“Mommy, Can You Be Happy?” – A Confession and A Call to Fight for Joy

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That stinging question hung heavy in the air. 
The weight of what she asked sank into skin, rushed into blood, and stopped me cold. 

             “Mommy, can you be happy?”

I was caught in a moment of visible anger, grumbling, impatience, and frustration. It oozed from me, grimy as the water from the dish rag I held. I hadn’t even noticed that while I stewed over some minor mishap, what was brewing within had become tangible. A foreboding cloud of discontent around me. 

Indeed, from the lips of children and infants You have ordained praise to silence the foe and the avenger” (Psalm 8:2) …. to silence these thankless lips.  

How did I get here? The short answer: idolatry that leads to sin.

I see my tendency to value convenience more than my own children, and more than God (idolatry). When my 3-year-old’s inconvenient “mistakes” challenge my comfort, or she somehow fails to meet my expectations, this gives way to under-the-breath complaints and bitterness building up so that when she willfully acts out I’m already at the tipping point where snapping, sarcasm, yelling, and disciplining in anger inevitably ensue (sin).

No one can dispute that motherhood is one of the toughest, most demanding jobs. Is my desire for structure or occasional time away inherently sinful? Absolutely not. But when those desires become the cause of discontent and bitterness,  they have become idols-something other than God that we turn to for salvation. 

For me, these idols of comfort and control often result in:

1. Scoffing at my child’s shortcomings instead of encouraging her toward growth.

2. Correcting impatiently and pointing out wrongdoing instead of stooping down to guide and nurture.  

3. My fiery tongue whipping out with sharp words instead of being the balm of a gentle answer.

 “…for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” – Luke 6:45 (….OUCH.)

The truth is, my lack of “happy” is not a reflection of my lack of “me” time.

It’s the result of my desperate grappling after false gods.

The curtain is lifted. The idols are revealed. And OH! The weight of that truth flooding my heart would surely crush me, and I would be reduced to a constant state of of tears and self-loathing on the kitchen floor, spiraling into even further depths of despair …

BUT for these truths:

“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed…” – 2 Corinthians 4:8-10 (emphasis mine)

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” -Ephesians 2:4-10 (emphasis mine)

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1

           

Oh, hopelessly meritorious Mommy…

 

Are your bootstraps, like mine, worn to threads from trying to pull yourself up by them?

Are you, like me, caught trying on your own strength to claw your way out of the pit of guilt

that overwhelms each failure?

Hallelujah! All we have is Christ!

 

We cannot will ourselves up the hill,

because Christ has taken the cross up for us.

We cannot earn our freedom from sin and mom-guilt,

because Christ has already won it for us.

We cannot find joy in our lot apart from the truth that in

HIM is the fulness of joy by his GRACE.

IT. IS. FINISHED.

Even when we fail, we can fight for joy for the sake of these little hearts we shepherd.

Even when they push us to the edge, again and again and again, we can get down on our knees. We can forgive them and be forgiven again and again and again.

This is not a “happy-slappy,” grin and bear it kind of joy. It’s a joy that says HE IS GOOD in the hard days. It’s a battle call for us to preach this to ourselves and to our children:

That IN and THROUGH our suffering and sin, the

joy of the Lord is my strength.

IN and THROUGH the mornings when it’s not even breakfast and all toddler hell breaks loose,

the joy of the Lord is my strength.

IN and THROUGH the hormone-raging, sleepless delirium, deepest, darkest doubt,

the joy of the Lord is my strength.

This JOY is costly. It was purchased by the blood of Christ. Isaiah 53:10 says, “Yet it pleased the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief…” When God poured out His wrath on His Son, instead of us, it pleased him. It’s also translated as “it was His will.” He was satisfied once for all.

Sisters, THIS is how we can have joy.  Because Christ’s sacrifice brought the Father satisfaction, we too can be satisfied in the Son’s saving work and, in turn, live with JOY….a deep, sober, humiliated (in the RIGHT sort of way)  JOY.

This kind of joy also means humbling ourselves before our God IN FRONT OF our children. It means seeking forgiveness from them when we fall sort, and modeling repentance. This allows our children to see us at our weakest, so that they might see more of Jesus, and so that we may demonstrate for them the profound truth in that simple, gospel song we sing to them:

“We are weak, but He is strong,

Yes, Jesus Loves me….”

