Why are good habits so hard?!

Why is it that good habits take so much effort, and bad habits are so easy that you can just fall into them? I was thinking about this today as I struggled to stick to my guns over a screen time dispute with my 8 year old, and again as I came head to head with my 4 year old about eating a healthy dinner BEFORE dessert.

I’m not always a stickler for the rules. I’m happy to serve chocolate chip pancakes (GF/CF/SF baby!) for dinner from time to time, but in general, life seems to go easier if I hold strong to limiting sugar and screen time. The trouble comes at times like this- post World Series victory (we let the kids stay up- we’re big Sox fans) post-Halloween, super busy weekend, Daddy traveling all this week. I am exhausted, the kids are a wreck, and it is so tempting to feed them pancakes and bacon in front of the TV and then let Josh play Minecraft til his eyeballs fall out. Except that he would. Play until his eyeballs fall out. For days straight until that happened, if I let him. And when I do let him play too much, or when we get out of the good habit of a super healthy, real food menu, the behavior takes a turn from life with normal ( but still a little crazy-in-a-fun-way) kids to I Want To Duct Tape Them To The Walls and Run Away To A Private Island for Three Weeks- and it happens so quickly! I know I am not alone here, so I ask- why do we do it? Why is it so hard to stick to good habits, when they work so well -and so easy to just trip and fall right into the bad ones?

I think the answer is right there- the bad habits form from doing what is easy. When I am stressed and busy, it is easy to say yes to screen time so I can focus while the kids are quiet. When we have an especially busy week, or someone is sick, it is easy to serve quick meals, or skip veggies. When I have a lot on my schedule, it is easy to skip working out, and to stay up late to work, while the house is quiet…. But we all know where these things lead. So, I am working on identifying the bad habit red flags and finding ways to make the good habits easier.

What tips can you share? What are the bad habits your family falls into? What good habits would you like to have instead?

– M 🙂

Taking Food Allergies Seriously

I am the mother of children with multiple food allergies. But, we do not have an anaphylactic nut allergy, so… I am grateful for that. Because of this fact, and my thankfulness for it, I am guilty of downplaying the allergies we deal with, much like I did in the first two sentences here. And I am not alone.

Moms like me genuinely feel thankful that we don’t have children with anaphylactic nut allergies, because that is scary as hell! We also don’t want parents, teachers and other kids to make a huge deal out of the food allergies and make our kids feel like freaks. They are normal kids who are pretty happy to eat the food that they CAN eat, 99% of the time. I don’t need people saying “Aaaw, poor little thing, she can’t have the cake?” Right in front of my 4 year old. She didn’t care until she heard that, thank you. She was very happy with the slice I brought for her until she heard that you thought she was missing out! But, I know they mean well. So, I say things like, “it’s really not a big deal. We are so used to it and the kids have plenty of treats. ” (This usually sinks in when the parents see that the cake/cookie/brownie looks delicious.)

The truth is, the allergies are a pain in the ass when you want to go out for dinner, and there are literally two people other than myself and my husband whom I can trust to feed my kids without making them sick, but it really isn’t that tough on a daily basis. We know what they can eat and we like to cook, so it’s not a big deal unless we are going out, and even then, we are used to it.

The problem is…. Unless you make a ridiculously huge deal about the allergies, people believe that it isn’t a big deal. And this is a problem. It is a problem at the park and play dates and soccer games and SCHOOL.

I have had this conversation three times in the last twenty four hours… All three times it was initiated by someone else, so I know I am far from alone here.

This evening, I received a text from one of my best girlfriends, frustrated and angry because her sweet little girl was given wheat pretzels at school even though her gluten allergy is clearly listed on the wall. That 5 year old girl is spending tonight (and the next WEEK, at least!) in pain, with her eye swollen and itchy, her tummy hurting, and her behavior beyond her control. If this had been a life threatening peanut allergy, she would be in the ER or worse. The person at fault would, at the very least, be left feeling tremendously guilty. But in this case, my guess is, it will be brushed off unless my friend completely loses her cool and threatens to pull her child from the school or take legal action if a better plan isn’t put into place. That’s an awful position to be in as a parent.

I try to make things easy and minimize the risks for my kids. My two youngest kids attend a school I love and trust, where they have implemented a rule to benefit my kids and others with allergies- every child must wash their hands when they get to school and after they eat snack and lunch. AND STILL, I do not allow my kids to eat anything that isn’t sent in from our home. Unless I read the ingredients and know how and where it was prepared, it does not pass their lips. You can think I’m crazy/paranoid/over-protective. You can say that my kids need to learn to take responsibility. My reply is this: when people start taking things seriously, I might feel like I can relax a little. The reason I can act calm and in control of this crap is because I AM in control of it, as much as humanly possible, because I have to be. My 8 1/2 year old weighs only 40 pounds- not for lack of eating tons of calories and fat! If he eats something he is allergic to, he will be sick for weeks. If he looses any weight, he could land in the hospital. My 4 year old gets rashes from touching even traces of allergens. Rashes so bad it looks like the skin has been burned off her arms and she needs to have her arms wrapped in gauze before school most days to avoid infection. This is beyond the GI issues and other symptoms.

