Running the Fat Off

I was sitting at the soccer field, watching my 7-year old run up and down the field with ease. Despite having Celiac disease, at one point being reactive to more than 40 foods, and being the proud owner of a crappy immune system (a result of being one of those people who has a negative reaction to vaccinations), he is thriving and is a stellar athlete. And by “stellar,” I mean good enough.

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How many miles do you think this is worth?

Sitting next to me were the very sweet and well-meaning parents of one of his teammates, A teammate who had the misfortune of weighing close to 100 lbs. She was not tall for her age. She was not big boned. She was obese. I say misfortune, because after chatting with her parents for a few minutes, I realized they were grossly misinformed about what it took to raise a healthy child.

You see, I am a bit outspoken. (Insert eye roll from all of my friends.) But I do try to control my tongue, as to not hurt people’s feelings, especially people I don’t even know. But when this child had come to sit down for a break, multiple times, and her sweet daddy told me they were trying to get her to “run the fat off,” I had to say something.

I swallowed hard, sent a prayer upward, and turned to this regular-sized couple, and said, “I’m sorry, but she can’t run the fat off.”

What I haven’t told you yet is what this child was coming to snack on every time she took a break – biscuits and gravy and a milkshake, from a local fast food restaurant. “I’m not trying to be rude, but I don’t think you realize,” I continued. “It’s what she eats. She cannot eat that poorly and have enough time in any day to exercise it off, no matter how much soccer she plays. No one could run that off.”

I told them that it’s more than just calories. It’s what kind of calories (and sugar and fat) we put in our bodies that matter. 100 calories of carrots don’t do the same thing to your body as 100 calories of chocolate cake. I explained what processed food is and how whole, real food is the kind of food our bodies need. I told them that fat doesn’t make fat. I told them that even sugar-free was bad for the body. I probably told them too much, but they were like sponges, soaking up the knowledge.

I understood their ignorance. I run into educated people, almost daily, who still think fat is bad for you, and that all calories are equal. They think you can eat whatever crap you want; just exercise it off. Never mind what it’s doing to the inside of your body. But then this mother said something that struck me. “But that’s what she wants.”

Are you kidding me? That’s what she wants? She’s seven!  My reply was a bit snarky, as I said, “She can’t drive herself there. You DO have some control.” I calmed my tone and apologized. Again. But really, since when did 7-year olds become so smart that they started making the decisions for the parents? It is our job as parents to guide our children in all that they do. And getting them to eat healthy is hard. I get it. Sometimes I’m too tired to cook (or just plain lazy that day) and throw some taquitos from Trader Joe’s in the oven. But it’s an exception, not a rule at our home.

This couple was very sweet and asked what they should be feeding her. And really, that’s the key. If you don’t know what you should be feeding your child, ask a nutritionist. If you can’t afford a certified nutritionist, ask someone who has spent thousands of dollars on nutritionists – a health nut like me who has done all of the leg-work for you. Most of us are happy to impart to you our knowledge, successes and failures.

You know our grandparents? The ones who rarely got sick and lived to ripe, old ages? Eat what they ate – whole, real foods. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store, rarely the aisles. And realize that the excess you’re carrying around your middle (and everywhere else) is usually a direct result of what you put in your body. It is doing damage to your organs. And when it’s your lifestyle to eat that way, you can’t run it off.

 

50 Shades of Brown

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Nothings says YUM! like varying shades of brown. Photo credit: Kyklos Greek Cafe

Have you ordered off the kids’ menu in any restaurant in the last 30 years or so? If you have, you know what a delightful carb-fest said menus offer. Mac and cheese, pizza, grilled cheese sandwich, chicken fingers and fries – the sky’s the limit as to how many empty-calorie, imagination-free, completely-void-of-nutrition foods restaurants offer the 12 and younger set. All of the foods are varying shades of brown! I don’t know about you, but when I go to a nice restaurant, I go there for food done well. And to me, mac and cheese, AS AN ENTRÉE, is not food done well.

We all want our kids to eat their veggies and try new things. Going to a restaurant is the perfect opportunity to try foods they wouldn’t normally eat at home. The versions of said foods may not be in their healthiest forms (I’m talking to you, Spinach Maria), but if it gets your kids to try spinach, then you have to call it a win. Once you get your kiddo to fall in love with the cheese and breadcrumb-covered spinach, then they are more likely to try your more nutritious version at home. Even parmesan-encrusted and fried asparagus is a step toward liking asparagus.

