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Caution: 5th Birthday Party Ahead

15 Dec

This little man?  Recently had a pretty rad birthday party, if I do say so myself. 

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James literally counted down to his birthday for about two months.  He was just so excited to be turning five because in our house that means you get to have your first birthday party where friends come on over to celebrate. It’s a pretty big deal. 

And so, for the first time ever, I hopped on Pintrest and gathered up ideas to pull off a super fun, all boy, 5th birthday party under the theme “trucks” per James’ request.

(For anyone who knows me…Pinterest and I?  Yeah….no.  That site makes me twitchy, hyper, and completely over stimulated.  I am no crafty Martha.  This is an indication of how much I love James and wanted to make his birthday a special and memorable day.  I would be perfectly OK never going back on that site.  The end.)

As one would expect, Pinterest did not fail in getting the creative juices flowing.   In the end?  This party was a complete success, and I may have found my inner-Martha Stewart—maybe).

Guests, 22 friends ranging in age from 3-11, with the few older ones serving as amazing little helpers, were greeted in our mudroom and asked to put on their uniforms and report for duty.

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The dining room and kitchen were transformed:

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We cleared out our living room of our regular furniture and set up stations. 

“Building Zone” aka Lego kits, building blocks, and various car construction kits.  There were activities for all ages of kiddos:

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“Painting Zone”  aka the Tattoo zone—because all construction workers need to get tatted up, am I right?

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“Hammering Zone” aka Pin the Nail on the Hammer (don’t look too closely at that hammer…remember, I’m not crafty!)

“Construction Zone” aka a pretty sweet construction kit (complements of Home Depot) that required a whole lotta pounding, gluing and patience from Jason and my dad and a few other dads who jumped in to help.

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“Wrecking Ball Zone” aka the truck Piñata.

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And, most importantly, the “Refuel Zone” where kids snacked until they were stuffed.  (I had so much fun with this…pictured below are a few of my favorite selections)

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We ended the afternoon with cupcakes and gifts.

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James’ love tank was over flowing after such a fun-filled afternoon.  He hugged each of his guests tightly and thanked them all for coming, for sharing in his special day and for bringing gifts that were so very him.  These family and friends that we have been blessed with, who know our kids so well and love them fiercely, I am so grateful for them and for the chance to share these special days with them.  I am confident that this day will be remembered for many years to come.

And because a birthday post wouldn’t be complete without our yearly interview, I bring you James, age 5 with all of his deep thoughts as he enters another year of being our spunky, spirited, and intensely loving little boy:

What is your favorite color(s)?

Well, I have a lot:  black, red, yellow, and orange.

What is your favorite sport?  Why?

Well, I haven’t done a lot of sports, but I want to learn how to do tennis.

Who is your favorite friend?

Owen, Colin, Seth, Evan and all my friends.

What do you like to do during your “free time?”

I like to build Legos and color when I’m inside and when I’m outside, I like to ride my bike and play in our play house.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

A construction worker who get to drive the thing that bangs down houses.

What is your favorite and least favorite meal?

Favorite is pizza or burrito bowls

Least favorite is stir fry

What is your favorite dessert?

Ice cream and cupcakes.

What is your favorite and least favorite subject in school?

Favorite=handwriting and Explode the Code and coloring

Least Favorite=any time I have to cut out stuff

What do you like to do with Annie and Jonah?

I like playing with Jonah’s Lego sets and with Annie, I like it when she reads to me.

What do you like to do with your family?

Go on vacation and go to Cat Chat concerts.

What are your three favorite books that you read this year?

Freight Train, The Little Engine that Could, and the Beatrix Potter set and Winnie the Pooh and Homer Price and Ginger Pye and …. (he could have listed for hours!  The boy loves books!)

What are your favorite movies?

Chugginton and Thomas.

What is the most important thing that you know about God?

He is so great.  He died for us.