So, when I smile and say the allergies aren’t a big deal…maybe I’m lying a little. They are a huge deal. They affect the health and lives of my children and require hours of time, effort and energy every day. And, though I am beyond thankful that none of the allergies currently carry the risk of anaphylaxis, I wish people could understand the complicated risks to my kids and so many others.

-M

Gauze, the newest accessory in dance attire.

Gauze, the newest accessory in dance attire.

This week’s dinners

I’m really behind this week- but I’ll post our dinners now, even though it’s Friday. We had meatloaf, honey roasted chicken, chicken soup, steak tips, and lots of raw and roasted veggies. I love chopping a ton of veggies at once and just rotating them through the oven. The house smells yummy and we end up with lots of veggie options. This week I roasted broccoli, carrots, sweet potatoes, celery root and spaghetti squash. Roasted sweet potatoes are a staple in our house, and carrots and broccoli are popular, but this was the first time I tried roasting celery root and spaghetti squash. The roasted celery root was ok (peeled and sliced, tossed with olive oil and salt before roasting) but I prefer it steamed and purĂ©ed with a sprinkle of salt and a drizzle of olive oil. I am IN LOVE with the spaghetti squash, though. I followed this recipe I love Indian spices! I was out of curry powder, so I used a sprinkle of cayenne pepper for some heat. I ate half of the mini frittatas as soon as they came out of the oven! I think I found a new favorite!

Something that has been super helpful over the last few weeks is weekend cooking! Taking some time and cooking some dishes on the weekend that can be easily reheated on busy weeknights makes it easier to deal with cranky, tired kids. Andy makes this meatloaf that the kids love!

We also make this honey roasted chicken and then use the bones to make soup.

What are your favorite make-ahead recipes and time-saving (or money saving,) tips?

-M 🙂

Toxic Laundry Soap; Toddler Poisoning

Brightly Colored Tide Pod
As I was going through my email this afternoon, I saw an email from change.org- a mom asking people to sign a petition to make Tide laundry pods look less like candy so more kids aren’t poisoned like her son was.

Read the story and petition here

I felt instantly torn- so sad for her that they had to go through that and so irritated that companies don’t think these things through, or make changes when almost 6000 children have already been similarly sick from accidental ingestion. BUT, what made me pause is that the author of the petition (and mom to that little boy) was fully aware and did not seem to mind that there are dangerous chemicals in the laundry soap. I do not mean to imply that this was her fault- accidents happen even to the most careful parent, but WHY are people so OK with using chemicals to CLEAN their clothes? Why are so many parents so complacent to use chemicals that we KNOW are dangerous to our health? This is the bigger issue for me. So, I hope this mom gets the attention of Proctor and Gamble, but I’d like to see it taken one step further- get rid of the nasty chemicals and the toxic dyes so that there is no risk of poisoning another child, or the environment!

Bi-O-Kleen makes a safe laundry soap, but my favorite is Eco-Me. I love their natural fragrances and they offer fragrance-free as well.

-M 🙂

Learning to plan ahead…

Now that school is back in session, I am feeling very nesty. I feel the need to plan ahead and have options in order to keep things running smoothly. I have learned that I get stressed when I am running late, and my kids freak out when I am stressed and snippy, so I’m trying hard to have everyone make breakfast and lunch choices the night before. And I have all but outlawed last-minute wardrobe decisions. But, I’m still having a bit of trouble with planning dinners in advance. When I have time (or take time) on the weekend to make some things in advance, that is super helpful, but the weekdays fly by so quickly and so much can happen in the afternoons when the kids come home, that it is hard to commit to a rigid schedule of meals. So, I am writing a menu of intent, and I am going to do my best to plan around that.