Broccoli, steamed to perfection, then sprinkled with a little cheese and some almonds, is another great option you can get at most any restaurant. It’s just not on the kids’ menu. I mean, if they offered that to kids, who would eat all of the fries? Then they’d have all these leftover fries, just going to waste. Sales in potatoes would go down, thus crashing the entire potato-farming industry. I see their point. (On a side note, when is someone going to invent a sarcasm font?)

But seriously, why not create future-foodies with the young generation? Restaurants, get your act together! Encourage your chefs get creative and offer fun, nutritious menus for the kiddos. Let your imaginations run wild! Even a boring, grilled chicken breast (light on the spice) with a green veggie, and maybe some baked apples or sweet potato fries, are foods most kids would try. It’s not so totally out of the norm of what food is to them. And if it is that far out of the norm, those kids have much bigger nutritional problems than a kids’ menu (or blog post) can solve.

What do you say, guys? Let’s encourage restaurants to feed our children as if they are creating future restaurant-goers, instead of chicken finger connoisseurs. What would you like to see on a kids’ menu at your favorite table service restaurant?

Summer Break…of the Arm

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Nothing says summer like a full cast that’s the color of the sun.

Three years ago, my Girly Girl II broke her arm, up to her elbow. In the summer. Three days before camp. Do you see a problem with this? She had a cast that came alllll the way up that skinny, eight-year old arm, to her bicep. Waterproof casts are not available for the full-arm, and we still had two weeks of camp and a beach trip planned. I mean, as chic as the wrapped garbage bag look is, I just didn’t think it would suffice for things like, pools, sand, THE OCEAN. So I did a little research…

Turns out, there’s an awesome little company in North Carolina, called Dry Pro, that has the most wonderful water-and-sand-proofing accoutrements for all of your broken limb needs. They are made in various sizes to cover all sorts of little (or big) arms and legs, and keep your cast completely dry, with an air-tight seal. We measured Girls Girl’s arm, and had the most amazing, oven mitt/flipper-looking cover overnighted to us, in time for camp.

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Same kid, doing one-arm cartwheels into the pool. Great idea. (Notice the look on her uncle’s face.)

 

Now, the key is, you have to put it on before you get in the water. I know, this seems silly and obvious, but not to an eight-year old. On the third day of camp, this little stinker got in the pool before putting on her new flipper. It’s a two-man job – the first man being the one with the broken arm, and the second, wrestling the thing on and pumping out the air. I bet a leg cover is easier. Apparently, Girly Girl had no patience to wait on the life guard’s assistance and got right in that pool, cast and all. But, after making a trip to the doctor to get cast number two, she learned her lesson and went on to enjoy camp, the pool, more camp, the sand and the ocean, all with a clean, dry cast. You can tell by the picture that, not only did the giant, blue flipper work, but it didn’t slow her down a bit.

Do you have a kiddo with a broken bone this summer? What are you using to keep him/her in the dry?

Nobody Brings Drums to a Campfire

Appropriate campfire entertainment. Notice the absence of drums.

Appropriate campfire entertainment. Notice the absence of drums.

We started the kids back in music lessons today. This is a first for Boy Wonder, my nearly eight-year old. He had agreed to start with electric guitar, and transition to acoustic. As the daughter of a drummer, I was thrilled! Music runs deep in our blood. But one thing my dad always says is, he has never sat around the campfire with his buddies and heard anyone say, “Hey Steve, why don’t you get out your drums and play something?”

As we got closer to starting lessons, the boy child started saying he wasn’t sure about the guitar. He didn’t want to take lessons. So I thought, maybe we’ll give one lesson a try and see how he likes it. Well here we are at lessons, and the child refuses to pick up a guitar. Won’t touch the piano. Has no time for voice. He wants to play the drums. I reminded him of the story his Papa tells, and of the fact that WE DO CAMPFIRES. But like an eight-year old boy, he refused to listen to reason. He wants to play the drums.

So I’m sitting here, watching my child, who is my father incarnate, in every way imaginable, SINCE BIRTH. And as if he is not “Steve” enough, he is playing the drums. Playing like he was born to do it. Like it’s the only thing he can do. And I am crying. I am so overwrought with emotion that I can’t keep the tears from flowing. I look at this child, and I am filled with pride that he is just like my daddy, whom I am so enamored by. I am overcome with joy, because he is filled with talent that we have only begun to uncover. But I am also devastated with loss that I may never hear my daddy play the drums again.