“That is why, for Christ’s sake, I DELIGHT in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:10 (emphasis mine)

This process is painful. It’s exposing and scraping away the chaff. And I believe (Oh, help my unbelief!) that it will produce fruit in my life, and Lord willing, in my children’s. Not because of my perfect parenting, but because Christ works in spite of me, through the mess, and in my weakness and humility.

His mercies are new EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

HE has conquered my shame! I can choose to look into my child’s face when she is posed with that question…that call  to FIGHT for happy. And by God’s grace, I can answer her, “yes, I can be happy.” And I can smile,  humbled but not ashamed, tears brimming, weak, yet finding strength, not in my comfort, not in my ability to control, not in my self-righteous, sinful anger, but in HIM.

Im HIM we find true satisfaction, fulfillment, and happiness in what we’ve been called to, no matter what threatens to undo it,

because the JOY of Lord  is our STRENGTH.

“Once for all, O sinner, receive it,
Once for all, O doubter, believe it;
Cling to the cross, the burden will fall,
Christ has redeemed us once for all. “

From the hymn by Philip P. Bliss, 1871, alt., Music: Zac Hicks, 2013

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The End…? Whole30-Day 30!

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I made it!

(Admittedly with one or two small cheats–most unintentional, but one or two calculated) 🙂 Greg and I feel great and plan to do this cleanse again in the future. In the meantime, we also intend to take it easy on the filler foods, sugars, and adult beverages so that we can sustain a better overall relationship with our food to the benefit of our bodies. And so that when date night comes around, we can actually enjoy some of those things as special treats in moderation, and not feel too guilty about it !

What I’ve learned/gained from this cleanse:

  • How addicted to chocolate I really am! Besides dreaming of it a lot in the first couple of weeks, and being tempted to lick up a nasty old candy bar off the pavement in the parking lot, I did pretty well. But, one of my small, yet calculated, cheats was 4 or 5 of those mini Enjoy Life chocolate chips last week (we’re talking tiny, people!). And just that taste of chocolate triggered something in my brain. For a second I found myself thinking, “MUST pour myself a bowl of these immediately and go to town!” Thankfully, I did not indulge beyond those few VERY SMALL morsels. But it did reveal to me just how wired I am, even still, to overdo it on the chocolate. This is something I will be continuing to reign in post-cleanse!
  • More sustained energy throughout the day (no more bursts of energy brought on by popping a chocolate almond as a pick-me-up, then crashing into exhaustion mid-afternoon).
  • A more sensitive palate. I actually taste the sweetness of fruit and it satisfies. I’ve enjoyed the taste of herbal tea without added honey, and haven’t needed as much salt to “bring out the flavor.”
  • A more sensitive nose! Surprisingly, I find myself more sensitive to the smell of things as well. Although, it’s  really not that surprising when you consider how tied to your sense of taste your nose is. Any scotch lover or wine connoisseur will “nose” their beverage thoroughly before sipping in order to fully taste it. Why should the experience of eating be any different?
  • A happy gut. Let’s just say, eating more fresh veggies and gut friendly foods makes things “flow” a little easier 🙂
  • More knowledge about my body and how I respond to certain foods. 

Final Thoughts & Tips On Doing The Whole30

1. Avocado with everything! A perfect source of good fats and oils. Dice it and use it to round out just about any dish. We found ourselves enjoying a slice or two with our morning eggs, in soup, on salad, and any time we just needed a little somethin’ extra. 

2. Eating out is hard nearly impossible. By the time you’re done inquiring about what exactly is in the salad dressing, and what oils they used, and asking for no rice, or cheese, or beans on the side, most of the time, you’re left with something rather bland and uninteresting. We did find a couple of places in town that had accommodating options, but it was hard, and I’m sure we inadvertently cheated once or twice with things like salad dressings. But we really did try!

3. Eating IN is best. Kinda goes without saying. You know exactly what is in the food you prepare, plus you save money and get to learn and be creative!

4. Nursing mom’s on Whole30 still need sugar and starch. Around day 3 I was feeling a bit woozy and nauseous on and off. A friend, and fellow mama, who has done the cleanse several times advised that we should up the intake of approved starchy foods and make sure I got plenty of fruit. After a couple of meals taking her advice I was feeling much better! I made sure to include things like sweet potato, spaghetti squash, yams, and parsnip.

5. Eggs, eggs, and more eggs! You use a lot of eggs on Whole30 and in the paleo diet. 2 Costco sized packs of organic eggs feeding two adults and one child would only last about a week and a half, or less sometimes! They are the best breakfast option by far. I had 2 scrambled every morning, and hard-boiled them for snacks,  and cut them up in salads.

