Wednesday, January 27, 2010

What we ate today

If you were wondering how this all turned out.... we did really well the past couple of days, and oddly the kids didn't seem to realize anything was all that different. Here is what we ate today. The kids surprised me by LOVING the salmon. If you can't see any of the links, I have published them all over on my recipe blog

All in all, it was yummy. Well, except for the kale. But we were adventurous and tried it.

Tomorrow will be our next big challenge. We are heading to the zoo for Homeschool day. This means I have to pack a lunch... a lunch that contains no bread, no crackers, no dairy, no soy, and no sugar. It's a brain bleeder. Hopefully insipiration will strike really really soon.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Daybook Entry

This is linked to Peggy's Simple Woman's Daybook.

Outside my window...its dark and quiet
I am thinking... sleep is going to be a priority tonight
I am thankful for... a husband who is home with us tonight
I am wearing.. pajamas, I like to think of it as my work uniform
I am remembering... what a nice time we had today
I am going... to have a very busy next three days. I forgot about a few events.
I am currently reading... The well trained mind, again
I am hoping... to get Chloe and John's room primed for painting
On my mind... consistently is adjusting to this nutritional plan for the kids and ourselves

From the kitchen... pan fried apples with coconut and almonds. Everyone loved dessert
Around the house... buying and hanging curtains

One of my favorite things~ quiet
From my picture journal... little girl's braids

Friday, January 22, 2010

Nutritional Update

So I have been doing research, trying to get a grip on all the new eating plan information. If you didn't already know, I talk about the whys here. I am pretty overwhelmed over here.

When I googled "no soy, no sugar, no sugar substitute, no gluten, no dairy recipes" I half expected my computer to burst into laughter. Instead, the first search result it brought up was for the hypoallergenic food magazine Living Without. Not exactly a message of hope there. Living without .... taste? Living without ...flavor? Gee, we couldn't come up with a more inspiring name?

I talked with the kids about the changes, and the response was unenthusiastic. Yeah, I am glossing over that a bit. Emma was pretty zen with it, she loves fruit and veggies but she will miss dessert. John only had one question, "Can I still have bacon?" and since he can, he was happy.

Chloe though, my darling Chloe is much like her Mama, she loves the breads and the dairy. Once I broke through the shock and disbelief, she laid down on the carpet and cried. Then she got angry. I can't remember what the next stage of grief is, but its probably headed my way. I personally am praying for quiet acceptance. This is hard, even though I know it is for everyone's good, it's hard to temporarily disappoint them.

Anyway we have decided to adopt it as well as we can, focusing on one phase at a time. I have tried to make the menu full of things I know the kids will like, lots of new tastes to try and always a dessert. Our first phase out is going to be bread/crackers/gluten. Ouch. But I have managed to pull a menu together for the next week, which feels epic right now.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

We were featured!

My article on how to manage when your husband works out of town was featured over at Quirky Momma. This is a great resource if you are looking for crafts to do with kiddos, home decor inspiration, family friendly recipes, homeschooling ideas and resources, or home decor tips.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A whole new way of looking at dinner

We went to the pediatrician today. Hormone disorders run pretty thick on the female side of my family, and they are beginning to show up with the girlies too. Our doctor recommended a nutritional therapy that includes:
  • no sugars or sweeteners of any kind, absolutely no artificial sweetners.
  • no dairy at all (nunca, nun, nein. how will I cream my coffee???? And no, I didn't ask her about caffeine, I'm pretty sure I don't wanna know the answer. )
  • no soy or replacement dairy
  • no breads or white rice
  • no flour or wheat products
I KNOW in my heart this is absolutely the way we should go, but implementing it feels overwhelming. I mean, I think we just threw out my entire pantry and all my emergency "feed the kids quick" foods. I don't even wanna think about trying to pack a lunch or snacks. I just kept thinking to myself, "well, at least she say we had to eat everything raw, I can still cook". But I have a feeling baking is out for a bit.

When we first started the Feingold plan, with no additives, artificial colors and flavors that felt overwhelming too, but after a few tears (mostly on my part, in the middle of the grocery store reading food lables) we have been successful and better for it. I am pretty sure we can be sucessful with this as well, but I think I will have to take each bullet point and master it every few weeks.

So, my friends.. If you have any gluten free, dairy free, sweetner free recipes you have been hiding. PLEASE, for the love of everything holy, share them with me.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

She wants to look surprised, but she had too much Botox

You know, once the kids hit four years old they just start to look all wrinkly and aged. That's why in our house we like to start them on Botox at age 5. Ha!

We went to the Dermatologist to get one of Chloe's warts frozen off. She was so very brave that the Doctor wanted to give her a treat. Since she can't have candy with the artificial colors, the doctor gave her this shirt!!! It is her favorite color purple, and its sparkly. What's not to love? Cracked me up! They also gave her a juvederm headband that matches.

