Even Supermoms Get Sick … and Need to Slow Down

tissue boxI jinxed myself. While I was out and about last week, reveling in the warmer temperatures, I actually thought out loud to myself (as opposed to thinking to someone else):

“How awesome that we made it through the winter without anybody getting really sick.”

(I should interject here that The Bread Guy did get sick two or three times, but I don’t really count him because he is prone to sickness anyway and often doesn’t make the best eating choices which doesn’t really help him in the wellness department.)

And then, on Monday … half-way through dinner … Bang! It hit ME. Some sort of stomach/intenstinal/I-promise-that’s-all-the-detail-I’ll-give-you virus. And the fun times continued all through the night and all the next day.

Fortunately for all of us, I don’t get sick very often. Even back when we ate most everything pre-packaged, I rarely got sick. And growing up, I was one of those dorky kids who hated to miss school and fortunately rarely did because I was hardly ever sick. I’m pretty sure I inherited it. Thanks, Dad.

Unfortunately, my awesomely-planned-out, seemingly stellar, highly-anticipated St. Patrick’s Day feast (complete with Chocolate Guinness Cake!) turned into this…

dinner when mom is sick

… for the two little fellas because that was all I could muster the willpower to make for them. The Bread Guy made a ham sub with potato chips and probably no fruit or veggie; I have no idea what The Man ate because I was curled up in the fetal position in bed by that time.

Would have been a Domino’s night at your house, eh? That’s just not how we I roll.

And even the next day, I was still only at 95%, so I opted out of the planned menu item and threw some salted chicken in the oven … diced some potatoes, tossed them with red palm oil and salt, threw them in the oven with the chicken … watched Big Britches impress me with his tricks on his scooter …

big britches on his scooter

… steamed some broccoli … pulled the already chopped pineapple out of the fridge and voilá! Dinner. That everyone ate.

Disclaimer: Please do not attempt to throw food in your oven at home. No food was actually thrown during the making of this dinner.

I got to chillax, hang with my favorite littlest fella (who actually salted the chicken) and no one cared that dinner was boring.

Oh … we also caught this cool little rainbow in the sky while we were eating …

rainbow

No sooner did I snap the pic that the sun set just a bit more and it disappeared. It was amazing. And he was so excited. And it was a lovely moment that we shared … just the two of us. Sniff. Sniff. See now I got myself all verklempt.

As I was sitting there, trudging my way through that gigantic mountain fairly normal-sized portion of food on my plate, I realized that this little tussle with the virus had given me an opportunity that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. To spend time with my Big Britches, who, when I let my mind wander to the memories of our years together, I miss a lot terribly while he’s at school all day.

These are the moments that sometimes we moms forget to stop and enjoy. I know deep in my soul that time is ticking and with each week that flies by, we are one step closer to the day that they will no longer be little and so full of joy and so excited by the tricks on their scooter. And that those moments pass and the growing up happens so slowly that we don’t even realize it despite the fact that we know it.

The reality is that no matter if they ever eat vegetables for dinner after they leave this house or if they eat Domino’s every week for a year, in the end, it’s the scooter moments that ultimately matter most.

Sometimes it takes a pain in the stomach to help you to remember to appreciate them.

Aren’t you glad I jinxed myself? Seriously … what do you think about after you’ve been sick? And when’s the last time that you enjoyed a scooter moment?

New To Clean Eating? Start with This One Thing.

eat cleanCurly: Do you know what the secret of life is?
[holds up one finger] This.
Mitch: Your finger?
Curly: One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don’t mean s***.
Mitch: But, what is the “one thing?” 
Curly
: That’s what you have to find out.

City Slickers (1991).

“A waterfall begins from only one drop of water, sir. Look what comes from that…”

 The Power of One (1992). (Shameless plug: This movie is like a family-cult obsession favorite. If you’ve never seen it, you should.)

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one single step.” -Lao Tzu

I know what you’re thinking. “Where did all of this deep thought come from? Your stuff is usually so light-hearted and at least makes a vein attempt at humor. It’s so lovely and refreshing to see this other side of you.”

While I appreciate your kind thoughts, you really should thank my dad. The deep meaningful guy in the bunch. And ducks make ducks … unless they mate with something other than a duck, in which case … they make something that’s only partly a duck. Is it even possible for ducks to mate with anything other than a duck? And have you ever seen ducks mate? It is quite a sight to behold … you’ll never look at a female duck the same way again.

And now back on topic.

One thing.