 

Recipes Of The Week

 


Tortilla Espanola

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IMG_2533This was a BIG hit! A friend sent me the recipe, and I substituted sweet potatoes. In addition, I browned up some ground beef, seasoned it with garlic, salt, and pepper, and used it as a “topping” of sorts.

Click HERE for the original recipe!

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Kombucha Tea

I’ve had a “home brew” kit for kombucha in my pantry since before we moved. Finally this week I started making it! It looks disgusting right now, but I love the final product, and since it is so expensive to buy individual bottles, and lately they are bottling a less effervescent version to regulate the alcohol content (what little there is), I wanted to try my hand at it!

I used THIS STARTER KIT

But there are many other ways to get started, and I am no expert on which is the best. This is my first attempt!

This website has a lot of helpful info on the benefits of kombucha tea, and how to make your own, etc. But I’ve pasted a few of the health highlights from their site

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*Probiotics – healthy bacteria
*Alkalize the body – balances internal pH
*Detoxify the liver – happy liver = happy mood
*Increase metabolism – rev your internal engine
*Improve digestion – keep your system moving
*Rebuild connective tissue – helps with arthritis, gout, asthma, rheumatism
*Cancer prevention
*Alleviate constipation
*Boost energy – helps with chronic fatigue
*Reduce blood pressure
*Relieve headaches & migraines
*Reduce kidney stones
*High in antioxidants – destroy free-radicals that cause cancer
*High in polyphenols
*Improve eyesight
*Heal excema – can be applied topically to soften the skin
*Prevent artheriosclerosis
*Speed healing of ulcers – kills h.pylori on contact
*Help clear up candida & yeast infections
*Aid healthy cell regeneration
*Reduce gray hair
*Lower glucose levels – prevents spiking from eating

Slaw Stir Fry

 

There’s not much to this fast lunch or dinner option. Just tossed together the following ingredients with a bit of coconut oil, and, as you can see, enjoyed some avocado with it!


IMG_2502Garlic Chicken sausage from Trader Joe’s

Trader Joe’s bag of raw carrot and broccoli slaw

Cherry tomatoes

Kale

Asparagus, chopped

JUST Fruit Smoothie

 

We have a great cafe nearby that does yummy smoothies using just organic fruit and nothing else, so we indulged in a couple of those. But they are ridiculously easy to make yourself. Here’s one recipe, but you can sub any old fruit you want! (Berries are the best!)

1 Cup frozen raspberries

1/2 cup frozen mango

1 frozen banana

1/2 cup coconut water

Blend

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** And here’s the snapshot that sums it all up! From an evening when we had some neighbors over and I put out my favorite chocolate almonds for everyone else to enjoy while I had to stick with this avocado. I was tempted, but prevailed!!!



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I Think I Can! Week 3- Whole30 & New Recipes!

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A mango has never tasted so…..mango-ey?

It’s true. Week three on the Whole30 I actually taste things differently. As cliché as it may sound, I feel as though my palate is reawakening!

Suddenly, I notice that the inside of a blackberry actually has a subtly different sweetness and flavor to it than its outer drupelets, and hubby and I both don’t need as much salt on things to bring out flavor. It’s amazing how dulled my senses were just a few weeks ago!

And now for the food highlights of the week…..

Roasting & Salting Your Own Cashews

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One of the caveats of the Whole30 cleanse is that you have to avoid several kinds of oils, like canola, peanut, vegetable, etc.

Cashews are one of the “approved” nuts on the cleanse and are recommended “raw.” I prefer them roasted and salted, but every time I go to buy some, it always lists canola or some other sketchy oil added.

So, my mission this week was to figure out how to do it myself! After some trial and error, I think I may have finally nailed it!

You’ll Need:

1 LB raw cashews

1-2 TBS Olive or Coconut oil (*coconut oil gives it a kind of popcorn taste!)

Sea salt

Large bowl

A cookie sheet lined with tin foil

How to:

Preheat oven to 250.

The key is to SOAK the nuts in salt water first. Pour the nuts into a large bowl and add enough warm water to just cover them. Sprinkle about 2 TBS salt over the nuts and stir a few times. The water should be pretty salty. Let the nuts soak in the warm salt water for 15-20 minutes.

