Mother’s Day Favorites

I heard a beautiful quote yesterday: “I haven’t done many great things in my life, but I have greatly loved my children.” (Suzanne Stabile)

I needed to hear that right now. Mother’s Day is a lovely idea, but sometimes I struggle with the idea of being celebrated, because I’m too aware of the ways in which I fall short. I can think of many ways in which I would love to improve my mothering skills, but if there’s one thing I do greatly, it’s love my children.

I wonder if I would enjoy Mother’s Day more if there wasn’t so much of an emphasis on being pampered and feeling special, but rather it could be a celebration of the opportunity to be a mother. A day to celebrate the chance to deeply love these sweet children of mine, a day to thank God for the answers to all my prayers during the years of infertility and miscarriages. I need the reminder that it’s not about getting it right every single time – it’s about all of us being sanctified and beautified as we become more like Jesus.

There are hundreds of ways I’ve messed up as a mom over the years, but I’d like a day to remember that love covers over a multitude of wrongs, and some time to remind myself that if great love = a great mom, then I was made for this. I was given everything I need to do this well. They are my greatest work.

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Eating Gluten-Free With Kids

I’m often asked about what our family eats, because most people who know us are aware of the issues we’ve had with food intolerance. (All of our kids have the same digestive issues with gluten and dairy – I did my part in passing on that gift…)

I love it when people ask about how to survive eating gluten-free with kids, because I’m happy to share any helpful tidbits we’ve learned over the years, and I’m pretty passionate about finding great food to eat even when we haven’t been able to enjoy gluten or dairy. Fortunately, our kids are able to eat more than they were in the past, because a lot of their digestive issues have cleared up, but I clearly remember how overwhelming it was in the beginning when we first found out that we’d need to make some serious changes in our eating habits, and if there’s anything I can do to help others with that learning curve, I’m glad to do it.

Because of the questions I’m asked, I’ve decided to make one massive food post. If you are one of those lucky people who can eat whatever you want, skip this post and go eat a bunch of gluten-y chocolate chip cookies for the rest of us.

But if you find yourself in the same boat as our family, we welcome you aboard, and want to assure you: life can still be awesome with dietary restrictions.

Obviously, you’ll need to find your own way of making this work for your particular situation, but here’s a look at our weekly menu and our favourite recipes to get you started:

Monday: Oatmeal, usually with Cinnamon + apples or strawberries mixed in (depending on your level of sensitivity, you might need to get oatmeal that’s specified as being gluten-free)

Tuesday: Lazy Apple Crisp – slice up some apples and mix with vanilla + lemon juice; mix oatmeal with oil + cinnamon, and layer over apples; bake for about 30 minutes.

Wednesday: Scrambled eggs & ham

Thursday: Soaked Oatmeal

Friday: Honey Cloud Pancake

Saturday & Sunday: Applesauce Pancakes/Waffles (We always triple the recipe and freeze the leftovers for quick snacks throughout the week.)

Lunch

We will usually have leftovers for lunch. If there are none, we’ll make quiche (this recipe, without the crust), soup of some sort, or cubed/roasted potatoes with leftover meat + veggies. I roast a whole chicken regularly so we always have cooked meat in the freezer. I also make huge pots of spaghetti sauce to freeze so we can have a quick meal every once in awhile (Costco gluten-free pasta is the best taste/price we’ve found). I find it very time consuming to bake bread, and often make biscuits instead because they’re faster and easier.

Supper

Monday: Roasted Veggies + Meat (whatever combo I’m hungry for, or have veggies in the fridge that need using up, like potatoes/broccoli/chicken, or carrots/onions/potatoes/chicken, etc. Toss with oil and seasonings like garlic and oregano on a cookie sheet, and roast it for about 45 minutes.)

Tuesday: Casserole of some sort (Shepherd’s Pie, Enchilada Casserole)

Wednesday: Salad with chopped veggies + chicken on top, with smashed potatoes

Thursday: Stir-fry or Broccoli Noodles (I love using the asian noodles Superstore sells, made from pea/bean starch for this meal)

Friday: Taco Salad

Saturday: Loaded Baked Potatoes (Everyone adds their own toppings like tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, black beans, chicken, cheese, etc.)

Sunday: Fish + Chip Potatoes (can be made with potatoes or sweet potatoes) + steamed veggies

*You may have noticed that our family eats a ton of potatoes, which some people think is unhealthy. But there’s also the pro-potato people who feel the potassium in potatoes is so good for us, we should eat two a day. (Anika says she heartily agrees.) So for now, since I can’t eat any grain, potatoes are cheap, and my body seems to respond really well to The Perfect Health Diet, we’ll go strong with potassium.

