How to get Kids to Eat Healthy (12-2-15)

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I’m actually asking the question. No, Seriously. This isn’t a guide to successful tricks. I mean, I’m asking you, how DO you get kids to healthy? I’d love to know! We’ve been “paleo” for several years now. I use that term loosely because we subscribe to an 80/20 diet. We aren’t strict about it, but 80% of the food we eat is game, eggs, poultry, fruits, and veggies. We do eat quite a bit of dairy, but very little grain. However, we don’t prohibit anything either. You may see us order pizza occasionally, or go out to eat, or the kids snacking on granola bars. I figure that if we don’t prohibit these then the kids won’t feel deprived and go on a crazy decade-long junk food eating binge in college. I do secretly appreciate when they make themselves sick on candy or pizza. They get it often enough to feel the consequences and hopefully will someday make better choices.

We also subscribe to the “eat what’s in front of you or feel free to choose not to eat” method. We don’t cater to picky eaters. They know that they can either eat or not. This has been a great success! Whoever invented this method has never dealt with children with the stubbornness genes of a mule. I have no idea where they get it. It’s weird. The idea to this method is that children that choose to go hungry won’t make that choice again, and will learn to eat what’s in front of them. Unless they live in our house. They don’t seem to mind being ravenous. They choose hunger rather routinely. Actually, this is the secret to feeding this many souls on a budget. Picky eaters that choose hunger are cheaper. We are saving quite a bit of money.

Another trick (OK I guess this IS a guide!) is to only have healthy food in the house. This works well. Supposedly they eventually learn to snack on the good stuff if you don’t buy anything. I mean, I think it’s going to work well. They’ve only been complaining about the snack situation for 895 days now. I think it’s about to turn the corner! Fingers crossed!

I’ve been cooking a hot breakfast every morning for about 4 years now. Strange how eggs get boring after a few days but if it were a bowl of the same cereal there would be no complaints! Did you know it often takes kids about 15 tries before they like something? Or in our case, 1460?

We’ve been living so high on the hog for so long the kids don’t even realize that it’s not common to get treated to a hot breakfast daily. They also think we eat steak way too much. Not sure many people would agree with them. Is there such a thing as too much steak? Definitely a first world problem. I’m grilling steak again tonight. I can’t wait to hear the cheers, the “thanks, mom!” and the pats on the back!

Thankfully there are plenty of adults at the table nightly to appreciate the blessings and bounty of eating paleo. We are lucky to have a freezer full of elk from Dad #1, free veggies from hosting a CSA drop, and some careful menu planning (feeding 8-9 on a budget blog post coming soon!). In their defense, they do have some good eating habits. They are all fruitivores. Sometimes I catch them snacking on seaweed wraps. (True fact). I took the little boys to the grocery store today and they both insisted on bringing sushi home for lunch. The littles also love fish oil. And sardines. (I guess they are set in the seafood department!) Maybe we’ve been living so high on the paleo hog now I don’t even realize they probably have healthier eating habits than most. It can be frustrating to put so much effort into health and cooking and have it be met with such opposition. Thankfully my better half is great at affirming our efforts and my cooking skills. I guess the key really is to continue to ignore the complaints and cook onward and upward.

Mothering Perspectives (12-4-15)

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My better half suggested I write about what it’s like watching a “first time mom” go through the phases from my vantage point. She said, “You know, how I have unreasonable expectations and think #5 is a genius.” This seems like it could go badly. She does like when I tease her but, I’m also dealing with a woman here, a mother no less.

Yes, there is definitely a difference in our perspectives but she might be surprised that this isn’t a “just wait, you’ll see” kind of post. I’ve been a stay at home, 24/7 kind of mom for 12 years with 4 kids, 5 kids since last year. I’m pretty experienced. I’ve single handedly parented the kids when my ex-husband traveled, when he was gone 8 out of 18 months at a time. I’m not saying that what I’ve chosen is better, just that I’m around kids a lot. I was a first time mom once too. I had visions of what it would be like, goals I wanted my kids to achieve, hopes that I would do everything right, teach them all kinds of things, read to them, play with them, educate them. I’m kind of jaded at this point. Chaos quickly took over through my choice to have 4, 3 of them only 2 years apart each. I started down the path of “survival of the day is our goal”. It became easier to clean up after them then to spend twice as long getting them to do it. Or potty training them on their terms because the intensive week long method was too overwhelming when you have a newborn and an older one to deal with at the same time.

