I remember as a little girl, sitting on my father’s running shoe-covered feet, arms around his sweaty knees, while he completed sit-ups after his run. I’m certain each of my 5 siblings has a similar memory. I don’t know how far or how often he would run, but he always encouraged us to run and/or to be physical. What I do know is that he completed his 1st marathon on his 50th birthday and he began Cross-fitting in his 60’s. INSPIRING.
I never did go for a run, not until just recently actually, but I was active in baseball, softball and swim team through most of my adolescence. After activities ended, I gained weight and ate/drank unhealthily for most of a decade. Towards 30 is when I found Paleo and Crossfit, only after entering motherhood. Motherhood is when it all clicked for me; I am a role model, a leader of a pack and I must make right choices for my cubs. At least, that is what goes through my mind on a daily basis.
While I once lived to party, I now enjoy walking my children the 10 blocks to a mile, to and from school, digging up soil and mixing compost, researching what plants work best with other plants to help deter critters, promote healthy growth and of course, taste the best. I’m using heirloom seeds, recycled egg cartons to start them, chopped off milk jugs in the event of a chilly evening… Who am I and how did this happen to me?! But most importantly of all, I am doing all these things with my children. Children who live in a culture where we are taught to trust the government, doctors, big brand names and their friends’ well-meaning treats on a daily basis. I’m hoping to infuse them with their own power through information gained and gathered on the fringe of what passes for our modern American culture. Do as I say / Do as I do. I am teaching by example and although they make choices that aren’t best, they also know that eating healthy food before a sweet treat is a better idea so their bodies don’t feel bad. That they learned on their own.
One of my 2013 resolutions was to grow as much as possible based on what my family likes to eat. So far, I have 2 4×4 garden beds with carrots and onions, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and I’ve begun seeds inside (due to a late winter chill and fear of frost) which include a variety of peppers, cucumbers and greens; arugula, spinach, butter crisp, head lettuce, I’ve also planted snap peas in a very fun way…I’m sure I’m forgetting something and I hope I’m able to keep up with it all! I also plan to add another raised bed to our farm this season for all the greens and the potential of 3-6 hills for melons and pumpkins. Luckily, our backyard has plenty of room for both play and food. Of course we’ll also be mixing these two very important aspects of life together by building a wall for the vining veggies to grow up and my kids to play under, FORT!
While my 6 year old churned the soil and collected any weeds from our back 2 beds, my 5 year old helped me plant seeds in egg cartons with a bit of our first batch of compost, started last year in my Mother’s Day present. We tend to the yard every chance we get on these brisk Spring days, before I have to go to work and they have to attend school. We look forward to Sundays when we can really get our hands dirty and everyone gets a say in where and what we plant. The time we spend together is priceless because we’re working as a family FOR our family.
Life has a way of coming full circle as I caught my nephews sitting on each other’s feet while the other completed sit-ups in preparation for the family WOD (work out of the day) at Crossfit717‘s weekend event in support of Autism. It was a great day, filled with fun, family and fitness. My younger girls were able to participate in a WOD circuit, built just for 8 and unders including box jumps, burpees (their fave), air squats, farmer carries and more, while my husband dj’d the event. We have surrounded ourselves with quite a community. My only wish is that my children influence their own friends and family in a similar way some day and my efforts are not in vain.
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Boy was it fun!
No, I’m not joking, we had a blast. The guests seemed to have a great time, as well. The slumber party was originally the idea of my newly 5-year-old daughter. At first I thought, HELL NO, but after a few days to think about it and inquiring with other parents, I realized we could be smart about this and make it the best party ever.
Slumber parties, to a 5-year-old, mean lots of snacks and movies and makeup and ALL THE FUN! My 5-year-old invited 2 friends and her sister (wasn’t that kind of her?) and I extended the invite to one of the guest’s big sister to even out the ages. My sister wished me luck getting through the night without belly aches but I was already ahead of the game on that one. Just like thinking ahead at the holidays, I wanted to do this party right by these little girls and give them a great experience, not an unhealthy one.
I decided to start the party off with cake and presents and get the biggest unhealthy obstacle out-of-the-way. This year, I allowed each of my daughters to pick out a decorated cake from the grocery store. It wasn’t gluten-free, sugar-free, or paleo… it was a conventional, decorated, birthday cake. The only thing I decided on was a whipped topping instead of the super-sugar-heavy icing, but it is what it is: a quarter sheet of junk. We sang Happy Birthday, blew out as many candles as I could find, had cake, opened presents and moved onto all the fun things the girls thought a slumber party should include.
Snacks included a tray of popcorn, grapes, Stretch Island Fruit Snacks, UNREAL 41 (M&Ms) & a 77 (peanut butter cups) for each girl, a bowl of apples, a dish of sunflower seeds and glasses of ice-cold water! The girls were so happy and excited. It was a joy to see their sweet faces smiling as we jumped from activity to activity all while enjoying good choices and special treats! Yes, they even ate the apples. They didn’t hesitate to help themselves throughout the evening to more popcorn, seeds, juicy grapes or more water. The best part: their manners were IMPECCABLE. “Please” and “thank you” and “excuse me”s all night long. Good job mom & dad!