Next stop the Preschool pageant Circuit!!!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tiny Dancers

The girls started dance this week and I had to take a pick of them in their ballet outfits. Yes, that is my Christmas tree you see in the background. I haven't taken it down yet. I planned to clean out the garage first, before we put it back. But we have had massive sudden appliance failure that has taken up all my time. I am not a believer in evil gnomes who like to break household appliances, but if I were, I would swear we have an infestation!

The second picture just cracks me up! John doesn't want to be in any pictures himself, but he tries to creep into everyone else's. Its like a bizzare form of streaking with your clothes on. He keeps trying to pop up in everyone's photos.

How to thrive when your husband works out of town, part 1

For the past eight years, my husband has worked out of town most of the week. This presents some unique challenges to maintaining family unity. Life is in a constant state of adjustment. I have read good articles addressing the struggles of military families, but there doesn't seem to be good advice for families in my situation. The struggles we face are different because it is not one long stint in another location and then a homecoming. Each week we say goodbye, and just when we have hit a rhythm solo, it is time for him to be home and for us to readjust again.

In case anyone else is in the same situation, I thought I would write out some ideas and things that have helped us thrive in spite of Brian's schedule. By no means do I have it all figured out, but I have learned a few things along the way. I am going to divide it up into two parts. This first installment will focus on the kids.
  • Create a Routine: I have a routine for the kids that spells out wake up time, morning chores, snack times, mealtimes, evening chores, and bedtimes. I wrote it down for Brian, when he is home I want him to feel like he is a vital part of our day. Before we had the routine, Brian always had to ask me what we should be doing. Half the time, I would just do it myself because it would take longer to explain it. This allows him to jump right in and help, to be involved in his own way, independent of me.
  • Stick to the routine: Regardless of who is, or isn't home, stick to a routine. If Brian were coming home from a long deployment, I would declare a national holiday and we wouldn't have bedtimes or chores for weeks. But you can't do that for two days out of the week, and then expect things to run smoothly the other five days of the week. In my experience sticking to the routine every single day is key. If you move bedtimes, you are probably going to have less time as a couple in the evening. Chores that don't get done while Brian is home will pile up and overwhelm me when he is gone.
  • Be Positive: When Brian is gone, I am the only parent the kids have. If I am grouchy, moody and irritable that is their only experience of a parent for the day. Yuck! Who wants to be trapped with that? Sure, I miss him, but so do they. Wallowing in self pity won't help anyone. The last thing we need is more negative energy to add to the situation. This is the one case where I think faking it till you make it works. If you don't feel it, and you fake it... pretty soon you find yourself genuinely smiling in spite of yourself. Being upbeat and positive will make a huge difference in my day and theirs.
  • Connection: If I had a number one, this would be it. Make sure the kids stay connected with daddy even when he is gone. When Brian is traveling internationally, we use skype. (Its like a phone on your computer) Its free, and it allows the kids to talk to him, when calling is too expensive. Set up email accounts for the kids, or let them use yours so they can send their own messages.
  • Information sharing: In our unique situation, one of my biggest jobs is sharing info with Brian about the kids. When they do something random or cute, I try to make sure that I blog about it, put it on facebook, email it to him, or mention it. People probably think I over share really random, boring parts of our lives online. But, I think it's my most important function, to tell him the stories of our day. It gives him common ground with the kids when he talks to them. They are still younger, and this way he knows what they are talking about when they start to tell him a story. He can tell them how cute they looked, or how funny they were. It's almost like he was there.
  • Consistent discipline: Get together as a parental unit (if you haven't already) and literally spell out the rules of your house and the consequences for breaking them. Write all of those rules down on poster board supernanny style and hang it somewhere in the house where you, the husband when he is home, and all the kids can see it, read it and enforce it. The next big step: make sure you enforce all the rules, all the time. It is hugely confusing and unfair for the kids if there is one set of rules when dad is gone, and a whole new set when dad is home. That is just a recipe for disaster. Having tried it, I can also say, only enforcing your own rules is a pretty great way to make your husband feel irrelevant too.
  • Responsibilities: Give the kids some responsibilities that will make the house run smoothly. When your husband is gone, you really can't do it all. So often kids feel powerless to change a situation. Explain to the kids how we all need to pull together, and give them responsibilities. Make sure to go back and reinforce how much you appreciate their help. Especially if Daddy lends his thanks, it will give them a sense of pride.
  • Have Fun: This is the perfect time to let the kids have their say. Let them choose what is on the menu for dinner. Let them pick the family activity for the night, or the movie you watch. Without my kids, I would never have discovered "Star Wars, the Clone Wars". The positive side to Brian being gone so often is that it gives me an opportunity to foster my independent relationship with the kids.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

10 for 2010

Usually I am not one for resolutions, so I have decided to call these "goals". I used to make completely crazy, unattainable goals each year. Now, I try to just take a little chunk that I want to change, something easy and doable. Since its 2010, I decided to set 10 goals. This may come back to bite me when it's 2025 and I have to come up with 25 goals.... so I'm not committing to this system.