But instead of feeling like she is unrealistic and unexperienced, it has been a breath of fresh air. It’s nice to have someone in the house that has expectations, hopes and dreams again. I love how she can focus on spending a few minutes with each of the kids, read a book to #5, and remember to brush his teeth. I love how she thinks he’s the smartest kid in the world. Sure, I roll my eyes a little, but only to tease her. (Gotta keep her from getting too big of a head sometimes!) He is (one of 5 of) the smartest kids in the world! (She may just have to work on her semantics a bit. “You’re one of my favorite boys!”). He’s a crazy talker. His vocabulary is through the roof! You can tell he is a smart little cookie, although vocabulary isn’t really my indication. Some of the kids talked at the “normal” time, and the others not until they were two. You worry at the time but I know now that this isn’t really an indication of intelligence, since #1 is off the charts sharp and he didn’t talk until he was 20 months.

I think it’s super cute that she looks forward to well-child checkups to hear the doctor say how brilliant he is. And why shouldn’t she? He is, and what mom doesn’t want to hear that? I’ve really lucked out, gaining one more adorable genius in the brood!

I feel like the one who should be changing her outlook is me. She helps be bring back those hopes and dreams that I started out with. Her outlook has refreshed mine. I feel rededicated to staying at home, starting to plan again about how to teach the little boys the alphabet and colors and art projects, instead of wishing they would just go play and leave me to the cleaning. Instead of “finishing” full time staying at home with the little ones before they start school, dragging and tired of the job, I can finish strong and excited about the time I have with them. How it’s fun to sit and play or read to them. When do you lose that outlook? Why do we as moms hope the new mom learns to be jaded and discouraged just like them? Why isn’t it the other way around?

Where experience has paid off is knowing what phases are coming up (heading into the terrible twos, we have another stubborn one on our hands!), or that the cough or fever he’s got is normal and he’ll survive just fine. Or that sometimes they just pitch a fit in the middle of the night for no other reason than they are almost 2 and that’s what two year olds enjoy doing. Hopefully this is a helpful perspective and not too annoying. I think it’s a really great mix of experience and excitement that we are at different viewpoints with #5 as well as the other kids. It’s been a steep curve for her to become a mother of 5 from ages 1-12 in a year and I’m sure extremely challenging learning the ins and outs of each age and stage. But it’s again brought me to reevaluate my own views on more than one occasion. Things you assume are just what 10 year olds do, may be right, but doesn’t always mean they can’t learn more, do more, or be better about certain things. A better example of what I’m trying to say is, I used to be a nanny before I had kids. Parenting seemed pretty straight forward and simple. I knew exactly how to parent and couldn’t figure out why this seemed so difficult to the parents of those kids. They were letting their subjectivity get in the way. Then when I got into the trenches, I became the same way. Parenting was complex and there wasn’t always a right way! I could spend a lot of energy wringing my hands and not knowing what to do. People who thought there was a simple way just didn’t know what they were talking about. I couldn’t see the trees for the forest. Now, however, I can enjoy being challenged by seeing both perspectives. It’s perhaps realigned me back into the middle of the spectrum where I can see the complexity of each child but still the objectivity of stepping back to gain the full perspective. She’s definitely brings balance into my world, on this and every other aspect of life.

He Calls me Moppy (12-8-15)

PictureI probably have one of the best “other mother” situations I could ever have. I am “other mother” to our #5, who turns 2 soon. I met this little guy before he was born, and was one of the very first people to lay eyes on him as I was at his birth. I didn’t know him very well, but I was the midwife’s assistant. For the first year of his life, I saw him frequently as his mom and I were casual friends and got together with the little ones.

I’ve been blessed to be a big part of his life for almost a year now, which is half his life. I co-stay-at-home with him either with or switching out with his dad while my partner works full time plus a part time job. Shortly after we got together, the little guy started talking (and hasn’t stopped!) and we knew he would be the first to need a special name for his other mom. We’d been tossing around ideas for what all the kids would call me but knew his was important since it was starting at such a young age. The other kiddos would take more time to feel comfortable calling their other mother something special. One morning we came up with something to see if he would repeat. We thought maybe he should call me Mama P. He sure tried it, spit it out as Moppy, and it stuck like glue! You know, one of those nicknames that sticks the second it’s said? And everyone takes to it? Yup. Moppy. That’s me! It’s not necessarily glamorous. But I love it! The good news is, it’s a name that will stick with me for the rest of my life. I probably won’t even have to figure out my “grandma” name. It will be Moppy I’m sure. When #1 heard that the baby was calling me Moppy, he asked why. Then he said, “Oh wait. I know. Your hair. That makes sense.” Geez, thanks kid! (I have a head full of dreads.) Now 3 out of 5 kids are calling me Moppy. I’m good with that. Even nephews, nieces, and occasionally others will call me Moppy as well.

