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Archive for March, 2012

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A typical Saturday morning at Wegmans.

Note the requisite coffee, the Larabars for ultimate energy, and the notebook sporting the start of the weekly meal plan.

Planning a week’s worth of meals takes time, but is vital for stress management during the week. There is nothing worse than the 3 (or 4 or 5) pm scramble when you realize that four hungry children are staring at you and you have no idea what you are going to feed them. Plan ahead. Write it out. If you need to, write out breakfasts, lunches, and snacks as well. I need to. I am a scatterbrain to the core – very likely ADD (but that’s another post), and I must have a plan. Otherwise my kids start eating carpet fluff. Not really. Most of the time. Don’t call social services.

ANYWAY! If you don’t already take the time to meal plan once a week, I suggest you try it. Start a notebook and list your family’s favorite meals. I know approximately how much each costs for us, but it might help if you list them in order of expense or put one of those restaurant guide systems in place, i.e. $, $$, $$$. Surround yourself with some favorite cookbooks. Many of mine are on Kindle, so I can access them via my phone. Try a new recipe every week, or at least every other week. Relax and think about the week to come. Do you have any upcoming challenges? We have gymnastics on Wednesday nights and that means a crockpot meal. Often the adults in the house are fasting once or more a week so we might need smaller portions or less leftovers on any given day. If the Church is celebrating a feast day, I like to make a nicer more festive meal. You get the idea.

Do you meal plan? Are you going to try? Let me know your tips and trick!

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Foodie Friday

People often wonder what we eat now that our dinners are grain free, so I’m saving Fridays to chronicle some of our favorite meals.  I didn’t come up with this recipe myself, but rather modified one I found somewhere on the web.  I’m sorry that I can’t credit the website I found it on, but as what I am posting takes that recipe a few steps further I’m not going to worry about it.  This is a favorite on gymnastics nights!  We get home at 6pm and need dinner prep to be minimal to feed those hungry bellies!!

Slow-cooked Jalapeno Roast

Ingredients:

4lb Roast (Chuck is fine, I generally use Top Round)

4-5 Jalapenos, sliced in half, seeds removed if you are not partial to spicy food

Juice of one lime

Guacamole

Shredded Cheddar

Black olives

Salsa (we like Trader Joe’s brand)

Boston Lettuce (aka Butter Lettuce)

What to do:

It couldn’t be easier.  Put the roast, dry, in the slow cooker.  Top with the lime juice and the sliced Jalapenos.  Turn the crock pot on low and let it work for about 6 hours.  Trust me, you don’t need extra liquid in here.  The meat gets tender and shreds easily.

After 6 hours shred the beef, place in a bowl with some of the juices to serve.  I like to put the Jalapenos in a separate bowl for those who like added spice.

Set you table with a bowl of the lettuce leaves (separated, but whole.  These are your taco shells), a bowl of Guac, Salsa, olives and a bowl of Cheddar and you have a lovely grain free make your own taco night!

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It’s a different time.

Things just aren’t the way they used to be.

Is this true?  Or is it that *we* aren’t viewing reality through the same lens as those who came before – and not even that much before.  When I was seven, I had the freedom of the neighborhood.  My cousins lived down the street one way and I had a friend who lived up the street the other way.  It wasn’t a busy street by any standard.  The only cars on it were going somewhere in the neighborhood – no one was passing through.  There were better ways to accomplish that.  So I rode my bike all around, up and down the street.  I went over to play with my cousins or over to my friend Daphne’s house for hours.  I suppose I told my mom where I was going, but that was the extent of it as far as I was concerned.  I had a healthy fear of strangers – I wasn’t going to get in  a strange car or go into a house I didn’t know, but I didn’t freak out if a neighbor said hi as I passed by.

My seven year old cannot live this life.  It is not my fear for him that holds him back.  I trust him not to go too far.  I trust him not to run into the street.  He knows how to look both ways.  I trust that the 99.99% of strangers who encounter him are not going to harm him (on purpose or by accident).  It is my fear *for me* that holds him back.   We have been told over and over that this world is not safe for children (I beg to differ) and so the world condemns parents that allow their children the simple freedoms that THEY grew up with.  We have a playground two blocks from our house, but in order for my (almost) 6 and 7 year old to play there I have to pack up the entire family and walk there with them.  If someone needs a potty break, then it’s automatically time for everyone to come home regardless of how long we have played.  There should be hoards of kids playing there during the day after school gets out.  But there is not.  It is deserted.  Not for want of nearby children.  I can hear them playing in their yards or in their houses.  It is for want of the adults, who cannot always stop their busy days to take park breaks, but who are “required” by society to supervise their children at all times.

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After eating a Paleo (ish) diet for more than eight months, I decided it was time to transition the kiddos.  We had some red flags of poor behavior and physical symptoms, and it was important to me to at least try nutritional therapy before utilizing modern medical intervention.   Eliminations would include all grains, refined sugar and processed foods.  I don’t cook with vegetable oils, so their only exposure would be in restaurant food which we were also cutting out to a large degree.  No take out and no fast food.  I eliminated milk as a beverage as well but not butter or cheese.  I would have allowed yogurt, but my kids will only consume the low fat/high sugar crap that comes in a little cup.  You know the one.  So that was out.

