Monday, April 22, 2013

Gluten Free/Casein Free Experiment Day 3 (And a paleo meatball recipe!)

So far we haven't had any complaints about our change in diet. I made sure to fully stock the house with favorite "safe" foods so no one would feel deprived, and it seems to be working.

Some of the behaviors I'm noticing that I'm hoping will go away. Henry's shirt chewing has increased again this week as has his back talking, neediness/clinginess, and fixation on Minecraft. Thomas was particularly fussy today. We have compounding factors with Thomas - in addition to the diet change we're also night weaning.

On a related note, I slept through the night last night for the first time in over two years! Woo hoo!

So here's what the kids ate today.

Sausage, strawberries, dry chocolate chex cereal.
Once again, Helen ate everything. The boys just ate the sausage.

Grazing on ham and fruit.
Mini Egg Pizzas from Eat Like a Dinosaur.
Helen (it's so nice to have a good eater in the house!) gobbled them up, the boys wouldn't even taste them. Which is too bad, because they really did taste like pizza and even had a pizza like texture. I will probably make them again and hope the boys will give them a try.

Peanut butter Chocolate Apple "Cookies"
These were great. Cut apples length wise so you have apple circles. (I know I should have pictures, but really anyway you slice the apple is fine.) Spread with peanut butter (or seed/nut butter of your choice). Top with "safe" chocolate chips. This felt like a huge treat!

Paleo Meatballs and pasta sauce
Quinoa pasta shells

Dinner was a huge hit with everyone. I'm so glad I made a huge batch of meatballs! I cooked half of them with marinara sauce for dinner and the other half I cooked in some chicken broth and froze for future meals. Here's the recipe:

Paleo and Kid Friendly Meatballs

1 cup almond meal
1/4 cup coconut flour
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt 
6 oz tomato paste
3 eggs
1 lb ground chicken
1 lb ground beef
1 lb ground pork
oil for frying
marinara sauce or chicken broth

Mix almond meal, coconut flour, garlic powder and salt. I used my stand mixer to mix everything up. Add tomato paste and eggs and mix well. Add meat and mix till everything is well combined.

Heat oil in a large pan until it sizzles when you drop something in it. Form meatballs to desired size. I used a one inch cookie scoop. Brown meatballs for a minute or so on each side and then transfer them to your marinara sauce or chicken broth. Simmer for 30 minutes or more until they're cooked through. For our marinara sauce I used a jar of my dad's homemade sauce, a jar of store sauce and about a cup of white wine. Is wine paleo? I don't know or care. :)

The meatballs were awesome. They held together well and were delicious. Even with the big eaters gobbling them up, this made enough for at least two meals.  I'm sending a few of the sauceless ones in Henry's lunch tomorrow.

Gluten Free/Casein Free Experiment: Day 2

Helen asked loudly at breakfast this morning, "Don't you just love this diet?!! We get to eat scrambled eggs and bacon and fruit!" The boys weren't as enthusiastic. They left their tacos untouched.

Scrambled eggs in corn tortillas with salsa

Chocolate Chex

Helen ate leftover meatloaf
I think Henry ate ham.
I don't know what Thomas ate. He may have just had mama's milk before his nap.

Sunday lunches are mostly grazing affairs around here. Fruit and nuts. Not sure what else they ate. Oh. Potato chips. :)

Roasted chicken
mashed potatoes with unsweetened almond milk and Earth's best soy free butter spread
roasted brussel sprouts
Almond dream vanilla ice cream for dessert

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Gluten Free/Casein Free Experiment: Day 1

We've decided to jump on the GF/CF bandwagon and see if we notice any discernible positive change from the diet. I'm hoping mostly for positive behavioral changes. I have some indication that my boys are addicted to wheat and dairy - they have very limited diets composed primarily of milk and bread. My oldest in particular. My pediatrician doesn't seem too concerned that Henry lives on hamburgers, milk, and apples ("it covers all 4 food groups!"), but I actually believe nutrition is important. I've heard that once you get through the initial withdrawl, these picky eaters often expand their repertoire quite a bit.