It was a fairly easy transition since he was so little. I clearly love babies and it hadn’t been too long since #4 was a baby, so I didn’t feel like I had to start over with the baby stage. After 3 or 4 kids, adding more isn’t too big of a deal. J I was used to waking up at night occasionally, and was staying home anyway. I loved him and treated him as my own but I feel like it transitioned into it being no different than what I feel for the other kids a few months ago. It just happened. I had been feeling somewhat frustrated that it was taking him longer than I had expected to adjust to 4 older siblings, and was wondering when that would change, if ever. Then, one day, it just clicked for him and for me. In the beginning it was a bit of a challenge to watch 2 little ones again, as I had adjusted to having just #4 around. But now, I feel like my days with him are normal, and the days that I don’t watch him are strangely different and are missing something. Thankfully, I get to see him even on the days his dad is watching him. The best part is that when dad has him, they often hang out with us and the transitions, if any, are smooth or nonexistent. I love that there is no time when he is not part of our family.
He’s been such a joy added to my life. I’d always wanted a big family of 5 kids. He’s a happy boy, smart, funny, silly, and loving. I love being a significant parent figure to him and so lucky that I’ve had the privilege of sharing this role with my partner and my ex-husband-in-law. I love that I can be another mom to him without feeling the competition of a “step” role or that I’m trying to replace anyone. He has another parent that loves him to pieces and that can only be a good thing!

Our new Fridge (12-9-15)

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Picture me standing next to our brand spanking new fridge! Can’t see it? Me neither! It’s not here yet! Recall about 3 weeks ago, when I wrote an Ode to the Washing Machine because our fridge was broken, and I attempted to thwart the washer gods’ vengeance). We figured out it was a $60 part, and waited 4 days for the part to come in. The part came in 5 days, and unfortunately wasn’t the only thing that was fried. A $400 part was also fried, and the repair guy threw in the towel and told us it wasn’t worth fixing as by that point other parts could have fried as well. He recommended a new fridge. Crushing! I know appliances are valuable but never something you enjoy using your money for. I had remodeled the house less than 5 years ago and treated us to a very expensive $3500 fridge. That lasted 5 years. Ouch! Apparently something went bad in the outlet and fried the fridge. Or my personal theory is a large animal crawled up inside the fridge and died, and shorted out the outlet. (The fridge started smelling. Really, really, bad. By the time we had it off for a week, we had to move it outside. This was no musty smell of a fridge that had been closed up and turned off.)

Anyway, we counted our blessings that it is winter and we happen to have a breezeway that is uninsulated. We still hosted 15 people to Thanksgiving dinner. We shopped for a new fridge that weekend and didn’t even complain that it would take 10 days to get here. At least I was getting steps in going all the way across the house to get food! And it was nice and cold! I was rocking this positive attitude!

Yesterday, the long awaited day finally came. I envisioned writing this thankful post about how nice it is to have this convenience again and appreciate it for all it’s worth. Then the Sears guy called. Apparently the guys in Denver didn’t remember to put it on the truck (apparently this happens a lot?) but it would be in NEXT Tuesday! Sure! Because a fridge isn’t really that necessary, right? And Denver’s terribly far away (a whole 2 hr drive). I dejectedly took the news like a sad housewife. Ok, thanks for calling. Luckily my better half reasoned with them and got us a bit of money taken off the price. (Thanks hon!) It’s still going to be another week without the fridge. We’ll survive but it is getting a little old. And take note, this may be the first time in history I am frustrated that it will be warm the next couple days!

Hopefully next week we will be happily dancing in joy at our new fridge, but my take home lessons are: Be thankful for what you have, especially the things you take for granted, be thankful that things could be worse (it could be the middle of the summer), and things that seem terrible sometimes aren’t and there’s really no reason to complain. I’m willing to take this lesson for all of us, if it helps anyone avoid having to learn this lesson through experience. I’m also working on this positive attitude thing, and I know the last 3 weeks would have been slightly miserable for the people around me if I hadn’t.

