Friday, 25 July 2014

The Freedom Cyclers: Lasting Impact

When my husband’s cousin called us and asked if her college-age son and three of his friends could “crash” at our house for a few days because they were riding their bicycles across the country…I thought it was crazy.  We have a small house, we have three young children,  it was the last week of school, I just returned from a business trip and the list goes on and on…but we said yes.  It’s family and we always try to do everything we can for family.  The funny thing is that I had never met Jeff or any of his friends and my husband hadn’t seen him since he was a little boy.  We were in for a great adventure.

The “boys” arrived and spent three days with us.  First of all, let me say that these boys were thoughtful, intelligent, athletic, considerate, spiritual young men.  They were gearing up for a long summer of riding their bikes from Laguna Beach, CA to Savannah, GA for a cause.  They were riding for freedom (thefreedomcyclers.com) the end human slavery.  We were honored to be there for the beginning of their journey.  Our daughters were inspired by the fact that we opened our home and enjoyed getting to know the boys and hearing about their ride.  Our son, Bob, loved having four big brothers for a few days.  We thought we were going to lose him one day when we saw him in the driveway “tuning up” his bike…he said he was going with them.

Anyway, I was searching for something to watch on TV the other night when I came upon the movie, Yes Man.  It is a comedy with Jim Carey (not appropriate for children.)  In the movie, his character has to say “yes” to everything.  It is amazing where his “yes” journey takes him.  Sometimes I feel like I am saying “no” all the time (especially as a mom.)  Saying yes to The Freedom Cyclers staying with us enriched our lives and the lives of our children.  It was not an inconvenience, it was a blessing.

Here is my challenge for you, start with one day and just say “yes.”  I promise you that you will say yes to things that you think are crazy but at the end of the day, you will be happier and richer for the experience.

Ready, set, JUST SAY YES!

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Friday, 22 November 2013

How I Got My Kids to Eat Fruits and Vegetables Without Hiding Them

One of my favorite discoveries this year is my weekly organic fruits and vegetable delivery service.  The seed was planted when my good friend, Liz, told me about her weekly delivery and I was intrigued.  I love to cook and I love good food and I am always striving to eat healthier.  And then I found the Groupon.  It was for $15.00 for the first delivery.  It was a no-brainer.  The first morning I woke up to my delivery outside my front door I was so excited.  I opened the box and emptied it onto the counter.  When the kids woke up and saw it, they were excited too.  The box contained things they loved, things they didn’t love and things they didn’t even know the names of yet.  When I told them that everything was fresh from the farm, they wanted to try it all…even the things they knew they did not like.

 

We’ve been receiving our delivery since August and every Tuesday morning there is still a race to the front door to get the box and empty it onto the counter.  The kids are still willing to try anything…at least once.  It has also broadened my menu planning.  I will plan meals around what is in the box.  With the exception of my monthly run to Costco for the basics, this leaves me with minimal grocery shopping for the week.

 

The service we use is Farmfreshtoyou.com.  You can change your schedule or  cancel at any time.  The cost did double after the initial Groupon but I find that it is worth it for my family to eat healthy and we are supporting our local farmers.

 

Tonight I will be making butternut squash lasagna.  Do you have any yummy vegetable or fruit recipes to share?

 

Do you receive organic produce delivery service in your area?

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Wednesday, 13 November 2013

When Life Hands You Persimmons, Make Persimmon Cookies!

We receive a weekly delivery of organic produce at our house. Our delivery includes whatever fruits and vegetables are fresh from the farm that week.  Our children look forward to seeing what is in the box and trying new things.  This week we received A LOT of persimmons.  I’ve heard of persimmons but being a girl from New England, I didn’t know how to eat them or what to do with them.  Luckily, my California-raised husband shared that his mother made wonderful persimmon cookies when he was young.  One email later and I had the recipe.

 

Persimmon Cookies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Cream Together:

1/2 cup butter

1 cup sugar

Fold In:

2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

 

My mother in law’s recipe suggests you may add raisins and/or nuts.  I got creative here and made three different batches adding chocolate chips, butterscotch chips and macadamia nuts individually.