While soaking, line the cookie sheet with foil and rub a bit of oil on the foil. Drain nuts and spread out onto the lined and oiled cookie sheet. Sprinkle a bit more salt over the wet cashews and place in the oven.

Bake at 250 for 1-1.5 hours, or until slightly golden. Let cool and enjoy!

Some of the salt you sprinkled will fall off when you move the nuts to store them, but some of that saltines from soaking with remain!

 

Fun New Veggie Of The Week:

ROMANESCO!

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It’s hard to miss this crazy vegetable in the store. It is neon green, spiky, and downright otherworldly! A cross between cauliflower and broccoli, romanesco (also known as green cauliflower) packs a punch of  B vitamins, as well as A, C, and K, fiber, magnesium, protein, potassium, omega 3, and even tryptophan!

I chose to simply pull apart the flowers and sauté it in ghee, sea salt, and lemon pepper, with some carrots, zucchini and yellow squash. It was a hit! My daughter enjoyed the funky texture and asked for more!

 

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Maté Latte !

I enjoy my maté the traditional way, in the gourd, with the bombilla (see my earlier post!). But it’s also nice to just have a cup the lazy way with a tea bag sometimes.

This week I tried the Guayaki  brand. Since the individual bags contain only a fraction of the leaves you would use when drinking it in the gourd, the flavor is definitely not as strong (which some may prefer), but it did allow me to enjoy my tea as a “latte.”

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I simply added 1 TBS of coconut milk, and for extra immunity, energy, and good fats, I threw in a teaspoon of coconut oil.

The result was a smooth, creamy, yerbalicious latte !

(Might try with a tad bit of honey when I’m off of the cleanse).

Simple Salmon

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I found a lovely wild caught filet at Trader Joe’s this week and here’s how I recommend preparing it:

Drizzle a little olive oil and lemon juice over the filet. Sprinkle some sea salt and chipotle seasoning (ground garlic, cumin, cayenne, and onion). Set the oven on low broil and move the top rack as high as it goes. Broil for about 10-12 minutes or until the fat turns while on the top and inside the thickest part is still a little translucent and juicy. 

Served it up with some sweet potato and kale sautéed over medium heat (covered) with ghee, sea salt, and herbs de province. Easy peasy!

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Prosciutto Egg Cups

Breakfast is so important. But eggs every morning can get a little boring. So I tried this….

Got the inspiration from a pin on pinterest, (but used prosciutto instead of ham). My finished product does not look as pretty, but they were tasty and a nice variation from scrambled eggs!

Directions:

Simply spray a little olive oil in a few cups in your muffin pan. Line the cups with prosciutto (one slice per cup should do it, but may need a piece or two extra to fill an any gaps). Crack one egg into the cup. Sprinkle with a little pepper and sea salt. Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes or until the eggs whites are cooked. If you like them more over easy, you may want to take them out sooner. These yolks were cooked all the way through.

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Speaking of Pinterest….

You may be interested in following me on Pinterest. I’ve been pinning many whole30  and paleo recipes, some of which I had tried, and many of which I have yet to try!

(**Side note** If you’re living in or new the San Diego area, you also might be interested in the Pinterest site I manage for Dining Out San Diego- The Magazine. I pin and review all the best local restaurants. It’s a helpful tool for choosing from one of the many, many amazing places to eat! We’ve also got a tumblr site, and you can follow us on Fabcebook as well!) #shamelessplug

“Am I A Believer?” Week 2-Whole30

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I was overjoyed when my husband decided at the last minute to join me in doing the Whole30 cleanse! Not only is it great to have someone help hold me accountable, but I obviously care about his overall health and well being, and love seeing him take care of himself.

Moreover, it has been a great way to connect and nerd out about food and health issues. We both read It Starts With Food and since have had many conversations about it, over many tasty meals.

Initially, I think my husband was a bit wary of the whole “paleo” thing, though he may not have realized how many of the meals I was already making were “paleo.”  Still, ‘ya can’t knock it till you try it!’ So that’s just what he (we) have done! Here’s his recent testimony via a facebook (emphasis mine):

“Am I a believer now? For crying out loud, it’s only been 11 days. I can say this: I feel better, my energy is up and consistent throughout the day, and for some crazy reason I’m waking up early and actually feeling like a slept. We’ll see where this continues to go, but at this point I’m just thankful. It’s true, I’m quite excited for the day when I can return to a wee dram, or a bite of mintchip, but as I indulge in moderation I won’t soon loose the memory of better health.”