My Dad: The Original Renaissance Man.

My Dad: The Original Renaissance Man. Taken a few years ago.

You see, eight months ago, my endlessly talented daddy had a massive brain hemorrhage. He went in for a minor stroke, but the TPA (blood clot blasting drug) caused a brain bleed of significant proportions on the area of his brain stem that controls all involuntary functions. He was on life support, is still on a feeding tube, and has lost use of his left side. While my dad is left-handed, he will tell you he’s amphibious (his smarty-pants way of saying ambidextrous). Being amphibious – that’s what we call “the bright side.”

My dad has come so far, but it is miniscule in terms of what this 69-year old man used to do. He may never hunt bears again. He may never hike again. He may never play pool again. He may never perform magic again. He may never weld again. He may never be seen in the top of a tree, as he cuts limbs, again. He may never play guitar again. And the thing that breaks my heart the most, he may never play drums again.

There are so many things he hasn’t been able to teach Boy Wonder yet. So many things that I wanted him to pass on to this only boy, the son he never had. So to see my boy child take to the drums so quickly, so easily, is like a gift from God. He’s passing on a little of what I’ve lost in my daddy, in the form of my little boy. And I am overwhelmed and grateful.

Not-so Lazy Days of Summer

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One of the ways I like to fill the blank spaces on my schedule.

A friend of mine said recently, there’s no one more filled with false hope than a parent with a new chore chart. And it’s so true. Every summer, I go into the season with high expectations of what my children and I will accomplish. And rarely do we accomplish even a third of it. But I would add, there’s no better guarantee of wasting time than going into something without a plan, even if it changes. And at times, it will change. But, I have found that keeping as closely as we can to a schedule at least keeps these kiddos moving more toward activity, learning and accomplishment, and further from the couch potato status they so fervently desire.

 

My babies are now 7, 11 and 13. They can all read. They can all contribute to the household. They can all keep time and they can all follow a schedule, but not if I don’t make one. And if I don’t make a schedule, they fall quickly into the pit of idleness. And you know what the Bible says about idle hands. I think it’s something about turning into lazy, gluttonous people who will sponge off their parents for all of eternity. Or something like that.

Break It Down Now

So here’s what I did. I broke down the entire summer – all 11 weeks. I broke it down by child, then week, then half hour – from waking to bed. Does that sound a wee bit on the neurotic, crazy mama side? Perhaps. But it’s not all filled with Things to Do. There’s lots of free time built in for pool days, going to the zoo, or just a little TV time on a rainy day. But the most important thing to do when you live and breathe by the schedule, is to remember it will not actually kill you when you mess up. YOU. MUST. BE. FLEXIBLE.

Everyone got up late? Bump the schedule back an hour. Did you miss something altogether? Skip it. Did you read that last part? SKIP. IT. If you can’t skip it, skip the activity that follows, to allow more time. The schedule is there to help you make the best of each day. It is not there to make you into a raging lunatic who sucks the life and fun out of summer.There are lots of blank spots on my children’s schedules. Since I am fortunate enough to be home with them, those times are to be filled in with random fun.

Starting the Schedule

Now that we have that straight, we need to address What to Put on the Schedule. Gather the things in your brain on your phone/paper (who am I kidding with that brain thing?) that you would like to accomplish. Teach your child how to cook or do laundry. Play soccer. Practice the guitar. Read daily. Work on math. Think of each child’s age, ability and interests, and go from there.

You don’t need to pack your days with too many things, setting everyone up for failure or burnout. But there are some things that do need to be accomplished daily. For you working mamas, you may need to fill in a little more. It just depends on you and your kiddos. But everyone needs to start the day with two things: Wake up with an alarm clock and make your bed.

Are your children used to you waking them up, whisper-singing the Good Morning song in their ears? Presh. I loved those times with my babies. But honestly, once they’ve hit middle school, they need to learn to wake up on their own, with an alarm clock. Even if you like to allow your household to sleep in during break, you still need to get up at some point. Just set it for a later time than normal. And what better time to train those little brains than during the summer when there are fewer consequences for being late?  Unless you plan to be one of those parents who go to college to whisper the wake-up call. Then by all means, sing it, sister! Get up, get up, the sun is up. The dew is on the buttercups….

The second part, making your bed, is shown to make your feel more productive. And if you start the day productive, you will be more likely to continue down that path. It also makes for a neater room, which is always nicer to come home to than a mess.