So not only do we have GF/CF challenge, we have a very picky eater challenge. I've planned out a full week of meals and snacks based on Henry's favorite foods that are naturally (or with minor tweaking) GF/CF. I don't want to do a bunch of highly processed gluten free foods. But I don't want them to feel deprived either, so I'm allowing more "junk" than I might normally (i.e. potato chips, dairy free ice cream, etc.).

Ideally I will keep a record here of how my family receives these meals and whether I notice any changes in behaviors.

So today we ate:

Henry just ate sausage. The other kids also had hashbrowns with mustard.

Okay, this is sad, but they just jumped me when I got in from the grocery store and ate what looked good. It was past lunch time, so I just let it go.
Chocolate Chex Cereal with soy milk
Potato Chips

Meatloaf (with almond flour and coconut flour in place of bread crumbs)
Sweet potato fries
GF Ketchup (is all ketchup GF? I don't know, but I bought some marked GF just to make sure.)
Steamed broccoli
Orange Juice (calcium fortified)

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Accountable Kids Preview

I wrote this a couple of weeks ago and forgot to publish it. We're into the Accountable Kids system a good ways now, but I won't spoil the outcome. Here's how I was feeling before we started:

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I am seeking more discipline in our family life. Because I am a little weak in the self-discipline department, and because, as I mentioned, I hate being a disciplinarian, I decided to seek a little outside help.

This is completely out of character for me. First of all, my educational background is in managing challenging behavior in children. I should know how to figure this out on my own. Secondly, I HATE spending money on things that I feel like I could do myself. Finally, I am a total do-it-yourselfer not only for money reasons but because I can't accept anything off the shelf. It's why I homeschool. Why I don't use curriculum. Why I make my own cleaning products. I like to have things my way.

So that gives you an idea of how desperate I must have been feeling when I Paypal-ed $95 to Accountable Kids for an out-of-the-box "chore" system.

I chose this particular system primarily because my best friend has been using it with her kid for a couple of years now and it works well for her family.

The basic set up is this. A child has a set of chores that he has to complete at set times during the day (morning chores, afternoon chores, evening chores). These "chores" are often simply self care tasks such as brushing one's teeth or getting dressed. Once a child has completed those chores, he receives a "ticket." These tickets can then be exchanged for privileges such as screen time, play dates, a new book, or whatever motivates that particular child. A child can lose a ticket for bad behavior. A child can also do extra chores to earn money, but must first complete his regular chores.

This all comes with a slick little peg board for hanging the various elements on.

I wanted to write a little preview of my hopes and dreams for what this system will accomplish for our family so that I can honestly assess how it's working for us later.

So here are some problem spots I hope will be smoothed out:

Morning Routine/TV Time
As it stands now, my kids wake up and trickle downstairs to watch TV while I have a little quiet time and make breakfast. I take their breakfast orders while they watch TV, and lately, they eat breakfast while watching TV. Then, we fight about turning off the TV and getting dressed so we can get out the door to wherever we need to be that day. We leave 10 to 15 minutes late with me furious at everyone. It's fun. You should try it.

What's supposed to happen is that the kids get up, watch TV until breakfast and then turn it off while we all eat together. Then they can go back to the TV once they are fully dressed and have everything ready to walk out the door.

My ideal situation is that everyone find a different way to wake up in the morning before breakfast (playing with dolls? reading a book?). I would be ecstatic if my kids actually helped me get breakfast on the table or even (gasp!) got their own breakfast. I'd love to have some short family prayers or devotional time before we head off for our daily activities.

For now, I'll settle for what's supposed to happen, but I want to keep my ideal in mind as a goal.

Bed Time
This goes fairly smoothly for 2/3 children. I'd love to have some leverage with the other one.

Back Talking, Attitude, Imperious Demands
We're currently working on this with time outs. I was never a huge stickler requiring one to say "please", but things have gotten way out of hand. I am tired of being held hostage by a little tyrant who will make my life hell if I do not do exactly what I'm commanded to do the second I am commanded to do it. I tried modeling the behavior I want to see, responding kindly despite the rudeness, trying to help and indulge as much as I could, but it has only made things worse. I would indulge and indulge until finally I would snap.