 

Drop by heaping teaspoon on a lightly greased cookie sheet.  Bake for 15-18 minutes.

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These cookies were beautiful and cake-like.  My kids loved them.  It was fun to sneak something healthy into such a yummy cookie.

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Making these with one of my daughters, sharing some of my husband’s family history, created an even more memorable experience than simply baking together.  Surprising her Dad with one of the treats from his childhood was an extra perk for Eva.

 

Thank you, Jane!

 

What recipes has your mother-in-law shared to meld your husband’s childhood memories with your own so they become important to the next generation?

 

 

Thursday, 31 October 2013

A Perfect Autumn Night

You can take the girl out of Boston but you can’t take Boston out of the girl.  We had the perfect autumn evening last night…homemade soup for dinner, carving pumpkins and the RED SOX WIN THE WORLD SERIES!!!

 

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Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Do You Take Your Children Trick or Treating on Halloween?

You may want to sit down before you read any further.  Whenever I tell people what I am about to tell you, jaws drop wide open.  I NEVER went trick or treating as a child.  EVER.

Yes, it is true.  My parents didn’t feel it was safe.  It was back in the day of horrible stories of razor blades hidden in candy apples and poisoned candy.  Hospitals volunteered to x-ray your candy for free to keep children safe.  Were there any truths to these stories or were they just urban legends?  If I was a parent with young children thirty years ago, I may have made the same decision as my parents.

I want to tell you that I never felt deprived or even thought I was missing out on trick or treating.   My parents put a lot of effort into making it a very special holiday for us.  We always had spectacular costumes, sometimes homemade and sometimes store-bought.  Our Halloween parties were the talk of the neighborhood.  They were so much fun with homemade treats and spooky games including a haunted house.   During the month of October,  our family would watch Halloween specials on TV like, Charlie Brown and the gang in It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and The Legend of Sleepy Hallow narrated by Bing Crosby.  On Halloween night, we would always dress up in our costumes and hand out candy to our neighbors and friends as they trick or treated.  I loved seeing all the different and creative costumes at our front door.

I went trick or treating for the first time when I was 28 years old.  My husband and I took my stepdaughter.  I was very excited.  We live in a very quiet and safe neighborhood.  It was a lot of fun to see all the children running down the streets with their overflowing bags of candy.  Today, our children go trick or treating and they love it.

After experiencing the trick or treating for several years now, I have to say that I am ready to stay home again and hand out the candy.

Whatever your Halloween traditions are, be true to your beliefs.  There are many ways to enjoy the holiday and have fun.

What are your Halloween traditions?

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Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Help! We Have a Stereotypical Boy!

My youngest child and I went to the doctor for his five year old well check the other day.  The doctor asked if we were having any specific issues and I answered, “Nothing physical, just behavioral.”  She let out a giggle.  We had three girls before our son.  I had no idea what mothers meant when they said their sons were just so physical and active.  Now, I get it.   We need to “run” our son like a horse so he can burn his physical energy or disaster will strike.  Even after the “run,” we need to keep him engaged at home in a project, a lot free time leads to trouble.  He likes to help around the house.  Lucky for me, his favorite projects are with Dad and usually involve tools…and power tools are even more exciting.    This weekend they decided to take our rusty golf cart apart, sand it down and repaint it.  It’s like vacation time for me.

Another major difference I noticed is that my son has a much more difficult time verbally expressing himself than my daughters.  These days we are really working with him on using his words when he is frustrated.  Yesterday, he started to lose his temper.  I pulled him aside and he told me that I was embarrassing him.  I was so proud of him for communicating that to me.   In turn, instead of just putting him in a time out we explain to him what that issue is so that he understands.  This seems to be working…most of the time.

All the physical things aside, I love my son.  He looked up at me when we were watching a movie the other day and said, “Mom, you are the most beautiful woman in the world.”  Kids always seem to know what to say and when you really need to hear it.

 

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Please like this on Facebook if you have an active boy at home.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Be Sure to Call or Visit Your Grandparents This Sunday. If You Don’t Have One, Adopt One!