Music to my ears… 🙂

So, week two proved to be a bit easier (minus no chocolate on Valentine’s day!),  and I received such great feedback about the recipes from my last post, that I thought I would include a few more from this week:

Slow Cooker Parsnip Chicken Masala 

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I discovered parsnips this week and decided to try them out in a crock pot recipe. The texture and flavor is similar to carrots. It was delicious and another great starch option for the cleanse. You could easily add just about any veggie you have on hand. Sweet potato, celery, etc. 

Ingredients:

2 large chicken breasts, uncooked

1 medium parsnip, chopped

2 cups of carrots, chopped

1/2 medium onion, chopped

1/4 cup chicken broth

1 Tsp salt

2 TBS  (or more) Garam Masala spices (or combine cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, clove, cumin and pepper )

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in the crock pot and cook for 4-6 hours. Serve with kale chips on the side!

Easy Avocado Salad

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For a quick, tasty side and dose of healthy fats and omegas, toss together:

2 avocados, chopped

1/2 cup fresh cilantro

Juice of  one lime


Sweet Beet Stir Fry

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We dubbed this our “Valentine lunch” since the beets stained everything pink!

Ingredients:

1 medium beet, peeled and sliced

2-3 sausages (we used Trader Joe’s garlic herb chicken sausage which is whole30 friendly)

1-2 cups of fresh kale (also used trader joe’s organic, pre-washed, and cut)

1 red or yellow bell pepper, chopped

1 TBS coconut oil or ghee

1 Tsp salt

Directions:

Warm the oil in a frying pan on medium heat. Add the beets, cover, and let cook for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the sausage and cook for 2 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and cook until veggies are tender.

Green Chile Pork Avocado Cream Enchiladas

When I was purchasing the meat for this dish, Aria overheard me asking the man for  “1.5 pounds of pork butt, please.” Then, my sweet two-year-old announced to me, and anyone in the near vicinity, “I don’t waaaanna eat the butt!” (bless.)

I used this recipe  from PaleOMG as a base, and made a few tweaks of my own (added the green chile!).

http://paleomg.com/pork-avocado-cream-enchiladas/

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Ingredients:

For the tortillas
  • 6 egg whites
  • 3 tablespoons coconut flour
  • 6 tablespoons canned coconut milk
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
For the filling
  • 1.5lbs pork rump roast
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1.5 cup vegetable broth
For the avocado cream sauce
  • 2 avocados, pitted and insides removed
  • 1 TBS green chile power
  • 1 TBS frozen green chile, chopped
  • ¼ cup vegetable broth
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro, stems removed
  • 3 tablespoons canned coconut milk
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 8-10 olives, halved
 Directions:
-Place pork butt in the crock pot with onion and seasonings and set to cook for 6-8 hours. Shred meat apart with two forks.IMG_2200
-Tortillas: Whisk all your tortilla ingredients together until all the lumps are gone. Warm some oil (coconut or ghee) in a large skillet on medium heat. Pour a 4 inch in diameter circle in the center of your pan and tilt the pan around to spread the batter into a large circle. Let the tortilla cook for a minute or so, until the tortilla bubbles and the edges begin to turn up. CAREFULLY flip the tortilla to cook the other side. Place on plate to let cool. Repeat with leftover batter. You should get 5-6 tortillas from your batter.
Cream sauce: Place all the ingredients for your avocado cream sauce into a food processor and puree until completely smooth.
-Turn on your broiler to high.
-In an 8×8 glass baking dish, lay out a tortilla, place a little bit of your shredded pork along with a little avocado cream sauce (be sure to save some to put on top of the tortillas later) then curl the sides of the tortilla around to make a mini burrito. Repeat with all of your tortillas so they are lined up side by side in your glass baking dish.
-Put your baking dish under your broiler and cook for about 6-8 minutes or until your tortillas become crispy.
-Then remove baking dish from the oven and turn broiler to low. Cover the enchiladas with the rest of your avocado cream sauce then place back in the oven for 5-7 minutes.
-Top with cilantro and olives (and for those post whole30 experiment, I will try a bit of raw milk cheddar cheese!)

Valentine Breakfast


Sweet Potato Hash & Heart Eggs Over Easy

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For fun, I used this little heart egg shaper that Greg gave me for a stocking stuffer this Christmas, but you can just do regular over easy eggs!

Simply chop some sweet potatoes and with a TBS coconut oil in a skillet, cook the potatoes till tender. Season with salt and pepper. Another tasty variation is to add bacon bits!