I think this will be behavior I take a ticket for. Deliberate pig-headedness - i.e. refusing to get dressed when it's time to leave the house, or ordering mommy to fetch your shoes because you don't feel like doing it yourself, or screaming at mommy because she didn't get your dolls clothes on just right? Yeah. I'm taking your ticket.

So I'm thinking at the beginning my kids, at least one of them, won't have a whole lot of privileges. I'm trying to come up with things that won't require tickets - things that I wish we were doing more of anyway. Things like reading books with mommy, or going for a walk, or playing quietly in your room.

It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. I'm nervous.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Encouraging Creativity

"Hey, mom! Want to color in Cutielicious?"

Yes, I do. I love Cutielicious. It's a super fun doodle book with just enough structure for the creatively challenged (me) and more than enough freedom for the artistically inclined (Helen). One of the best purchases I've ever made, it makes me happy to color in this ultra cute book with my little girl.


"Ooooh! Let's color the cookie page," my little one exclaims. "Which cookie do you want to do?"

I select my cookie declaring, "I'm going to color it like one of the yummy sugar cookies with the slick pink frosting on it. I love those. I'll try a pink circle in the middle and then color around it with tan."*

"No. You have to color it all brown first."

"I don't want to color it all brown first, then it won't look like I want it to."

"But I want you to make it look like this one," my little girl asserts, pointing to the sample cookie provided.

Um. That's an ugly cookie. I don't like the way it looks. I wanted to color it like the delicious cookie in my brain.

"Why can't I color my cookie the way I want to color my cookie?" I ask a little petulantly.

"Because I want it to look like this one!"

"Then you can color yours like that one. I want to make mine a pink sugar cookie." I'm a little surprised at how strongly I feel about this and how grumpy I am to have my small opportunity for creativity wrestled from me by my tyrannical daughter insisting I recreate the uninspired cookie offered as a model.

At her further insistence I copy this stupid cookie, while she criticizes my efforts.

"Those circles aren't round enough!"

"That's the wrong color."

I take a deep breath and remind myself that I am a grown up, that the activity in front of me is not about my artistic (ha!) expression but about connecting and sharing time with my precious daughter. So I copied the ugly cookie.*

And then I thought about how often we suck the joy out of our children by asking them to copy the ugly cookie.

It may go something like this.

"Hey mom! Can I help you clean the bathroom?" a child asks enthusiastically while grabbing the spray bottle of homemade non-toxic cleaner.

"Sure! Here, spray right here. . .wait, no, that's too much! No, don't spray there, here, that's enough. Okay now. Wait! Where are you going? I thought you wanted to help me!"

Or maybe this is more familiar.

"Mom! Look! I wrote a poem! Want to read it?"

"Sure! . . . Oh, you misspelled this word. You should put a comma here. Do you think it would be better if you. . . "

Or sometimes around here it's:

"Mom! Can I make a cake?"

"Sure, first you need to . . . okay now . . . wait, let me just . . . good now . . . wait! I thought you were going to make a cake!"

The resentment I felt at being forced to copy that ugly cookie, the disappointment at having my joy and vision subjugated to someone else's agenda, made me realize just how damaging it is to interrupt a child's inspiration. Not only does it prevent their expressing their creativity, but it robs them of the motivation to act in any way. I copied that ugly cookie, but I didn't want to and I hated every minute of it. And when I was finally allowed to create my own cookie, the joy was gone.

I'm pretty sure that had I had the freedom to create my own cookie first, I would have happily copied that ugly cookie to please my little girl. Of course, I'm a grown up. I can get over it. But every time we ask a child to copy the ugly cookie before they're allowed to create the cookie that inspires their joy, we rob them of the opportunity to express their unique vision. We deny them the satisfaction that comes from acting on their internal motivation to create something that pleases them. Ultimately, we prevent them from learning to be self-motivated individuals who can conceive of an idea and follow through on it's implementation without always having someone else tell them what to do and how to do it.