Working Out (12-14-15)

PictureMy partner and I became friends through running.  I used to be a runner/triathlete in my former life, BC (Before Children).  I had tried to get back into it here and there throughout the first 11 years of motherhood, but it was so challenging.  I figured once a runner, always a runner, so I knew someday I would begin again.  When I met her, she was super fit, even throughout pregnancy, and got back into shape almost immediately (she may disagree but believe me) postpartum.  As a way to get to know her, I casually mentioned I would love to get a bit of encouragement from her and maybe some motivation since I was struggling to get out there and just do it.  The next week she called and told me she had signed us both up for a half marathon in 6 months!  She takes motivation and friendship very seriously!!!  That got us running and lifting together frequently.  Over the next year we worked out a lot together as our friendship grew.  We actually didn’t end up doing that race together (it got cancelled due to flooding) but we ran a 10K on our own.

Needless to say, working out together was pretty important to us.  It was a way to stay motivated and spend time together.  However, when we became an official couple, life had a way of turning on its head and it was difficult if not impossible to work out together.  Suddenly time was limited or non-existent.  Morning workouts were not really possible as the littlest ones woke up by 5:30.  Evenings flew by and we were lucky to sit down before 10pm, let alone squeeze a run in.  Painfully we realized our days of running together may not be reality, and at the same time, running independently wasn’t always ideal either.  We value all of our precious time together, it’s hard to give up any together time to lace up running shoes and leave the house solo.  Fitness went on the back burner for several months.  Very difficult, as it was central to our well-being as well as our relationship!

Now, we are both slowly settling into the new reality.  She’s been committed to waking up early to run on the treadmill.  She’s signed up for a marathon this May and can focus on her running schedule and it’s a huge motivation to get moving.  My ex-husband-in-law and I have been better about trading out workouts, so he can go run, and then I can go after he comes back on the days he has off.    My partner and I still treasure those days or evenings that we have free to run, lift or swim.  Last week we had a date night that included running to the rec center, swimming, and running home.  It’s not every day, but it’s still our favorite way to spend time together.  It’s hard to picture that sooner than we realize the little boys will start sleeping in, or we’ll be able to sneak away for a run in the mornings and leave them to their own devices.  For now, we make do with at least getting fitness in, even though it’s not always a together activity.

Finding Our Faults 12-15-16

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What happens to you when you stumble into your soul mate in the middle of your life?  I could write a book on this, but I want to write about one specific topic.  You’re in your late 30s.  You’ve been married for over 15 yrs.  You think you’ve grown, matured, in all ways, especially emotionally.  Kids and marriage will usually do that to you.  You feel wiser.  Mature.  You know your faults.  You know your partner’s faults.  Life makes sense.

Then, you meet your soul mate.  It’s amazing, wonderful, crazy, earth moving.  Your entire life changes for the better.  But it isn’t all rainbows and butterflies.  You get this person in your life, a person that you know you are supposed to be with.  Someone you honestly just can’t live without.  Your super magnet, your crack, your kryptonite at times.  But some life changes, while good and necessary, are an extremely painful time of growth.  You meet this person, and suddenly, you need to be the best of you, for her, for yourself.  You suddenly realize your best isn’t up to par.  It isn’t what she deserves.  You aren’t the best you can be for yourself.  You clash because you are so close.  You know every tiny thing about this person.  You can’t not learn it because you see into her soul.  And in return, you see yourself reflected in her eyes.  You need to grow.  Painfully fast.  Suddenly, while you can see her, your faults pop painfully into your view.  You aren’t wise.  Or mature.  Or fully grown.  You are an emotional teenager, a hot, hot mess.  All the demons you thought you slayed are still there.  They had just been hiding.  Ignored.  Put on the back burner.  You had learned to pretend they weren’t there.  It was easier to find the fault in those around you.

One of my many, many, immature faults is my constant negativity.  I don’t even see it half the time, because I have tried to change this.  I’ve learned that I have a personality type that is rarely perfectly content, which on one hand drives me in all areas of my life to be the best.  To put myself out there, to constantly improve.  But it also lends to a restless nature, a non-contentment.  This has painfully erupted in my life.  My view on life has the potential to hurt the one I hold above all others.  Can the supposed core (how I’ve always imagined it) of my being be a source of pain to my person?  How can that be?  How can I be so sure this is my soulmate yet inflict pain on her because of my “character”?  There are multiple choices in this, but the obvious reason isn’t actually that it isn’t meant to be, but, instead, that my person is honing me to be my ultimate best.  I am supposed to grow because of this person.  Not that her job is to get me to grow, but by the very nature of our connection, I have no choice.  Your soulmate should be the person that drives you to hold your iron to the fire, burning hot until you have been reshaped.   Your soul mate is a person that challenges you in every aspect, growing you.

