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Saturday, April 23, 2016

Parenting 101: everything doesn't go as planned

So often we realize as parents that we do not have control over things in life. I imagine we all think we do, that we have the power to control certain aspects of parenting, that we later learn we were fools to think we could plan.

So many times in the Mommy Stories Facebook group moms ask "When is the best time to space out your children and pregnancies? How many years apart will be good?" It's not a dumb question. No question is, especially in parenting. I have asked this question myself in the past.

But this year I've realized that we can't totally plan these things so perhaps sometimes it's better to have the answers as guides rather than formal plans. 


Last summer my husband and I felt ready to try for a third child.
We got pregnant on the first try. Wow! Amazing! Lucky! Blessed! Perfect! Meant to be! All of these words went through my mind as I saw the plus positive sign on the pregnancy test.

We'd be due at the end of May. Perfect timing for someone working in a school! How'd we do that?! (last babies were February and April, when we had "tried" for summer). I'd barely have to use any maternity leave, we wouldn't go broke like the last pregnancy, and I'd be home all summer with three little ones. Perfect perfect perfect.

I was in the best shape ever. I'd run 7 days a week for several months. I was physically super strong, mentally prepared for this change in my body and life, and emotionally SO happy.

Even the clothing would have been perfect seasons, we wouldn't have to get much new because it would just work out.

Everything was awesome, as they say in Lego Land.

And then... we had a miscarriage. It was surprising, disappointing, and heartbreaking. But most of all, it wasn't planned. We had no control over it. And it messed up everything that I'd imagined to be perfectly planned out.

What I learned from that miscarriage experience is that we CAN'T plan everything. I'm a planner, control freak, type A person so this doesn't sit well with me. I LIKE to plan. I need to plan. It makes me feel good when things are chaotic. So this situation kinda set me back a bit. I had to reassess.

We took a few months to process, grieve and heal. And then we were pregnant again, blessed again.

And I realized something once more: It DOESN'T have to be perfect. It does not have to be planned out every step of the way. Sometimes things just happen and we have no control over them, nor do we have answers as to why they're happening. Nobody could tell me why our miscarriage happened at that moment, to me, to us, and why then. And I've come to accept it as being OK.

Sometimes we have to realize it's OK to not have answers, to not know every single thing that will happen. That's part of the fun in life. Sometimes we're surprised and blessed beyond what we could have been had we stalled in the negative space instead of moving to something more hopeful and positive. Sometimes we have to let go.


My kids have a saying from preschool, "We get what we get and we don't get upset." I love it. I've been saying it in my head a lot. We accept things. We embrace the possibilities.

With this pregnancy, that I'm so grateful for, things have been "all wrong" at moments. It has not worked out smoothly and perfectly. The timing: I'll be due in October, which for a school personnel is not ideal time of year. I'll take more maternity leave this time. The season is totally off from our kids' clothing so we'll need to get more at some point. I wasn't as in shape as I'd been last summer when we'd tried the first time. I couldn't work out after the miscarriage for like a month, which set me back and I just didn't resume my regular workouts like I'd done before because I had enough to deal with.

Things were off, not on a straight and narrow path.

And yet, here we are, almost 4 months later, BLESSED with another one on the way.

And I've realized it's just as it should be, meant to be, 
perfectly imperfect. 

When we had my second child, I termed that time in our lives a "beautiful chaos." It's the perfect way to describe having a second one in the home. It's amazing and yet crazy at once. That's how I feel again now with our third on the way, post miscarriage ups and downs and emotions, nothing as we'd planned.


Our pregnancy announcement... well, this was one of those things that did NOT go as planned.

I started searching for announcement ideas early on in the pregnancy. Part of what was so upsetting the last time with the miscarriage was that we didn't get that joyful feeling of announcing before it was over. So this time I really wanted something special to share our news.

I built up this idea in my mind from Pinterest and other Google Images and sites. I imagined bicycles, my husband and I staring at each other happily, kids smiling and totally doing what we asked, and a baby bike at the end with a teddy bear on it to signify a baby was on its way. A big open field. I wanted a field with sunshine.

I pictured this amazing moment that was blissful and peaceful and that would solidify this pregnancy into being something secure and strong and withstanding.


UM OK.
Life as a mother doesn't go as planned. Right?!