  1. Project 52: Each Week of this year I want to prioritize a date night for Brian and I (Please note, this will not always involve babysitters, take a deep breath Mom and Dad. We won't be standing on your front porch each week). Once a week we will have a planned date night, after the kids are asleep, for at least two hours. Nothing electronic (unless it is the blender making my pina colada).
  2. Time for me: I do not want to be the mommy martyr, But I do want to be a good Mommy. I want over this year to continue to carve out time and space for myself, without short changing my family and to make sure I take care of myself. I set a few specific goals. Do my hair and lotiony stuff each day. Even if I am still in pajama pants, smelling good and my hair are the triggers that makes me feel "put together". Basic makeup would be nice, but it might have to wait for 2011. Baby steps, Jenn, baby steps.
  3. More Patience: I think I do fair with this now. But I would greatly like to increase my patience level, especially at about 4:30 in the afternoon. This is ground zero for me. I have used up a good portion of my patience schooling the kids and dealing with the problems of the day by late afternoon. Plus when Brian is out of town, we are about to start the grind of picking up, preparing dinner, baths, story times and bed. I have two ideas for myself so far: take a mandatory break from 4-4:30pm and have a snack for both me and the kids at 3pm to ward off impatience from low blood sugar levels.
  4. Less eating out: We have made huge strides in this department during this year. Over the last year, we have reduced the amount of times that we eat out. January of 2009 our habit was eating out once a week as a family, and probably once or twice a week we drove thru. Now, over the past year we have whittled it down to eating out as a family once every two weeks-month and we drive thru or pick up something quick once a week. I still want to cut this down even more. It's just such a WASTE of money, very poor nutrition and I can usually prepare the same foods better at home. I need to do more prep work and carry snacks for unexpected events . When we decide to eat out, I want it to be a planned event with a purpose. Ideally I would like to NEVER drive thru another restaurant. Since that may not be attainable, I would like to cut it down to every two weeks on average.
  5. Eat Healthier: Which goes hand in hand with the above. About two years ago we focused on cutting out artificial preservatives, colorings and flavorings. This past summer I started focusing on boosting our fiber intake by offering either brussel sprouts, cauliflower, and broccoli at every meal, offering an additional vegetable like carrots and offering a bean dish at every meal. (unintentional side effect: lots more farting at our house). We intend to continue these ideas through this year. But starting Jan 1 we have changed our dessert policy. Previously, I had offered the kids a little dessert after each meal if they successfully ate their protein and vegetable dishes. Even if it was just a handful of chocolate chips, I would give them a little something. Our new policy is that we will eat a sugary dessert when Brian is off work to celebrate that daddy is home. On the other days of the week, we will have a fruit based dessert (think baked apples). Even though some of the nutritional value of the fruit is lost in the cooking process, I at least feel it isn't completely nutritionally devoid of all value.
  6. Be Adventurous with Cooking: 2008 was the year of devising a system for careful meal planning and shopping. 2009 was the year of making everything from scratch (I even make my own cream of chicken soup now). I really enjoyed both years, it stretched me and I learned and grew. Things I really valued became just a part of what I do. For this year, I want to be adventurous in cooking. To make things I have never made, or tasted before. For example, this week I am going to make risotto. Never made it before in my life, and frankly it intimidates me. Next on the list will be pie crust! Even though I made everything from scratch in 2009, I was very careful to never make a single pie. I know it was chicken of me.
  7. Household Management: I have a confession, I am a flylady dropout. It just didn't work for me. At the time I started it all three kids were ages 4 and under. That alone should have warned me it was doomed to fail. However, I have kept with some of her ideas and I have made a few my own. Our house is lived in, but usually clean enough that I won't die if company stops by. My problem now is: with Brian gone as much as he is, and homeschooling the kids, If I devote the time I need to schooling and planning I can't do all the items I need to check off my list each day to keep the home running smoothly. My goal for this year is to find some kind of balance. I have a feeling this will mean involving the kids more in the chores around the house. Thankfully, they don't read my blog and won't have the time to fake illnesses that would relieve them of their duties.
  8. Financial Education: Brian handles our finances. He is so much better at it than I am. I freely acknowledge that I am dysfunctional financially, so I totally listen to him. He tells me what I have to spend, and I stay inside the limit. Instead of making sure I am a part of all the finances and having him educate me, I have chickened out and just hidden from any of the financial decision making. If money were to land in my lap, and Brian wasn't around to direct it, I would have an anxiety attack. I need to grow up a bit. Only God knows what the future might hold, I need to be a financially responsible adult.
  9. Household finances: this is the one area financially that I control. I take out a set amount of money each paycheck and this is the household expense budget. It is a generous amount that covers everything, so I don't need to increase the amount. But I have no freaking idea what it gets spent on. This is appalling because I am the one doing the spending. This year, as a part of growing up financially, I want to track what our household money is spent on exactly. To the penny. If anything were to happen, I want to know what could be cut, what our bare bones amount would be.
  10. Decorating: we have lived in this house for three years now, and its about time I finish decorating. There are walls that still need to be painted, and accent walls I want to paint. Items I need to sew, and craft. I have awesome ideas and poor execution. So for this year, I want to go room by room finishing up the decorating. Focusing only on that room, so I don't get overwhelmed and give up. I have made a good start with the kitchen and the living room. By the end of this year, I want to have each room done.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Wii Game Review: Squeeballs

