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My Favorite Ideas for Easter – A Little Less Sugar, a Little More Fun Together

easter-family-fun-dayI consider myself a mom that falls somewhere between “it’s a BIRTHDAY PARTY, enjoy what you want to eat” and “Did we just go to 4 parties in a row? No more pizza for a month”.  That’s why I encourage my daughters to enjoy the yummy food they find at birthday parties and holiday gatherings but try to talk to them before and after (never during, because…what’s the point?) about the importance of healthy eating.  And maybe even enjoying the moment a little more than figuring out how to cram 3 cupcakes into their mouths at once.

With Easter right around the corner, I want to share some quick, easy, fun, and sometimes delicious ideas for enjoying the fun day without overdoing it on sugar and excess:

1. Plastic Easter Egg Filler Ideas (NON FOOD): bouncy balls, stickers, erasers, coupon for screen time, quarters (especially great for younger kiddos), whistles, seeds to plant a garden

2. Plastic Easter Egg Filler Ideas (FOOD): UnReal candy (no artificial flavors, dyes or preservatives and non GMO), MySuperCookies (of course!), dried fruit (my daughters are obsessed with pineapple at the moment), dark chocolate or yogurt covered nuts or raisins.

3. Turn the Egg Hunt into a scavenger hunt in your yard or neighborhood.  Get outside and enjoy some time together!  Get your friends and neighbors involved.  Create a list of items and divide the group in teams.  Each team needs to find and take a picture of every item on the list (a blue car, a bird house, a house with the number 3 on it, etc).  Then hand out clues to find the eggs (“This is where granny sleeps when she comes to visit” – all the eggs are hidden in the guest bedroom!  (WARNING: To avoid a massive fight if someone arrives at the guest room first, separate the eggs by color – each team gets to collect only one – or place each team’s eggs in a different room)

4. Easter Basket Ideas: DVDs, books (The Day the Crayons Quit and Rosie Revere Engineer are two of our favorites), MySuperSnacks, clothes, reusable water bottle (we love Thermos FUNtainers), tickets to a local kids play or triple A baseball game, art supplies, all of the ingredients to their favorite meal (and they get to help in the kitchen), a personalized set of magnets or new place mat from Shutterfly, bubbles, yoyo, kite, water balloons.

Above all, have fun!  It’s a family day.

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Family Meals Are Not What They Used To Be…and That’s Okay.

family-dinner-table-y8l5mgl8Yes, we get it.  Sit down.  As a family. Every day. Eat together. Share stories.  And they better be meaningful!

I just did a Google search on the “importance of family meals” and over 75 MILLION results surfaced.  One even touted “8 Reasons To Make Time For Family Dinner.”  I know that the idea behind this article was not to make me feel bad about myself, but I also know that for some people, it did.  Eight reasons feels like a lot when all we want to do is our very best.

A friend of mine recently made a relatively big move with her husband and 3 kids to allow for more time with all of them together.  Her husband works very long hours and was hardly ever home.  It was a great decision for their family, even though it presented other challenges in space, comfort and what was expected of them by their peers.  Now, they have breakfast as a family.  Most mornings, those three little kiddos spend amazing time with their dad who was previously out the door before they woke up in the morning.  My friend now gets to share her coffee with the man she described as her “best friend” the first time she mentioned him to me.  Everything about this makes me happy.

And they will almost never have a family dinner together.

Mind you, breakfast at their house is probably not much different than breakfast at my house.  Minus the presence of my husband who leaves the house at 6:30am.  Rousing of children, dressing little limbs, reminders of teeth brushing and packing of lunches.  Nevermind the actual breakfast part.  A blur of yogurt and pancakes, peanut butter and milk.  Their family breakfast is not a leisurely Sunday brunch that we all dream about.  But is their time together that they careful carved out of their lives.  More importantly, they changed their lives to make it a priority.  I bet their kids feel that every day without asking someone to pass the mashed potatoes.

I think that’s the point of the urgency to reconnect over dinner.

More than ever, we are over worked, over scheduled, over stimulated.  I know that things have changed in many ways since I was a kid and even more so since my parents were kids.  But it’s not all bad.  I’ve figured out lots of ways to connect with my family.  At the dinner table and elsewhere.

