Tag Archives: kids

Fall. Veggies. Comfort food. Easy.

For us here in Calgary, we have enjoyed an unseasonably warm November….until yesterday when we got a bit of transient snow, and now are sitting at about 2 degrees Celsius (just above freezing for those of you in the US!).  It’s chillier than we are used to thus far this season, and overcast.  Nothing better on a day like today than a good hearty soup!  Bonus if you can get your kids to eat it.  Lucky for me, my handsome boy thought it was pretty good.

Ingredients:

1 head of cauliflower

1 head of broccoli

2 large carrots

1/2 large onion

3-4 cloves of garlic

1-2 tbsp melted coconut oil

3-4 cups of bone broth or stock

OPTIONAL: old cheddar, nuts, seeds, crackers or anything else that you think would taste good sprinkled on top!

Directions:

Chop up veggies and arrange on a cookie sheet.  Drizzle with oil. I prefer to drizzle with 1-2 tbsp melted coconut oil, but you can use olive oil or any other oil of your choosing. Put these in the oven to roast at 400 F (I used convection roast on my oven).  Roast them until they are just this side of overcooked.  This really intensifies the flavor, in my opinion.  (Garlic and onion were in a different pan, but can certainly be put all in the same pan).

When veggies are roasted, put them all into your blender.  I use Blendtec…. Vitamix is essentially the same.  Alternatively you can use an immersion blender if you’re lucky enough to have one.  It’s on my Christmas list this year!  Add about 3-4 cups of stock (or bone broth), homemade if you have it. Commercial stock is fine too.  We recently roasted an organic chicken so I boiled the bones for bone broth and saved.  So good for your stomach, particularly if you have any issues with leaky gut (like my son).  You will likely need more liquid than this, but I like my soup thick so I start here and add more liquid until it’s the desired consistency.

My Blendtec has a ‘hot’ blend feature, which is perfect for this!  My veggies are hot from the oven, but the broth is not, so this helps get soup up to a good ‘eating’ temperature.

If you want a chunkier texture, stop blending before it gets smooth.  I prefer it to be smooth as silk, so I blend and add liquid until it’s like thin pudding!  Mmmmm.

The end result is a creamy, pumpkin-colored, rich flavored soup that warms the body and the soul.  Would highly recommend experimenting with veggies such as sweet potato, peppers, parsnips or potatoes, and other additions such as pesto, hot peppers or even peanut butter.

I added some extra old cheddar to the soup in chunks because I love the gooey bites of melted cheese, but you could certainly use grated cheese of any kind, or skip the dairy and sprinkle roasted nuts, sunflower seeds, pepitas or anything else that would add a bit of crunch and some fall flavor.  Enjoy!

Holiday treats – Free of Dairy, Sugar, and Wheat!

 

At this time of year in particular, sugar and wheat filled treats are EVERYWHERE.  It makes everything a challenge for those of us who have kids who are sugar and wheat free.  A visit to Santa means a dye and sugar filled candy cane, or a sugar, wheat and dye filled iced cookie.  Any holiday event at school, with friends, with family, all involve treats of some kind.  Gluten-free is easy enough these days, as there are many commercial options for the gluten intolerant.  But not so much for the gluten AND sugar free.  At Halloween I made chocolate ‘bars’ for Berrik so that he wouldn’t feel left out.  He loved them!  However, they are very dark and bitter chocolates as I prefer to keep any sweetener to a minimum, regardless of what type I am using.  But I know that a lot of people, especially kids, prefer the milder, sweeter ‘milk chocolate’.  Because my kids were dairy free by necessity, they grew up eating very dark chocolate so have a taste for it.  Most kids, not so much.  I decided to experiment a little today, to see if I could create a dairy, sugar and wheat free chocolate treat, that would satisfy even the most diehard milk chocolate vs. dark chocolate fan.

