John in a tree

John in a tree

Friday, May 15, 2015

Balancing May ~ The Work of Spring

Establish the work of our hands for us-- yes, establish the work of our hands. Psalm 90:17
Walking with a friend I mentioned I missed cloth diapers just because of the feeling I had having my rectangles of cotton lined up and pinned up one by one. A row out my window, clothsline with the simple labor of love, soiled to sunshine. She did not laugh, but understood the pleasure in a type of work. With May comes work, but everytime I see clothes on the line I feel a community connection of coming out of our winter blankets and getting to work, seeing the blue sky and pleasure in the first load swinging in the breeze.

This May feels like a moving light board under my feet. Fields to get to, concerts to attend, decisions for pre school and highschool while balancing the art of homemaker. We are doing well, happy  in our day to day, but running and flexing our muscles of quick thinking and nightly strategy for our sixteen plus activities each week. As I pray for a discerning mind, a calm heart and a patient spirit I was remembering this poem I first read in college. It is the heart beat of amazing work, not all mine, but work I admire. 

I am sometimes surprised that the work of spring gives me deep, and restoritve pleasure. The work of planting in black dirt, washing muddy socks, clapping sandy cleats and making food for hungry kids fresh in from playing in the rain.  

Woman Work - Poem by Maya Angelou

I've got the children to tend
The clothes to mend
The floor to mop
The food to shop
Then the chicken to fry
The baby to dry
I got company to feed
The garden to weed
I've got shirts to press
The tots to dress
The can to be cut
I gotta clean up this hut
Then see about the sick
And the cotton to pick.

Shine on me, sunshine
Rain on me, rain
Fall softly, dewdrops
And cool my brow again.

Storm, blow me from here
With your fiercest wind
Let me float across the sky
'Til I can rest again.

Fall gently, snowflakes
Cover me with white
Cold icy kisses and
Let me rest tonight.

Sun, rain, curving sky
Mountain, oceans, leaf and stone
Star shine, moon glow
You're all that I can call my own. 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Baking Soda & Bee Stings

Today M got stung by a Bee. He made it inside before crying, flanked by Little D being his spokesperson  I quickly did the "Bee sting routine" and thought I would pass it along!

~Remove the stinger with tweezers if you can see it, try not to pinch the stinger (that can inject more venom)
~Control swelling, ice the area. One ice cube is perfect.
~Apply a mixture of baking soda and water.
~Keep the area clean it can take about 3 days to heal. You can use Arnica gel for swelling.
~ If the child/person has a reaction (swelling, trouble breathing) call 911
After that I had made extra paste from the baking soda and water so I gave the three youngest kids each a cutting board, a dollop of paste and they had at it. Then I poured a little vinegar on each "palate", like a square volcano board! They loved it.  As M declared at the end while we were scrubbing everything clean with the leftover drops from the experiment we turned pain into gain!
More great ideas, for fun with baking soda the ice cubes are great in Ikea's shaped ice cube trays.

A good list for cleaning with baking soda, many of these are standbys for us! Little ones love putting on swim suits in the winter and scrubbing the tub with baking soda :)

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Re-Setting After Small Storms

Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed ~ 1 Corinthians 15:51

In talking to friends this week I realize we ALL have those moments of anguish right there mixed in with the normal and with the joy. The small storms of life that can wreck an evening or cause a perfectly decent day to be checked off as on par with Alexander's terrible, horrible , no good, very bad day.

Sometimes it is a half hour, when as a mother we leave the house for a drop off and return to tears and chaos. Or it is a situation at work that seemed fine and suddenly exploded into a huge mess. There can be challenges with children and with personal goals being derailed. These are moments that are small in the scheme of things but feel very BIG when they happen. 

When a kid fails a test, are on the outs with a friend or loose a big game it can feel like the world is ending. Praying this week I realized how key it is to imagine some one else's perspective. I was brainstorming how to teach and model being able to weather the small storms in our days.