I tend to focus on the challenges in life.  The hardness.  The tough stuff.  What I’ve survived.  I’ve known I needed to change.  I’ve made lists of things to focus on.  Read articles on the power of positive thinking.  Made a thankful list every day.  I’ve also discovered that it’s all just a part of my character makeup.  It has its benefits.  But here’s what I struggle with:  It’s easy to focus on how hard life is, what a challenge it is, how exhausting it is.  And people expect it.  I daresay I’m not the lone wolf out there.  It’s culturally acceptable to bitch and moan.  We’re busy.  We’re stressed.  We have children so our lives are obviously horrible.  Every comic, every post, every meme reinforces this.  We have 5 kids so it’s a given.  It’s got to be terrible.  All those boys?  People are surprised I’m still alive.  How easy it is to feed into that mentality!  Alone for a few weeks?  Poor fucking me.  I’m isolated.  I have so much stress and pain around me.  I suck in everyone’s misery.  Or do they absorb mine?  How can I think any other way?
But then, as these things always do, after they come to a head with the love of my life, it hits me in the most painful way possible.  The pain of your own faults can sometimes be unbearable.  I’m much more positive about other people’s faults.  I can see them clearly.  I can see what they need to do, exactly how to change, grow, maybe give them a step by step guide.  Problem fixed!  But my own?  Gut-wrenching, soul searching, I’m-surprised-anyone-loves-me kind of pain.

In the past year I’ve whittled my life down to the bare essentials.  The previous 5 years, hell, 15 years, I added more and more and more to my plate every few months.  I was searching for happiness.  I was escaping my reality.  I was making the best out of my situation.  I became so driven, juggled so many balls, I don’t know honestly how I was even functioning.  But I was doing it.  And I could be the envy of every woman out there.  I am wonder woman.  I can accomplish everything.  Ten times what most could.  Now, I’ve seen the folly of my ways and cut almost everything out.  It’s been a huge relief and I am living a much simpler life.  But now, with my life bared and whittled down, my faults are still there.  Causing pain.  Erupting at a brutally fast rate.  I have to deal with them.  Fast.  It’s time for them to go.  It’s painful.  But I can’t move forward by going around them anymore.

“How” is the big question.  I think this is a pivotal moment.  There’s a difference between knowing you should change something, and knowing you HAVE to change something.  Viewing a fault as a minor flaw vs a life-sucking problem.  How do you excise a flaw that is so engrained in you, you feel like you are amputating part of you?  I’m honestly not sure.  I’ve always (hell, I’m negative, remember?) struggled with the idea that people really can change.  I’ve even given it a percentage.  Say, maybe you can change who you really are, 15%.  But I have to change 100%.  I owe it to my soulmate.  I owe it to our family.  I owe it, most importantly, to myself.

Could it be anxiety, depression, a need to go on meds, or change my diet, or increase my supplements? It’s easy to go down that road.  An underlying problem that a pill might fix.  That would be easy, huh?  I know it’s not a problem that is caused by a deficiency in Vitamin D, or a need for Prozac, or finding a person that is not bothered by my faults.  It’s tearing that part of you down and doing a total, complete rebuild.  Ouch.  That sounds pretty difficult.  I may be negative, and my drive my not come from a positive desire, but I do have tenacity in my corner.

UPDATE:  I wrote this several weeks ago.  About 4.    I’ve learned some tricks.  Turns out, once you really decide to change something it’s never very difficult.  I mean, it’s hard to remember or do all the time, but not in the way it has been in the past.  In the past, it’s been impossible because I wasn’t really wanting to change it.  When I do, it becomes possible.  I hope that this change has been seen in me but I guess it’s not important whether other people see it, it’s whether your own life feels different.  And it does.  It hasn’t been painful to change, it’s more of a mindful shift.  I think there’s this idea in my head that losing that part of me is part of my identity.  But it’s not.  Nothing’s been lost or amputated.  Shifted for the better.  I feel settled.  I feel happier.  I feel freer.  I can let go of worries and stress and days aren’t bad or terrible.  They are laughable, sometimes challenging but nothing earth-shattering.  What am I doing?  Mostly keeping my mouth shut more.  It’s so easy to complain about how my day is going.  I think most problems can be solved by keeping our mouths shut more.  Especially mine.  I used to think that it’s usually good to complain, gets things off your chest, and shouldn’t others around you know how it’s really going so they can make you feel better?  I used to think that if you say things are great, and they aren’t, I’d feel more isolated, depressed because it’s like lying or hiding something.  I mean, isn’t it dishonest to not say how crappy you feel?  But it’s true, it works the opposite.  I don’t like admitting I’m wrong, or that others were right.  I realize it’s not really that bad.  The day or feelings will change, and my negative attitude could cause others around me to get pulled down.  You always want someone’s positive attitude to buoy you, but instead the negative always drags them down instead.  Why do that to others?  I’m not going as far as to say you should always ignore negative feelings or walk around pretending all is well.  It’s more a shift in perception than dishonesty.  I’m hoping to write more soon on the idea that I do believe there are positives in acknowledging the negatives depending on the situation.  But I’m talking day-to-day living, changing my mind frame to shift in the perception of my life.  It’s easy to know you have an amazing life yet get dragged down by the daily grind.  It’s challenging to be happy and at peace with the daily grind but I’m doing it!

