 oz. Unsweetened Chocolate
1/2 Cup Chocolate Chips (optional)

Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Combine eggs, yogurt, applesauce, 1/4 cup Xagave and vanilla in a bowl, stir well. Melt 1 oz of unsweetened chocolate in a sauce pan with the coconut oil. Remove from heat and add 1/4 Xagave and combine with egg mixture. Add egg mixture to the powder ingredients and stir to combine; batter will be a little runny. Add chocolate chips (I like chocolate chips mostly for their texture). Pour into prepared muffin tin/muffin cups filling 1/2 to 2/3 full. Bake at 325 degrees for 20 minutes. Makes 18 muffins.

Brittany's 'Best-Ever' Scrambled Eggs
Desired amount of cage-free, hormone free eggs
An ounce or two or three of Neufchatel Cream Cheese
Touch of butter
Sprinkle of parmesan or cheddar cheese or mozzarella
Liberal shakes from the Sea Salt shaker

Whisk the eggs thoroughly in a bowl. Add to warmed skillet that already has melting clumps of cream cheese and butter. Scramble, adding the salt and pepper. While the eggs are still moist and not quite done, remove from heat and mix in cheese and quickly remove from pan. Delicious!!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

My Choice

What a week. And it's not over! I sat down three different times this week to write and my mind was a fuzzy mess. One day I had nothing in me to do anything (I think my mind was on overload) and there was no wind in my sails. I felt hopeless and frustrated - why do I try so hard? Does it matter? It doesn't seem to. Another day I felt downright angry; sometimes I feel like I am the only force for good in this house! The kids are always bickering, baiting fights, and I got a call from the school psychologist (the principal wasn't available). And to cap it off no one listens to a word I say! Grrr.

Then I sat down and thumbed through a catalog and noticed the title of a book: The Mother's Mite, Why Even Our Smallest Efforts Matter. Just that simple phrase really broke through to me. The tough thing about this parenting business is that most of the time, the results of what we do are not measurable - at least not in the short term. Who knows, we may not really see the fruits of our labors until way down the road or maybe not even until we get to the other side. I have read, researched, and read some more, taken classes, turned my kitchen upside down, and altered the foundation of holidays all for the well being of my family - namely my little Preston and his invisible metal disorder. But the kids still fight, there is still tension amidst the blended-family setting, bad grades still come home, think-times at school still happen and principal phone calls are still made. Is anything changing? Is anything sinking in?

I have to believe it is. And once in awhile off-the-cuff comments that are made catch my attention and let me know that I what I say and do does sink in (and unfortunately that goes for the bad too). There are days (even weeks) that not much good is going on, but then there are days that are almost calm and pleasant (and moments where they'll actually share a chair at the dentist's). At the bottom of all this, my little Preston has a good heart and wants to do the right thing even though brain befuddles for him what that means in any given moment; from pre-action to action to consequence. The bigger lesson that I've learning is that if I'm going to survive my life with this crazy and wonderful critter in it, I've got two choices: to be happy and learn to let a lot of things go or be miserable and focus on all the horrid, confusing acts of life that happen under my roof and elsewhere.

I know I've said this many a post, but this is the choice I have to make today. Raising kids is a messy, scary, horribly imperfect business. But I can look back in 20 years and know I did all that I could and that I gave him all of the love I could muster, or I could look back over my life and wish that I had just chosen to be happy in that moment. When my kids do something naughty, it's not the end of the world it's an opportunity. And it is possible to parent with empathy, encouragement and consequences without anger and condescension. Everyday I have the opportunity to create good, even when there is nowhere to pull it from. I've got what it takes. I just have to remind myself of that. Often. Even when they make me want to jump off a cliff.

And in the end despite it all, I love them all to bits and remind myself that it IS worth it.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

School-Time Blues

At the moment, I've been metaphorically placed on the rack and am being effectively pulled in different directions. The issue: Preston is doing pretty great at home, not-so-great at school. His teacher (bless that woman) works with him everyday to get his classwork done so it doesn't come home (yay for me! One less battle I have to fight). He is doing decently with the 1, 2, 3's in the morning and I'm even getting him to come to the table for dinner to possibly pick at his food. I pull out the chat pack at dinner time to spur some light-hearted conversation as well. If my husband leaves the parenting up to me, then Preston is pretty happy. I'm even getting him to complete his daily chores which is something in and of itself. So, on the home front, I think we have made some great progress (and I also attribute some of this to the addition of B Vitamins and some Greens powder in his daily shake which he amazingly enough doesn't know I started slipping in there). The torment for me comes from the fact that he is really struggling at school.

My education on anxiety is just about to begin and I feel that that is the little devil that is causing the problems at school. I see it when my parents come over - he gets so excited and starts doing nutty things to get their attention and goes into his hyperactive state. I see it when step-brother comes around - Preston just automatically goes on defense (and this has only escalated in the last year since step-brother has officially entered adolescents and is himself not well self-regulated). It comes out randomly when I ask him to do something - he doesn't want to do it initially and then goes into this other realm of dread and drama and tears because he so badly doesn't want to do it. Other times and other issues he goes to pieces over the smallest thing and ends up totally freaked out because he can't breathe and is screaming, "I'm going to die! I'm dying! I can't breathe!" Oi vay.

So, imagine going to school with all your peers that you are trying to win over but you really don't have a good idea of how to do that which leads to inappropriate jokes and behavior to just get a laugh. With his lack of self awareness there is also the issue of just not recognizing when people really don't appreciate what you are doing, including getting in their space. Preston loves to get weird and crazy in people's personal bubbles. This in turn leads to 'think times,' table-jumping and eventually isolation at the back of the room near the teacher. In fact, the last update from his teacher was titled, "Preston is an island." Sigh.