A's idea was to text mom, she will sometimes need to check in. She told me it is nice to have a safe place to vent and take space from a situation. Little M said it is harder when you are in public, or in a group to change the energy. At home he likes to draw sports comics in his top bunk looking out at the trees. N said memorizing some Psalms and prayers he can say silently in his head gives him a calm feeling. Jr would always choose to shoot hoops, but he has started having paper in his pockets and backpack to make Origami (ask him for a frog or a swan, pretty cool). J-L likes to re-set with music and used to always climb trees when he was overwhelmed. He misses the tree from our old house! Big M likes to watch sports, play sports or find a way to laugh. Little D wants to talk it out or do her nails. I have no idea where she learned those stress relievers. 

Miss Lu usually pulls all nine of the rest of us into whatever mood she is feeling. Being four makes it  hard to calm down when things do not go your way! This conversation has helped us talk to Lu about taking deep breaths, yelling into her pillow or re phrasing something upsetting. For example instead of saying she hates this shirt and will never ever wear it and it should be hit by lightening, she can say she would really like the purple dress instead. This is a work in progress.

To re-set as an adult can be difficult when you are meeting the needs of so many others but these conversations with the kids reminded me of how important it is to brainstorm our own "re-set" tools. For so long rocking a baby, just that cozy time has been both my therapy and re-set. Long walks, checking in with my own mother and dear friends and laughter are solid standbys as well. Reading both prayers and especially passages from the Bible, like stolen moments of Grace in the whirlwind of daily life have served me in times of stress. All these ideas I hope are ways to absorb the negative, filtering with prayer and action, allowing it to be swirled into positive. What a gift it is to have the power to change, to have ownership of our moods and choices. Not an easy gift, but a gift just the same.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-19

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Simple Kid Pleasing Food & Cooking for a Crowd

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in Matthew 25:35

Today after my grocery run I decided to make chicken drumsticks...for an after school snack. Usually after school is when I do fun, inspired kid snacks. Lucy's friend asked the other day if they could "play playdough in my baking time" as if it were a measurment during the day. It is often true I bake in the afternoon to have things fresh when the kids start coming home from school between three and five, activity dependent.

Easter candy IV's have started to turn into emotional meltdowns, so I decided to jump on the Paleo bandwagon and serve some serious protien instead of peeps. It reminded me of how, as a young mom, I really wanted to know how other mother's fed their children! Did they learn from their mother's? Their grandmother's? Their father's? Did they cook in college or with friends for fun? One of my closest friends would go get ingredients and cook for a fun date.

I have some recipees really down, banana bread, pumpkin bread, chocolate chip cookies, a roast chicken (or two), a few classic hotdish recipees, garlic white fish, fresh stir fry, perfect steamed white rice, homemade granola and a few more. These are staples for us. As I expand I remember the rule that kids need to try something seventeen times, before it is familiar. This is why when families try to re do health habits, introduce greens or start baking their fries it can be tough going. Ideally a baby tries things over and over, and by the time they are a teen they are happily eating their baken salmon and salad without making "kill me now" faces. Our kids still make those faces sometimes, but rarely:)

Today's recipee is so simple it is likely already a staple for you and yours, here it is:

~2 flats of chicken drummies, about 6 pounds
~1 envalope onion soup mix
~ A few pinches of flour (lets say 1/4 cup but play with it)
~ Spice to taste, I mix kosher salt, ground pepper, a teaspoon fresh garlic or garlic pepper, a dash of cayenne pepper (skip for littles)

Fry the drummies in a skillet. If they are frozen defrost over night and put on paper towels while getting the kitchen set up to cook. I start this around 10 am to be able to put in the crock pot.

IF you want the nice crispy skin do the first step in the skillet and then put on a wire rack (sprayed with pam) on top of a baking sheet (which will catch the grease) for about 35min at 425 degrees.