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas 12-17-16

This will be our first Christmas as a couple, a family, and a group.  It’s certainly a mixture of emotions, memories, and history, but mostly a time of joy and happiness that we are surrounded by so much love and friendship within our circle.  We are merging our family traditions with open hearts and are excited to mix things up to create our new forever traditions all together.

One tradition that both of us have honored, as most families in Wyoming do, is the Christmas tree hunt.  In fact, last night she woke me up at 3 am to promise her we would never get an artificial tree.  Apparently she was sleep talking but I assured her it would never be an option.  I grew up in Wisconsin where cutting down a Christmas tree involved driving to a tree farm and choosing a huge, full, shaped, perfection of a conifer.  In Wyoming, we get a $10 tree permit and head for the mountain in search of a tree that hopefully has more than 10 branches and the branches are actually on every side of the tree.  Easier said than done.  Basically there are 2 choices of tree, that is, what’s left from the Bark Beetle infestations:  lodgepole pines or spruces.

This year we headed for the mountains and found a beautiful tree.  My partner was at drill for the weekend, so the hunting group consisted of me, all 5 kids, my ex-husband, my ex-husband-in-law, a cousin, and my ex-husband-in-law’s mother, who could be considered my um, hmmm, uh, I’m not sure what that term would be.  But she’s amazing, loving, kind, and a friend, and I love having her in our family.  I would call our first official Christmas tree hunt as a family a success!  Hopefully next year we will all be together.

Cooking Paleo-ish: 12-22-16

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I’ve been paleo-ish for several years now. This looks like mostly meat, eggs, veggies, fruits, and other whole foods. We have a freezer full of elk and grass-fed beef. We cook 95% of our meals at home so they are almost 100% paleo, except I can’t seem to give up dairy. I’m a bit embarrassed that our cheese drawer was actually overflowing after I went shopping. Oops. I don’t worry too much because no one in our family displays any dairy intolerance so I don’t see too much harm in it. (Yes, I know, I know, I would be happy to debate this point and you are probably right, it’s not great, but I’m trying!)

Today I got on a cooking kick and made several paleo-ish dishes for the freezer, not only for the holidays, but to practice on some bulk snack ideas. Currently the 3 kiddos that are in school are eating school lunch. They seem to like it (probably because they can fill up on cheap bready goodness), it’s not super expensive and I haven’t had the time or energy to focus on figuring out how to mass produce lunch box meals. There was a year that I did that, and eventually the kids came home with uneaten lunches. Between that and including a pre-packaged snack bar, it was cheaper to pay for school lunch.

I am determined to figure out a way over Christmas break to start making lunches again, that are healthy, actually eaten, and cheaper, and in a way I can whip them together in only a few minutes each night. I can start to make my partner’s as well. Hopefully making 4 lunches at a time will be a money savings. Within 4 years we will have all 5 kids in school and an adult bringing a lunch to work, so I think that it will be worth it. Right now we are paying at least $150 per month for school lunch. This doesn’t seem like a lot, but seeing as our entire grocery bill for the month is under $1000, it is a chunk!

Today I whipped up a feta-artichoke-pepper egg casserole, 2 spinach quiches, paleo granola bars, jello squares made with grape juice, sour gummies, and, lest you think we are all perfect over here, good old regular sugar cookies. (Hey, don’t judge! We got a kit from a friend). The feta-artichoke-pepper egg dish smells AMAZING! (Thanks http://www.skinnytaste.com). We experimented with the sour-gummies (recipe from http://www.mommypotamus.com/homemade-gummy-stars/), making lime, lemon and orange. Surprisingly the lime were such a hit, it actually caused a toddler riot! Whoa. These little treats are good because they are made with natural gelatin, which is great for healthy guts and protecting them from food sensitivities. The gut is where many hormones are made, including serotonin and also where most of your immune system starts.