I'm going to try to cultivate an awareness for when I'm asking my children to copy an ugly cookie. I'd much rather see the beautiful pink-frosted sugar cookies lurking in their brains.


* I would like to say for the record that I can see that the "ugly cookie" I created under my daughter's direction is, in fact, much cooler than the pink sugar cookie of my imagination. But that's hardly the point now, is it?

Friday, February 8, 2013

Seeking Discipline

My friend Clea shared this on facebook the other day. I quote it here, with her permission, because it so perfectly captures where I'm at myself.
So I think I've named the crux of my challenge here at my little homeschool. My kids think "homeschooling" equals "do whatever I want" and when that isn't the case, whether we're talking chores, errands, academic work, or speaking to me, they turn very unpleasant very fast. So my job isn't so much to teach them academic whatever, or even "how to learn" but a) self regulation and restraint and b) how to not be a brat when you don't get your way. Right now that job description isn't working for me.
We are in the thick of it here these days. The toddler is finding his two-year-old voice. The brand new five-year-old is taking "strong willed" to new heights, and my 7-year-old, while mostly "good" can display some amazing attitude when asked to do something as simple as clear his plate from the table. Add in the usual sibling spats and the tiny daily stresses that is simply life with three small children (you know, sleepless nights, ear infections, tummy bugs, and seriously do I really have to feed you all again???) and I'm just feeling, well, challenged I guess is the best word for it.

Feeling challenged is an improvement. I was feeling utter despair. An afternoon to myself spent shopping, reading and praying helped turn me around a bit. So I've moved past despair, but I'm still a long way from joyful.

I am very clear that self regulation and restraint and how-to-not-be-a-brat-when-you-don't-get-your-way are at the top of what I'm supposed to be teaching my kids these days. Perhaps just a tiny bit behind not-bullying-everyone-in-the-house-with-your-unreasonable-and-impossible-demands-and-your-temper-tantrums. And I have started these lessons with a renewed energy.

And I hate it. I hate being the bad guy, the heavy, the "worst mom in the world." I do know moms who revel in these labels. They hear these epithets as assurance that they are doing a good job. Not me.

Somewhere along the line I fell for the story that if you just love your kids enough, if you reason with them, let them know you're always on their side, breastfeed them until they're 20, sleep with them, wear them, and do everything "right," you will have an endlessly happy relationship with your child.

Let me tell you something. I know a lot of people who have done the attachment parenting/gentle discipline thing, and not one of them is having an easy, blissful time with their child. Neither are my friends who took a more conventional route.

Because this parenting thing is hard. It presents new challenges every. single. day. Because children (like adults) are prone to selfishness, impulsiveness, irrationality, and a deep inner distaste for being told what to do.

And it is my job to tell them what to do. Even as I write that I'm arguing with the voices in my head who say that's not really necessarily the case. But it is. Because if I don't teach them to bathe themselves, to treat others with kindness and respect, to clean up after themselves, to feed themselves, etc., etc., etc., then they will be people who cannot take care of themselves and whom no one wants to be around. And that does not serve them well.

So I am embarking on a stricter discipline regimen. Which means I am no longer tolerating the wicked back talk ("aaaarrrhhh! I don't want to! You're mean!") or the imperious demands ("You get my shoes and carry them to the car for me!") or the refusal to comply with the fundamentals of self care (say, brushing one's teeth).

It's exhausting. The ups and downs. The screaming tantrums followed by the giggling snuggles followed by imperious announcement of how many pieces of birthday cake I will or won't be permitted at my darling's next birthday party.

I'm worn out. I have to constantly remind myself that being a "good mom" doesn't mean my kids are always happy. And yet, I really did believe that if I just did it all "right," my kids would be charming, agreeable little people at all times.

That's when I have to remind myself that Our Heavenly Father, in all his goodness and perfection, does not have children who are always charming and agreeable. Heaven knows I'm not. A

So I'm charging forward. And I'm seeing some benefits. It's kind of two steps forward, one step back, but it's progress. I feel like there are more good moments now than there were a week ago. And less yelling from all of us.