For the crock pot, after frying the drummies and getting a golded skin on all, dump into a pam sprayed crock pot. Mix in drippings and 1 cup boiling water with the flour and onion soup mix. Leave on low for 5 hours.

Serve with buffalo sauce, BBQ, katchup, ranch.....each kid likes a different sauce! Leftovers pull apart for chiken salad, chicken enchaladas or chicken wild rice soup. We never have any leftovers but that is for you guys. Costco now sells rotisserie chicken bagged which is great for those ideas.

For a fun easy kid friendly side we put fresh broccoli under the broiler for five minutes after tossing in a bit of olive oil and garlic salt.

Part of cooking meals, snacks and breads is creating an inviting home. We love having others over to eat, have fellowship or simply just to plain old feed you! It is a way to show love in a busy, often chaotic world. Hope to see you soon at our table.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Chicago! Photos From A FUN Spring Break~

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” 
Mark Twain
Train buds, so fun to have sleeping cars. 
Some waiting was long, but overall the train was a very smooth process.
Michagan Ave Bridge & truly good Chi town deep dish

Stans is worth a visit
Lu was pretty excited about the American Girl Doll store!
How wonderful to travel with Grandparents!
Bulls game! Such a fun game and entertainment with Benny the Mascot's Birthday!

A fabulous trip exploring Chicago. We took the train from Minneapolis/St Paul to Chicago and spent most days walking all over the city. What a wonderful city to explore. It is not always easy to travel with kids, especially a big group but we had so much fun.

We only took 2 phones, no other electronics, i pads and i pods stayed home. We took photos, talked, read books, played lots of word games and drew on paper placemats. It is a great tradition to be as unplugged as possible and made us much more connected as a family.

MJ #23

City Kids for a few days, they walked and played and rode the bus!

We managed to enjoy ourselves in the midst of it all!
Kids named the chick "Otis" after watching it hatch!

Now time for laundry and the re-entry period! One quick tip is after any trip I make a list of notes for the next vacation and keep in in our largest family suitcase. I have a note for camping, a note for hotel stays and for cabin vacations. I also keep an updated plastic bag in the suitcase with things like first aid, a hardcopy list of phone numbers, a box of crayons and toss in new small toiletries the week after we get home so its set for next time. I also have index cards that I can hand to kids for packing, such as 4 t-shirts, 1 pair of jeans and so on. I always have them pack one "church" shirt in case of a nicer resteraunt, if we happen to travel over a sunday or need to be presentable on the fly. 

I covered the cards with packing tape so they can be re-used. Then they can check things off with dry erase marker as they pack things in their own packback. 

We started doing this after Big M packed three pairs of fleece pajama pants, and nothing else, for a week stay for a very hot summer 4th of July at a friends cabin. We ended up cutting them and they were swim-trunks and shorts for the week. So, it worked but I figured a system for future packing would save me time and teach them independence! 

An amazing kids park near the water on the other side of MillenniumPark by the loop,
a true highlight for everyone.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Protein Bar Recipe

~ 1 Cup + VitaFiber Syrup* OR Agave OR Honey
~ 6 scoops protein powder (I use Quest)
~ 3/4 to 1 Cup ground almonds, I put them into the blender whole and lightly crush for texture
~ Added chocolate chips, dried fruit, unsweetened coconut to taste

1. Heat the Syrup of choice in a saucepan over medium heat until it starts to bubble
2. Remove from heat and pour into a big bowl (pre spray bowl with non stick spray for easy clean up) 3. Stir in crushed almonds and protein powder
4. Stir in a cup of your choice, I like semi sweet ch. chips, unsweetened coconut and cinnamon
5. Spray a baking pan with non stick and using a plastic spatula press mixture flat
6. Put in the oven at 350 for about 5 minutes
7. Let cool 15 min, cut and store in the fridge. I store in layers with wax paper between.