Every big change in life starts with one thing. Sometimes, though, finding that one thing can be the challenge. (Personally, I’m still searching for the one thing that will prevent that white, dried-milk scum from occurring on the milk shelf in the refrigerator. Seriously? How does that happen? It’s not like there is ever milk noticeably running down the side of the carton.. If you’ve got any insight, please share.)

There is an overwhelming amount of information out there about how to start with the change to clean eating – all of which suggest some number of steps or rules and then give their advice for what these should be. Not sure what I’m talking about? Look here or here or here or here.

But you know what?

“What?” (I’m answering for you.)

It doesn’t start with getting rid of sugar or buying Non-GMO or even going organic.

“Really? What then, oh wise one, does it start with?” (Speaking for you again. C’mon … you know that’s exactly what you were thinking…)

After all this build-up, it feels almost anti-climactic now. But …

… without further ado …

… ado is actually kind of a funny word …

… remember that I have boys …

Commitment.

Go “all in.” Decide that you’re going to do it and how far you’d like to go with it. Before you take any “baby steps to clean eating” … or try to make a list of rules and guidelines … wholly accept it, with the complete and total understanding that it is not going to be easy and that there will be times that you will want to quit and that it won’t be perfect but you’ll persevere no matter what.

Phew.

And then … and only then … as Nike says “Just Do It.”

But do it your own way. No one else can make the path for you. Knowledge is power, but only inasmuch as you can absorb it and use it for yourself. Change is hard enough without trying to be like someone else at the same time – unless of course, making the change is being someone else, then obviously they pretty much go together.

Because …

The first step to success in eating clean (or anything really) is deciding that you can.  – Tracy Becker

Are you ready to commit?

Our Accidental, On-Purpose, Record-Setting Dining Out Weekend

experiment
I like to think I can do it all. And most of the time, I can.

Go me. Kickin’ it with the humility today.

Fortunately, though, I do know when something is just not achievable. (Not really, okay. Everything is achievable –  except for, you know, Hulk Mommy.)

Last weekend was like a black cloud of Oh-My-Gosh-We’ll-Never-Get-This-Done. So, I knew something had to give. And I really had no choice but for that thing to be food.

I spent Friday working on the elementary school race preparation and then we went out with friends for dinner and Bingo, in which The horseshoe-up-his-backside Bread Guy and his buddy split the largest take of the night to the tune of $250. (They weren’t really supposed to be playing because, you know, underage gambling and all. But since they didn’t actually pay for it and the folks at the fire hall are super cool, they let it slide.)

Then Saturday we had to run loads of errands to get ready for Sunday and Monday, clean the kitchen that hadn’t been really cleaned in days, finish the laundry, practice baseball, and pack for skiing. We did not eat out but only because I was insistent that we’d eat at home.

Sunday was a fundraiser for The Bread Guy’s travel baseball team. A Cornhole Tournament. Yes… cornhole.

Cornhole. When did this become so popular anyway? It seems to be eerily similar to horseshoes. You know the game that was hugely popular when I was a kid in the ’80s (you know, way back in the 20th century) where people threw giant horseshoes at a stake in the ground. Now the game has progressed to the 21st century where people throw a beanbag at a hole in a sloped board. Yep. A beanbag. Because that’s so much more advanced than a horseshoe. Boggles the mind.

And don’t even get me started on the name.

Anyway, they were selling all sorts of things to raise money: crappy chips, prepackaged cookies, soda, and who-knows-what-kind of hot dogs and hamburgers. (I do realize that I could have inserted myself in the planning here and lobbied for fruit cups or something but I can’t volunteer for everything. Because, you know, Hulk Mommy.) And my kids ate it all. In volume. Mr. Selective doesn’t like hot dogs or hamburgers, so he ate nothing but processed crap.

We left from there to go skiing. When we got there it was late, the first restaurant we went to was packed, so we ended up at Pizzeria Uno’s. $85 later …

We got up the next morning and had the breakfast that I had packed (there was only a fridge and a microwave in our room): cereal, granola, frozen fruit, and homemade yogurt.

We had lunch at the lodge – overpriced, cafeteria-style crap food. We drove home in the snow and stopped at Chick-Fil-A for dinner. (Yes. Yes, we did.)

I think we may have set some sort of personal record.

We ate out more times in those 4 days that we usually do in a month. (5 – in case you weren’t counting) At places that we rarely, if ever, go to.

Big Britches definitely set some sort of record for most chicken tenders consumed over the course of a 4-day period. (4 orders)

Somehow the parentheses helps it to feel less painful. And less disgusting.

I do my best to bring and make food as much as possible, but this time I just couldn’t feasibly accomplish it. (Well, I could have, except for, you know, Hulk Mommy.)

