Surviving the Insanity of Spring Sports: A Clean Eating Family Adventure

That which does not kill me makes me stronger. (Nietzsche)

A little bit of try goes a long way. (Becker)

Our mottos for this spring.

Check out our April …

april calendar

Isn’t it grand? And May …

may calendar

Oh-my-goodness-how-did-we-get-ourselves-into-this-oh-right-because-we-have-three-kids-and-how-ever-are-we-going-to-manage-all-of-this-and-still-eat-dinner-oh-and-why-is-everything-on-Tuesdays-and-Thursdays.

Phew.

Perhaps this is the norm for you, but it is certainly not for us. We have always had a marginal level of busy, but this is the first time that all 3 boys have wanted to participate in something of their own. On top of that, I am knee-deep in helping with the planning and preparation for our elementary school’s 5K fundraiser. Oh. My. Busy.

How ever is a clean eating family going to manage this … without going nuts or more so than we already are)?

I look at this and I do see lots of work. And lots of compromises. With food. Which means I also see some happy boys. (They love food compromises because it means that they get to eat things that are usually on the list-of-no-no’s.)

I also see late dinners, long weekends, beautiful weather, and good company.

Also, a messy house, dirty floors and disgusting toilets.

Most of all … I see smiles. Which is, in fact, the point, right?

If you stare at it long enough, you’ll see all of this too. Like one of those pictures that looks like blue dots but there’s really a bouquet of flowers hidden somewhere in it.

Despite the seeming enormity of the task, I have resolved myself to try … to the best that I can, with the understanding that it likely won’t be as perfect as I’d like but I’m okay with that. We are, after all, an imperfect clean eating family.

In the words of the classic clay-mation character Bob the Builder, “Can we do it?”

“Yes, we can.”

I also decided that I would share our clean eating family adventure here, so that all of you fine readers can benefit from our success and our … ahem … compromises.

Because misery loves company, right?

Or rather, adventures are meant to be shared.

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?

Inspired By Hunger

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“Delicious.”

“Spectacular.”

“This is soooo good.”

If you’re thinking you’re going to score a great new recipe that was boy-pleaser, then let me bear the burden of your disappointment. They were marveling at their own creations… none of which had anything to do with my cooking.

Sigh.

The Man spent the day fulfilling baseball-head-coach, testosterone-filled, heavy-lifting duties while I got the short-end-of-the-stick, run-of-the-mill referee, maid, disciplinarian duties. Who’s the lucky one in this scenario???

And when it’s Sunday and The Man isn’t home – Mama doesn’t cook. I can’t give a good reason for this – I can give a reason, but definitely not a good one.

On this particular Sunday, I was also trying to rally the children to get ready for our upcoming ski trip. Which means laundry. Winter creates a never-ending laundry abyss anyway, but trying to get it all washed and folded and packed in the same day with no husband to help … you’re feelin’ me, right?

And I had to take them to the grocery store. The fun overfloweth!

The Bread Guy was grumping and pitched an eleven-year-old fit about something (you all know what I mean) so I left him home. Which left me with the 2 goofs. In the store. On a Sunday. Oh. My.

They decided on french bread pizzas for dinner. Super easy. More time for the other things that we needed to accomplish.

But wait!

No lunch. No laundry done. And computer games when we got home.

I decided that since they were going to do whatever they felt like, then I was, too. So, I made some delicious hazelnut snack bars (recipe forthcoming) and did a few other things in the kitchen before I was ready for a quick workout.

Yes, I deliberately set them up for failure. Because I am such an awesome mom.

You can imagine the rest of this little tale.

Hunger really is the Mother of Motivation.

They did everything to make their own dinners – unseasoned tomato puree and everything.

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If I would have made this, they would have complained about something: the way the bread was cut, the bland tomato sauce, the cheese that spilled over the edge and got crispy … but because they made, they loved it.

A secret was revealed to all of us this fine evening … when they help with MAKING food, they are more likely to EAT it.

“Awesome.”

I Don’t Like Protein

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Packing real food lunch boxes is flat out unglamorous.

And loads of work.

And straight-up, down right stressful.

And when your kid doesn’t like protein, it is very frustrating. Like banging-your-head-against-a-wall frustrating.

Today’s worthy opponent?  Mr. Selective.

When I asked what he wanted for lunch, he started with applesauce, added some carrots and threw in a jelly sandwich.

I should have not bothered with anything more because (spoiler alert!), that is, in fact, all that he ate.

We got into our 357th discussion about why that’s not enough lunch and the importance of balance and protein and I gave my 700th explanation of protein.

He ran off to do some more messing around with Big Britches and I decided to simply take it upon myself to include some blueberries and my homemade yogurt with maple syrup.  Because I love wasting my time.  And the food that I worked so hard to plan and make.

Five steps in the door after school and he’s begging for something to eat.  Because (in case you skipped over the spoiler alert two paragraphs ago), he only ate carrots, applesauce and half of a jelly sandwich for lunch.

I suppose I should be grateful that he actually ate the fruit and veg, but that doesn’t get a growing boy through the day!

Just to add to the fun, we had our 701st rant discussion about protein, in which he loudly and perhaps obnoxiously declared “I just don’t like protein.”  And stormed off to his room.

But since he was starving, he came back after not very long and said he was going to make eggs. Nothing like some real anger at me to get my kids to take some initiative in the kitchen.

And that, friends, is what real lunches are all about!

 

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.