Before even I took the time to plan out what they would eat,when they could cheat and what we would do for eating away from home.  I wanted to be confident in my approach and eliminate any surprises.  I chose the time between Jack’s birthday in January and Jude’s birthday in March as we rarely have things going on during that time.  As the day approached I discussed the changes we would be making with the children.  We talked about food and how good food makes us feel good and how bad junky food makes us feel bad.  We have some known food allergies already in the house, so it was easy for them to understand the effect that food can have on the body.  We talked about being tired and cranky and about some bathroom stuff.  I told them that we were going to do an experiment to see what taking away some foods and trying some other foods would do for us as a family.  They weren’t thrilled right away, but since they didn’t have a choice there wasn’t a ton of complaining.  When the day came to start it was almost anticlimactic.  I had prepared them so well that complaining was kept to a minimum.  And I bribed them with fresh fruit.  A lot of it.

Now, this is just a way of life for us.  Jude’s birthday has come and gone.  We had a carrot cake made from carrots, coconut flour, dates and maple syrup.  It was a bit hit even with the non-Paleo crowd.  I did get one question from one child asking if we were going to have pasta again now.  When I said no and she asked why, we talked about all the good things that had happened since we started eating this way (including the elimination of daily potty accidents from said child!) and she agreed easily.  Whew!

That’s our story.  Here are some of the things that worked for us during this time:

Assert the fact that you are the parent and make a stand.  It’s okay – you actually DO know what is best for your children and it is your JOB to make that happen.  Obviously, this is easier the younger your children are, but make a hard and fast rule – when you are in my house, you eat the way the family eats.

Don’t be afraid to discuss these things with your children.  My 7 year old can give a lecture on why Paleo is good for your body.  He knows that fat doesn’t make you fat and that grain makes you sick.  (now we have to work on NOT lecturing adults on this!!)

It’s okay to start small.  And by this I mean, decide to do it for three weeks and see what happens.  If three weeks seem too long, try two weeks and see what happens.  But do go all in – try not to allow any foods that you will ultimately eliminate.  It really is easier to start as you mean to go on.

Remember – your children will not starve.  Unless your child has a real medical eating disorder, they will eventually eat what you put in front of them.  Be strong!  They may not like everything, but insist they try a bite of everything you serve and allow them seconds (and thirds!) of foods that they DO like.  Finish dinner with their favorite fruit.  If dairy is okay, try whipping some Heavy Cream with a bit of stevia and serving it with their fruit.  You might be surprised at what foods your children will eventually enjoy – my SUPER picky 7 year old now eats squashes and rutabaga and kale like it’s going out of style.

Allow some leeway for birthday parties and other special events, but also have a variety of acceptable treats in your toolbox to offer as an alternative.  I try to counsel my kids to “cheat” with ice cream or other items that are not gluten contaminated.  For us, the gluten seems to wreck havoc (my daily wetter goes back to wetting, others have unpleasant stomach maladies and one gets unbearably cranky) so I try my hardest to get them to avoid it.

What do we eat?  Snacks they enjoy are a homemade trail mix (made with dried fruits, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, cashews and almonds), fresh fruit of all kids (though I try and limit them to 2 pieces a day so they don’t get sugar cravings), coconut milk smoothies, black olives and pickles, and occasionally cheese. I really want them to get the bulk of their nutrition at the three main meals instead of snack times, so I am a little rigid about when and how much they eat for snack. For meals, I cook shredded sweet potato in gf butter and scramble 7 eggs for their breakfast, lunch is lunchmeat, trail mix, a pickle and a fruit – sometimes sunbutter or homemade mayo to dip, and dinner is whatever I am making – something with a lot of protein and generally two veggies.

Last thing, if you are making this transition with your family, pick up a copy of Eat Like a Dinosaur (also available as a Kindle book – the print version is DELIGHTFUL though and worth the price).  The first paleo cookbook that is specifically geared towards children.  The kids have had a blast going through it and picking out things to make.

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Before I was married, even before I met my husband, I had a vision of what I wanted my life to look like down the road. An avid reader and self-proclaimed student of life, I planned to homeschool before I even planned to have children. I foresaw cozy mornings sipping tea and curling up with Great Books. Writing in journals. Wandering through art museums and learning science from real life scientists. I “totally got” unschooling and vowed that we would be an eclectic, literate family of intrepid explorers following our dreams and creating great works of art – whether they manifest themselves from paint or from equations or from words or from scientific models.

HA.

I somehow forgot to factor in cooking and laundry and dishes and tantrums and nursing and the strange but true fact that not everyone in my imaginary family would have the exact same vision and/or personality as my dream self. Including my dream self.

Fastforward to today. What does life look like for us as a committed homeschooling family? Well, although I still long to be an unschooler I have embraced the reality that my first grader must learn to read, write and accomplish basic math skills. To this end, we use materials such as Writing With Ease, First Language Lessons, Little Angel Readers, and Mammoth Math. I round out our efforts with Story of the World Volume I and a children’s Bible textbook I found used for a few dollars last year. We didn’t start out this way, but I am happy to have landed with this plan for our year.

For the girls, we have chosen to go a route that I never expected. My kindergartener is in a full time Montessori school and my preschooler attends a half day at the school. We chose to explore the school option when my oldest was turning 5 and I was pregnant with our fourth child. No homeschooling was getting done and I was in a panic that I was setting our kids up for failure. Whether I was right about that or wrong, it ended up being a magnificent boon to our family. It can be harder to pack lunches and schedule for meetings and field trips, but the trade off is worth it. The kids love it and the structured day works well for them.

What have I learned from all this? Flexibility, certainly. I have learned that I don’t have to be superwoman. And I have learned that the path of learning isn’t without its bumps, but we are always moving forward and don’t look too far ahead lest I stumble over the tiny rock right in front of me.

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