Unfortunately, bad food is how the rest of the world operates, and sometimes it’s the choice between the processed food or the not-doing. And the reality is that the kids had so much fun that what they ate was {mostly} insignificant. Unless you consider the face break-outs and the general look of unhealthy that came over them for the next few days.

Does my seeming complacency indicate that I am okay with this state of things? Absolutely, most certainly not. We do the best we can to fight the battle. And I think we come out on the winning side most of the time.

It’s just that sometimes, you have to forgo the battle in favor of the fun.

Otherwise, you know, Hulk Boys.

Real Food Without the Crazy

The real food life can be so overwhelming much fun.

Planning.

Prepping.

Cooking.

Cleaning.

Oh, the cleaning. (Cue the never-ending pile of dishes.)

And when you’re first starting … holy shmoly!  What the heck to feed people when they are hungry without opening a box, especially when it’s not meal time?  How do I ferment?  Oh, boy, that sourdough starter sure does seem intimidating!  How do we afford to eat like this without breaking the budget?  And on.  And on.  And on.

All the while trying to convince reluctant family members that giving up their precious boxed snacks really is in their best interest.

It’s enough to send a give-it-everything, perfectionist girl over the edge.

Where I went.

Many times.  And it got p-r-e-t-t-y ugly, let me tell you.

It was maddening.  I became an ogre (this is when we added the term “Hulk mommy” to the regularly used vocabulary in our house).  I actually promised threatened to throw in the towel and just go back to the old way of doing things.

Fortunately for all of us, The Man stepped in.

“Back up the truck, sister!”

“Anything you do is better than doing nothing.”

Thank goodness for the voice of reason. How I love that guy!

I decided to step back and return to a more sensible reality.  I knew that I needed to find a process in which we all could live, harmoniously, and without starving in the process.  And without pushing me further into the loony bin.

So, I thought to myself, “The journeys in life are simply an accumulation of simple steps.”

Okay, so I didn’t really think that then, but I did think that as I was writing this post. It makes me seem so eloquent and profound, doesn’t it? Go, me.

And so I decided to take a step back and set my expectations a lot lower.

Reward is so worth the inconvenience.  Progress in little bits.

 

Hopefully, my crazy will save you from yours – at least in the food department.  You’re on your own for the rest of it. Especially all those dishes.

 

I don’t believe in absolutes in anything.  Life is full of gray; its when we attempt to achieve absolute in anything that we invite the component of failure.

 

 

8 Reasons to Eat Real Food

Super Foods

As Wilbur, the only clothed naked mole rat said, “Why not?”

(If you have no idea to what I am referring, check out the book, Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed. Even if you don’t have young ones, it’s worth a gander.  I do love a good kids book.)

To me, the answer seems obvious.  Does anyone actually think that we were put on the earth to enjoy high fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated anything?  Or how about a little azodicarbonamide to go with your lunch?  Mmm.  MMM! Sounds delish!

Here’s a little bit of education with a side of some statistics to shed some light on the answer to this.