1. Last weekend, my husband was out of town.  I took my daughters to lunch and, not wanting to eat and run, I spontaneously told one of my daughters to open her mouth and close her eyes.  I proceeded to give her a taste of two muffin remnants on the table and asked her to properly identify what she ate.  Not only did she guess right but both daughters LOVED this game and we ended up sitting and laughing for 30 minutes more than we would have otherwise.  They can’t wait to play again.

2. I usually have a freezer bag filled with homemade muffins to throw into school lunches.  When I’m running low, I will whip up a batch pretty quickly.  If I’m lucky, I will catch myself before trying to plow through the task and invite my daughters to help.  By now, they are very familiar with the recipe and one time, not long ago, one daughter made it nearly by herself.  She smiled the whole time and we had that special time, when she felt awesome, together.  The next week she told me she wanted to open a restaurant and make pizza and muffins when she was older.

3. Family walks.  I often don’t feel like doing this (especially recently, when layers of clothing were involved) but we all come home in a happier mood.  I have vowed this Spring to walk outside with my family more.

I think the point is not the time or day or perfect dinner time location.  The point is the connection.  Being right there in that moment with each other when we don’t think or care about anything else but what is starting us in the eye.  And often, if I’m lucky, it’s a goofy, 5-year-old grin.

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Half Marathon – Finding and Keeping What Works as Your “Thing”

 

20150210_132141 (1)Half Marathon – Finding and Keeping What Works as Your “Thing”

Megan Monday (or Tuesday!) articles are written by Megan Kalocinski, a Certified Nutrition and Health Coach.

So it’s been awhile since I’ve been able to write a new blog post; lots of things, as always, going on in our house, but not necessarily things I’d prefer to be doing. Our family had to pack up our entire house and lives smack in the middle of the holidays for a January 1st move to another state for my husband’s job.  This is my 5th move in 5 years.  I’m someone who craves stability.  You can imagine how I felt about this move.

Then of course add on the time it takes to get settled, especially with two young kids (who, by the way, have kept their sick streak going strong! That’s a topic for another article) – it’s just been a blur these past two months. However, I have been writing this blog post in my head for quite some time, as it’s been something that was panging at me to get on paper.

Despite all of the craziness with the move, etc., I was able to get away for a few days (by myself!) back in January to run the Naples Daily News Half Marathon. It was one of my worst half marathon times to date, but doing this race taught me how to think in a whole new way – to let go.

You see, I was never much of a runner.  I was always a swimmer and rower.  Running became “my thing” back in October 2004 when I had just graduated college, was kind of floundering from a set-back in my first job where I got horrible black mold poisoning and felt like garbage (emotionally and physically).  I went to go see a friend run the Marine Corps Marathon in Arlington, Virginia & Washington, D.C.  and as I stood at the finish line (which is a not-so-fun .2 mile uphill climb), I saw a middle-aged man in a wheelchair with both legs amputated struggle up that last portion of the race.  He had completed 26 miles and was almost rolling backwards the last two-tenths of a mile because he was so tired and could barely muster up the strength to keep going. My heart sank at first for this man. I started tearing up as everyone rallied to get this guy to the finish line.  We were screaming and clapping so hard.  The look of determination on his face was something I will never forget. While I never knew why this man lost his legs, all I could think of was what he was thinking as he gripped the wheels of his chair with each push – did he miss his legs? If he had his legs, would he be struggling so hard? Or did he just see this moment as it was – a goal he had set that needed to be finished? All that mattered to me at that moment was this man’s perseverance and grit to push through something difficult. That man finished his race. I was moved beyond belief at that second he wheeled across the finish line. I also looked down at my own legs and became mad at myself that I didn’t use them more; I just witnessed someone accomplish something that was so far beyond anything that I was currently doing. It was at that moment that I decided I was going to start running and train for a race.  That night, I signed up for the Naples Daily News Half Marathon that was to take place a few months ahead in January.  I had my work cut out for me, but I just kept thinking about that man in the wheelchair, and that motivated me.