These aren’t perfect but they are unbelievably delicious, and will do the trick in this house. Berrik won’t feel left out at all, as I think these might be better than most of the treats we will come across over the holidays.  Except my mom’s lemon tarts. Those are the best.  But I digress.  Our biggest issue will be keeping enough chocolate in the house to last, as my girls and even my dessert avoiding husband can’t keep their hands off this chocolate!

Ingredients:

1/2 cup coconut oil

1/2 cup cocoa

all the full fat cream from a can of coconut milk (discard the watery stuff, or save for another recipe… I just added it to a smoothie)

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp vanilla

sweetener of choice, to taste.

I use stevia and just add a couple drops at a time until it gets to the desired sweetness (5 drops or so seemed to work).  Other really good and tasty options are pure maple syrup, raw local honey, coconut sugar, xylitol derived from birch, or even just plain old sugar if you aren’t limiting sugar.  I would guess at about 1/8-1/4 cup of these sweeteners, but I would recommend to start low and add a bit at a time, tasting after each addition (best part of the process!!).

Put all ingredients in a sauce pan and heat slowly over low heat, stirring occasionally. When ingredients are mixed, smooth, and starting to bubble, continue to heat for about 2 minutes, stirring the entire time.  Pour into chocolate molds, or small muffin cups and freeze for a couple of hours.

OPTIONAL:

  • add a couple tbsp of nut or seed butter for a yummy nutty taste!  Chunky peanut butter is pretty amazing in this.
  • add gluten free pretzels, nuts, coconut, dried berries or red pepper flakes to each mold or muffin paper before pouring in the chocolate or sprinkle flakes of pink Himalayan sea salt on top

We added pretzels to ours as that is Berrik’s favorite.  These chocolates become soft quite quickly so should be served directly from the freezer.  They are creamy and fudge-like in texture and in flavor. Enjoy!!

 

Less is more. Really.

Homeschooling Berrik continues to be full of learning for me.  Not only am I learning what it takes to be an effective teacher of Berrik (I’m not sure I would be an effective teacher of someone else, but darn it I’m getting really good at teaching this sweet boy that I love), I am learning so much about myself in the process.

Recently I was reflecting on our week, thinking about the frustrating moments, and the major successes.  I can say with honesty that ever single week has some of each.  As I was thinking about the frustrating moments, it occurred to me that almost every time I am feeling frustrated with Berrik, it is because I have created an environment to frustrate him.  Let me back up a bit to try to explain.

I read an article recently called Achieve More By Doing Less (Click here to read it).  The Myth below is what I have bought into most of my life, and the Truth is what I am coming to realize more and more.

Myth

Busyness = importance
We so often wear our busyness as a badge of honor. We see our ability to withstand mounting levels of stress as a sign of character.

Truth

Busyness = cognitive overload
An overloaded brain hinders performance. It impairs our ability to think creatively, plan, organize, innovate, solve problems, make decisions, resist temptations, learn new things easily, speak fluently, remember important social information (like the name of our boss’s daughter, or our daughter’s boss), and control our emotions.

Berrik has made incredible gains over the past few months.  My reaction to his gains has been to try to add more practice, more knowledge, more reading, more math, more, more, more.  In my own life I do this to myself.  The more I succeed, the more I try to pile on.  More is more.  Faster is better.  Go, go, go.  But what I’ve noticed, is that the more I add to his plate, the slower his gains are.  He either doesn’t absorb, or shuts down completely when I’ve really crossed the line into crazy mom/teacher mode.  When I really think about the times he has made the most gains, with the least amount of work, it has always been when I did less, more effectively, and at the right times.  Hmmm.  Less is more.  I’m not a fan of using cliches.  But this time, it fits.

Myth

More is better
We live in a more is more culture. We want a more prestigious job, more likes on Facebook, more enrichment activities for our kids, more work so we can earn more money so we can buy more stuff.

Truth

Often, less is more
When we step back from the lie that more is going to be better, we often find that we already have enough.

Turnaround

Find the minimum effective dose
The “minimum effective dose” (MED) is the lowest dose of a pharmaceutical that spurs a clinically significant change in health or well-being. Look for the MED in everything: work, sleep, meditation, blogging frequency, checking email, school volunteering, homework help, date nights.