Snacks

Our kids eat a lot of fruit, nuts, sunflower seeds, rye crackers from Superstore, or sweet potato crackers from Costco. We also make chocolate balls, granola bars, cookies (Apple Spice Cookies or Chewy Coconut-Oat Cookies, subbing honey for any sweetener), rice pudding, Breakfast Bread, and muffins (Gingerbread Muffins).

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So that’s pretty much it for food at our house. I want to clarify something very important:

We did not make these changes overnight.

It is hard and overwhelming to make changes when it comes to what you’re cooking, and what your kids want to eat. I made one change at a time. When we were first encouraged to take gluten out of Anika’s diet, she was eating toast and cereal for breakfast every day. We tried to cut back, and made her scrambled eggs instead of her usual slice of toast. Gluten-free cereal was an easy switch, and that took care of breakfast. Next I tried to change her snacks. Then lunch. I used to make separate meals for our family, but finally Ben said, “Just make everything gluten-free, I don’t mind.”

It made things SO MUCH easier, and Ben actually felt better staying away from gluten, even if he can handle eating it. So it was a long process, and there were lots of times when I felt very lost. Make small changes, and go easy on yourself. One step at a time.

And one day you’ll look back, and think, “It’s really not that big of a deal anymore.” It will be awesome and delicious.

Any favorite gluten-free recipes you have to share?! We’re always up for trying something new!

 

 

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Finding Room to Breathe

I recently heard an explanation for why some people feel overwhelmed in large crowds of people, and others don’t. Some people get frustrated about having to fight their way through all the people on a crowded street, or at the mall right before Christmas. They see all the people in their way, as obstacles to maneuver around.

But there are other people who face the same challenge, and instead of seeing all the people in the way, they see the spaces between the people – gaps they are aiming for so they can slip easily through the crowd, almost like a dance with complicated but graceful steps to learn and enjoy.

Sometimes, my life has the same energy as a shopping mall on Christmas eve – lots of hustle, bustle, bodies everywhere, trying to get something done with obstacles everywhere, feelings of joy, feelings of frustration, lots of noise, lots of chaos, lots of busyness. I have three people talking to me at once, more often than not, and the introvert in me starts to go crazy, even though I love almost all of it.

But there are also times when my three angels are playing together so sweetly, it almost makes me hurt because I feel so much joy.

Everett wraps his little arms around my neck, Anika and I explore the depths of fantastic conversation, and Kaylia bares her soul during the quiet moments before bed. These sweet moments make the times of chaos completely worth it, and I start to see there are gaps to aim for.

Sometimes I get overwhelmed and all I can see are the obstacles. But things always balance out, and I find the spaces between the craziness – not because we aim to avoid the hard stuff, but because they don’t seem as a big a deal when we’re not focusing on them.

This morning, I was making granola in the kitchen, and I suddenly became aware of how peacefully quiet and content everyone was. Kaylia and Everett were playing together, and Anika was doing her schoolwork. The house smelled heavenly, it was cleaner than usual, everyone was fed and satisfied and happy. I stood there by the oven, and just breathed it all in, because in that moment, everything was…perfect.

And then the moment passed, and things got crazy again, but that was also wonderful, in a different kind of way.

I’m trying to remind myself to look for the gaps where we can slip through easily and breathe deeply, and slide along through the tough spots, because the obstacles and the gaps together make up my little world right now. We need a balance of both.

So here’s to a beautiful life that slips easily through the tough spots, and we find the gaps to enjoy, as well as the obstacles to challenge us.

 

Waiting For Pretty

It’s that ugly but exciting time of spring – when everything is brown, but we’re just so happy because the snow is gone, and we know the green growing things are coming soon. I was looking out the window the other day, thinking about how there is so often an ugly aspect to growth and change – the discomfort of shedding the old and reaching toward the new. But it’s the hope, anticipation, and excitement of something fresh and different which carries us through the discomfort, and keeps us going.

So we watch spring creeping in, and we squeeze out every bit of joy from the ordinary little moments. Lately, we’re enjoying:

Early morning snuggles.

Saturday morning pancakes.

Smooth, bare skin.

The eager anticipation of good food.

Creating.

The best seat in the house.

More creating.

More anticipation.

Learning to share and play together.

And I realize once again that when I take the time to grab my camera, there is so much worth capturing, even if we’re still waiting for things to pretty up a bit outside.

