Category Archives: Kids

Kicking Off Gluten Free Month

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Kicking Off Gluten Free Month

Today we began “Gluten Free Month” at mi casa. It’s nothing dramatically new for me; I’ve been largely wheat-free for a couple of years now, excepting breading on chicken nuggets (yum!) and the hidden wheat in some other products.

This time, though, I’m taking the whole family with me on the journey. The idea started a few years ago when I noticed a red rash on my daughter’s arms and back. It just never seemed to go away. The pediatrician wasn’t at all worried about it, but I could not bring myself to equate “persistent red bumps” with “healthy skin.”

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So I started thinking about it, and I realized I needed to give her a full month to “detox” the wheat out of her system and see how she reacted. She didn’t want to. She flat out didn’t want to know that wheat might be hurting her because she loves all things wheat. She told me she would rather not know and that the bumps really didn’t bother her, so why should they bother me? Typical teenager.

So I sweetened the deal. “If you do a month without wheat, a gluten free month, I will pay for the acting camp you want to go to.”

Signed, sealed, and delivered. I had a convert.

Now I just needed to get the other two family members on board.

My other daughter was very much of the “What’s in it for me?” mindset. I don’t blame her. Her sister was getting $150 worth of fun for one month of change. I got her to agree to do it with us, but I still need to come up with a reward for solidarity.

My husband looked at me, looked down at the table, looked at me, and said, “Okay.” But behind his eyes, his thoughts were racing. I knew better than to ask in front of the girls. After they’d gone off to get dressed, he said, “Ok, I’ll be gluten free at home, but you know I love bread. I’m not promising to stick to this while I’m at work.”

That, I assured him, would be fine. All I needed was solidarity in front of the kids. He’s a grown-up. He can make his own decisions. I just didn’t want to have the food around the house that would be tempting to a wheat-starving teenager.

Then came the de-wheat-ifying the pantry and refrigerator. We pretty much had a wheat bonanza this past week, trying to eat up and get rid of all the wheat foods. The biggest culprits were crackers, Pop Tarts, pasta, Girl Scout cookies, and breakfast cereal. I took anything unopened and packed it away out of sight. I tried to share all of the opened items among friends and family. Yesterday, I dumped everything open on the table and told the teenagers to eat anything they wanted from that pile. I know that gorging on wheat the day before will make it take longer to get it out of her system, but it was also a symbolic “going away” party. It showed her what items are going to be literally off the table for the next month and allowed her to satiate any last desire to eat them.

Yesterday, we went to wander through Wal-Mart, an infrequent shopping trip for us, and I snagged a box of Hungry Jack gluten free “funfetti” pancake mix, on the premise that it would be easier to get teenager buy-in to this month if I did go a little out of my way to replace familiar products with alternative versions.

When the kids were ready for breakfast today, they thought this stuff smelled AMAZING. They were actually excited to try it. Now, for those of you cooking it for the first time, it’s going to need a little finessing. It doesn’t cook as quickly through the middle as the pancakes you’re used to making from wheat flour mixes. However, it does cook quickly on each side, so you need to reduce your heat and cook longer to get it cooked all the way through.

The taste was good, the texture was a little grainy, but overall, it was a win. My husband even remarked that when he was done with his test pancake, he went searching for the second (nonexistant) pancake and was disappointed when there weren’t any more.

We played board games and relaxed until lunch time (it was a lazy Saturday, after all), and then I opened up the new-to-me George Foreman Grill my friend had sent my way. I had some chicken that needed to be used up, so onto the grill it went.

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Then came the “Oh, crap!” moment when I realized I hadn’t made any vegetables, and the chicken was nearly done. Off to the refrigerator I went, quickly picking out the ones my kids would likely eat raw: shredded carrots and sliced cucumbers. I then called on one of my kids to whip up some minute rice while I was otherwise occupied cranking open a can of green beans. Minute Rice had become their favorite guilty pleasure. Again, easing into the month was my goal. So this is what I presented to the teenager to eat for lunch: Prefectly grilled chicken breast, green beans, shredded carrot, sliced cucumber, and a bowl of rice.