So... my husband was working a lot and the weather was cooler than we had hoped for and I couldn't pick a big field that would work and we didn't want to tell anyone to take the picture for us since we were not ready to announce just yet and and and and....

So one day I decided I was tired of waiting. I needed this part of my process to be happening, so I could feel confident about this pregnancy after miscarriage.

So I got the kids to wear at least part of the outfits I'd wanted them to wear and then let them take over. My son didn't want to participate so I let him coordinate our event... so it was a wagon instead of bikes. And it was a white board instead of cute chalk boards I'd envisioned. And my husband wasn't there and I wasn't in it.

It is what it is.
I let it be.

And it worked out fine.
It wasn't this perfect image I'd imagined.
We had some arguments. My husband wished it looked a little different.
I was emotional about it wondering if anyone would understand it.

It was ridiculous!

In the end, a zillion people liked it and loved us and sent us congratulations.
And our news was out there and perfectly chaotic and wonderful just the way it was.



So here's the thing, moms: You CAN'T predict everything. You can think you have a perfect timing in your mind, only to get pregnant sooner or to unfortunately go through months and months of trying that you could not have imagined happening to you.

There is no perfect timing. Truly.

Yes, it's great to have an idea of what would work for your family and to feel slightly financially and emotionally stable enough to do this, as well as physically ready to handle all that pregnancy brings to you.

But you CAN'T plan every little detail. Sometimes our plans don't happen as we imagine. Sometimes there are bigger lessons to learn and something greater working around us for reasons we can't begin to understand. 

So when you imagine spacing your kids out 1, 2, 3, etc. years or planning on trying in May to get a winter baby or trying in the fall to get a summer baby so you have nice weather... it's great to try to plan, but then it's important to realize it's OK when things don't go as you plan.

Something better may happen soon for you. Just wait and see.

This is parenting after all. Be ready for a roller coaster ride of highs and lows, fun and busy.

It's beautiful chaos.
And that's just perfect.


Friday, April 22, 2016

a visit to Stone Zoo

I've been wanting to visit Stone Zoo for a while, and yesterday was 75 degrees and sunny in APRIL so that was a perfect day to take a drive!

It's about an hour from York/Portsmouth area, and not in tons of Massachusetts traffic so it was easy.

It's a cute little zoo and a great walk out in fresh air.



We got there at 11:30 a.m. and they opened at 10 a.m. The parking lot was full, we spent like 20 minutes trying to find a spot. I'd suggest going early or later to get a parking spot. The parking lot is right there in front of the zoo, so if you get a spot it's an easy walk inside the park.


They offer teacher and military discounts, so bring IDs if these apply to you!


Favorite exhibits:
BATS- a real dark cave that was SO cool seeing them hanging there. I'd never seen so many before. Very cool to see!

WOLVES- A MUST-SEE. Make sure you get up to see the pack - of at least 5 of them, running around a huge mountainous area. It was very interesting, we stayed there for like 10 minutes just staring at them in awe.

MONKEYS- They screech so loudly, unlike I've ever heard before, sounding like a police car or ambulance. They made me laugh, it was cool to see them.









There's a small playground area- VERY busy so watch your kids! And a small rides area (they cost $3 to ride two different rides and a train, each, so bring cash if you're going on those).

There is a small snack area right next to the playground and rides. They had a few things, not a lot. We were looking for something cold like ice cream but they didn't have that yet. We went in April so that could be why, maybe more offered in summer seasons.



Tips for visiting this zoo:

  • Get there early for parking.
  • Bring water- it's not a ton of walking, but it's hard on the littles so having water was helpful.
  • Stroller traffic- if you can do a carrier, try that, as there were a lot of traffic jams with strollers and some smaller areas to go into that were hard with strollers, it seemed. It's OK to have strollers, so many people did, but it looked like a challenge for some.
  • Hand sanitizer- the windows where the kids put their faces and hands up to see the snakes, etc. were dirty and covered with handprints from so many visitors already. Hand sanitizer a must!
  • Restrooms- there is a TINY trailer of bathrooms right when you walk in... a long line and very crowded for space in there! I'd walk to the back of the zoo (not far, maybe 5 minutes walking) to the bigger bathroom, way more space and less people. 
  • Sunscreen- A lot is in the shade, but also tons in the sunny area so having sunblock is a must, especially in summer. 
  • We were there about 1 1/2 hours, it wasn't a big zoo, so it's a doable activity for the morning before nap time or before a nice lunch out. 
  • Pack lunch or go somewhere after. There is a Friendly's about 2 minutes up the road, or 15 minutes away is a huge mall where we went to the Rainforest Cafe (SOOOO fun, and they took reservations on the phone!). Cheesecake Factory is right next door, too! 