Here’s how it looks so far:
Monday- chicken nuggets, carrots, steamed broccoli
Tuesday- burritos! Ground beef with taco seasoning, daiya cheese, salsa, guac, organic corn, Udi’s gluten free wraps
Wednesday- chicken parm for L and Andy, chicken satay for The Boy sautéed chicken for Sweet AB. Steamed carrots and broccoli. White rice with olive oil. Sweet potato tzimmes
Thursday- fish tacos (cod, spicy seasoning, cabbage slaw, guac?)
burritos for kids
Friday sautéed (balsamic) chicken and veggies over basmati or jasmine rice
Saturday roasted chicken, make stock, roasted sweet potatoes, carrots, sautéed greens
Sunday quinoa pilaf (quinoa with sautéed onions or shallots, carrots, spinach) with leftover chicken

On Wednesday we hit some bumps in the road when I decided to use up the lemons we had and make Andy’s favorite, chicken piccata- a ridiculously fast and easy to make dish, assuming you take a moment to confirm that you have white wine in the house…. I sautĂ©ed some chicken and added taco seasoning for the kids. We had steamed broccoli and butternut squash on the side.

For tonight, The Boy is sticking to the plan with a burrito and I’m going to toss some leftover sautĂ©ed chicken in a pan with tomato basil sauce, sprinkle some breadcrumbs (udi’s bread tossed in the food processor with some thyme, salt and pepper) and some daiya mozzarella cheese on top and heat it in the oven for L. Andy will have piccata. We will make fish tacos tomorrow. Yum!

Tonight, I will also be roasting some veggies and looking for recipes to use the gorgeous produce that was delivered today. I’m trying an organic produce delivery service to see how it compares to my regular shopping. (See previous for my grocery shopping issues!)

Gorgeous Produce Delivery

Gorgeous Produce Delivery

Any suggestions for spaghetti squash?

-M

Let the guilt go!

I realized this morning that at least half of the time I spend talking with Healthy Homes clients is dedicated to counseling clients, new and old. So many people feel some level of guilt or shame over wanting or needing to hire a cleaning service. Never in American history have we seen so many demands on our time as individuals or as parents. It is no surprise that we can not keep up with the carpools, packing lunches, doing laundry, making dinner, planning birthdays, working AND keep the house clean! It’s time to let the guilt and/or shame go! If you need or want help in any aspect of your life, go for it! Think of it as delegating. If you were running a business, would you take care of every single task yourself, or would you delegate tasks to some other capable person so you could focus on tasks more important to you? Hiring a cleaning company, having groceries delivered, calling Doody Calls, or having your teenage neighbor mow your lawn- these are all smart delegating decisions so you can focus your attention and time on other important things- like your family- and not feel so stretched!

Stop beating yourself up and free up some valuable time!

-M 🙂

Holy Grocery Bill, Batman!

Our listeners may remember that I vowed to start using Mint.com and being mindful of our family budget as part of my New Year’s Resolutions. Well, I haven’t looked at it in a couple of months, so I took a peek today. I am horrified by the amount we spend on groceries. It’s probably double whatever number popped into your head. Now, we have lots of food allergies and sensitivities, so we have to buy completely natural, non- allergen containing foods, but the total is still way more than it needs to be. I have been lazy. I have been winging it and not planning ahead. I need to stop. Now. That said, I will be planning meals ahead, two weeks in advance starting now. Suggestions welcome. What are your favorite family meals?

Sometimes, you just need a little coaching!

So, I’m in love with the idea of a parenting coach. I think with good friends, sometimes, that role is built-in. But-  sometimes, it’s not.  I’ve worked with a pretty amazing coach in the past who helped me get very clear about what I want out of life and how I balance work and family. (Check out Erin Dullea!)  I loved the experience and I think a lot of people don’t know what they are missing. And when I think about all that could be gained from working with a coach to focus exclusively on parenting, I get chills.

As a very chatty, outgoing woman, I talk with a lot of people. And people feel comfortable confiding in me, admitting things they probably wouldn’t say out loud to other friends or family members. And, I’m a mom of three, married for ten years. So, I know that everybody struggles with their kids and we all get in arguments with our spouses about how to handle these things. And we say awful things to ourselves (and our spouses… and even our kids) sometimes.  And we beat ourselves up about it. Beating myself up often keeps me in my own head long enough that I end up acting like more of a mommy-monster (read “super-bitch” on Wednesdays or if we’re running late for school.) A little fairy on my shoulder to remind me to breathe and be nice would be wonderful. Since that is not going to happen, I have to remind myself. Or maybe call Beth Greenawalt at Parent Solutions. Beth came on our show last week and Jenn and I were both in awe of her calm nature. She’s friendly and real, but so calm I wish I could channel her in my worst moments.

Reading helps me. Even if I’m reading tips I already know, like “walk away and take a deep breath,” reading helps me stay mindful. Reading things in passing on my Facebook newsfeed is a nice, little, almost-unplanned way to keep the positive messages coming. I love The Orange Rhino‘s updates about her No-Yell Challenge and Awesomely Awake  is great, too. I guess these are my little, virtual parenting coaches.