This Sunday, September 8, is National Grandparents Day.  The day originated with Marian McQuade in West Virginia.    She was looking for a way to help the lonely elderly in nursing homes.  In 1978, President Jimmy Carter proclaimed that National Grandparents Day would be celebrated every year on the first Sunday after Labor Day.

 

According to Wikipedia, the number of grandparents in the United States will rise from 65 million in 2011 to 80 million in 2020.  Grandparents are also helping out in the area of child care and support.  In 2012, 30% of children under five with working parents were cared for on a regular basis by a grandparent.

 

Our children our blessed to have three living grandparents and two living great-grandparents.   Unfortunately, none of them live close to us.  We have been lucky to see them many times throughout the years and our children feel a strong bond with them and an overwhelming love for them.  We also “adopted” our 90-year-old neighbor.  She has many grandchildren but none of them live in the area.  Recently, she taught our children how to play checkers with true strategy because they were going to visit their great-grandfather and wanted to play with him.

 

If you are part of the 30% that is lucky enough to have the grandparents help out with childcare, I am envious of you.  There are so many different things that grandparents can share with our children that we cannot.  They have a different perspective and have more life experiences.  Please help your children build and keep these important relationships.  If you are unable to visit, there are many other ways to maintain these bonds.  One of my daughter’s grandmothers read a book she was reading this summer so they could discuss it together over the telephone.  Another daughter saves buttons that have fallen off because only grandma can sew them on just right.  The artistic talents of our children are linked to a grandmother that sends the most creative thank you notes and has a love of art.  One daughter inherited a sense of style from a great grandmother that has a pair of shoes and accessories to match every outfit.

 

Please call, face time, visit or write the grandparents this weekend.  Small children can draw or paint a picture.  My grandfather told me a story a few years ago.  He wanted me to know that he chose the cemetery where he would be buried.  He said there were many cemeteries in his town but he chose the one where all the famous people were buried so maybe someone would visit him.  My grandfather had a very bad fall a few months ago that left him with memory loss and he is unable to care for himself.  It has been difficult for my entire family.  Before the fall, he was so sharp and active.  He would read, travel, work, play golf and volunteer.  He is now in a care facility.  All he wants to do is go home.  I will not be able to see him this Sunday but I hope someone “adopts” him and gives him the gift of a visit.

 

Please like this on Facebook if you will be calling or seeing your grandparents on Sunday or even adopting one.

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Thursday, 5 September 2013

How is the New Clean Eating Plan Working?

I hope many of you are having better luck than I am!  It’s only been 3 weeks and I wasn’t expecting a miracle but some movement on the scale would’ve been nice.  The first week I was so careful about what I ate, didn’t drink anything but water and my two cups of coffee, and I exercised.  At the end of the week, I stepped on the scale and I had lost zero pounds.  This wouldn’t have bothered me so much but my husband lost ten pounds!  And he didn’t even exercise!  How is this fair?

 

Feeling completely discouraged, I went on vacation for a week to the East coast.  I grew up on the East coast and I always get excited when I go back. I miss the air, the lush green trees, the small town vibe and the FOOD!  I decided  to truly vacation and eat what I want and most likely have limited exercise.  The first four days I was there I had a Boston Crème donut and a regular coffee from Dunkin Donuts for breakfast.  Most days involved a lobster roll, clam chowder, ice cream, steak tips and more.  I really enjoyed my time eating my way through New England.   When I returned home, I was ready for a five-pound weight gain.   I stepped on the scale and to my disbelief I weighed exactly the same!  Now I was really confused.  I spent one week eating well and exercising and another week gorging myself on childhood favorites and the same number was on the scale.

 

I need to regroup.  I will not give up.  I will lose this extremely stubborn extra weight.  I have completely eliminated my morning favorite, French Vanilla Coffeemate, from my diet.  I tried milk and I even tried half and half in my coffee but its not cutting it.  I need to make a switch to tea.  This has probably been the toughest change for me.  I’ve also limited myself to drinking wine only three nights a week.  I’ve cut down on second servings and I am not eating dessert.  We are just finishing up the processed food at home and the kids are really missing the sweets and snack foods.  They do not agree with me that fruit can be a dessert.  I’m doing ok with the food changes; it’s the beverages that are difficult for me, especially the coffee and wine.