- Stretch Island is a special treat in our house. 1: They are a NON-GMO verified company; 2: No artificial additives; 3: REAL fruit puree; and 3: I get coupons for $.75-$1 off at my local grocery store; plus they taste great!
- UNREAL candy is made with REAL ingredients and NO GMOs. They taste amazing and are available locally at CVS, Rite Aid, and Target. Though their peanut butter cups have half the sugar content of Reese’s, I still limited the girls to 1 cup each since they were enjoying their candy coated chocolates (40% less sugar then M&Ms) at will AND they just had cake.
After choosing their desired sleep location, 2 in the top bunk and 3 on the floor, I read the girls a story and closed the door at midnight. They weren’t up much later than that and I made sure to eavesdrop for a bit at the door. Their conversations were to die for! I awoke this morning at 8:07am and heard them chatting in the room still, door closed. GOOD GIRLS.
As soon as they heard me in the kitchen, the girls all scurried out in their pj’s and I quickly began preparing breakfast-to-order as they dove right into playing with LEGOS and art supplies. The initial order doesn’t reflect all that the girls ended up eating, as most had a 2nd serving of a different choice, but pastured local eggs, uncured bacon, gluten-free waffles and cereal, fresh fruit, grass-fed butter and dark syrup were among the options. I figured if I’m sending home tired kids, I may as well pump them full of premium fuel.
- Van’s Natural Food is a GMO free company plus they have gluten AND wheat free options. This is a special treat in our house as I rarely buy frozen waffles/pancakes since I have a great coconut flour recipe I like to make and freeze the leftovers for a quick morning meal. But there is something to be said for the convenience of Van’s.
- Barbara Bakery products are also GMO and gluten-free. My husband and kids enjoy the Peanut Butter and Cinnamon Puffins. This particular morning, the ladies requested cinnamon (40% less sugar then Cinnamon Toast Crunch) and one guest mentioned “I really like dat cereal” when she was all done.
I didn’t plan this party to be a ‘healthy’ sleepover, but I decided to share our celebration to inspire others to offer good choices, mixed with special treats, that aren’t all that bad. Especially when it comes to children, who typically have a special menu of crap at restaurants and an array of junk fed to them at parties. Life is meant to be lived and I indulge, as do my children, from time to time but control is taught through repetition. My daughters had a wonderful 1st slumber party filled with activities and movies and fun! I can only hope they are learning about food choice and control through example and experience. They are currently napping.
What do you typically serve to kid-guests during parties, playdates or special occasions?
Now that Valentine’s Day has passed (and I’ve thrown away my girls’ stash of classroom candy exchanges, minus the few lollipops they enjoyed) we are coming upon St. Patrick’s Day and right around the corner is…EASTER.
As one might assume, Easter is not an edible celebration in our house. My husband and I have always treated this holiday as a welcoming of Spring. I always say our backyard is the reason we bought our house, where a previous owner erected an above ground pool, we have a great big circle of sand/dirt, which makes for hours of dirty play and fire pits. Two things we enjoy together as a family. Keeping that in mind, on Easter morning, our daughters awaken to a reload of shiny new outdoor toys including buckets, shovels, pinwheels, seeds, nets and we’ll probably include bike helmets this year since their big heads keep getting bigger.
The first year we celebrated, my husband and I were sitting around our sand pit while the girls took naps. We discussed the impending holiday and decided to take turns running down to the local Dollar Store, spend $6 each, pick out 3 things for each kid, than surprise each other with the items once we were done shopping. It was fun for us, and them, and has become a tradition for all of us!
Holiday doesn’t mean sugar rush or wheat feast for me. It means family, celebration, special memories. It means tradition. You have the power to create any type of tradition you choose. Memories will mean more than a chocolate bunny to your children when they become adults. Sure, I look forward to nibbling around the food table at my sister’s house on holidays, but you can guarantee it’s loaded with fruits and veggies and some kind of delicious meat, deviled eggs, olives, and whatever treat we add to the spread. There are usually a few things that spark my non-paleo interest, but with all the yummy(ier) options, it’s become no big deal.
Happy Valentine’s Day, friends.
Treat-focused holiday traditions need not apply! This year, my girls took some of their extra crayons, peeled, cracked and tossed them into a silicone heart-shaped mold I happen to have in the house and reshaped them.
We were crayon making machines until I haphazardly turned the oven on for dinner, while the last batch was still cooling, and almost ended up burning the house down. I coated my oven in wax, melted the molds and yelled for help when I saw flames. The fact that this happens all-too-often was proven when my husband didn’t even come running. Don’t worry, I took care of it…and husband cleaned out the oven a few days later. (WIN!)
For her class Valentine’s, my little one decorated heart-shaped cut outs with cute little faces, wrote her name on the back and taped a crayon to it (they LOVE tape!). My older daughter ended up taping a sticker (yes, taping a sticker) to each of her heart crayons, then adding that and a small box of stickers to a ziplock baggie for her friends.
