For several years now (8 to be exact, almost to the day) I have been working toward bringing a whole and healthy diet to my family. Before we moved to Michigan, got pregnant with Olivia and took our Bradley Childbirth class (our teacher was wonderful and introduced us to our first whole foods, we were hooked); we were a typical white-bread, boxed and canned food eating and Hi-C drinking family. We both came from a town that had only one tiny natural food store and a culture that did not encourage healthy eating. Yes, both of us had mothers who cooked regular family dinners, but as time went on and our families became busier, more of those dinners came from packaged food rather than from scratch. Quite understandable.
However, when we moved to the Ann Arbor area of Michigan, we began to encounter a more natural lifestyle and that appealed to us. Whole, natural foods were readily available to us at places like Arbor Farms Market, Whole Foods and Trader Joe's, and over the years, the mainstream grocery stores have also gotten in the natural foods market.
So, as we found more places to obtain natural foods, our eating and shopping habits began to change. I had to start making choices in order to stay within our grocery budget. If you look in my pantry, you'll notice organic rice, quinoa and millet alongside Cheerios and Prego (which now comes in a much more natural state than it used to) because I can't afford to buy everything organically. I try to make choices according to what we tend to eat more. For example, I make rice almost everyday, but we only eat spaghetti once or twice a month. So I choose to buy organic rice and settle on conventional spaghetti sauce.
As the years have gone on, I've been able to incoporate more and more natural and organic foods into our diet. But one thing that I am still actively working on is changing our snack foods. Far too often we reach for pretzels or tortilla chips and bypass the fruit and veggies or the nuts and cheese. So lately I have been working to build up a healthier stock of snack food such as roasted pumpkin seeds, dried apple peels, raisins, banana chips, carrots, peas, cashews, walnuts and cheese slices. The kids still want to reach for the chips or pretzels out of habit and availablity, and I am trying to head them off and suggest the healthier, more nutrient dense options.
See the thing is, my kids LOVE all of those healthier foods. There is not one of those foods listed above that they don't like. When I pull out a bag of frozen peas, they literally cheer. They have deemed that the apples peels taste like candy and one of their favorite snacks is cashews and craisins. But for whatever reason, ease of reach, readiness, habit, craving; they reach for the simple carbs first. So my first goal is to get the pretzels, if not out of the house, at least hidden from view. I like to have them around if I'm having a particular salty craving or if one of us has a little tummy ache they tend to help, so I don't want to 86 them altogether.
So we're going to keep working on changing our snacking paradigm and I will keep reminding the children that there are other choices that are just as easy and even yummier than our old standby's. Has anyone else tried this? What has helped you make those nutritious leaps? How did you get your kids to change their snacking habits?
This is more of a "how-to" than a recipe. Cut open and clean out however many pumpkins you have on hand or want to deal with at the moment. The seeds in the picture above cam from pie pumpkins that I roasted and pureed for pies during the winter. Using bows and a collander, thouroughly clean all the pulp from the seeds. I do this twice just to be sure because I don't like any pulp on my seeds, but I'm a bit OCD like that. Dissolve some good quality sea salt in warm water (I use 2 or 3 scoops of celtic sea salt from my little salt pig) and soak the seeds overnight or for about 8 hours. Make sure the seeds are covered with water. Drain the water after soaking and dry off the seeds a bit on a towel. Put the seeds back in the bowl, dump on a little EVOO and 2 or 3 more scoops of sea salt (or to taste). Spread them out on a cookie sheet and give them a good shake to make an even layer. Pop them in the oven at about 150-170 degrees for about 8 hours or over night. I usually soak the seeds during the day and then put them in the oven overnight. When I wake up in the morning, I give them a good stirring right on the pan and put them back in the oven for another hour or so until they are a lovely golden color and quite crunchy. Let them cool a bit and them store them in an airtight container. Enjoy and remember to share!
Yes they can! I thought I would take a minute (or 5) to tell you why we are now a fully invested Girl Scout family. We've known for years that we wanted the boys to be in Boys Scouts and we are charter members of a great troop, but I have always been a bit apathetic about Girl Scouts. I was a girl scout off and on while I was growing up, mostly off and I really didn't get much out of it. But, last year, Olivia wanted to give it a try and my friend needed a co-leader for a Daisy troop, so off we went. Even throughout the year, I was not fully invested and if Olivia didn't want to continue the next year, I was perfectly fine with that (I'm one of those really odd parents that would love it if my kids weren't involved in anything, I guard our family time very jealously).