 

I think the only way to see the pounds start to drop is to amp up the exercise.  I like to exercise once I am finished but I just find it really tough to get started.  I’ve spoken with some friends about joining a gym thinking that will help motivate me.  But is it realistic?

 

How do you find the time and the motivation to exercise?

 

What is your favorite way to burn calories?

 

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Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Lunch Box Ideas…What to Pack and Will Your Child Eat It

When my children were young, it was easy.  I would put together a snack box with a yogurt, fruit and maybe some cheerios and they were happy.  Today, it is a completely different story.  All of my children (including my preschooler) are very opinionated about what goes into their lunchbox.  For years I would pack what I thought they should be eating.  Last year I tried something new.   I would take them grocery shopping and let them pick items to pack in their lunch.  I figured at least they would eat lunch and it wouldn’t end up in the trashcan.  This experience resulted in many items that turned my stomach like prepackaged snacks and Lunchables as well as a high grocery bill.

 

This year my kids are in for a shock.  We are changing our eating habits to “clean eating.”  I will not banish all treats and ice cream but will make every attempt to save them for special occasions.  My plan is simple.  It is to cut processed foods.  So the question is, how do I get my kids excited about these new “clean eating” lunches? Well, a new lunch box is always exciting and I hope that will work.  I love the bento lunch boxes that are popular now.  They encourage healthier eating.  Check out this website.  Not only can you purchase the bento boxes here but they also have 365 days of lunch ideas.

 

http://secure.laptoplunches.com/items.asp?Cc=LUNCH_BOX_2.0&Bc

 

 

There are many ideas out there in the blogosphere with creative ideas.  These can be good but I still like to empower my kids to pack their own lunches but with guidance.  I believe every lunch should have a fruit, veggie, protein, drink and a treat.  I plan to brainstorm a list with the children with fruit, veggie, protein, drink and treat options.  I want to stick with the items that they like so I know they will eat their lunch.

 

A great children’s book that discusses one picky eater and lunch box meals is “Bread and Jam For Frances” by Russell Hoban.  This book is worth picking up if you have not read the book,

 

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/bread-and-jam-for-frances?store=allproducts&keyword=bread+and+jam+for+frances

 

What do you put in your children’s lunchboxes?

 

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Wednesday, 21 August 2013

When Volunteering Becomes a Full Time Job

I received an email from AYSO soccer and they are looking for coaches.  Immediately, I thought I might coach my 7-year old daughter’s team if I could get a friend to assist me.  When I mentioned it to my husband, he said, “ABSOLUTELY NOT!”  I don’t really blame him.

A few years ago I was volunteering for everything.  I had two leadership roles; as a mom room for one child’s class and the Girl Scout leader for another child among the many other volunteer jobs I was doing, all with a small toddler at home.  By the end of that year, I was a disaster.  While I enjoyed being with my children and getting to know their peers, there were many parts of the volunteer jobs that were not a lot of fun.  Plus, I still had all the shopping, cooking, cleaning, paperwork, etc. to handle at home.

One of the reasons that I stay home with my children is so that I can provide an organized and calm home life for my children and for my husband.  I want to decorate for every holiday.  I want to have a home-cooked meal on the table most nights.  I want the kids to come home to the aroma of cookies baking in the oven.  This was not happening.

In recent years, I still volunteer a lot in my children’s classrooms but without taking a leadership role.  This allows me more flexibility.  I am also focusing on my children, their academics, extra-circular activities and sports.  Oh, did I mention school projects.  As your children get older, you will see the projects they are assigned and realize there is no way they can complete this projects without help from you and many trips to the craft store.

Kudos to all the moms that step up and take the leadership roles.    It is great experience for moms that are out of the work force because you can put it on your resume if you decide to re-enter the work force one day.  I am sure that I will again take on a leadership role but for now, I will enjoy being a a worker bee instead of a queen bee.

 

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