In a separate skillet, fry the eggs and lay over the pile of potatoes. Mash and enjoy!

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How To Get Kids To Take Herbs….And Enjoy Them!

At the onset of a cold or flu, you may be quick to reach for that soothing herbal tea, but getting your kids to drink it is another story. Fortunately, there are ways to make herbs fun and enjoyable for kids while they still reap the benefits. You may even find yourself getting requests for some of these herbal goodies when no ailment is to be found!

Here are just a few ways I make herbs palatable for kids:

Herbal Popsicles 

Great for teething, soar throats, swollen/cut lip or gums, etc.

1. Make a strong herbal tea.

2. Pour freshly boiled water over fresh or dried herbs and let steep for a good long time (15-20 min at least).  My go-to blend consists of chamomile, lemon balm, peppermint, and catnip (this blend helps with digestion, nausea, calming nerves, restoring electrolytes and stimulating the immune system).

3. While tea is still warm, mix in a little maple syrup or raw honey to sweeten. You can also add a splash of juice such as pomegranate, carrot, or cherry. Do not to use juice that has added sugars, preservatives, or “colors.”

4. Let the tea cool down, pour into popsicle moulds (or you can use an empty ice tray), freeze and enjoy as needed!

Have a Tea Party!

When Aria has been especially feisty or restless, or if she’s fighting off a cold, I like to make her some herbal tea. Sometimes, the best way to get her to drink it is to put it in her tea pot (which is shaped like a puppy dog), and make a special “tea time” with her. I let her drink from a real tea cup or small mug and we sometimes have a treat to go with.

I have been fortunate that Aria enjoys herbal tea without added sweeteners, but for the kids who are harder to convince, simply add some honey or maple syrup to the tea. You could also try just adding a few more peppermint leaves (which are naturally sweet) to your blend.

If you aren’t into using loose leaves, Traditional Medicinals makes great bagged teas.

Eucalyptus Herbal Steam

One of my favorite things to do in the winter is to boil 1/2 cup of dried eucalyptus leaves in water on the stove. Its antiseptic properties disinfect up to about 50 feet in any direction, so it helps to clean the air when colds are going around. For kids with respiratory issues, bad coughs, phlegm, etc., once or twice a day help  fan some of the wonderful steam toward them and encourage them to breathe deeply. It’s usually fun for them to watch the steam and boiling water too (as long as they are monitored at all times…or else you’ll be treating burns next!)

Dilute a Tincture

Tinctures are a concentrated extract of an herb. Some tinctures are made with glycerine, but most are made with alcohol which make it rather unpleasant to take, and must be diluted for kids.

A few drops of echinacea tincture in a small glass of juice, diluted with some water, is a great way to guard against colds and flus in winter.

When a cough or congestion is present, horehound is wonderful, but it is very bitter. A shot of juice with 10 or so drops of the tincture is will help expectorate.

**You can also add some tincture to already sweetened tea.

Make a Lavender “Buddy”

Lavender is a powerful herb in bringing relaxation and restoration to nerves. Children are very responsive to this herb. You can always put a drop of the essential on their shirt or favorite stuffed animal, but another fun option is to make a special lavender “buddy.”

It can be as simple as an odd sock, or you can bust out the sewing machine. Either way, fill the “buddy” with dried lavender flowers and let the relaxation begin! Encourage them to hug their buddy when a they’ve had a tumble, or while you may be attending to a boo-boo.

Warm Lavender “Buddy”

A variation on the above: make a mixture of rice and lavender leaves. The buddy can then be warmed up in a microwave to help sore limbs and muscles, or to keep warm during fever chills, while getting the lovely effects of the lavender as well.

So, when the dog bites, and the bee stings,

don’t forget to try a few of these herbalicious things!!

Violet Sky: A Birth Story

15 days late right on time, Violet Sky finally graced us with her presence on Sunday, September 16th at 10:49 PM, just 5 hours after labor began. She was gently birthed at home in water.

Here is our story!

Waiting

No matter how hard you try, you can’t get that prescribed “due date” out of your mind. For nine-ish months you are counting down the weeks and then days. You know it’s never a guarantee, but it is hard work to not get sold on that due date.