  1. Most food is fake.  The industrialization of our food supply has degenerated the value of food to the point that most of what we find in the grocery store today has no real nutritional value (despite what those fancy Nutrition Labels may tell you);  the stuff in those boxes and bags that was put together in a factory is a mere simulation of actual food.  If it was created in a lab and is “generally regarded as safe” (by an entity that has no real, vested interest in your health or well-being), then at its source, it isn’t real. Real food is food that sustains life and nourishes your body with all of the vitamins and minerals that it needs to function.  Fake food provides calories that give your body energy (although this is debatable) but really no real hearty sustenance.  Shouldn’t food come from nature, friends, and not from a factory?  Think about everything that your body accomplishes in a day;  it truly is an amazing machine.  And it’s the only one you’ve got.  Give it the good stuff!
  2. Ah, the wonders of the Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).  Did you know that GMOs have been slowly overtaking our food supply since the late 1990s?  Don’t worry, you’re not alone.  You can thank a big company called Monsanto for that.  If you’ve got a kitchen full of boxes, bags, packages, jars and cans, they are without question involved in every piece of food you own. Well, really, we can’t call it food.  You see, they are actually a chemical company.  That’s right, friends … our food system has been replaced with a chemical system, without anyone ever asking us. Yay, for that!  We have unwittingly been blind participants in the greatest science experiment in history.  Personally, I prefer my food unmodified.  Thanks anyway, Monsanto.
  3. Allergies, friends! We are all keenly aware of the increase in the number of peanut allergies in the US population.  One out of every thirteen!  Since 2006, there has been a 265 percent increase in the  number of hospitalizations related to food allergies.  265!!!  That’s ridiculous.  And how many of them died? Simply because of peanuts.  Or tree nuts?  While there is no direct correlation, there is certainly a strong possibility that Monsanto and their GMOs has something to do with it.
  4. Heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and cancer.  I bet you didn’t know that a hundred or so years ago, give or take a few decades, these “diseases” were not nearly as prevalent as they are today.  In fact, they were a mere blip on the mortality index.  A tasty little fact that sort of makes you go, Hmmm.  Today: 1 out of every 2 men will get cancer; 1 out of every 3 women will get cancer.  It is the leading cause of disease-related death in children.  All increases in the last 20 years.  Hmmm….
  5. Look around you, friends, people are fat.  One-third of our population is overweight, and it’s not just because we’ve gotten lazy (although thanks to all of our technology and modern advances, that’s certainly a large contributor to the problem).  The number of people who are overweight continues to escalate.  We could get into a great discussion of the myriad reasons for the obesity epidemic in this country (and the world as a whole really), but I think that we can all agree that TV dinners, Funions, and Coca-Cola are enormous contributors to the problem. And just in case you weren’t sure, Funions are not real food.  Sorry, friends.
  6. Real food just seems sensible.  It might be that when this whole big experiment plays itself out in many decades or millenia, we adapt and evolve so that our bodies are able to sustain and thrive on TV dinners, Funions, and Coca-Cola.  But what if we don’t?  And what’s more, what if some enterprising individual channels his or her concern for our overall health as a population and discovers definitive proof that high fructose corn syrup is a major contributor to brain cancer.  And your son or daughter or husband or wife, who is active and has no family history, is diagnosed with brain cancer a year later.  Do you want to wish that you would have done something differently?  I don’t think so.
  7. Do it for your kids.  If your kids are grown, do it for them anyway.  If you don’t have kids, do it for the kids you never had or for some other kids that are important to you.  The more people who join the real food revolution, the closer we’ll be to making it the norm.  The power of one, if you will.

If these reasons are still not enough to convince you, then spend 18 minutes and 27 seconds with this gal and listen to her story.  Seriously, go get a nice cup of coffee or tea or whatever, find a comfy cozy spot, and watch this.

Eye-opening, right?  I’m a numbers gal at heart, so listening to all those statistics gives me goose bumps.  And makes me mad all at the same time.  Grrrrrrr….. (Also to give a shout-out to Robyn – she’s awesome.  Any time you can listen to her speak, do it.  She’s crazy smart and has come into this world because of real circumstances, and she has devoted her life to making a change.)

The bottom line, friends, is that our parents and grandparents were duped into thinking that all of these chemicals being dumped into our food was for the greater good (hello, margarine), when in reality, it was just a way for the food and chemical companies to make more money. You can read the numbers and think “it won’t happen to me.” Do you really want to wait until it does and you wonder “what if?”

This is a 21st century problem and it is our responsibility to fix it. We can’t change the past, but we can learn from it and make a better future.  For ourselves. And for our children.

And if you’re still not convinced – perhaps you should revisit ole Wilbur’s question.

And ask yourself, “Why not?”

Real Food. Modern Realities.

leave-it-to-beaver-family-400x400

Do you ever feel like you’re living with the Cleavers?

Me, neither.

(If you answered “yes,” then feel free to skip the rest of this post ’cause you’re livin’ the dream!  If you have no knowledge of the Cleavers, then you need to study up, friend.)

And we certainly don’t live in a world that is anything like it was when that show was popular.  Can you imagine June Cleaver with an iPad in her kitchen?  Hahahaha! Ha?

But wait … But stop and think about the food that she fed to Ward, Wally and the Beaver (and Eddie Hascal, of course).  I’m betting that it was a closer approximation to real food than anything served in most households today.  And I would also imagine that because it was a part of their culture, it was much easier to get fresh milk and local meats, fruits and vegetables than it is for most of us.

Of course, I do realize that this was, in fact, a television show.  It does, however, depict with some degree of accuracy, the general reality of life during that era, albeit with an overly dramatized glossiness.

Although we are not very far removed from the Cleaver decade, our reality has “advanced” so much more rapidly than similar passages of time throughout the course of history.  They had black-and white television and AM radio;  we have iPads, iPods, television in myriad forms, DVRs, Blu-Ray and on and on and on.  And while they had milk delivery and local farmers, we have GMO-laden milk, GoGurt, Skittles, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, Funions, and McDonalds.