Full Disclosure statement: I got nothing from Nintendo for this review (and what's up with that Nintendo?, throw some free games my way!). I schlepped myself to the store and paid with my own cash.

I think this one falls into the category of "party game". (We are new to Wii) This is a series of 150 mini games (see below for the types) that are just addictively fun. These types of games are perfect for our kids (ages 7, 5 and 4). They aren't serious gamers yet, and going from mini game to mini game appeals to their attention spans. We laughed the ENTIRE time we played these games. These squeeballs have personality. This has been one of the games that gets the most play around here.

The inside booklet tells you the story, "Squeeballs are toys made on a secret island somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. Before they can be sold, they must be tested: Only the best Squeeballs make it off the island. You are the tester -- slice them, dice them, inflate them! Test them to destruction." Its quirky and cute. The squeeballs are little smarty pants and if you miss then, they laugh at you. Actually they downright heckle you. The only part of the game that approaches disturbing would be when you grind the squeeballs into sausages to feed to El Toro. However, the sense of hilarity won out with us and we remembered them heckling us when we missed them in bowling! Ha-Ha, Karma Squeebals, Karma!

A nice feature is that the game can be played by up to four people, but you only need one wii remote. Its a very affordable title at about 29.00.

The games offered are in the following categories:
  • 10 pin bowling and bowling with twist (over lava, jumping from boulder to boulder).
  • cannon fodder: you lauch the squeeballs out of a cannon.
  • Cooking: alot like "cooking mama" you are cooking up the squeeballs for El Toro.
  • Paint by squeeballs: you launch the squeeballs from a sligshot at the paper.
  • shocker
  • stampede
  • feeding frenzy
  • pump the squeeball with air
  • golf
  • the squeeball testing belt.

Catch up post: Children's Museum Dec 2009

This is a good lookin' bunch of kiddos. We went with our friends the Ischy's to the Children's Museum for the Holiday exhibit. We had a blast!

Hello, Cupcake

Chloe was asleep and sick. So Emma and John helped me make cupcakes. When any of the kids are sick, I hover. alot. I needed to spend some one on one time with Emma and John. On the positive side, we had a blast. But, we discovered our oven isn't working properly and our cupcakes came out a bit wonky. John has surprised me, he LOVES to cook! He has commandeered one of my big wooden spoons in the kitchen. He carries it around everywhere and is always willing to give something a stir. I was so proud of Emma. She made her batch of cupcakes almost totally solo. More importantly, she was proud of herself.

Zhu Zhu pet sleeping bags

This was the kiddos favorite christmas gift. They love the zhu zhu pets, and I added a little home made sleeping bag for the critters to sleep in. I found the pattern at Little Birdie Secrets. I think they turned out super cute.

Friday, January 1, 2010

A great start in 2010

Dad and John read Dinosaur Books. Then tickled and tickled. We spent time with Daddy's side of the family. Mom knitted alot. We played video games together as a family. We ordered in from our favorite Chinese place and shared all the entrees. We snuggled on the couch and tried out new hairstyles. The girls decided to try dance classes for the spring semster. We laughed at each other alot. John wore blue jeans, and he LIKED them, with a long sleeved shirt, WITH underwear. Mom felt warmer somehow. It was a banner day, and a wonderful start to the year. May all our days be this wonderful.

Merry Christmas 2009

When Christmas Day rolled around this year we were still sick. I was so glad we had done our big gift opening the week before with Brian. I had saved the kids Zhu Zhu pets for Christmas day. It was all I could do to get them wrapped and their little sleeping bags sewn. Clearly, they were a hit.... with everyone except the cat.

Brian was off working and we missed him. We canceled our original plans with Grandma and Grandpa because we just couldn't muster the energy. But, we got to catch up with them a couple of days later. We spent the 27th with my side of the family for Christmas. Everyone came into town and we got to see all our family. While my brother and his family are working away from Texas, we really look forward for the time we get to spend with them. That was super fun!