My training became something that resembled a friend.  It was my escape from a stressful day; I could be alone with my thoughts and let my legs work out my troubles. I started to tone up and lose weight. My energy levels were so much better than they had been.  I was sleeping better, and I felt the best I had in awhile. Plus, I felt like I was accomplishing something each time I ran. I made running friends, and we had our running dates. Instead of going out partying, I was going to bed early to get up at dawn to run. My eating and lifestyle choices became healthier and I actually started to like the way clothes fit on me. Running was officially “my thing.”  I ran my first half marathon and was hooked. My friends came to see me run and I loved seeing my parents at the finish line proudly cheering me on. I signed up for more and more races and wound up doing the Naples Daily News Half Marathon several other times in the years to come – it’s one of my favorite races and I have such fond memories of my dad driving me to the race early in the morning and being at the finish line with his camera taking pictures of me and my friends finishing. I am grateful for those memories and feelings.

Fast-forward ten years, I have completed over 100 races and six half marathons, which in reality, is nothing compared to many runners out there. I have even impressed myself with some decent times when I was actually in decent running shape back in 2008 and 2009. But with every single run I’ve done, ever – I always think back to that man in the wheelchair.  I thank that man for igniting something in me – something that saved me in many ways, and more than I would realize once I had to deal with my dad’s cancer, death, and then having my own children.

When I got pregnant with my first child, I ran a little bit in the beginning, but wound up stopping; I was definitely suffering from depression while coping with my dad’s stage 4 brain cancer at the same time of my entire pregnancy. I wanted so many times to get up and run; I missed my “friend” – my workout. But I just couldn’t do it. I felt my years of hard work start to slip away with each missed run, and in a way, I didn’t care – I was rebelling in a way out of anger about my dad’s illness.  It wasn’t until I had my son and two weeks later had to hurry across the country to get to my dying dad that I realized I needed my friend back – I needed to get back to my runs. Four weeks from having my son and while caring for my dad on home hospice, I would sneak out between infant feedings and just go for quick jogs.  Everything. Felt. Different.  Before I took that first step, I had the expectation of what it would feel like before I had kids.  This was a realization that was to settle in (and I think for any new mom) – my body had changed….forever.  I wasn’t going to let that get in my way…I needed the run, so I ran.  It felt amazing at first – like a caged bird being freed.  And then I had to stop because my bladder was protesting.  Then my hip started acting up.  I became mad.  WHY was this happening?  All I wanted was a few minutes back with my salvation.  I remember the feelings of defeat and sadness when I ended each run feeling like I could have gotten more out of it.  I would scold myself for not going faster…or running one more mile.  I kept at it for weeks – and I am glad I did.  Despite peeing my pants on numerous occasions and feeling completely embarrassed, I learned how to be humble.  These runs saved me from falling into a deep depression watching my dad deteriorate and dealing with post-partum hormones.  As my dad lost use of his legs more and more each day, I vowed to use mine more and more – because I could.  I kept thinking back to that man in the wheelchair at the finish line.  He reminded me of my dad.  He just wouldn’t give up – and neither could I.  I kept running despite hip pains, a leaking bladder, and sore breasts from nursing a baby.  On my runs, I would see other moms running. Or walking. Or riding their bike. Or doing something.  This was their “thing” – their way of taking a moment to try and keep something that was theirs before a child, or life-changing event. Maybe it was their new “thing” that they just started like I had back in 2004. Whatever the case, I felt a sense of camaraderie with them.

My dad passed away in May 2012 and right after his death, I signed up for a half marathon out in California – the Big Sur Half Marathon. The course snaked along some of the most beautiful scenery this country has to offer, including Pebble Beach – one of my dad’s favorite spots in the world. I was doing this race for him – and me. The post-baby me. I needed to prove to myself that I still had it. Yet I was realizing more and more that I was pretty much starting from scratch, despite my harsh expectations on myself. I pushed myself to sneak runs in whenever my husband could watch our son – which usually meant I was running 7+ miles at 8 or 9 pm.  I was exhausting myself and training horribly without realizing it. My “thing” was starting to turn into something that was hurting me – literally. A month and a half before the race, I blew my hip out.  Bad.  I couldn’t walk for a month, so I rested.  I felt defeated. However, I wouldn’t let go of the race. I still did it. I pushed myself through pain, but I kept thinking about the man in the wheelchair the entire time. I finished with a paltry time, but considering I had to walk the last 3 miles of the race, I was pleased.  I was so sad that my passion – my friend – my runs – seemed more and more of a fleeting dream as my injuries piled up. Why couldn’t I let go?