Frankly, I think I’d rather have to deal with the Beaver’s trouble-making than have to deal with the constant complaining that I get as a result of the overwhelming barrage of junk food that my kids come into contact with each day.

No matter how much we would like to insulate our children from all of that nastiness, they are so inundated with technology and well-targeted advertising that it’s nearly impossible to avoid.  Plus, if you are coming to the real food table as we are, with children who have already been directly exposed to junk food, it is difficult to divorce them from it.

And so, while I would sometimes like to live in a Cleaver-esque reality where I (as June) tell them in the most gosh, darn, aw-shucks way possible that they should really avoid those M&Ms and then they say “Gee, okay, ma” and happily run off to play outside, I do realize that this is but a dream.

I set out on this journey to get my kids eating fewer things out of packages and more things that come from my kitchen.  But I also recognize the realities of the world in which we live – a world that includes lots of things that I would prefer that they never experience, but that experiencing these things is a consequence of their reality. I don’t want them to ever feel ostracized or deprived because I don’t allow them things that other children are allowed, but at the same time, I want to educate them so that they are capable of making intelligent choices when I kick ’em out into the cold, cruel world and they are forced to navigate these waters on their own.

So, we make compromises.  We have Dunkin’ Donuts.  We indulge at the county fair.  We go out for ice cream.  I don’t freak out if someone gives them a handful of Skittles.  We also stay away from fast food.  We try to eat out in places that serve locally sourced food or, at the very least, places that make an effort to be real.

And I have learned to be okay with that.  We do the best that we can, keeping in mind the reality of our reality.

Even if it’s nothing like the Cleavers!

Real Food. “Defined.”

webster dictionaryWhen we first met, the man and I used to go to Borders all the time – just for the experience and usually without any intention of making an actual purchase.  The man has a real love for books.  Not just reading them, but the experience that comes from surrounding himself with them.  And I used to tease him –  mercilessly.  I have to admit, though, that as time has passed, a bit of his book-love has rubbed off.  There really is nothing like cracking the spine of a good book for the first time.

I find it a bit sad, actually, that The No Fruit Guy, when doing his homework one evening, scoffed at my suggestion that he use the actual dictionary.  Shocking, I guess, that we do still have one.  It’s just a cheap paperback – nothing like the old leather-bound Merriam-Webster that we had when I was a kid. That one was used so much that the spine was so tattered it was broken in five places and you could look through just one section without having to deal with the rest of the book.

You’re probably thinking that I’m going to give you a catchy transition into the book definition of real food.  I’m not.  Just felt like pontificating about books and how wonderful they are.

There really is no universally accepted, actual definition of the term. Even a quick search of “real food definition,” you find that there are as many interpretations of real food as there are proponents of it.

Most do tend to agree, however, that real food is:

  • basic;
  • whole;
  • local;
  • pastured;
  • unprocessed;
  • unrefined; and
  • untainted by people.

Real food is whole food in it purest, most unadulterated form.  It is plants, roots, nuts, seeds, meats, eggs, milk, fruits and vegetables from local, organic, unadulterated sources inasmuch as is possible.   It is whole milk (raw if you can), pasture-raised eggs and chicken, grass fed meat, and pesticide-free fruits and vegetables.  It is food that not only sustains life, but nourishes it as well.

Pretty good, I’d say, especially given that my name is not Merriam or Webster.

real-food

So, then, obviously pears, peaches, peas, asparagus, spinach, eggs, black beans, oats, barley, and the like are all real food.  But what about bread? Or butter?  Or yogurt? Or granola?  Or coconut oil?  Or – most importantly – chocolate?

Generally speaking, if you can conceivably make it in your own home or homestead using simple ingredients that are sourced as closely to their origin as possible, then it qualifies as real food.  For instance, if I had a coconut tree in my backyard and the proper tools, I could feasibly extract my own coconut oil (look there’s even a wikihow article on how to do it: http://www.wikihow.com/Make-Virgin-Coconut-Oil).  Similarly, if I owned a cow …

pause just to ponder the humor there …

I could milk it and make my own yogurt.  (Fortunately for those of us who are not the cow-milking kind, we do have other reliable sources for these types of things.)  Basically, if you have the time, effort and wherewithal to combine basic, direct-from-nature ingredients to make a more extravagant delicacy, then it’s still real.

That, friends, is real food in a nutshell.  Or in roughly 3 paragraphs.

Now I suggest that you check out the Books To Read section in the sidebar and pick one. Or several.  And then find a good bookstore (preferably one that has your book(s) and some chairs) and sit and soak up the experience.

And while you’re there, go ahead and pick up a nice dictionary.  Just so your kids can make fun of you, too.