I love the idea of Minimum Effective Dose.  This makes so much sense to me.  And the beauty is that it applies to everything.  I am so guilty of wearing my busyness like a badge of honor, and seeking more, for myself and for my kids.  I come by this honestly (anyone who knows my mom will see that it is likely a significant nature AND nurture situation). I’m quite sure that I’ll always be like this some degree as I believe it is in my genetic code.  I see it in my eldest daughter too.  And I see the effects of it in my younger two.  Neither of them are coded for a more, more, more life.  They become overwhelmed, anxious, and frustrated.

Myth

Doing nothing is a waste of time
We do not like standing in line waiting for things or staring out the window before everyone has shown up for a meeting. That’s wasting time and time is money…and the only thing worse than wasting time is wasting money.

Truth

Our brains benefit when we waste time
When we let our minds go…to daydream, to wander…an area of our brain turns on that’s responsible for creative insight. And our best work comes from those creative insights—the ones that happen in the shower!

Turnaround

Stare into space
We feel uncomfortable with stillness, with downtime, so we cancel it out by becoming busy again. Instead of just staring out the window on the bus, we read our Facebook feed. We check our email in line at the grocery store. Instead of enjoying our dinner, we shovel food in our mouths while staring at a screen. Give yourself the joy of just staring into space sometimes. What could possibly be easier to put into practice?

I was absolutely raised with the notion that doing nothing is a waste of time.  We were by no means overworked as children, but it was clear that we should be up in the morning getting our chores done.  Even so, the lack of technology and the significantly less intense focus on scheduled activities of my youth resulted in a lot of downtime.  I played with my cousins outside on the farm, played make believe at my Grandma’s house next door (tea towels on heads to resemble long hair, tummies full of raw cookie dough – raw eggs and all), read a ton of books.  These days we live in an instant gratification culture.  We want (and have) the world at our fingertips and we become incredibly impatient if things are not available the very second it occurs to us that we need it.  Waiting in line, face in phone the entire time, yet still feeling so impatient and annoyed that we have to wait.   Listening to podcasts while waiting in traffic, or making phone calls… because just sitting in your car thinking, or enjoying the break from work would be a waste of time. Need to know something?  Settle an argument?  Figure out who the emcee for the #FieldofCrossesyyc Remembrance Day ceremony is?  Google it.  Hungry?  Drive thru… or order in… favorite restaurant doesn’t deliver? Not to worry, there is an app for that too.  Is it any wonder that our kids become overwhelmed?

I’ve blogged about the importance of boredom before and this is a similar notion.  Human brains need time to just decompress, reflect, consider, and just rest.  Dreams are made in these moments.  The struggle for me is three-fold:

1. I need to fight my tendencies to push and schedule and add more to my life (and the lives of my family members).It’s a serious battle for me that requires a lot of conscious thought and intentional action.  I am one of the worst of the worst for checking my phone for texts/emails/social media/regular media/weather…. you name it, I likely check it.  Frequently.  And especially if I’m ‘wasting time’ waiting in line!  Sigh.

2.Everyone in my family has a different threshold for busyness.  I need to help the kids gain awareness of their own thresholds and self-regulate (while attempting to teach myself the same skills).  I need to model ‘wasting time’ by spending time away from technology and busyness and really being present at all times.

3.  I need to accept that this is an uphill battle for which small victories will be made, against large odds. Schools don’t promote a philosophy of waiting, boredom and less is more.  In fact, there may be badges of honor for busyness handed out regularly, metaphorically speaking (says the mom who put her kids in a bilingual program and encourages writing DELE exams, ballet exams, piano exams etc.)  However, I can and do implement strict technology rules inside my house.  Phones in the kitchen when we are home.  Limited TV, internet and video games, and only after chores are complete (perhaps I need to implement a scheduled ‘chore’ of staring into space?)  I might argue that folding laundry, washing dishes, cleaning bathrooms, or vacuuming are all therapeutic thinking time!  From what I’ve been told by my children, all such activities qualify in the ‘boredom’ category.