I decided to give it a rest for a while, so I stopped running and took up yoga, which was great.  It helped me heal to an extent, but the damage was still there from that initial hip injury. I was in constant pain, my movement was limited, and all I kept thinking of was how I felt like a failure. I didn’t feel like I was good at anything “athletic” anymore. Granted, I didn’t take into consideration enough that I was barely sleeping with a young child at home, I was still nursing, and yes, my body changed from having a baby and I didn’t want to accept that.  I wanted my toned muscles back – not the stretched-out marks and cellulite I saw. I think so many moms do this to themselves after having a baby and looking back on it, we’re clinging on to things of our lives pre-baby.  I envied my friends who looked like supermodels after having kids.  I hated how my hip hurt all the time. I felt like I lost so much with that injury.

I became pregnant again with our second child that following summer and actually was able to run more, as the hormones from pregnancy relaxed my hips and the pain from my injury subsided.  I ran a few races and loved that feeling again. I was learning how to love running again without all of the pressure. Once my second child was born, I was determined to get back into running again – the right way.  I trained slower and tried to be more gentle with myself, but I still fought that mental chatter of telling myself I needed to go faster, run those 7:30 minute miles again, aim for a certain race time, etc. I ran a half marathon this past November with my hip injury back again from training. I refused to not do the race, so I walked a good portion of it and did what I could. I felt with each step that my “thing” – my running life – was officially over.  My body was trying to tell me I shouldn’t do it anymore.  Having kids changed my body in a way that does not want it to run anymore. I really swayed between anger and sadness. But I thought about the other moms – how many other women out there can’t do what they used to? How many men aren’t able to do what they used to because their lives changed in some way or another?

I’m stubborn, so I still wouldn’t let it go.  I had one more race to do – the Naples Daily News Half Marathon. I had stopped training from November on.  I ran a few times in-between, but with our move and my sore hip (and nursing and two little kids to care for and sleepless nights all the time), my body was shot.  I had to learn to refocus and change my thinking.  Running is to me now something totally different than it was in the past.  Like I mourned the loss of my dad, I really mourned the loss of my “thing” at the same time – when I realized I may not be able to run the same way I used to.  Instead of trying to force something that may not be able to ever be the same, I need to embrace what I had and see what I can do instead.  As parents, we all need our “thing” – and that thing may have changed or will have to change for you for whatever reason.  But whatever it is – always find something that can be yours – your salvation. Having to let go of this passion of mine also helped teach me to let go of the things that no longer serve me.  I would hold onto things in an unhealthy way – it would cause stress and despair. Now, I try to really hone-in on what matters, what doesn’t and clean house in my head.

For my last race, I went into it with no expectations other than to finish and have fun.  This was the first time I was doing the Naples Daily News Half when my dad would not be at the finish line waiting for me and not cheering me on, which marked a newfound way to look at my running.  I was able to run the whole thing slowly without stopping or walking – and I didn’t even care what my time was.  I knew it would be slow.  I have not run since that race day in January and am healing my body with other forms of exercise before I push it to cruel extremes.  My half marathons now are caring for my kids on a daily basis – the demands of being a parent are incredible, but rewarding, like crossing that finish line. Moreover, I want my boys to learn to have their own “thing” as well – and modeling this for them is one of the best things I can pass on to them, even if it’s not a running race.

Every day, I still think about that man in the wheelchair at the Marine Corps Marathon and wonder what he’s doing now – what has he been up to these past 12 years? How many other marathons did he do after that time I saw him and how many other people did he inspire?  Most of all, I think about what my life would be like hadn’t I witnessed that man that day?  What would my “thing” have been, if I found anything at all? What would have helped get me through some of the hardest things in my life?

Whatever it may be – think about your “thing” – is it the same as it was several years ago? What are you thankful for? What are you hopeful about? And most of all – what has inspired you? Always look back to that source of inspiration and siphon daily all the positivity you can from it, as it’ll keep you going – in ways that you never thought that you could.