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Happy Birthday, sweet boy.  Here’s to another year of loving fiercely, living wildly (because you are a bit of a wild child), and growing into the little boy that God is calling you to be.  I love you so very much, buddy!

chocolate, family, medicinal swearing and other life lessons learned by 36

16 Mar

1. Enjoy Life Chocolate chips will always save the day.

2. Email is from the devil and apparently I am really good at unintentionally offending people through it. I now panic every time I have to hit the send button after composing an email.

3. James gives the best hugs.

4.  It is a major problem in America when it costs just a few hundred dollars for a woman to have an abortion, but over $20,000 to adopt a baby. That reality will likely keep our family from growing through adoption.

5. Some things are worth investing in—such as a good undergarments and shoes.

6. My adult version of “down time” consists of falling asleep with a book next to me that never had a chance of being opened.

7. My heart still aches at the thought of not having more babies.

8. God is patient. Very, very, very patient. I am grateful for this truth.

9. Stress paralyzed is a real thing. Just ask my husband. He may have a few stories of me sitting in the car hiding from everyone.

10. Dogs really are man’s best friend. Our puppy is pretty awesome.

11. Homeschooling is a full time gig. I was insane to think that a job in ministry could co-exist with the demands of homeschooling.

12. Ear plugs were invented by a wife who has a husband who snores. I’m sure of this.

13. Having faithful friends and family to lift me up in prayer during the trials that are inevitable in life is one of the surest signs that God cares deeply about me.

14. Annie’s zeal for learning drives me to be a better homeschooling mom every single day.

15. The Lord has been calling me for years to have better balance in my life. I am finally responding to this invitation. And, my o my, is it a freeing experience.

16. I could do without fall, winter, and spring. Shorts and flip flops is what it’s all about.

17. Classical education is a God-send. I’m so grateful that the Lord opened my eyes to this form of education. It is literally changing our family’s life.

18. Carmel apple tea with a spoonful of honey is from the Lord. He told me it was so.

19. Some things just aren’t meant to be figured out—like Jonah’s immunodeficiency or why my hair is so gray at 36 or why chin hair is really necessary on a woman.

20. A good stylist is imperative.

21. Jason’s guitar playing skills are some of my favorite things about him.

22. I like skinny jeans and tall boots. There, I admit it.

23. The Lord desires holiness from me and by golly, He provides so many opportunities to grow every day.

24. I have a minor obsession with Facebook. I didn’t even try to give it up for Lent.

25. A journey towards something is also a journey away from something. I’m living this.

26. Jonah sleeps like a pretzel. That’s about as athletic as we get around here.

27. Ann Taylor Loft and Banana Republic are God’s gift to women in modest and fashionable clothes.

28. It’s a fantastic gift when you can call your family your friends.

29. I’m pretty sure that my body is comprised of Meijer veggie chips and Pace mild salsa.

30. My holy hour every week is my absolute favorite time.

31. Quality time spent talking to my husband is my next favorite thing.

32. If I could spend the day reading book after book with my kids, my life would be pretty awesome. Good thing my kids agree. My life is awesome.

33. “This too shall pass…” has become my mantra for both the good and the bad.

34. Thus, soak up the good and take up medicinal swearing during the bad—or, I mean spend that time on your knees, begging the Lord to sustain you. He always does (even through the swearing).

35.  The older I get, the more introverted and socially awkward I become. 

36. I’m so grateful that 35 is in the books. It was a year of intense purgation. With a joy-filled heart, I am ready for this next chapter of our lives.

So this is 35

8 Mar

I slept in today…well, actually, I first woke up well before everyone else, laid in bed dreaming about all of the landscape projects I can’t wait to tackle once this Polar Vortex decides to pass and then drifted back to sleep until 8 o’clock.  I rolled out of bed with crazy bed head, morning breath, eyes that were groggy.  I was greeted by the little ones, “Oh Mommy’s awake…come quick!  Happy Birthday, Mommy!”

35, right.  It’s my birthday today.  Apparently this is what 35 looks like: A disheveled mom who is greeted by wonderful kiddos and an equally fantastic husband who all want hugs and kisses despite my morning “glow.”