My first baby was 8 days past her date, but somehow it hardly phased me. Perhaps it was the freedom I had at that time to take leisurely naps, walks, shopping trips, and get massaged, pedicured, and stay luxuriously distracted until she decided to come.This time however, the bustle of moving, settling in to a new town/church/house/life, and trying to enjoy my 2-year-old’s endless energy in the midst of exhaustion may have had something to do with my more anxious state this time around.

I really had to fight to stay at peace about God’s timing. Well-meaning friends and family came to us with concerns about the length of time passing and the potential “risks” they had heard of. We sought our midwife’s counsel and prayed and weighed out every scenario. Thankfully, none of these scenarios presented any cause for concern for us. Our little one was active and healthy at every check-up, and I was healthy, so there was no reason to do anything but wait till she was ready.

In the first week past the date, I tried to stay distracted and rest. When two weeks past the date began, I started exploring some gentle, natural things to encourage labor. I tried walking a bit more, ate spicy foods, spent some “quality time” with the hubby, ate lots of pineapple, had a few good cries, and even tried some herbal tincture. Still, I had little more than a few random cramps here and there.

Feeling a bit like this birthing ball….

Aria’s birthday, a trip to the beach with Nana

My mom came to town early to help me in the last days, (which ended up being over a week!), but her help with Aria and her loving care during that time was SO needed. I was getting weary, so her presence was a blessing in so many ways.

When the rest of the family began to trickle in and a couple of Sunday’s passed with increasing amounts of raised eyebrows and sympathetic hugs over the fact that I was still pregnant, I began to feel as if I just might be pregnant forever!

Birthing Day

On the 15th day past my “due date,” I went to church (during which the pastor, to my surprise, asked the congregation to pray for me), then went to lunch with my mom and mom-in-law, talked on the phone with a good friend and fellow homebirth mama who encouraged me that “it would be soon!,” and then got a little nap in.

Around 5:30 PM I began to get some crampy feelings. I tried not to get too excited since I’d had a few false starts earlier that week. But it quickly became clear that these were the real deal. I ate a light dinner and we decided to wait till about 7:30 to call my midwife and doula and let them know what was going on.

In the meantime, I decided to start my labor project which was, again, baking! It is really the perfect project to focus the mind on during early labor, in my opinion. It presents just enough distraction and easy to follow directions to keep you from focusing too much on the growing intensity of surges, and it’s wonderfully satisfying after all is said and done and everyone can enjoy the finished product!

(This time I baked these yummy paleo vanilla cupcakes with pink frosting from Elana’s Pantry. They turned out great!)

Aria’s final moments as the “baby!”

Around 8:00 we sent  a very wired Aria (who no doubt felt the growing energy of the pending birth), to spend the night with Greg’s parents. At this point, I was already having to concentrate more with each surge and was busy baking, cleaning, hydrating with coconut water, and nesting.

As the surges grew in intensity over the next hour or so I began to focus more on relaxing. I could feel myself tending to hold in my abdomen with each surge, my mind and body wanting to fight the surge rather than go with it. So I hopped in the shower for a minute and let the warm water help me to embrace those familiar feelings.

When I felt the urge to resist the pain, I began to let out a slow breath which I imagined traveling down through me to where the baby was. I found humming and singing a little really helped, and I visualized those lower pelvic muscles releasing. Using the image of a flower opening its petals was extremely effective. I was surprised at how quickly I progressed once I began to really let go with each surge. I kept talking to Violet, encouraging her and myself that “we can do this.”

After the shower, I used Greg to lean on through several surges, or leaned on the couch or dresser. I kept moving, changing positions and letting Violet move down. Throughout labor, Greg sweetly whispered prayers to me, softly and gently encouraging me. His confidence in me and his joy that Violet was coming was so evident. This gave me courage, and his words and gentle touch greatly contributed to my ability to relax through each surge. I am certain that his love was communicated to Violet as well and it helped us both to birth quickly and smoothly.

By the time Marianne and Christina arrived, I was laying down and using deep breathing and low moaning through surges. I knew I was in transition and began to feel the urge to push. Marianne checked my cervix around 9:45 and I was 7 cm dilated and with a bulging bag of waters.

Praying over me after a surge

They filled the birth tub and as soon as I got in I was immediately so much more relaxed. I had several surges and was really able to  let Violet move down the birth path. I could feel her moving so clearly in between surges. She was swimming her way down so beautifully. I just kept rubbing my belly and talking to her and laying against the side of the tub, consciously trying to deeply relax. I listened to the soft music, let my arms float out to the sides, palms open and relaxed, and drew in deeper.