This article is dedicated to “the man in the wheelchair”, my dad – the other man in the wheelchair who wouldn’t give up, and all of you out there who have a “thing” that won’t let you give up. Just know when to let go – there’s a difference. J

Megan Monday articles are written by Megan Kalocinski, a Certified Holistic Nutrition and Health Coach and Owner/Founder of Empower Nutrition & Health Coaching, LLC. Megan educates and empowers women, men, and children of all ages to learn the true ins-and-outs of “feeding the brain with knowledge about the best foods, products, and habits for one’s body” in order to reach optimal health and wellness potentials. Visit her website today to learn more: http://www.exponentialhealthandwellness.us or feel free to send her an e-mail at:megan@empowerhealthcoach.com. Follow Megan on Twitter (@MPowerNutrition) and like her on Facebook: Empower Nutrition & Health Coaching, LLC.

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How To Feed A Picky Eater

picky eaterSince the days my daughters were born, I’ve been reading books and articles about how to address picky eaters.  To many people, there is nothing worse than the picky eater.  We grip the sides of the kitchen table and plead with our whole selves.  Let. Me. Feed. You.

Restaurants assume my kids are picky eaters.  Schools assume my kids are picky eaters.  I know picky eaters. I’ve dealt with picky eaters.  My daughters are generally good eaters but they have been picky plenty of times.  Recently, at a talk we gave to a local women’s group there were early questions about how to address picky eaters and when we began giving our thoughts a second quick question followed, “but how old are your kids.”  Meaning, my kids are older and (oh, boy) get ready.  They used to eat well.  I’d be lying if I didn’t start to worry just a little bit about what was ahead for me.

Kids grow and change and stretch out what they are willing to do (and not do) according to our plans.  That’s not going to change.  Quite frankly, I’m doing all of those things too.  I eat chocolate cake when I know an apple is a better choice.  I also feel the freedom to do that.  Kids often don’t.

So, here are the top tips that I’ve read about that work for my family.  Hopefully they will help yours.

1. Don’t give up.  Kids need to try something anywhere from 10-15 times before they like it.  In my house, my latest battle is grains (rice, quinoa, farro).  I make these grains often and serve them night after night in an attempt to lessen the meat consumption of my family (that’s for another time…).  Many times I get complains, whines, rolling of 5-year-old eyes as soon as the meal hits the table.  But I refuse to give up.  I never force them to eat, but they will eat if they are hungry.  Last week, I made one dish that my daughter loved.  Rice!  I tried not to celebrate or make a big deal.  The next time I served rice, she wasn’t interested.  But I know it’s possible so I keep trying.  Don’t give up.

2. Get the kids involved.  Depending on their age, kids can be very helpful and involved in the kitchen.  Mixing ingredients in a bowl, fetching items from the refrigerator, slicing and dicing on the counter top.  Whatever is appropriate.  Aside from asking them what food they like and adding it to the weekly meal plan, you can also involved them at the store level.  Let them choose a new vegetable or fruit.  Kids spend so much time being told what not to do.  They get excited when they feel in charge.  Especially when it comes to what ends up on their plate.

3. Don’t make a big deal about what they eat, but make meal time special.  Throw on a table cloth.  Turn on some soft music.  Turn down the lights and light a candle or two.  Pretend you’re at a restaurant and take turns being the waiter or waitress.  Make it something to look forward to.  Especially if you can find a meal where the whole family is sitting together.

4. Don’t use dessert as a reward for eating.  This is a tough one.  I’ve never done this but my daughters are constantly bombarded with this message.  Eat your dinner and you’ll get dessert.  Eat your dinner or you won’t get your dessert.  Do you want ice cream?  Then you better eat your broccoli.  Tons and tons and tons of research shows that these types of conversations can lead to misinterpretation of what food is used for and good for.  It can create (not prevent) the idea that vegetables (in this case) are “bad” and dessert is “good”.  That vegetables are what we trudge through in order to be rewarded with the good stuff.  In some cases, it has even been shown to lead to eating disorders.  Time and again, we are advised to not make a big deal about food, including dessert.  In my house we have a one bite rule and no matter what happens during dinner, we always serve dessert.

I’m not an expert and I will face more challenges at my table.  But these feel good to me in my house.  What do you do in yours?