I’m grateful and so I’m following last year’s tradition of re-capping my favorite things, in no particular order:

1. Our house.  I love this house and never, ever, ever want to move again.

2. Quiet time

3. My husband who is in the kitchen making my birthday cake and dinner.  (When one of my friend’s called to wish me a happy birthday this morning, she asked what fun was planned for today and I told her that Jason was making a fun meal and the evening would be spent playing board games with the kids.  Her reply, “That’s so nice that you have a husband who can find his way around the kitchen.”  I concur.  He’s the bees-knees and I’m smitten with him and so grateful God brought my family to Michigan in the 8th grade, so that I could meet this amazing guy who apparently had a “thing” from me even waaaaay back then.)  He’s the best thing that ever happened to me.

4. Meijer Natural Veggie chips

5. Pace Picante Mild Salsa—paired with the abovementioned Veggie Chips and call that my “after a long day pick me up.”

6. Enjoy Life Mega Chunk Chocolate Chips—otherwise known as my “afternoon pick me up.”

::side note, why do I need so many pick me ups?::

7. Lent, which is a time to realign my heart, mind, and soul to God—and to take a chance to chill from my insane chip, salsa, and chocolate chip addictions and turn to God for my “pick me up.”

8. James’ intense “squeeze hugs.”  They are equal parts endearing and painful.

9. Jonah’s incessant singing—he makes my heart sing, too.

10. Annie’s unending questions and need to know…everything…right now.  I have no idea where she gets that from.

11. A faith that without, I have nothing.

12. The Eucharist and the ability to receive Jesus intimately into my soul so that the light of Christ, which I received at Baptism will grow brighter.

13. God’s unending love and grace for me in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  What a blessing to have a Heavenly Father who doesn’t just sit around and hope I will come back, but daily “call his sheep by name” and “goes in search of his lost one.”

14. The sunshine—of course you are hiding today, on my birthday—what gives?

15. Summer—no school, no atrium, so fewer commitments.  How is it only March?

16. Holy Hour—the one hour a week where I can lay it all down at Jesus’ feet.

17. Homeschooling

18. Country Living Magazine

19. Antique stores

20. My brother and his family, because without him I would maybe be able to forget my 8th birthday during which time I was a complete spaz and had to be asked eight times, “Amanda, do you want cake with your ice cream?”  How lucky am I that my parents had a VHS recorder to capture that ridiculous moment and a brother who will never let me live it down.  Yes, he even sent me a YouTube video this morning to remind me.  He’s *that* awesome.

21. My parents who humble me time and time again with their support.

22. My husband’s family because without them, Jason wouldn’t be the awesome-ness that he is.

23. My friends.  Seriously.  For the ones who keep me grounded, those that listen to my joys, support me in my struggles, lift me up when life stinks, and who love me for all that I am and am not.

24. My spiritual director and the opportunity to have someone to help me grow in my faith in such a profound way.

25. A wonderful stylist who hates gray hair as much as I do.

26. The lady who waxes my eyebrows (way too infrequently) because sometimes you just have to.

27. The rare evening where I get out of the house by myself and sit at Bigby and read, write, or just sit and breathe.

28. Board games and card games because I am not a mom who loves to play, but board games, now that is something I can get into.  Uno just happens to be on deck for tonight.

29. Flowers, especially daffodils, daisies, and mums.

30. Almond Flour—for real.  It’s the one common grain substitute that everyone in my house can eat.

31. Forgiveness and that no matter what kind of day we have, this family of mine can always find forgiveness to extend to one another.

32. Movies, in particular chick flicks, (not disgusting) comedies, and dramas.

33. Psych—I really do not know how I lived prior to that show coming into my world.  It makes me laugh, no matter how grumpy I might be.