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How’d it go over? Yep, you guessed it. Teenage outrage. “WHY did you have to give me so much FOOD?” And, “I can’t eat this much CHICKEN!” I love teenager logic.

If it had been chicken nuggets, she could’ve devoured an entire plate full.

If it had been 700 calories in cheese pizza from Costco, there would be no problem.

But a meal weighing in at around 300 calories, rather well balanced in its macronutrients AND vitamins? Oh, that’s too much.

Anyhow, it eventually got eaten. She didn’t die from an overdose of vegetables.

My husband was awesome when he went to the store today to get some things he needed; he picked up a loaf of gluten-free bread that looked appealing to him.

Tonight, my teen will have her first self-control trial. She got invited over to a friend’s house to go swimming right around dinner time. I let the friend know that she was going gluten-free, and I told her we would send some food with to make it easier on everyone.

Day 1 is almost in the books. Everyone is grudgingly on board.

Day 2 Progress

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It’s sad but good to say that on only the second day, I feel 100% better.

Yesterday I was still miserable. I felt fevered, sore, lethargic, and basically sick through and through. I left work “early” – which is on-time – got fuel and actually felt hungry. I allowed myself a packet of sunflower seeds from the gas station.

I got home on a mission – go to bed. First, I knew I was running basically dehydrated, but the idea of water left me (literally) cold. So instead I made a “green” smoothie, though mine turned out a really awful puce color. Banana, apple, spinach, a couple raspberries, a couple blackberries, and almond milk.

And then bed.

I crashed from 5-7, and it was one of the best decisions of 2015.

I awoke to an empty house and went to make dinner: ground beef, grilled onions, cabbage, and celery. I settled down with a cup of hot tea and a good book about the time everyone got back. I was still feeling pretty punk, so I ate on the sofa in approved “Mommy is sick” formation.

We opened some leftover Christmas presents (yes, it’s the middle of January, and we still had a stack of presents – mostly books – left to open) and then scooted everyone off to their respective beds by 8:30. Snuggled under the heating blanket, we watched the rest of our movie and collapsed into slumber by 10pm.

And then this morning? Oh my goodness! This morning, I felt like myself again! I was energetic! I was excited about making breakfast for people! I was ready to go to work! Granted, I did skip my yoga class for extra shut-eye, but I rationalized it that the sleep was what my body needed MOST.

And today I have felt capable. I have felt able to be on my game and do what needs doing. I have been cheerful and responsive and quick-thinking. I have been motivated and a problem-solver.

This is the me I expect to see, not the person who steals a nap over lunch, not the person who hibernates at her desk, hiding from work.

I’ve got to see this through and see what happens. I am (again) keeping a food journal, but this time I’ve added a new column – Body Check – to it to see how my body is feeling at any given time in response to food and drink.

Now my next goal is to convince myself to start drinking straight water again. I fell off the bandwagon with that one when simply drinking water made me cold inside. I started helping myself out by making pitchers of that lime-infused water again, and the bonus is that my older daughter also was cheerfully drinking from that.

(I’ve gotta brag – I’ve almost entirely eliminated sodas, sweet tea, sugary drinks, and juices from my kids’ daily diet. Yes, if we are at a restaurant or going out to eat, they usually choose sodas, but I’m not purchasing them for the house, and we’re not making pitchers of sweet tea. Milk, water, and hot tea – with the occasional hot chocolate – are the most common beverages for the girls now, and I have no problem with that at all!)

Paint by Numbers

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So I really, really wanted to paint last week. I got the go ahead to one of those painting studios where you pay a fee and get to have a class wherein everyone paints the same basic painting while imbibing alcohol.  I approve of this, and I am unanimous in this. The alcohol part rather cinches it.

I got the money together, got Fiancé Man to watch both my kids, grabbed the BYOB’s that I wanted, double-checked the website, and drove to the painting studio.

It was closed.