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Saying “I Love You Because…” Every Day

Last year at this time I started a fun tradition of reminding my family why I love them.  Initially, it seemed like a cute, fun way to decorate the bedroom doors of my home with heart-filled declarations.  A beautiful side benefit of this activity is that it reminded me how much it means to my daughters to see me love my husband.  They take in everything and smile a little brighter when they see that my love exists as much for him as it does for them.  Since I can often be louder and sloppier about it with them.

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Here are just a few of the proclamations that will adorn the walls of my hallway this year:

“I Love You Because”…

– you make funny faces at just the right time

– you trust me

– you make me feel brave

– you love when I’m silly

– you take care of your friends

– you make me laugh

– you truly listen

– you think of others

I put these up on February 1st and finish up on Valentine’s Day.  It makes me feel just as happy as it does them.

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Megan Mondays: Boost your Immune System!

WHAT EXACTLY DOES MEGAN USE IN HER HOME? HERE’S A RUN-DOWN OF MY IMMUNE-ROUTINE STOCKPILE (I am making these recommendations based on my experience with them):

Zinc – my older son (2.5 years old) takes 10 mg of zinc per day as preventative and I up it to 20 mg a day for a few days when sick to give an extra boost. We use one of the following brands: Life Extension, Kirkman Labs, or BrainChild Nutritionals (liquid form)

Astragalus root extract – my son takes this every day as preventative measure. We use BrainChild Nutritionals brand; it’s a liquid form that’s easy to take.

Micellized Vitamin A – what I use for all members of the family at the onset of illness. We only use this for 2 days at a time when sick.  I use Klaire Labs liquid micellized Vitamin A.

Multi Vitamins – on days when the whole food green smoothies didn’t get finished or we were out and about and not eating as many fruits, veggies, and other whole foods that we normally do, I will give a multi vitamin to fill-in the gaps during cold and flu season. I use Kirkman Labs brand chewable wafers with Xylitol.  The xylitol has been shown to help reduce cavities and it’s a better sweetener than sugar (which many common children’s vitamins are full of!)

Vitamin D3I consider this one of my must-haves and my sons take it on a daily basis. I also have their blood serum levels tested about 2 times a year to make sure they are receiving adequate amounts. I use Xymogen Labs liquid Vitamin D3, but also use Nordic Naturals brand and am happy with both.

Elderberry syrup – My sons also take elderberry syrup each day, with an increased dose during illness. I feel tht this has helped curb lengthiness of viral infections (like bronchitis) and it also helps with coughs.  I found an awesome homemade Organic Elderberry Syrup creator and distributor that will mail to your home.  She makes a syrup with local honey and a tincture (w/out honey) for babies and people sensitive to honey.  You can find her products here (no affiliate bonus; I just love her product and feel that it’s worthy to recommend!): http://www.naturallywellwithsamantha.com

Colostrum – we use Immulox spray, but have recently switched to using a powder form of immune-boosting polypeptides called IgG 2000 by Xymogen Labs. It mixes easily into smoothies, etc. and it’s also great for use after antibiotics and/or with digestive issues.  Please note both products are made with dairy, so those with dairy sensitivities cannot take.  There are non-dairy forms on the market, though.

Vitamin C immune blend – we usually take this at times when exposure to illness has happened or illness is coming on. I also give it with iron if my son needs to periodically take iron for a low ferritin level we’ve been dealing with since age 1.  It’s naturally flavored and kids like that it’s a liquid.  I use Brain Child Nutritionals brand.

Probioticsmy son has received probiotic supplements since birth, and I have routinely taken them for about 6 years now. I have noticed a huge improvement overall in my health, in addition to my digestion and immunity.  I use Kirkman Labs because they have a formula that is resilient to die-off (which is common with probiotics).  They also take stringent measures to keep probiotics refrigerated at all times during manufacture and transport, which is what a consumer should look for.  Probiotics that sit on a shelf tend to have little benefit by the time they reach the consumer.  I increase the dosage at times of illness and after antibiotics have been administered (which is not often)

Omegaswe are big on omegas in our house. The first line of consumption is through omega-rich foods like chia seeds, flax, nuts, and oils, especially since we don’t eat fish.  We use Nordic Naturals and Xymogen brand (pure cod liver oil).

Immune-building herb mix – Wish Garden Herbs company has a great array of immune-boosting herbs to use during specific illnesses.