34. Netflix—because you introduced me to Psyche and are the key to keeping TV to a bare minimum in our house.

35. This little blog.  It makes me happy.

So, make my birthday even happier by sharing  some of the little things that make your world a happy, hopeful, bright place. 

recharge

21 Nov

As a (homeschooling) mother, every last decision about my children rests in my (and my husbands, but a lot more on me) lap.  My mind feels like a computer screen with 1,452 tabs open at all times.  Mommas, I know you can relate.  Jason always jokes when it is getting close to bed time:  “Time to start closing down those tabs otherwise you will never sleep.” 

Here’s a little glimpse of what is racing around in my mind 24/7:

Passing on our faith to the kids—most important job we have.

Being a “better” parent—that litany is too long for this post—but, suffice is to say, I’m grateful for God’s mercy to begin anew each day. 

Curriculum—every. single. subject!  Enough said.

Food—we adhere to a whole foods, organic (as much as possible), mainly grain and dairy-free diet.  This?  Is *not* out of choice, but necessity.  This, also?  Is a hell of a lot of work.  I am currently researching the best gut cleanses to help some issues going on with some of us.  So much conflicting research!

Healthcare, or Crapcare—whichever your prefer—having a kiddo with lots of health issues, we’ve been around the block a few dozen times.  In most cases, there are a lot of “experts” who really don’t know a darn thing.  If I got paid for every, “I just don’t know why….” we have heard from an “expert,” we’d be rich.  So, we tend to take a non-traditional approach to healthcare using nutrition supplements and chiropractic and kinesiology care to get at the root cause of issues instead of putting a band aid over the problem.   This is not perfect, but it is the best we’ve found.  This?  Can be costly and time consuming.

Also, academic challenges are going on with this same kiddo, things that are still too tender for me to type out for the whole world to read (because I have that big of a following, right? Ha!).  But, it has led us here, there, and nowhere trying to get him help only to be told over and over that our insurance won’t cover those services.  This week, more of these issues surfaced and gosh, I’m frustrated and sad for him—and me, because I just don’t think I can research one more thing.  But, of course I will, because obviously.  (If you could offer prayers for discernment for Jason and I, we’d appreciate it!)

Church ministry—this should come this low on the list because I *should* have my priorities ordered correctly.  It’s 50/50.  I’m doing my best to give my time and talent where I can, but also step back and say, “Enough.”

My friends and family and others I’m called to serve—I have a perpetual “should do” list running through my mind—meals to make, letters to write, phone calls to make.  Often, these things just don’t happen.  And, I kind of hate that.

Today is just one of those days.  After a cup of tea and a few handfuls of chocolate (no, I do not eat my feelings), I’ve decided next week we are taking a break from school.  I need to recharge and just…take! a! break! (and by that I may or may not mean drink lots of tea and eat lots of chocolate).  We’ll see.

No closer

11 Jan

So after two more appointments with specialists this week, 8 tubes of blood drawn and 4 samples of poop collected (Ewwww!  I know…I’m scarred for life), we are no closer to figuring out Jonah’s chronic anemia, low muscle tone and bloated abdomen. 

Seriously.

Four years in the works and still no answers.

I truly believe that he is meant to be a mystery to us and the 15+ doctors who have cared for him.  Thankfully, though, due to his strict diet and nutrition regimen, he doesn’t have any symptoms that bother him anymore, so there is that.  Right?  right.

He takes it all in stride.  He’s a good boy, gentle in spirit, and so patient with all of the poking and prodding.  Issues or not, we’ll just keep on loving and loving and loving the heck out of him.  He is our constant reminder that we will all be made perfect in Christ.  This life is passing.  Heaven is eternal.  There, there shall be no more suffering, no more pain, no more sadness, no more death.  God will be all and all. 

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Gluten Free Dairy Free Bread Recipe

2 Oct

I have been gluten free for about seven years now and the thing that I miss the most probably is a big slice of delicious fresh from the oven bread.  You know the kind, warm and crispy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside.  Yum.