But then in May, our troop went to Encampment which is an area-wide event that brings girls of all ages together to do fun things and spend time together. The first thing that struck me was that a troop of older girls offered to let us hang out with them for the day; we got to eat lunch with them, they helped the girls navigate the games, and they really made a point of fully engaging those little girls in whatever they were doing. It really impressed me that these adolescent girls would give up the freedom they otherwise would have had, just to help our little Daisies feel comfortable at their first Encampment. Never once did it appear that they would rather not have our girls there.
The next thing that really effected me was at SWAPS time. Because the Daisies are so little, they only swap with cadets so that it's not so overwhelming for them. Now, I didn't realize this before, but the older girls really put some time and effort into their SWAPS and have really extensive collections. They were totally willing to open up their collections to the little girls, who obviously don't have the same skill level when it comes to making SWAPS. Again, not one girl appeared to have negative feelings about this.
After we had our SWAPS, we lined up for a little procession to the big circle where we were about to have the bridging ceremony. The Daisies are first in line and then Brownies, Juniors, etc. all the way up. When the procession started, we marched to a big field area and made a circle. As we were marching in the circle, I looked back and saw this huge line of girls and women and it just hit me that all of these girls had grown up in this awesome environment with the encouragement and support of these wonderful women who were giving their time and talent to the girls. I saw girls laughing and chatting with their leaders, obviously well bonded. We sat next to a troop of high school girls who were talking about needing to leave after dinner. Two of them had Confirmation the next day and one of them had a date. Her leader asked her who her date was with and when the girl gave his name, the leader exclaimed excitedly. It was quite clear that she was privvy to information about this boy because the girl had confided in her. Well, let me tell you, there is more that impressed me that evening, butthat hooked me right there. The fact that that girl had confided this information about this boy to her troop leader made me want to run over and hug that woman and thank her for being such a trusted adult.
Before the bridging ceremony, we were told that it is tradition in our area that the Daisies give the graduating seniors a flower. The graduating seniors had done it as Daisies and now it was coming full circle for them. The bridging ceremony starts with the Daisies that are bridging to Brownies and goes on up from there. So, you can imagine how excited everyone was to see the seniors bridge to adult status. It was truly moving to see how proud the graduating girls were and to see how much their leaders love them. It was particularly striking because my oldest daughter was one of the Daisies handing them their flowers. I could clearly imagine her as a senior, getting her own flower from a Daisy and remembering that she was once that little girl.
So, all of these things led to me to the conclusion that Girl Scouting is something that I really want my girls to do. The idea that they could grow up, surrounded by that much love and support is incredibly appealing to me. I think that the more supportive and caring adults that they can count on in the next few years, the better their chances of becoming really great women. How lucky these girls are.
Yes, Brownies can do anything because they have supportive and trusted adults to help them navigate through the very windy roads as they grow up.
And for that matter, I missed half of September as well! Things have been so crazy here lately, I won't even go into all the things that have happened to keep me away from this space. Mostly, our family life and the goings on here have been quite overwhelming for me to even process, let alone write about. I do have several things to share from the last few weeks, but it will take a few days.
The most exciting and stressful thing has been our kitchen rennovation. Things look so different in that room, it's amazing. At thid point, the wall color has been updated, the new floor is in and the new cabinets are installed. I have pre-counter tops and Oliver is working on the bookshelf so that he can fully install the counters. Yes, yes, pictures will be up soon!
We started our new "school" year last week and things are chugging along just fine. I would love to say that learning happens all the time here, and it does, but we really take the summers off from anything even remotely formal because the kids have "school" friends that are off then and all my best laid plans fall apart.
Our "Steady Routine" is falling into place and is making life here much calmer and happier. I envy those family who can fully live an unschooling life, but we really need a bit more structure to make things work here. As much as I love to sleep in, I have found that I am a better mama if I have an hour to myself in the morning without anyone pulling on me or asking me questions. So I get up at 7 and let the kids sleep until about 8 and then we're off with a bang! I'm posting a scan of our routine here so you can see how it works. I highly encourage you to head over to Steady Days and check it out for yourself.
So, there it is, you now know what we are (or should be) doing at any given point during the day. The great part about this routine is that we can change or abandon it whenever the mood strikes us. We're not stuck with it, but we do use it to fall back on when things are getting crazy and it makes our family groove.