Coming up with a big master list of lunch box ideas is where I am starting. We are OK at also doing a routine shopping trip on the same day each week, getting everything necessary for all meals planned. I know, this sounds pretty organized coming from me but if I don’t stay on top of it, I melt into a useless blob of mommy-ness very quickly. I go from super efficient wonder woman to sobbing mess by 5 if I haven’t planned the meal nor have the ingredients necessary. A week for me is just enough planning that it doesn’t seem too overwhelming but it’s enough to cruise through the week and not be tempted to order out or grab fast food on the way home from a hockey or gymnastics practice. The other big must is small reusable containers or my favorite, bento boxes. Bento boxes are usually rectangular flat boxes that have dividers in them, with a lid that seals and keeps the foods separate.

The hardest part about sending a paleo lunch with the kids is that now nuts and peanuts are banned in all lunches, which I totally understand as I have a couple family members severely allergic, but it does put a pretty big dent in the paleo snack factor choices. The great thing about the interwebs now is how many recipes are out there, and I’m starting to find ones addressing this common mommy-problem.

I’ll keep you updated on my experimentation of the-pickiest-kids-on-the-planet-approved paleo lunch and snack ideas in the new year! I’m hoping it will be an improvement on their health and our wallet! Wish me luck!

Road Trip! 12-28-16

1034 miles
16.5 hours
5 kids
1 Moppy
-17 degreesChallenge Accepted!

I hit the open road yesterday with the 5 kiddos, over 700 miles just on I-80 alone, over 1000 miles total, to grandmother’s house we went!

The kids were amazing little travelers.  We lucked out, but they are also used to long distance trips.

Here’s a few of my traveling tips:

Drive at sleep times!  The more the kids are able to sleep the faster the trip will go.  If you leave early enough, or drive through the night, they fall asleep more often.  I left by 5 am.  They fell back asleep before breakfast.  Also, this lessens your desire to stop.  Cuz really, you’ll be tired mid afternoon but who’s gonna stop that early in the day!  Press onward!

Don’t pack many things to do.  I know this seems weird, but I’ve found the more toys and movies I bring, the more fighting and unrest there is.  I spend more time appeasing children with more toys.  They get used to doing nothing.  They are quieter.  (And, benefit, learn to be bored, or look out the window.)

If they are sleeping, stop for NOTHING!!!!  And I mean nothing!

 Picture

PictureWhen you have to pee but the baby is asleep

Remember, don’t let screaming bother you.  They are in a 5 point harness.  They can’t grab your leg and stop you.  This thought is quite liberating.  Also, if you turn the radio up loud enough, you can’t hear them.  “Oh good!  They’ve stopped crying!”

Keep driving.  Keep driving.  Keep driving.  No matter how boring I-80 is, or Nebraska in general, it’s better than loading kids in and out of a motel.  A little advanced tip:  Make it super hard to contemplate stopping.  For instance, I didn’t pack an overnight, just in case we stop, bag.  The thought of unloading the entire car to find jammies kept me focused.

Thank goodness that Nebraska is full of tractors, cows, and large hay bales.  This happens to be kid #5’s favorite things in the entire world.  Thanks Nebraska!

As for Iowa, I guess they never received my open letter on FaceBook a few years ago about coffee.  So I’ll write it again:  Dear Iowa, there are these fancy drinks called espressos, lattes, and mochas.  They help people stay awake.  People drink these a lot and pay a lot of money for them, especially when they need the boost.  There’s even a franchise called “Starbucks”.  Worst case, (I mean, local is better, but beggars can’t be choosers) look into putting a few on I-80!  (Insider tip to any investors out there!)

The kids traveled SO well, there was less than 10 minutes of unrest amongst the crew.  There was small talk throwing one of the crew members overboard but thankfully for him (I’m not naming names here), he calmed down and eventually fell asleep.  No talk of mutiny either!


Mile Marker 237-1-6-16

PictureI share this story with you because I relive this each time I pass through on I-80. It’s a happy ending but does contain trauma:

Some experiences are seared into your memory. You can recall every detail for the rest of your life. Strange how the mind works when other times you don’t remember what happened the day before.
June 4. 2010. MM 237 on I-80 in Iowa. Tiffin. This insignificant rest stop on I-80 holds special meaning to me for the rest of my life. It has a happy ending, but with the real memories is tangled the potential of the nightmare that it could have been the most painful place on earth.