The real plus (I'm training myself to see the positives) to this is that he seems oblivious; yes, that can be good and bad. The bad is that is will affect his relationships with others long term, the good is that is depression used to be pretty severe and it has lightened considerably. The school psychologist related a story to me that one day she was walking by and Preston was working in the hall and after greeting him he very pleasantly told her, "I just wound up out here because I'm being 'cray-cray!!'" (Crazy) All the disruptions from him also cut down on his work time and if he really doesn't understand the concept of something, he just gives up. This is where I need to get a math tutor for him to help him over that mental hurdle. In the end, mostly manageable at home and not-so-manageable at school. Amidst all of this inner turmoil and concern swirling around my head, I can't decide if I've actually put the possibility of trying meds again back in my pipe to smoke or not. I can see how far he has come and I remember what a battle it was with the meds and that the side effects outweighed any small benefits. He's actually getting some great nutrition from his shakes and greens and I'm trying harder to prepare meals that he might try. I'm really not sure what else to do.

I contacted his psychologist who is being very supportive of my continued crusade to leave meds out of the mix and ran by him a few ideas on a more structured class behavior plan. The plan is to have Preston bring home his planner each day that notes how he did academically and behaviorally during the day. If he can average an 'okay' day, he gets to pick something off his money tree that now has money, scholastic books that will be ordered and mystery envelopes on it. It could work, but at the same time, we're talking about a kid with a mental disorder who doesn't really have control over his impulsive behaviors - the ones that cause the problems. I guess I'm hoping he can teach himself to cue in on it, but I don't really know if that can work. Well, actually, yes, that can work because he has been making progress so some stuff does stick around in that brain of his. This is the latest and greatest of my efforts and I hope it gets me off the rack for a little while at least.

Friday, April 5, 2013

This Year's Easter

Okay, I'm going to be totally honest and I'm sure many a parent is going to think I'm the Evil Queen - the Easter Bunny did not visit our house this year. Gasp! Preston's old nuance to rummage through the whole of my house starting in the kitchen and eventually making his way to my room and closet has re-surfaced and it is causing a problem. Did I ever mention the time that he left a half-eaten cookie in the corner of his room and within 24 hours we had an ant colony in his bedroom? No joke - his room was teaming with them and we had to spray everywhere; it was pretty bad. So, ever since we've had the hard and fast rule that there is to be no food outside the kitchen. At any rate, I'm really at my wits end trying to curb this kid's sugar addiction - because quite honestly, that is what it mostly comes down to. So, I just decided that I did not want any treats in this house to further tempt his snatching and squirreling (I would definitely not be setting him up for success). Then I started to wonder where in the world the candy for Easter tradition came from anyway - the Easter Bunny and the resurrection of Christ don't seem to have a common thread. So I did a little research and it wasn't super insightful.

There really isn't a connection that I could find. I found that the origins of Easter MAY have started in 16th century Germany when the Oster Haws (hare) would bring colored eggs to the well-behaved children. I'm guessing this was the Christmas version of Christ's death and resurrection as Santa had a naughty and nice list for those kids during the season of Christ's birth. The eggs bit came from the symbolism of eggs for fertility and spring. So, I started searching online for Easter traditions that I could use to replace the candy garbage and focus more on Christ. Three traditions that I found and will be adding to my repertoire are as follows:

1) Placing a scrap of paper in an empty plastic Easter egg and each day reading a scripture pertaining to the death and resurrection of Christ. The twelfth egg will be empty signifying the empty tomb.
2) Easter egg hunt that consists of one chocolate egg for each person and one plastic egg per person with a five or ten dollar bill inside. I just get to be sneakier with hiding places.
3) Resurrection rolls. I found the recipe for these on pintrest and they were fun, easy and quite tasty. You start with a marshmallow that represents Christ. You dip the marshmallow first in butter and then in a cinnamon sugar mixture (3 T sugar, 2 T cinnamon) and this represents preparing Christ's body for burial as they used oil and spices. The marshmallow is then wrapped in a crescent roll triangle (pinching all the sides to make sure it is sealed) which represents the linens/shroud. Then into the oven (or tomb) and closing the entrance to the tomb (oven door) and waiting three days (or 12-14 minutes in this case) before opening the tomb. When you cut into the roll, the marshmallow is gone - He has risen! It was fun and kept all my kids engaged. We enjoyed the rolls with my delicious scrambled eggs and some bacon and Barnyard Cocktail (see recipes page).

I felt like those were decent substitutions without driving my kids into a either a sugar-induced coma or frothing-at-the-mouth-hyperactive-frenzy. Not to mention, a good focus on what Easter is really all about. On the flip-side, my step-son went to visit his mom for Easter this year and came home with a truckload of candy and naughty items; everything I was trying to avoid. I tried my best to replace them all with 'organic' options, all the while wondering why I felt the need to replace them versus just getting rid of them and calling it good. One of my good friend's posted a link to a recent CBS 60-Minutes news-story on sugar and toxicity just today; it's fourteen minutes and well worth the watch: http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7403942n&tag=contentMain%3BcontentAux

Let me say however that I still believe in moderation! I do enjoy a good treat and enjoy baking immensely. To cut goodies out completely isn't realistic to me, but reducing the amounts or using healthier alternatives works for me.

Have you ever tried to totally forfeit sugar from your diet? Did you stick with it? Did you notice any strong health benefits from doing so?