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
Lucy 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 Mickey 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
~ 8 scoops protein powder (I use Quest)
~1 Cup ground almonds, I put them into the blender whole and lightly crush for extra nut 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. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Laughter Hidden in the Normal, Underneath the Junk Mail

A joyful heart shall do good like a medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones.
Proverbs 17:22 

Mark: Mom do we need to wear pants today?
His siblings all turn to look at him, he meant it. Athletic shorts year round seem to be the "in" thing hence the question.

Lucy: It would be fun if lady bugs had tables.
Mom: Why would it be fun?
Lucy: Oh MOM you don't know how to throw a bug party!!!!

Mark: If something gets cut does the blood stop EVENTUALLY?
Mom: What?! Who is cut, what happened?
Daisy: MOOOOM the paper cut me that was on Mark's airplane, Mark cut me.
Dad (having just walked in the door greeted by Lucy and massive yelling and screaming)
Lucy: Dad! Mark sent a plane what cutted Daisy's finger and the blood came out!
Dad: Huh. I might need to take a work call in my truck for a minute.

Mickey: I have lots of Math, or reading. Hmm I have lots of papers in a yellow folder. Maybe it was a green folder. I have to do something for a book talk in the red folder.
He looks around in his backpack, no folders of any color to be found. He shrugs. 
Mickey: Well, now I have time to make a second snack. See mom everything works out! Huh.

John: Mom, could I take Spanish?
Mom: Sure! I think you can start next year.
John: Could I start, like, maybe ....tonight?
He looks a little sheepish turns out a pretty girl asked him directions at the middle school....yup in spanish.

Lucy: I want to be a Doctor, cook, a princess and an artist when I am all grown up!
Nate: Ok, you want to be a MOM!

I am finding more and more that laughter is good for the soul. Making the choice to remember a funny moment and not the frustrating one can be the hardest part. Opening the windows, letting in the sun, making my self deal with insurance call I don't want to make or the bill that is hanging over my week, is important. Getting it done, letting it go and focusing on the joy that is always lurking around the corner. If I turn away from the stress and housework I will find right in front of me a fabulous dress up outfit paired with rain boots, a short story someone wrote all in amazingly creative Old English and a village created from junk mail and cereal boxes.

The creativity and humor is always THERE. It is my job to take the time to see it, take the time to laugh and not let the moment pass by. To not forget the levity of life and feel my spirit dry in my bones.

Some photos that make me SMILE!
Baby Lucy & Mark sharing the same giggles
Brothers sharing a joke
A play that involved lots of theatrics and belly laughs
Mickey cracking up
Mick making his brother laugh
What a FUN mess
Making the baby I was holding laugh.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Limbo Time

Everything in life has its own time. There is time to celebrate and there is time to mourn. This is the time for reflection and transformation. Let us look within and change into what we ought to be.  -- Aaron Saul

Yesterday I had coffee with my oldest friend. We have known each other since we were both toddlers and I stole her book from a bookstore where our mothers were likely attempting sanity by getting out of the houses with toddlers. 

We met on Ash Wednesday and talked about limbo, about the darkness of this time of year and of how to make goals to both grow and better ourselves in the months and years to come. 

How fitting for the start of Lent. 

Christian traditions, families, individuals on journeys of their own, celebrate this sacred time of waiting differently. I hope to allow limbo to be a gravitational pull toward action. I have always looked forward to the Lenten season as a time to re-boot, to re-set and shake away the complacency. 

I would like to be a friend who knows a re-do is possible, that connection and support is healing to the soul. I hope to be a mother who allows change to be real and lasting. And to be a wife who understands how important it is to let go of grudges.

Over coffee we talked about an idea my friend has for a podcast all about the limbo time. The time between bus and dinner, or after nap and before bed with younger ones. The time of day caregivers are zapped, working parents enter into chaos and kids feel their ability to hold it together after big days, vanishing into fights with siblings and slammed doors.

My hope is to turn to prayer, for energy. To take a deep breath and allow the light of hope shed a warm glow on this gloomy time of year. To use my hunger to read scripture and be fed. 

Lent comes at a time that is like 4pm. A season of limbo, slush after snow and mud before bloom. We are drained, weary, hungry and discontent.

I would always love to hear how you, or your families use this time OR get through this time of year, regardless of your tradition it is of deep interest to me, wishing you peace, the light of hope & the power of transformation in this time of waiting.

First day of Lent 2011, baby Lucy

Friday, January 30, 2015

Sweet Words after Icy Sweat

“Kind words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones” (Proverbs 16:24 NLT).

Healing to the bones. We are enjoying our ice rink, Sheff's huge creation and hours of flooding have produced back yard play in zero degree temperatures this winter. The ice is not healing to the bones. The kids fall, I slip getting gear on and off, have cut my hands on skates, sticks have left bruises on shins and feeling have been hurt by opposing teams intimidation tactics. A quote by Nate to Mark I will unplug the night-light tonight if you do that again!

But overall the opportunity for a physical outlet has given way to more kindness than combat.  Shared high fives, laughter at face plants over the low boards, hot cocoa and re telling the latest match outside. I have learned that by working out at night (the 9 pm treadmill whir in our household) it saves me from the time of night I loose my patience. It is the time of night I yell for bedtime to happen or homework isn't done yet, really? 

Breaking a sweat is healing to the bones. Putting energy onto the ice this winter for Sheff and the kids, or into the small basement workout room at bedtime for me, gives way to kind words. 

Knowing the limitations of ourselves and finding an outlet is not ignoring anger or frustration, but embracing, allowing it to fuel our movement. Allowing darkness in the gloomy days of winter to become fresh, like rosy cheeks after sledding, the perspiration under a wool hat.

Kindness, choosing to let negativity go dripping into the freezing air, allows for sweet family time. 

Making the rink 2014

Winter walk, Mom & little girls
Dad's ideal moment in winter

A tiny Daisy happy to be in the cold

Mick & John boot Hockey

The year before we stared rinks still driving to skate with the crew

Dad bringing a kid with skates laced from the car to the rink

Nate & Ann

An early Dad workout pulling kids on sleds while he skates

Skating James, amazing we do not have Hockey players!

Uncle Ty on our small rink!

Evergreen's rink

Friday, January 23, 2015

Mark's Published Poem, 3rd Grade

Mark Otis

Runs really fast
Fan of football
Happy, weird
Favorite color pink
Athletic, hairy, and pretty
Kind of smart
Can jump high
Favorite animal is a Tiger
Has a great arm, good at sports
Loves football
Hits far, steals bases a lot.
Favorite sports player Tim Tebow
Has a lot of friends, big family
Favorite food bacon
Shoot close
Good at dancing, good at baseball and good at soccer

Mark Otis, Grade 3

Falcon Heights Elementary School , MN Published by Poetic Power 2015