I was dejected. I really just wanted to paint. I wanted to make some art. Yes, it was going to run at least $35 for one painting, but it was the experience I wanted. I just wanted some paint time. But no, no paint time for me. 

See, at home I’ve got all these blank canvases and paint supplies just begging to be used. At home I also have nearly endless chores or commitments, so I very rarely turn my hand to painting. It’s just so frustrating to start making art and then get interrupted by everyone needing a piece of me, even if it’s just me listening. Because I don’t listen if I’m doing something creative. I get interrupted. And frustrated.

But here, here away from home for an entire month, I’d managed to get an evening free from tethers in order to go paint and reconnect with my happy place. But no.

Then yesterday, I dragged my children all throughout this one Town Centre (it’s officially high-class if they can afford to invert the ‘e’) window shopping. Lo and behold, there was another one of those little painting studios. And it had kids’ classes.

I had to ask: how much were the kids’ classes? $25.

Now $25 is not bad. It’s reasonable. Paint, brushes, canvas, instruction, childcare? In all honesty, $25 is cheap.

Except when the sale of your house didn’t go through and you realize that it would be $50 because you have two children. And really, would you want them to come home with two of the same painting? And what about my paint time? Well, they offered adult classes at $35-$45. Let me get the math straight: $50 + $35 = $85, plus wine. And that would be one painting each.

So on the way home from yoga today, I stopped by the arts & crafts store and investigated. And walked away with seven canvases, 25 assorted brushes, paints in every color (plus some) of the rainbow, palettes, and an extra 4-piece canvas set for $45 after tax.

Yes, I am the coolest mom ever. I could ensure painting bliss in multiple quantities for my kids and have a date-night “in” with my fiancé painting, too.

I opened up the canvases and paints and started researching great subject matter, and my kids decided that they wanted to redeem their extra hour of XBOX play time instead of painting.

And I honestly only felt a teeny tiny smidgeon bad about that. Because in all honesty, I had purchased the supplies for me. I wanted to paint. I was making that happen. And, by the numbers, I was saving money doing it at home.

I searched around for subject matter, and pulled a blank. I wanted something I’d like to see hanging for a long time, not just something whimsical and topical, not just something I could copy from someone else’s idea mill. 

So I sketched a close-up of my red-eared slider turtle, Snowflake. Halfway through the sketch, I started to lose interest in the subject, so I knew that would be an awful thing to try to muster up the stamina to paint. Then I thought about paining one of the sea turtles we’d seen while scuba diving, so I browsed the underwater photos.

And that’s when inspiration struck: us – my fiancé and me – scuba diving the week he proposed.

I didn’t think I’d get tired of seeing that any time soon.

So I turned to a new page in my sketch book and the sketches came easily – one from a photo I’d taken of him along the ocean floor, one of me skirting a coral outcropping, and several of the coral and fish we’d seen.

And then I decided I wanted it to be silhouettes of all of it. I love silhouettes. I’ve always loved silhouettes, and they don’t require perfection of detail, just perfection of outline.

A couple of hours later, I had my finished piece.

Even better, I was at peace.

And my fiancé? He liked it, too. And that was kinda sorta the point.

Falling behind

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Well, at least my butt’s not sagging – it’s not that kind of falling behind!

I just feel as though there are not enough hours in my day – the day where I can get something productive accomplished.  Sure, there are 24 hours in the day, sure anyone can get something done in 24 hours, but my day is parsed into smaller segments.  I have the 30 minutes before the kids wake up time, the hour of getting everyone ready and out the door, the commute to work, w-o-r-k, the time right after work when I can’t leave but I’m ready to, the commute home, picking up the kids, making food happen, (maybe) work out, encouraging kids to go to bed, and then about an hour or so before I need to conk out.

So tonight I just stole some time.  I didn’t go work out (as I should have done), I didn’t really sit and read with my kids (books happened, but that was not exactly my doing), and I started working online long before the kids should have been put to bed (which meant that, in fact, the kids got to bed late – when will I learn?).