**You can purchase the VitaFiber syrup on, it is my favorite but the Agave works really well too.

** Play around with protein powder flavors and types. Make sure to check fiber, fiber is so key in weight management and often overlooked. With any kind of protein bar think about drinking one large glass of water with any bar. When choosing a powder, the higher the fiber the better! I use Peanut Butter Flavor Quest powder.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Relationships with Food, and My Own

And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man's heart. Psalm 104:15

A friend recommended reading Carry On Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton of Momastery Blog, and it was a wonderful reminder people are hungry for personal journeys, not just the beautiful ones.

In 8th grade I started the process of developing my own personal sidekick, an eating disorder. It started with peer counseling other kids who had disorders. I took notes and was fascinated by this way to fit in with the culture around me and control my environment. Growing up in multiple places, schools, with real socioeconomic and cultural diversity a underlying truth was every women deals with food. 

Another piece of this puzzle for me is the reality of food sensitivities  If you have been with me when I have reacted and turn bright red or get hives, or get bizarrely sick, you know what I mean, it is embarrassing and confusing. Sensitivities to food have gotten worse with age (another joy of aging;) and after many blood tests and cutting things from my diet we figured out this year MSG and nitrates combined does crazy things to me. Picture me turning into an itchy red blob after a night out for Chinese and wine. The crazy thing was it took me so LONG to trust something was really wrong and get the right tests done.

These sensitivities fed into my disordered eating in college. MSG is often in Pizza so for a very long time, up until recently I thought bread was the culprit. I gave up most of the food I enjoyed (a serious love and for a long time, guilt about donuts) and figured this was somehow my burden to bare for having so many blessings in my life. Actually getting blood tests, going to HealthPartners and sitting in their clinic this last year was scary. So many head games with food, what I should and should not eat. Finding a black and white answer took the power away from food. I react to a few things but they are manageable.

After college I went through training to become certified as a personal trainer (Sheff and I did this together). We both passed our ACE test (American Counsel on Exercise Fitness) and got part time jobs in gyms or teaching classes. Sheff remains to this day highly knowledgable about fitness, coaching and wellness. This was the start of my journey to having a good relationship with food. I continue to find classes and books on everything from homeopathy  glycemic index, using real fat for the health of our children's brains and the carbohydrate myth. Next I am really interested in learning more about essential oils & making my own snack (like granola bars, fruit strips and so on).

Now, 15 years after that training I can honestly and openly say I have a fantastic relationship with food and loving this body God gave me. But man what a ride! And I have learned so much about the reality of food and fitness. I would love to study this more, because I think it is a real need out there. If I had been able to speak to someone all those years ago who was not obsessed with fad diets, had a strong faith base and was happy in her own skin it would have saved years of angst. 

I eat a donut or pastry for breakfast most days, I have one raw meal a day (think massive amounts of greens) I have figured out a great recipe for homemade protein bars as snacks. I cook with butter and flour. Red meat maybe once a week, lots of fish, chicken and beans as main meals for the family. I am really enjoying learning how to feed and nourish my family of ten, even on the days it gets old I am mindful of how important it is to allow food to be part of what brings us together. The smells of fresh cookies or homemade bread are woven into what makes home, feel like home. Food is something I enjoy but has very little power over my day,my self esteem, in the way it once did so dramatically.

I walk 3 miles every day, and enjoy any kind of social outing involving walks or hikes. A true joy is meeting a friend to do two laps around the lake, but when I can't I hop on the treadmill after the kids are in bed. 
Walking provides the gift of routine and rhythm and allows me as a mother, and wife to de-stress and re-center. If I run or get too into fitness classes the obsessive streak comes back with dark vengeance. Moderation in both food and fitness are the most holistic for me.

I am quite sure this will lead to more writing and blogs. If anyone is struggling with disordered eating, or has a daughter or son who needs to talk about food, health, wellness or finding balance with food I am happy to be a resource or provide an idea for getting help and advocacy.
As I look at my kids, especially my daughters  I hope to dive into teaching them about trusting God with their pain and loving their bodies as amazing gifts.