Five and a half years ago, I just had 3 munchkins then. The kids and I were planning to spend the summer with my parents and my dad had flown in to drive across the country with me. The kids were 2 ½, 4 ½, and almost 7. All the kids were getting over colds, but they all seemed to be croupy as we drove. It wasn’t uncommon that they were all coughing at once. Dad and I took turns driving, but he seemed to prefer driving to keeping the kids occupied, so I was in charge of that at the time.

Little #3 seemed to have the worst time of it. She had a wheeze since birth, something diagnosed as laryngeal malaycia, a harmless “floppy voicebox” that kids outgrow by 2. She barked when she coughed, but we were reassured that it would be done by the time she was 2. She was 2 ½ but maybe it would just take her a bit longer. That morning she was pretty barky, which wasn’t unusual, but the other kiddos were too. We were making good progress, and I was busy handing the kids snacks. They got treated to goldfish crackers. She was eating, drinking, and coughing. Sometimes, and this wasn’t unusual either, she would bark so much she couldn’t stop. Her cough was working its way up to this point and I finally suggested that maybe we pull over at the next stop so I could nurse her. Dad agreed and by the time he had, we both thought he should pull over sooner than later. By the time we hit the off-ramp, she was really struggling. I thought I would save time and started unbuckling myself and climb over the seat to release her from her car seat. As we slowed to a stop I was already trying to nurse her, hoping the milk would soothe her throat enough to calm the coughing. She tried but couldn’t stop long enough to latch on. She was beginning to panic as she tried to cry for me, “mom, mom!” but could only inhale and I could hear her pitch rising as she wasn’t able to exhale. The car rolled to a stop and dad hopped out to come around to the passenger side. Before he could even reach us I watched as her eyes rolled to the back of her head before she stopped breathing completely and went limp in my arms. I screamed at my dad to dial 911 and I planned on running into the rest stop, hoping it had a manned desk. It’s odd how the brain works. My first instinct was to completely panic, hoping screaming and looking at my limp daughter would be enough action to save her. In these situations, time grinds to a halt, and every millisecond spreads out into distinct thoughts. As I watched her turn blue, I realized that I would be holding her here in this parking lot, and would just watch as she passed away. My next thought was to find someone to help me. There had to be someone that could take this responsibility from me and do their magic! I began to run with her toward the building, a frantic look on my face, scanning each face that I passed, knowing with certainty I would be able to see their ability to help written on their face. By the time I entered the building, I knew there was no one that would be able to help. Then my thoughts shifted again. I knew I could help her. I hadn’t taken a CPR course since high school, more than 15 years before. But it all came calmly back. I knew what to do. I knew exactly what to do. I laid her on the floor. I wasn’t going to waste a precious second checking for what I knew wasn’t there already, or waiting for her heart to stop beating. I started doing rescue breaths on her tiny face. Again, the miniscule thoughts that stand out like giants in your mind. She was just over the toddler age. Do I pinch her nose or breathe through both? Making this decision instantly: She was tiny and I breathed through both. By my second rescue breath, a man was kneeling by me, ready to assist. Seconds ago I would have given anything to have someone do this important work for me, but now I couldn’t trust anyone else to do this for my own daughter. I was ready to move on to the next steps when she woke up and began breathing again.

It turns out the man that stopped to help me was a volunteer EMT who had already called 911. As we waited for the ambulance to arrive, I held her to nurse, and she was strangely quiet. We also happened to be right outside Iowa City, home of U of Iowa. We had her checked out in the ER, and my dad followed behind the ambulance to the hospital. She was totally fine by then, the guess was her throat constricted long enough to pass out and/or have a small seizure. She was X-rayed to make sure she didn’t aspirate. She was cleared to go (she apparently did aspirate as she developed pneumonia later that week).

So many parents aren’t lucky like we were that day. I have no explanation for why we got to keep our daughter, and why she is alive today. I can only be thankful that we were spared that kind of unspeakable pain. It’s scary knowing how easily you can lose a child, in the most unexpected ways. While I believe in divine intervention, I also hold tight to the belief that life and death happen, randomly, and often unreasonably. One of my favorite passages for answering that age old question of how good and bad things happen to good or bad people, is Matthew 5:45. “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and unrighteous”. To believe that God spares some and not others is to believe that we somehow might have earned our blessings. It seems presumptive to me.

Eventually we continued on our way. In the words of the oldest, full of compassion, ever practical, said when we got in the car, “Well, THAT was a waste of time! Let’s get to grandma’s!”

* There’s more to her health story that I will write about soon.