On the plus side, I have successfully retrieved my blogging email, established that I can see things on NetGalley, installed some Adobe product or another, written a long post on my library blog, and still played around on FB for a few minutes.  Oh, yeah – and I’m writing this post.

I’ve still got a billion things I need to do to be a responsible human being, but at least I have my lunch made for tomorrow.  Of course, I still have to get all the stuff ready for my daughter’s field trip, clean the kitchen, and do a couple of other things.  But, hey, at least my butt’s right where I left it.

Up Early and Easily

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You ever have one of those days where you plan to sleep in, you have given yourself complete permission to sleep in, it would be advisable to sleep in because you stayed up kind of late the night before, your spouse thinks that you’re going to sleep in, you don’t even set your alarm – and yet, you wake up early?  When I say early, I mean like five to ten minutes before you’d normally begin to suggest to your consciousness that getting out of bed would be a good idea on a work day?

Well, you guessed it – today was that day.  I think it may have largely been spurred by the fact that my husband and I were planning to switch cars for a time today, and I wasn’t 100% certain that I’d gotten everything I needed out of my car.  (I hadn’t.)  But the plus side was that I got to make breakfast for my husband (he won’t usually eat unless food is presented to him – otherwise he grabs an unhealthy snack that gives him calories but no nutrition), I got to sit down and really read the newspaper, I got to relax and enjoy my morning coffee, and I got to get all caught up on Facebook (which I have purposefully put as a low priority in my life this year).

I just feel at peace right now in my skin.

I know I have things I need to do, but I think I’ve got plenty of time in which to accomplish them, as opposed to my ground state of being, which is thinking I’ve got a lot of things to do and not enough time in which to do them.  That’s usually when I realize I have to let go of wanting to either get some things done or get them done to my standard.  My standards are usually pretty high, which is probably why I’m generally unsatisfied with myself.  There’s a bit of a disconnect between what I want to get done and what I get done, and I typically feel the chaos of that in my soul.

Today though, I feel pretty peaceful.

So, the big thing in my life right now is planning for my daughter’s birthday party.  It’s going to be a Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone themed party, and I want it to be to my standard.  And last night, I got the biggest friend-gift I could imagine – a professional graphic designer took my idea to create chocolate frog trading cards and sat with me last night to create the most amazing cards you could possibly envision.  She had even done preliminary research, so it saved us search time.  She spent 3+ hours of her time to craft these little works of art, making sure that they would be quality, print them on both sides so that they aligned perfectly, and then used her own materials to print out these little chocolate frog cards for the party.

If it hadn’t been a labor of love, being that she adores Harry Potter and really likes my daughter and we’re friends, I would have felt there was a great disparity between the amount of time we spent creating these things and how much impact they’ll have on the party.  However, it was this really cool project that I, for one, will treasure forever – not just because it will make the party totally and completely awesome to have “real” chocolate frog cards, but because someone that talented and creative used her skills and showed me the process she would go through to create these masterpieces.

And if I ever thought I had a high standard?  Well, I was happy to just get them printed on both sides, but she re-did them until it was perfectly registered so that when you cut them out, there is no white around the edges.  And I was just thinking of making them like regular trading cards, but she made them pentagonal and added special effects to the edges and background so that these treasures look more like the ones from the movie than the ones you can buy at Universal Studios in Florida!  How do I know?  People who’ve bought the chocolate frogs (at $10 each!) have posted images online.

Part of me wants to find some way to reimburse her, to show my appreciation for her time and efforts, but I know that it was truly a gift, and that trying to compensate her would cheapen the impact of her gift of time and talent.  I know that, but I still feel indebted to her for her complete awesomeness.  I know that I will accept these graciously and just try to make sure that I am as good a friend to her as I can be.  I think that’s what I would like if I did something this awesome for someone else.

Well, so that’s the chocolate frogs.  We’re also going to have Diagon Alley, classes at Hogwarts, a feast in the Great Hall, and the movie.  That’s all probably grist for another post later.