Summer School

Summer is a great time to learn how to do things you want, or even things you need in life. But let’s say you work all day and really don’t have time to teach your child something new, like cooking. There are simple chores you can spend 10-30 minutes teaching your child, that will teach him a life skill and give you some sanity. Take, for instance, the bane of my existence. The task that, unless you live as a nudist, is NEVER. COMPLETE. Let’s talk about laundry.

Children of any age can participate in laundry, whether it’s simply gathering it and putting it away, folding and hanging it, or the task we all aspire for our children to do, completing the cycle from start to finish. My children started learning to use the washer and dryer at age nine. A step-stool was involved, but it was do-able.

If you would like to add something to your child’s repertoire for fun and learning, but don’t have time, or can’t afford music lessons, schedule in some time for DIY. I downloaded a set of lessons, called Piano for All, for my daughter for less than $50. Every morning, she fires up the iPad and her keyboard, and follows one of the short lessons to further her piano skills. If piano isn’t your bag, there are lots of videos your kids can learn from on YouTube, even in restricted/safe mode.

Reading a book for pleasure and Bible reading can fall under the umbrella of Summer School. I schedule time for reading every week day. I’ve also added some educational video games for my gamer children. I mean, they’re jonesing to get on the Xbox anyway, so they might as well learn something while they’re on it. ABCMouse.com is an excellent learning source for those Kindergarten and younger. Plus, it’s fun and affordable. (The first month is free!)

And that’s it! All of these things, together with some leisure time, can complete your child’s summer schedule. You can write it all on notebook paper or create a fancy-pants spreadsheet, like I did. It doesn’t really matter, as long as your child can access it, see how long she should spend at a given activity, and check it off. A timer may come in handy, as well.

I’ve thrown in an example of my spread sheet below for your viewing pleasure. Remember, the blank spots for my kids are to be filled in with whatever we choose that day. Each child has his/her own clipboard and there is one page per week. That is overwhelming enough – let’s not give them more than a week at a time, per page.

What is on your child’s schedule for this summer?

daily summer schedule

Too Easy Homemade Makeup Primer

1920s-flapper-makeup15Do you use makeup primer? You know, the stuff that you put on after your moisturizer, but before all the other crap that’s supposed to make you look young. A few years ago, I noticed that when I would on my concealer, I started showing wrinkles under around my eyes. THE. HORROR. The point of concealer is to make me look refreshed after my boy child wakes me up in the middle of the night. It is NOT supposed to accentuate those fine lines that nobody wants to see.

I don’t remember who I talked to about it at the time. I was quite sleep deprived, so it could have been the dog. But I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the dog,  because whomever it was told me I needed to use makeup primer. And my dog slept a lot, negating any help looking refreshed. Whomever the human was who told me about primer swore it would change my life and get rid of that nasty look of my mineral powders mixing with my concealer and settling into those fine lines. So off I went to the mall to pick up some, post haste.

And you know what? It worked beautifully! It was like a magic face lift AND my makeup stayed on all day. That was a bonus. But then, I ran out. I bought another brand, but wasn’t crazy about it. And then my boy child started sleeping again and I didn’t seem to need it as much. So to cut expenses, I stopped buying it.

Fast forward a few years and I turned 40. Guess what that means? Sleep is no longer a factor. I just have wrinkles. I needed the primer again. I, of course, realized this the night before my sweet husband and I were whisking away for a weekend trip to Chicago, SANS CHILDREN. I wanted to look my best for that man of mine, but I certainly didn’t have time to go to the store. So I did what I normally do, I looked on Pinterest for a recipe to make my own. If I could find one that was all natural, even better.

The more I looked at recipes, the more I saw one common ingredient – aloe vera gel. None of the other ingredients were even remotely similar, which led me to believe the active ingredient was really the aloe. Well, I just happened to have about three gallons of the stuff on-hand (if you taught as many demo classes as I do for natural products, you’d have that much, too).

So on my way out the door to Chicago, I put a fingertip of the gel on my face and spread it all over. THAT’S ALL. Just a fingertip worth. I spread it over and around my eyes, on my forehead, and everywhere else, let it dry, and then added concealer and mineral powders. It completely did the trick! Let me just tell you, this is so, so, SO inexpensive and completely natural. What more do you want? I’m pretty excited, so I thought I’d share the secret with you. It’s not often you find a one-ingredient-wonder. Now, go forth and be wrinkle free, or at least look it. I’ll give you some more recipes later for what you should do with the rest of that aloe vera gel.