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Grocery Budget Bootcamp Update

Back in January, I shared here that I was taking a grocery budget course (affiliate link). I finished up the course a few weeks ago, and I’m back to say I loved it!! It was a lot of work, but it was totally worth it.

The course includes 13 lessons, covering topics like meal planning, creating a price book, comparing grocery stores, avoiding food waste, and a number of other helpful topics which you can check out here.

In our home, Ben has always done the grocery shopping, partly because he can do it after work and save me an extra trip into the city, and partly because he is so much better at it! He can remember prices, knows when stuff is on sale, and can figure out the best deal much quicker than I can. Also, I am allergic to Superstore – for real. I walk in there, and immediately, my nose runs, my eyes water, and my head gets so fuzzy I can’t even think straight. I don’t make wise decisions under those conditions, so it works out great to have Ben be the designated shopper.

This made a grocery budget course interesting, because I was the one taking it, but he’s the one shopping! So we ended up talking about stuff a lot, and we also started doing a lot of our grocery shopping online, which is absolutely wonderful! Superstore has a “Click and Collect” site so you can place your order the night before, and pick it up the next day. It’s very convenient, and it’s also allowed us to spend more time talking about what are the best purchases – Ben shares all his shopping secrets with me, and I share everything I’ve learned from the Grocery Budget Bootcamp.

The first month, we saved $50 on groceries, and the second month, we saved $70. I was secretly hoping for more dramatic savings, but the interesting thing I learned was that we were already doing pretty good before taking the course. Part of the course includes calculating what would be a reasonable budget, taking into consideration where you live, what stores are available to you, how many people are in your family, and what kinds of food allergies you’re dealing with. According the the USDA Thrifty Food Plan, our family “should” be spending $1140 on groceries per month! We were averaging $720, so our savings didn’t end up being as extreme as some of the other people I was doing the course with, because we’re already saving a lot. Also, shopping in the states sounds crazy!! We just do not get the same kind of deals.

But Ben and I worked really hard, and it was great to get our budget down a little. I’m also pretty confident that as we get better at the shopping strategies we learned, our budget will go down even further.

The biggest game changer for us was tracking prices for food items in different stores. It doesn’t seem like a huge deal that butter is a dollar more expensive at Superstore than Costco, but multiply that by four for the month, and by 12 for the year, and suddenly you’re looking at saving $48 over the year. I would love it if somebody handed me $48. So we’re making sure to only buy butter at Costco. We have our list of what’s better to buy at Costco, and what is cheaper at Superstore, and are trying to do one big shopping trip at the beginning of the month so that Ben only needs to grab a bit of fresh produce each week. We are tracking prices on Google Docs so both of us can access the list from our phones while shopping.

Ben made an interesting observation – I asked him why he thought the course was worth taking, and he said it made us much more intentional about our choices, which flowed over into other areas of our budget as well. This speaks to how versatile the course is – I was worried it wouldn’t be applicable to our specific situation with food allergies, but the Grocery Budget Bootcamp is all about studying the way you shop, and doing it more intentionally, no matter what you’re buying. I’ve read countless resources on grocery budget tips, and often they involve the hassle of coupons, and buying cheap, convenience foods that we can’t eat at our house. I didn’t want another course telling me to stockpile granola bars and canned soup. We buy our food in it’s original form, which makes it expensive, because how often does fresh produce go on sale?? Well, more often than I thought, it turns out! My favorite day of the week is now Thursday, because all the new grocery flyers come out, and it’s a treasure hunt to find the items we buy regularly at the best price possible. This course is all about shopping smarter, avoiding waste, and being a good steward of your money and your food.

It’s a lot of work to save money on groceries, but I keep thinking about my two favorite pieces of wise financial advice I’ve heard over the years. The first came from Ben’s dad – he said, “If you are having trouble living within your means, you have two choices: make more money, or spend less.” It’s pretty straight forward, but it was something we needed to hear when we were first married. It’s related to the second piece of advice: “It’s better to put your energy into spending what you make wisely, than to use your energy trying to make more money.” One leads to greater contentment, self-discipline, and intention, while the other leads to a constant desire for more. I think about this often as I try to change my mindset about what it means to manage our home wisely and within our budget. I never want to take it for granted that Ben can earn a good pay cheque, and I get to stay home with our sweet kids. That privilege comes with the responsibility of being smart with our money.

I’m so looking forward to improving my ability to budget and shop better, and make wise choices which will benefit us for many years to come.