Over the years as each member of this family has been taken off of gluten, I’ve worked through countless bread recipes to find one that filled that craving for a hearty piece of bread.  Recently, three of the five in the house have been taken off of dairy, so I needed to rework my basic bread recipe to incorporate their needs.

And recently, I have gotten a number of emails asking if I had a good recipe, and so I offer you my humble attempts at baking.  I’m always nervous to give out my recipes because one important thing that I’ve learned in this gluten free (and now dairy free) world is that what one family loves, another can detest.  You may have to adjust sweeteners, flour types, etc. to fit your family’s tastes.  But for us, this is the go to recipe every week.

Drumroll, Please!

Basic Gluten Free Dairy Free Bread Recipe

2 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast

1 c. brown rice flour (preferably fine ground)

1 c. sorghum flour

1 c. tapioca flour (starch)

3 1/2 tsp. guar gum

1/4 c. maple syrup

1 1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 c. grape seed oil (I’ve tried others—olive, safflower, etc. and prefer the taste of grape seed the best)

2 large eggs, beaten

1 – 1/1/4 c. warm water.

Directions:

1.  Place all ingredients except the warm water into your bread machine.

2.  Set your bread machine to the setting that gets you approximately 1 hour and 43 minutes (rapid bake on my machine).

3.  Turn on machine and slowly pour in the water.  You will need to use a spatula to really get everything to mix together (don’t just let you machine do this part or you will end up with lumps of flour).

4.  Once you have reached a sticky dough consistency, shut the lid and let the machine do the rest.

5.  Enjoy!

Anomaly

17 Jun

Last night I attended a portion of the Michigan Catholic homeschoolers conference.  Every year, either Jason or I, or ideally both of us, try to attend (the attending together has only happened once because sitters are pricey and hard to come by; am I right?).

Anyway, these conferences are great because they provide an opportunity to listen to experts, connect with other homeschoolers, and get excited for the upcoming year. 

This year was different, though.

While walking through the book fair, which is loaded up with a wide variety of accredited homeschool curriculum distributors, I was struck by just how little of the packaged program materials we use.    Like of the 20+ booths, I use one of the programs, which isn’t even part of the “curriculum package” for the most well known companies out there. 

The rest of our curriculum?  I’ve pieced together through my own research.  In regards to homeschooling, we so don’t fit into a boxed curriculum.  It’s just not me.  I couldn’t spend my days teaching that way.

Then there is the way that our family eats.  It’s different.  I realize this.  We are an anomaly–a small group of people in the US committed to eating real food all the time (except for when I binge eat potato chips, because, I mean, come on—they are POTATO CHIPS!).  Our reasons for eating this way are 50% because we think it is a healthier way to live and the other 50% is because we have kids with health issues that benefit from eating this strict diet.

A family member commented not that long ago that getting together with us is difficult because our families’ eat so differently. 

Um, hello?  It’s not like I wouldn’t prefer to give my kids “splurge” type foods every now and then, but when they can’t, well…they can’t. 

Going out to a restaurant with us is difficult.  Yes.  But I won’t apologize.  Because this is who we are as a family.  We don’t fit into a box.  It’s not us.  Again, we are an anomaly even with our family at times. 

And then there is our faith.  To the core of who I am, my faith penetrates my soul.  In this day and age, my faith is not tolerated well.  People are quick to be PC about many things and many faiths.  But when it comes to being Christian, and specifically Catholic, we are mocked, oppressed, and told we are preachy and judgmental.  Why? Because I don’t believe in moral relativism.  I believe there are absolutes—right and wrong. 

So having a faith, believing in it and standing up for it.  Yeah, that is out of the box.

Then you get to little things like this blog.  Some days I feel like I should have an “identity”—you know, like a food blog or a homeschooling blog or a Catholic mom blog…but that isn’t me either.  I don’t want to be closed in that way.  That box—it makes me feel suffocated. 

So I write and I ramble and this?  This is where I belong.  This is who I am.  Totally completely unabashedly imperfect.  An anomaly.