We still have a lot of work to do, but I think we're moving in the right direction.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

You are precious

I find Facebook is a nice representation of the cultural zeitgeist. I find it reflects the shortness of the American attention span and the ease with which we can be turned from focusing on those issues we passionately embrace one moment and then cast aside when the next shiny object is dangled in front of us.

On Friday, July 20, 2012, a gunman opened fire in a movie theater and killed 12 people. Fifty-eight others were injured. The next day, Facebook was shocked and horrified, deeply saddened, and, once the obligatory condolences were offered, alive with rallying cries to stop the horror. "Gun control!" "2nd Amendment Rights!" "When will the madness end?" "Don't Tread on Me!" Lots of noise, lots of emotion, but virtually zero conversation.

Then, not two weeks after this unspeakable horror was visited on our community, something interesting happened. A private business owner expressed his unpopular opinion about gay marriage. Suddenly, the whole world, or at least all of Facebook, had forgotten the horror of the Aurora killings. Now Facebook erupted with rainbow flags and shouts about the 1st amendment and love versus hate. Half my feed was planning to eat crappy chicken sandwiches on Wednesday, August 1 and the other half was trying to drum up a same-sex friend to make out with them outside of a fast food restaurant two days later. 

But I'll hand it to Facebook. The gay marriage issue did remain in my feed for the next several months. It was joined by heated sloganeering about women's health "rights."Because if there's anything more important than keeping our children from being slaughtered in movie theaters, it's making sure that everyone has access to free birth control. 

Not once during the campaigning leading up to the election did I hear anyone raise the issue of gun control. Not once did I hear anyone demanding to know how the candidates were going to address the issue of crazed gunmen mowing down our children in schools.  

The irony here is that it seems like this is an issue that people should be able to agree on. At least to an extent. While people may never come to an agreement as to whether or not we want to provide free birth control for all, it seems that we should at least be able to agree that we don't want people murdering people en masse in public places. 

After Aurora, people cried, "How many more are going to have to die before we do something about this?" The answer, apparently, is "at least 26 more." 

In the face of this most recent school shooting, I find my Facebook page is once again alive with gun control "debates." I place debates in quotes because the reality is there is no debate. There is no discussion. There is wild emotionalism on both sides with no one listening to anyone with an opinion that differs from his own. There are a few speaking reasonably, but I fear no one is listening. True, mind changing dialogue rarely occurs on Facebook. 

Which is fine. I'm not asking anyone to give up whatever it is they get out of participating in these "discussions." What I am asking is that you stop pretending it's some sort of meaningful activism. If you want to effect change, do so. Stop talking at people who aren't listening. Stop collecting "likes" from people who already agree with you, and find out who you need to talk to in order to make change. 

My plea to all, whether you're shouting "Gun Control!" or "Right to Keep and Bear Arms!", is to put your energy to work where it will actually make a difference. Don't squander it by engaging in exhausting exchanges that have no power to effect change. 

You're time and energy are too precious. You are too precious. 

Which brings me to my final point. Until each and everyone of us realizes that each and every one of us is too precious, we will not see an end to senseless displays of violence. Hateful words on Facebook are born of the same malice that opens fire on school children. 

"You have heard that it was said to them of old: Thou shalt not kill. And whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment. But I say to you, that whosoever is angry with his brother, shall be in danger of the judgment. And whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council. And whosoever shall say, Thou Fool, shall be in danger of hell fire." (Matthew 5:21-22)

However you choose to respond to this deep sickness in our culture, whether you choose to lobby for gun control or fund mental health research or to fast and pray, remember that every single person you encounter is infinitely precious. That includes you. Until we can begin to see the tiniest glimmer of worth in ourselves and in each other, the tiniest reflection of the value and dignity that Our Father sees in us, until we can begin to see that each life truly is sacred and worthy of our love and protection and reverence, nothing will change. 

Though it's quoted often enough to be cliche, you must go forth and be the  change you wish to see in the world. Change doesn't happen "out there." It happens in every interaction you have with another human being. Make sure your interactions reflect the love you want to see in the world.