Essential oils – I use Oreganol brand oil during times of illness, but also really like Frankincense, Tea Tree, Lemon, Clove, Cinnamin, oregano, Thieves, etc. for using in the home, on the skin, and even ingesting (for adults, only – the oils are too potent for children and there are not enough studies on oil use with children).

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Managing the Chaos…

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If your house is anything like mine, you are in a constant state of trying to stay ahead of the chaos.

I made each of my girls these little chore cards. Each kid got a different set, as they are certainly not all ready for the same things yet.  I used luggage tags (the kind that self-laminate business cards) and an old folder I cut up to mount the printed lists on.  Hole punch the top and tie together!

There are 5 cards in my school-aged children’s stack:

*Before School
*Chores
*Packing for overnights (trips to Granny’s)
*After School
*Before Bed

It seems oversimplified to add “Wash Hands” to the After School card, and yet has made a big difference on whether or not they actually remember to do this before having a snack!

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NBC Connecticut!

Yesterday was a fun day!

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What’s for dinner?

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So, even though at my house in North Carolina, we aren’t getting the amazing amount of snow that is falling in the Northeast tonight, it inspired a dinner of warm foods (and also perfect for a Meatless Monday):

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Artichoke and Potato soup
– this stuff is incredible.  A deluge of veggies, but smooth and delicious.  I let my kids eat this with toasted french garlic bread (or pita chips) instead of spoons! Also yummy with croutons in it.   I opted to leave the cream out, but I’m sure that would be great, too.

 

 

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Roasted Cauliflower – I stole this recipe from a friend (thanks, Suzanne!).  I think she might have invented it, but it is similar to the one found here.  I left out the Parmesan cheese, and no one complained.  They might have added it at the table ;)

 

 

 

cc-armendariz_roasted-sweet-potatoes-with-honey-cinnamon-recipe-02_s4x3Aunt Pam’s yummy sweet potato casserole thing: I picked this because I accidentally ordered enough sweet potatoes from the grocery store to last us a month.  Diced sweet potatoes, diced apples, a few cranberries (fresh or dried), a bit of butter, brown sugar (optional) and cinnamon.  Bake at 375 until the sweet potatoes are done.

 

 

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Meatless Monday Recipe: Cheese Tortellini with Butternut Hash

If you caught this blog last Sunday, you know that I’m a big fan of The Pollan Family Table Cookbook, which is why it should come as a surprise that I’m sharing yet another one of their recipes.  Since I’ve started cutting down on our meat consumption over the last year, I usually gravitate to the meatless recipes in a new cookbook first, and branch out from there.  I wasn’t initially drawn to the recipe below but ohmygosh, it’s now on my go-to list.  Easy, delicious and …did I mention delicious?

Brutal honesty: my husband made this one.  He is not the chef of the house (if we’re all being honest) but he does pitch in and likes to take up a challenge now and then.  He jumped in on this one and was not only pleased with what an amazing job he did, but how much he loved the outcome.  Win win.

We made some revisions from the original recipe (no hazelnuts for us) but overall, kept up with the theme and couldn’t be happier.

Cheese Tortellini with Butternut Hash (minus the toasted hazelnuts)

2 C peeled and diced butternut squash, cut into 1/2″ cubes

1 T extra virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1 1/2 pound cheese tortellini (I bought frozen, organic 365 brand from Whole Foods)

6 T unsalted butter

1 glove garlic, minced

2 T balsamic vinegar

1/4 C Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the squash, oil, and dash of salt and pepper.  Spread the squash on the baking sheet and roast until golden brown (25 mins), flipping over halfway through.  Remove from oven and set aside.

Bring large pot of water to boil.  Add 1T of salt and tortellini.  Cook until al dente, 1 minute less than the directions on the package.  Drain in colander.

Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat, stirring until butter turns brown (3-4 minutes).  Add garlic and cook until butter bubbles and garlic browns.  Turn off the heat and cool for 1 minute.  Add the vinegar, 1/2 tsp of salt and pepper.

Add the tortellini and butternut squash to the butter sauce and toss to coat.  Transfer to serving bowl and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese (we also added avocado).  Serve hot.

cheese tortellini

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of our daughters dove in immediately and the other was a bit unsure at first about this dish.  But after trying the first bite, she was hooked.  Plates were empty.  Next time, I might make a double batch for leftovers.

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