For my daughter’s Kindergarten teacher, we checked out Pinterest for a few ideas and settled on using items we had in the house. PERFECT. A cleaned out jar, a box of pencils, paperclips and a few binder clips created the perfect setting for a Love Bouquet. I had her write 5 little notes to her teacher on cut hearts and we clipped them to a few pencils. I think it will bring a smile to Mrs. P’s face, my 5 yo agrees!
Although I agree, “Everyday is the Fourteenth” I will give in and celebrate tomorrow by having a love-fest of our own, beginning (but certainly not ending) with heart-shaped pancakes upon a Valentine’s place setting with special cups, homemade Valentine notes for each of my girls, some stickers, red and pink glitter glue and a fresh supply of TAPE! I bet they are most hype about the tape. We’re fresh out…if you can believe it.
What will you do to celebrate?
This week, there were several grass-fed meat sales I wanted to take advantage of so I did things a little differently. Instead of creating a base menu from the proteins I had in stock and then buying to fill in the recipes, I started by creating a shopping list based on the weekly circular sales I hoped to get in on. It was 90% meat which will help build protein stock, to then cut costs over the next few weeks. Follow me?
After eyeing up my hunt, I then looked at my presumed financial total and decided which produce we could use to roast, soup or salad easily. Those easy produce choices for my family are carrots (I could have skipped them this week but grabbed a bag since I was at budget) $2.49, onions (1 of the cleanest non organic option) $2.99, (always) organic bell peppers $3.99, cucumbers 2/$1.98, a tub of organic greens $4.99 and to top it off, bananas $.49/lb and (always) organic apples 5lb/$4.99. There were a few sales in that mix of produce, but I found better deals on some items after reviewing the Dirty Dozen App while shopping. One of these days I should start remembering which plants are on which list, but I find I have the opposite of a photographic memory: as I see it, I forget it.
A few choice notes: I bought a bag of coconut flour because it was on sale AND in stock, a rare sequence of events $5.15. I also bought 2/$10 k-cups and a box of EnviroKidz Leapin Lemurs (my kids’ favorite) because they are Gluten Free AND Non GMO Verified $3.79. Although, I usually wait to buy EnviroKidz brand cereals when they go on sale for $2.99. I’ve also taken notice to the additional varieties of free range, VEG FED eggs in the regular refrigerated section and one brand was on sale at 2 dozen/$5. I was paying $2.99 for half a dozen when I wasn’t able to buy from the local market on Thursdays. WIN. Other than that, I spent the bulk of my budget on meat.
After the days bounty was put away, I saw down with my laptop and used Supercook.com to come up with some ideas to use all this meat, a lot of it ground, in a variety of ways throughout the week. This site allows you to enter what ingredients you have and then recipes containing those things are displayed in order of adherence to your list. GREAT tool for folks who aren’t able to eat certain foods likes eggs, nuts, etc.
Saturday: Meatloaf Balls and Roasted Veggies (use an egg, OR NOT, add puree and/or chopped veggies, maybe wrap a few in bacon! I like to make a ton so I have leftovers for breakfast or lunch plus some to freeze for a quick and easy option for the kids. You can make them as big or small as you like.)
Sunday: Sausage and Peppers with salad (I’ll cook peppers and onions in a skillet with the sausage.)
Monday: Shepard’s Pie (we stayed with friends during Hurricane Sandy and my daughters fell in love with this delicious cold weather food. To paloe-ize, instead of mashed white pots, use mashed sweet OR mashed cauli. And as Uncle Corey reminds: Remember to paint it with butter. No problem! Also easy to make ahead of time.)
Tuesday: Pulled Pork with salad and biscuits (There are so many good pulled pork recipes. I think I’ll use one that involves cinnamon and coffee grounds. I used this great recipe for sweet potato biscuits on Thanksgiving.)
Wednesday: LEFTOVERS, we’ll have plenty between Shepard’s Pie and the pulled pork.
Thursday: $5 Pizza and salad (I’ll probably have more leftovers or cook up some bacon and scallops and eat them out of a bowl with a spoon)
Friday: Turkey Veggie Soup (found it on Supercook! I’ve also seen ways to make it with a chicken broth or a tomato base for the soup – whatever your pleasure!)
Saturday: Pork and Onion Casserole (I wish I could spell that word without spell check.)
I always like to throw a few random ideas for my husband and the kids at the bottom as a reminder. I know it’s annoying. We made Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookies from Eat Like A Dinosaur today. As my 5 yo puts it “Mama’s famous chocolate chip cookies!” She even brought them in for her class snack once. The girls are looking forward to having 2 small cookies for breakfast tomorrow. Ha. Less sugar and more protein than standard cereal or pancakes!
Tomorrow I’ll prep a variety of items including meatballs, omelet muffins, hard-boiled eggs, guacamole, and perhaps I’ll prep some more pancakes for my dear little 5yo towards the end of the week. She loves them and they keep her fueled on school days. Plus it’s so convenient to have them in the freezer.
What are you favorite budget saving tips?
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