31 Days of Giving

Giving is good for your heart!

Giving is good for your heart!

Inspired by the book 29 Gifts by Cami Walker, Jenn and I have committed to 31 Days of Giving. The rules are simple- give something each day- it can be small, like helping somebody carry something to their car, or giving a compliment that pops into your head, instead of keeping the thought to yourself, or dropping off soup or cookies to a neighbor…or a bigger gesture, like paying for someone’s gas, coffee, or groceries.

We will post our “gifts” on Facebook and here. Will you join us?!

Day 1:  Planning and talking with kids; spreading the word.

Day 2:  I consciously let every driver who needed to turn or pull out in front of me do so (without driving the people behind me crazy.) It’s amazing how happy it can make a person- just to not have to wait an eternity to pull into the line of traffic.

Day 3:  Helped kids kick off their fundraisers for IFAW and the local food pantry. (They are selling Dave and Buster’s cards and accepting donations!)

Happy Gift Giving!

-M 🙂

Gettin’ Judgey…

No complaints about his booster seat!

No complaints about his booster seat!

 

I’m not usually judgmental when it comes to the different ways people parent, but safety issues set me off.  I have noticed many times, driving around my town and even driving on the highway, little kids bouncing around the back seat, or hanging out the window. I have seen parents pull out of a parking lot with the kids not even in the act of buckling, just not buckled. This makes me CRAZY! I don’t care if you grew up not buckling and you survived, it is the law for a reason. I have had a rule in my car, even for adults, long before I lived in a state where it was the law. My rationale is this- even of you don’t care about yourself or your kid, I don’t want to deal with the trauma of seeing you fly out of the vehicle if we crash! I don’t want to have to explain to my kids that a child they knew is dead or severely injured because their parents made a stupid decision and did not make them buckle up. I don’t care how much of a fit your kid throws when you tell them to buckle. It is a safety issue and it is the law in most states, especially for children.  The car should not move until all passengers are buckled. Period. 
 
In MA, and most states, all children under 12 must be buckled and in the back seat. All children must ride in a child safety seat or a booster seat until they are 57 inches tall. That is 4’9″. Some kids hit that height mark by 8, others ride in a booster through 5th grade. Every child is different and it depends on the vehicle, so once your child reaches the height requirement, if the seatbelt is touching their neck, or sitting on their belly, they should continue to use the booster for a little while longer.
 
Here are some helpful links:
 

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 puréed 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 sautéed 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 sautéed 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?