Well, now I have to go sort through pictures to (hopefully) get some more posts up here. I'll try not to abandon you again for so long, but I can't make any promises.
Braidon spotted this water swing (I actually have no idea what it's actual name is) when we first walked in and declared that he had to try it out. When we got around to it, the line was really long and I was not at all enthused about waiting. However, the kids were adamant, so we waited. Well, it was definitely worth the wait. As you can tell from the pictures, they all had a great time. I'm not sure if it was how high they were swinging or the fact that they were getting soaked doing it, but every one of them squealed with delight the entire time they were swinging. Perhaps the most excited child was Olivia, she was absolutely tickled pink. I grunched and grumbled about waiting in line, but this turned out to be my favorite part of the while event. To see my kids so delighted made my entire day.
:: that I apparently have the power to bring on the rain just by watering my veggies
:: Saragh scolding her guinea pig for being rude and not saying thank you when she feeds him.
:: my kids getting so excited when I come home with really good deals from the thrift stores.
:: my parents living 4 minutes away and willing to babysit so I can make an Ikea run
:: a tidy house after 20 minutes of cooperative cleaning
:: the realization of a functional kitchen; 4 years in the making.
:: my husband, because he's not going anywhere and I am absolutely sure of that.
For the past few months, I have been reading this blog about becoming a more intentional mother. I have to admit that until last week, I was still reading it through heavily skeptical eyes. For those of you who don't know me all that well (and to make those of you who do chuckle) I may have a slight problem with authority and rules. Therefore, it follows that I also have issues with schedules and organization. I mostly feel that all of those things cramp my style. I like to be able to run off and do things on the spur of the moment without worrying about what I'm not doing.
However, I was definitely finding myself and the children to be in a rut. I noticed that the TV was slowly taking over our lives again, I was on the computer all day long, nothing was getting done around the house and we weren't rushing off on any exciting adventures; planned or unplanned. I felt as if we were slowly coming apart at the seams and life felt chaotic and harried all the time. Every member of the house could feel it too which was just making things worse.
So, last week while I was perusing Amazon, the book "Steady Days" kept popping up on my recommended books list. On a complete whim, I put it in my cart and then ordered it. When it arrived, I was still very skeptical. This book had the potential of ruining my life and making me do things that I didn't want to do. For whatever reason, I picked it up before any of the other books (that I was much more excited about) and started reading.
One of the first thing I read as I flipped through the book was this,
Some people think that if they become organized, they will lose their spontaneity and passion for living. Because they really value these qualities, they think they must accept their disorganization in order to maintain their free spirit. This doesn't have to be the case. Having a flexible structure helps you enjoy spontaneity. If you have taken the time to be organized in the things that matter most, then you will not feel behind. So when an opportunity comes your way, like the first warm day of spring or a special concert for the children, you can ditch the rest of your plans and go for it. You can enjoy without guilt because your other responsibilities are up to date.
That simple paragraph really clicked with me and I was hooked. Over the past few days, I have written and implemented a morning and afternoon routine for the kids and I and we are all adjusting to it rather well. It made the days flow much smoother and we all were engaged and interacting with each other. I am really looking forward to this becoming the norm here and where that will take us.
I'm not saying that this was a miracle cure for all the ails my family, but it is certainly clearing up some of the symptoms! "Steady Days" has become my new go-to book for getting through the day with grace and making the changes that are necessary. I encourage you to get a copy of this book and check it out for yourself.
The boys went to Camp Frontier at the Pioneer Scout Reservation in Ohio last week. Wednesday was Parent Night, so we went down with another scout parent to check things out. This was the first experience either of them has had away at camp. Although they were very excited to have this adventure and were having a tremendous amount of fun, they were both very glad to see us on Wednesday. I'm very happy to say that Ben hugged me so hard, it hurt!
We got to eat dinner with the boys and after they consumed enormous amounts of food we had a lovely conversation. As I watched nearly every boy go back for seconds and thirds, I deduced that 90% of the cost of camp was for the food.
On a serious note, the boys had great time all week long. This is including, but not limited to: each of them earning 3 merit badges, passing the swim test on the first try, learning a bunch of new things, eating as much food as they wanted at meal time and surviving a tornado by hiding out in an unfinished latrine. All in all, a very good week. They're already talking about next year's camp.