If you’re interested in learning more about Grocery Budget Bootcamp, you can check it out right here. The deadline for registering is tomorrow, so jump on it while you can! And then email me to tell me what you’re learning – discussing grocery shopping strategies has become one of my favorite things!:)

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Decluttering Our Closet

One of my absolute favorite things in life is problem solving. I get gleeful when I find a solution to something that’s not working quite right in our home. I will think and think and think about it until I figure it out. It helps to be married to someone who is great at solving problems in a totally different way than I am. I’ll think for hours about something, whereas Ben will throw out wild, crazy ideas off the top of his head, and some of them are just too wild and crazy to be of use, but some jolt me out of the rut I’m stuck in, and give me a few more hours’ worth of material to mull over. I love mulling.

My latest problem to solve was in our closet. We have a massive closet, which is interesting since it’s my goal to own as few clothes as possible, without getting completely bored of my options. We simply do not need all that space, but you know what happens with space? We fill it. It’s so easy to get careless when there’s so much room to spread out, and I’ve been getting lazy with how I’m storing things.

I walked into my closet the other morning and thought, “This is stressful and unappealing. I want a pretty closet.” When I expressed this desire to Ben, he said blankly, “I never think about stuff like that.”

“I do,” I replied. “Our closet is ugly.”

He said, “I think you spend a lot more time in our closet than I do. I just go in and get my clothes.”

“That’s all I do, too, but I still think it’s ugly,” I told him.

So I stood in our closet and stared really hard at everything to figure out what the problem was, and suddenly it hit me: Everything making a mess could either be gotten rid of, or stored somewhere else. My goal was a bare, beautiful dresser, and zero clutter. And maybe some pretty pictures on the wall, eventually….

I started hauling things out. It has made the hugest difference for me. I can’t wait to go in there each morning, because that wide open space is peaceful and soothing to my soul. Three kids can produce astonishing amounts of clutter which I find difficult to keep under control, but they don’t mess up my closet, so this space stays as clean as I keep it.

Those piles cluttering up my dresser sat there for five years, and I never once thought it would be possible to get rid of them. They needed to be there. Except they didn’t, and I can’t believe, once again, how awesome it feels to ditch the clutter, pare down the belongings, and simplify.

I stand in the doorway to our closet and just look at it. I made Ben look at it, too, and he was moderately impressed, but I don’t know if he would have noticed if I hadn’t forced him to admire it. But that’s fine – I did it for me.

It makes me curious what other clutter areas are completely unnecessary, if I can only figure out how to think outside the box. Now I need to go make the rest of my house look as clean as this closet.;)

What do you think – is there any clutter in your house you’ve believed you NEED, but maybe you don’t?!

 

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Grey Hair, Don’t Care (I Wish!)

It’s time for another grey hair post! Every so often, I need to remind myself why I’ve decided to grow out my grey hair. I’ve reached the uncomfortable stage of this process. It’s been fun and surprisingly painless until now. My hairdresser has been using a variety of highlights and lowlights to blend the line of my roots growing out, and I’ve liked it. Highlights make me feel fancy. But the line’s been blended, my natural hair colour has grown out everywhere except at the top of my head where I’ve been getting highlights, and now my hairdresser says I’m ready to grow everything out.

Taken last fall, when I was still having fun with highlights.:)

Yikes.

I have mixed feelings about this. I love the freedom of less hair appointments, and not having to cover up roots all the time. But there is a lot of junk for me to work through in this process, because my grey roots make me feel old and unattractive. I wish I didn’t care about these things, but it turns out that I do, and it’s something I’m learning to deal with. Because I’m in transition, I don’t know if I’m just feeling the discomfort of having five different colours in my hair right now, and things will get better as everything grows out, or if I’ll still feel this way once I’ve reached my goal.

I look at pictures of grey hair, and I love it. It looks beautiful, but I don’t know if it will look beautiful on me. I’ve always struggled with change in general, so that might be contributing to my discomfort, as well.

Whatever the issue really is, the cure is always the same for me. I give myself a good talking to about what is truly most important in my life (it’s not hair colour!), and then I go find some fun pictures to remind myself to stop taking this all so seriously. It’ll be fine in the end.

Sources: 1/2/3/4

I’ve also come across a couple of interesting blog posts on growing out grey hair:

The Silver Lining – A Guide to Growing Out Your Natural Grey Hair

My Eight Best Secrets For Dealing With the Emotional Ups and Downs of Going Grey

Young and Grey? You Might Want to Just Stick With It

Five Reasons I Stopped Coloring My Hair

And here are the posts I’ve written in the past about my thoughts on grey hair:

My Grey Crown of Glory

Surrounding Myself With Grey Hair Inspiration

Have you ever thought about growing out your grey? Why or why not?

 

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