My reward for implementing a ‘less is more’ philosophy in my family comes swiftly when I am able to remember to do it.  The kids function better, learn more, feel happier, sleep more soundly, and enjoy life.  Berrik is particularly good at reminding me what happens if I lean too far towards ‘more is more’.  The key is to find the Minimum Effective Dose (MED) for all aspects of life, knowing that this dose will change and evolve.  I find it overwhelming to think about this in the bigger picture so perhaps best to find the MED for things in baby steps.

LATE ADDITION:  I was completely remiss in sharing a quote from one of the smartest ladies I know, a woman I met in Nursing school so many years ago, and who has taught and continues to teach me about strength and perseverance and being present.  Jean Dzubin has said before, and I suspect she’ll say it again (she’s kind of like the good angel on my shoulder, offering gentle reminders and support just when I need it),

“We are human beings, not human doings.”

At the end of the day, it really is as simple as that.

What strategies do you use to create an environment and culture of ‘less is more’ in your house, your life, the lives of your family?  What are your most exciting successes?  What barriers do you face?

Word of the Day: Potential

Word of the day.  Word of the year.  Word of a lifetime.  On Friday we received some assessment results for Berrik.  I believe I have waxed on about these assessments and how I feel about them, but they are a means to an end in terms of accessing resources, and perhaps (kinda, sorta, not really) even offering a few ideas of things to work on.  Even though intellectually, I can (and usually do) reconcile these assessments as more a reflection of Berrik’s ability to be tested, rather than his ACTUAL abilities, it is still difficult to hear that your child struggles ‘severely’ in some areas.  Severe is such a severe word.  It connotes negativity and extremism.  It makes my heart sink, and my stomach turn, and takes my hope and optimism and slams it into the ground, stomps on it, grinds a stiletto heel into it and then spits on it.  These are the moments I feel overwhelmed.  I think to myself, oh my goodness (except considerably more x-rated), what will ever become of this boy?  How will he manage junior high, high school, adolescence, getting a job, meeting a girl who will love him for all his most amazing qualities, raising his own children etc. etc.   These panicked (and let’s face it, totally irrational) thoughts race in circles inside my head like trick ‘r treaters hopped up on candy at bedtime, screaming and bouncing off the walls and each other until I want to crawl under the covers with that go-cup of wine and grind my teeth into powder.

And then I take a breath. Or maybe 10 breaths.  My apple watch tells me to breathe and then actually coaches me through a full minute of deep breathing. It congratulates me on taking a ‘breather’ each time I do it, and if I forget, it reminds me.  A few deep breaths  (thank you apple watch) and a conversation with someone who knows what she’s talking about are all I need to get it back into perspective.  “The test results are what they are, but they say nothing about his POTENTIAL.”  Sigh.  Of course!  I know this.  Why is it that I panic from time to time?  Berrik has progressed dramatically since June.  He continues to surprise me regularly with how much he is absorbing and is able to apply.  He’s reading like a rock star.  He’s loving science.  He’s doing well in math.  He’s on the cusp of story writing.  These are things I witness daily, and yet still can get pulled into panic mode by a test result.

The great thing about potential is that everyone has it.  And it’s always a goal; something in the future; the result of hard work and determination.  We often use the expression ‘reaching one’s full potential’ but I believe this doesn’t make a lot of sense.  We never reach our full potential…we always have more potential right up until the last breaths leave our lungs and our hearts contract for the final time.  Potential is what you make of it.  Potential is relative.  And one always has potential.

This panicked little 15 minutes happened for me on Friday afternoon.  And then true to form Berrik showed me in about a dozen different ways why I have nothing to worry about, anymore than either of my other children, anymore than any parent anywhere.  His potential is unlimited.  I’m starting to think that his ability to teach me about life might help me keep reaching for MY full potential.