My favorite new trick is “The Do-Over” (courtesy of Beth Greenawalt.) She mentioned it on the air last week, and IT WORKS! I tried it the other day when I (WAY) over-reacted to something my seven year old did. I was mid-yell and realized I was being absurd, so I said, “OK, I need a do-over,” and I started over in nicer, calmer tone. My son was amazed. And happy! Things were headed down-hill and one split second, easy decision changed the direction of the rest of the day. I probably should have called Beth to thank her right then and there.

Sometimes, I’m super-mom. Other times, not-so-much. But, I’m learning to be ok with that. Letting go of the mommy-guilt definitely requires coaching- from yourself, friends, family, Facebook and sometimes a professional, or at least a radio show!

-M 🙂

 

My Challenge

My regularly scheduled workouts were cancelled this past week due to February vacation.  Instead of taking it easy, I decided to step it up and work out MORE than I normally would.  I figured I would be sitting in my living room trying to keep up with a video while my kids and dog climb on top of me and not really getting a work out at all but it was quite the opposite experience.

With no after school activities I found a had more time to actually plan work outs.  I managed to get in four really good work outs and three just okay ones, but I will take it.

Mommy Business is really keeping me honest.  Having to talk about resolutions on the air week after week has really made an impact.  Although the weight isn’t exactly melting off, I feel stronger and that is motivating to me.

I also downloaded “My Fitness Pal” which is a free app that you can enter in all of your food and exercise for the day and tracks how many calories you have used and have left and lots of other fun things.  It was quite a depressing eye opener for me.  I found out that I really have a lot of work to do in the calorie category but by day 4 I think I found my groove.

That is all I have to report for now, I am proud of myself for not taking the week off and instead upping my game a bit 🙂

Happy Monday!!!

IMG_1038

This is me goofing around in the studio and hopefully a before pic at some point 🙂

Jenn

Carving Out Some Time to Be a Grown-Up!

What a fun show this morning! It feels good to acknowledge that we all need to be grown-ups, away from our children sometimes. As Jenn mentioned, sometimes it helps just to take a quick trip to the grocery store all by yourself. As a mom or dad, we become accustomed to being and/or doing everything for our families. Taking time to “reset” is good for us, for our sanity, and for our families!

Working out alone or with friends is a doubly healthy choice! I love to go to a zumba class in the morning. It gets me moving and my energy flowing and I’m a much nicer mommy and wife- and a much more productive business owner- on those days. I also love to squeeze in time at my favorite quilt shop (Heart in Hands in Weymouth,) although that doesn’t happen as often as I’d like.

I love “Didi from Marshfield”‘s idea of the “Selfish Mommies” group! She said that her group of ladies gets together for a potluck, sans kids, at one of their homes on a monthly basis and they go out for a nice dinner once a year. How simple and awesome is that?!

As much as I value the bit of alone time I take, I really covet time alone with my husband. We are both really busy with work and the kids’ schedules, so getting some time to chill out and catch up is really important. Sometimes, we make a big effort to feed the kids their dinner early and move the bedtime routine along to get them in bed early so we can cuddle up and catch up on a show we like. (Grey’s Anatomy, New Girl, etc.!) I really love stealing time to go out for a nice dinner. Andy and I both love good food- Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Thai, Indian… YUM! We’re lucky to live so close to the great restaurants in Boston and Cambridge, and a handful of gems on the South Shore. (Thank you to Brian at Sintra for providing the prize for today’s show! Didi is going to love her dinner out!)

As I mentioned on the air, I really love getting dressed up and going out with Andy- for weddings, fundraisers, etc. (I’m counting down to my best friends’ wedding in April ’14!!!) Next weekend, in Boston, will be the perfect opportunity for anyone else who enjoys getting glamorous; Ellie Fund’s 17th Annual Oscar Experience Boston is Sunday, Feb 24 at the State Room. We spoke with Scott Clifford (an attorney with Epstein, Lipsey and Clifford, and a Board Member for the Ellie Fund) about this fantastic red carpet event to benefit the Ellie Fund. This black-tie event at the beautiful State Room in Boston will have guests feeling like stars as they celebrate the Oscars at the only Academy-sanctioned event in Massachusetts- all while raising money for one of my favorite organizations! The Ellie Fund provides services to ease the effects of breast cancer on women and their families in MA- think meals, housekeeping, rides to doctor appointments, childcare. Check out the details for this event and the online auction, too! More to come about Scott and the great work he does for the Ellie Fund!

Now, I’m off to plan a date-night for me and Andy. And some me-time so I can be super-mom this week! Don’t forget to leave your thoughts and tips for carving out grown-up time.

-M 🙂