Not Messy or Melty Natural Deodorant

SmellingArmpitsOkay, so there has been some odd behavior going on since I made my latest deodorant recipe. Those who have used it have been going around asking people to smell their armpits. It’s one thing to smell your own pits, but it’s quite another to encourage your friends to literally stick their noses where they do not belong. You know who you are. (Cough, cough, LizaBeef.)

Why, do you ask, would these otherwise beautiful and upstanding women and men of the community run amok with such potentially gross behavior? Partially because it’s not gross. Their pits smell, well, delightful! That’s a stretch for pits. Okay, we’ll go with nice. Their pits smell nice. But here’s what has really encouraged their Neanderthal ways….they’ve been using my homemade, all natural deodorant. And quite frankly, they’re amazed (and a little off their collective rockers).

I know you guys have been asking for this recipe for a while. But I did not create it myself. I took what I liked from a few different recipes and made a version I liked. Then I had to have others try it out to see if it worked for them, too. Now, this is not an antiperspirant. But I will say that my normally sweaty-pitted husband (I love you, sweetie!) actually sweats less with this solid, stick deodorant than he does with store bought brands. Oh, and did I mention it’s super easy to make and doesn’t melt? You’re welcome. Try it for yourself. But please, just TELL others about it. No need to SMELL others about it.

Crazy Wholesome Deodorant

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup organic coconut oil (solid) – the base and so healthy for your skin and body. Any major grocery has this.
  • ¼ cup aluminum-free baking soda (Arm & Hammer is aluminum free) – absorbs moisture & alkalizes your body. You can find this almost anywhere.
  • ¼ cup tapioca flour – absorbs moisture. Organic section of grocery store or here.
  • 2 Tbs. bees wax pastilles – emulsifier. Get them here.
  • 15 drops Young Living Purification oil – for the stink. Get it here.
  • 15 drops Young Living Sage oil – for the sweat. Get it here.
  • Empty solid deodorant container. These are by far the best and a bit bigger than most. Get them here.

*This recipe makes just a little more than one container can hold. I always triple the recipe and get at least one more stick out of it, equaling about four.

Simple Instructions

  1. Melt coconut oil on low heat.
  2. Add dry ingredients. Stir continuously.
  3. Add bees wax. Stir continuously.
  4. Remove from heat. Let cool.
  5. Add oils.
  6. Pour into containers. Refrigerate ~30 minutes.

Detailed & Verbose Instructions

  1. Melt the coconut oil in a pot on the stove at a medium-low heat. If you have non-stick or aluminum pots, don’t even get me started. That’s a discussion for another day. Just trust me, for now, throw them out and go get a cast iron enamel pot. Your body will thank you.
  2. When the oil is melted, add the dry ingredients, stirring continuously until all the lumps are out. Sometimes it’s better if you sift it, but that’s a personal preference.
  3. When that’s all smooth and melty, add your beeswax pastilles. Stir continuously, once they begin to melt. These take a painfully long time to melt when you are an impatient person, which I most assuredly am. But, I choose to suffer through it because keeping this at a low heat protects the healthy properties of the coconut oil. I suppose you could use a double boiler, but I always have to jimmy-rig one together since I don’t own a proper double boiler. And that’s just one more step for me.
  4. When your beeswax is all melty and incorporated into the rest of the ingredients, it serves as an emulsifier and keeps it all together nicely. Pull that pot off the heat now.
  5. Letting it cool. I am very precise with everything I do. (Ahahahahahaha!!!! JUST KIDDING!) But you need to let this mixture cool just a bit before adding your essential oils. You don’t want to diminish all the good stuff in them with the heat. So here’s my precise test: when you can stick your finger in the mixture and it’s still liquidy, but you come out with all of your skin still on said finger, add the oils. Use a stainless spoon to stir them in nicely. Purification has citrus oils in it and those bad boys will just suck those toxins right out of your plastic/silicone spoon and deposit them in your mixture. Kinda defeats the purpose.
  6. Lastly, just pour into your containers to the top, cap them, and pop those bad boys in the fridge. They only need to stay in there for maybe 30 minutes. Just so they’re good and solid. From that point on, keep them in your drawer or cabinet.

And that’s it. Let the armpit sniffing begin! (No, seriously. Don’t do that.) Have you tried my recipe? Let me know what you think!