During a surge just before she crowned. Breathing her down the birth path.

Marianne encouraged me to gently push and breathe the baby down with my next surge. Two pushes later, the water broke with quite a pop! From there it only took about two more pushes before her head was crowning. I could hardly believe how quickly she was coming. I reached down and felt a head full of hair and her tiny ear. Marianne wisely encouraged me not to push too hard at that moment, but to let her head gently emerge.

Violet’s head is crowning

Though my instinct was to push as hard as I could and just get through it, I knew she was right. To keep this birth gentle, I needed to breathe down, allowing those few seconds pause to get a good flow of oxygen down to my baby, even through that “ring of fire.” This greatly lessened my chances of tearing as well.

It was then that I also called to mind what my midwife back home had said about Aria having “paved the way” for Violet. She had encouraged me that when I reached that moment of the most intensity a woman can feel, I should let my body remember and embrace that path once again. So, I leaned my head back and let myself smile through the fire of it. Keeping my jaw loose and my countenance as lifted as I could helped me soften and relax those lower muscles once again and I was able to ease her head out with just one more breath.

For a moment she was suspended between worlds. I could see her head and knew that only one more push would bring her fully into this world and into my arms. My head swirling with the rush of the intensity of it all, I gave in to one last surge and her body easily and gently followed.

 

IMG_3802She was violet. Not just in name, but in color! She glowed in that semi-dark as I lifted her out of the water and brought her to my chest. She sputtered and stretched and Greg and I took turns feeling the pulse her heartbeat in the umbilical cord as the last of the bood flowed from me to her.

After 5 short hours, Greg and I welcomed Violet Sky into our arms. She weighed 6 pounds 6 ounces and was 19.5 inches long.

 

 

Like her sister, Violet needed some convincing to fully wake up right away, (perhaps due to such a gentle transition through the warm water!) Marianne took her and pointed an oxygen tube toward her nose to give her a boost and helped get her heart rate up a bit. I was pretty anxious to have her back right away and get that skin to skin contact which is key in regulating a newborn’s heart rate and breathing. With some help from Christina, I stood up and birthed the placenta so I could settle in, hold Violet once again, and we could begin bonding.

She was wide-eyed, dark-haired, olive skinned by then, and ready to nurse right away. She latched on beautifully and I felt such a rush of oxytocin, the “love” hormone that fiercely bonds mother and child, as we began to get to know each other.

I had no tearing, no hemorrhaging, minimal swelling, and recovery has been swift, thanks be to God!!

 

Aria meets her little sister for the first time

Violet’s sweet little life inspired these lyrics many months ago when I was working on my EP. The song became the title track:

Dark Is Light

For Violet

Hush, be still my heart
this violet sky is full of stars
Love, donʼt fade away
soon the night will turn to day

but thereʼs a warning in that light
a call to war is on the rise

Life is not a choice
Even the smallest one must have a voice
Fear will turn to joy
In the arms of the God who satisfies

And there is hope for our souls yet                                                                          In this, the Love that conquers death

We we are safe in this Love….
We are safe in HIS love….

Fearfully and Wonderfully

When she was about 30 weeks in utero, I recored Aria’s heartbeat with a little doppler machine in hopes that I would use it as part of a song I would write for her. Over the course of the next year the song took shape, inspired by the intimate and profound miracle of how we are formed by God’s beautiful design.

I was finally blessed to be able to record this song a few months ago while pregnant with Violet. So the song is dedicated to both of my baby girls.

To my Aria, on her 2nd Birthday, and to Violet, who I am dying to meet, and who is fearfully and wonderfully still “baking” 😉

Listen to the rest of my album HERE!

Aria’s Song

The womb of life
is in Your hand
the dark is light
as You command

Fearfully and wonderfully made
Fearfully and wonderfully made

Hemmed in behind
hemmed in before
You know my ways
where can I go?

And when I rise
or when I fall
You pierce the night
and bring the dawn

The stars, the stars are spinning
This universe is singing
Creation’s heart is beating
In secret, You are weaving

Fearfully and wonderfully made
Fearfully and wonderfully made
Fearfully and wonderfully made…

credits

from Dark Is Light, released 22 June 2012
Words & Music: Caitelen Schneeberger
Vocals: Caitelen Schneeberger
Piano: Caitelen Schneeberger
Guitar: A. J. McQuay
Bass: Jon McMillan
Drums: Ian Byrd
Cello: Caitelen Schneeberger