It was a great visit, I'm glad we went. I encourage you to check out the wolves, I've never seen them before and I've been to many zoos, so this was really cool. Otherwise, it's not my favorite zoo but honestly worth going to once. I LOVE Franklin Park Zoo in Boston, so that's going to be our next returning zoo visit.

Hope you have fun if you check out this zoo!

a pony party! Addisyn's 4th birthday

We had SUCH an awesome 4th birthday party for my princess pony-loving Addisyn last week! We went to Lyman Hill Farm in South Berwick. It is AWESOME. We've attended a party there before, so we knew how great it would be. We had the most perfect sunny day outside and the kids LOVED IT! I had so many parents rave to me how much fun it was.

The staff is incredibly kind, patient and hard working. They did EVERYTHING for us. I've never had a party for my kids where I didn't plan and orchestrate every little tiny detail. This time though since the house we usually use (my family's) is being renovated so was not available for our party AND being pregnant and tired, I decided to give it over to someone who knows what they are doing. I'm SO glad I did! My daughter was really happy all day long.


The staff at the farm gave her this adorable medal that she wore all day long. It's so sweet, what a great moment from her party!


We played games in the big dome where they ride the ponies. The kids loved running in here almost as much as riding real ponies!


They gave us potato sacks for races. This was hilarious! Such a creative, unique activity for kids.


They had pin the tail on the pony from Toy Story. I'd asked her to find some Jesse themed things from Toy Story since my daughter loves her along with horses and cowgirls. It was so sweet all the touches the owner put into this party for us.


The largest package they offer (they have three) included the games, a piƱata (a HIT with the kids!), drinks and decorations, along with set up and clean up. We took this one being so tired and all with pregnancy. I'm glad we did, it was amazing!


Our girl LOVED her special day!






The only thing I did really was create gift bags for the kids who came to the party. I made some trail mix since all cowgirls and cowboys love trail mix. It included: yogurt raisins, cram-raisins, mixed Cheerio flavors, pretzels, and chocolate chips. Simple and yummy. We had younger kids at the party so I avoided adding nuts, but those would be a good addition to this mix.


I got the trail mix bags at the dollar store. I found these adorable burlap sacks (below) at Target months ago, knowing we'd have a pony party. They were perfect. I filled them with horses and My Little Ponies that I'd found at Dollar Tree also. Very simple but cute with our theme.



The party room is adorable and she does a great job decorating for you.



We served carrots and dip, apple slices, and cheese and crackers. We kept it simple, knowing everyone was too busy riding ponies and having fun outside to sit and eat. Then the owners provide popcorn (from a real machine, YUM!), and lemonade and iced tea drinks. She also provided coffee for the adults. She thought of everything! She had the napkins, plates, and silverware, too, along with cups.

All I brought were our snack foods and the cake. She even had a lighter and knife to cut the cake! This party was SO well planned, organized and EASY for me!


The owner gave my daughter this stamp set as a gift! How sweet and thoughtful!


Doesn't match our theme, but my princess lover wanted to have Frozen for her cake!



It was the BEST party! Two hours of so much fun outside. I HIGHLY recommend this place for a party. I believe Lyman Hill Farm also will do pony rides at your home for parties within a certain distance. They are awesome.

Each child got to ride the ponies 2-3 times each! There were two horses to choose from also. It was great. It's the first party location I've thought we'll probably host a party at again in the future, it was THAT much fun!

Check them out on Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/lymanhillfarm/?fref=ts

Web site:
http://www.lymanhillfarm.com

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

pregnancy after miscarriage: why you should tell people about your new joy

I've found a lot of things to be different this time around, being pregnant a few months after a miscarriage last fall. For one, I worry way more this time that something could go wrong. I know that something really could go wrong, from past experience, so it's in my mind all the time as a reality. It's a sad reality to have to face as a woman. I wish women did not have to go through this, the fear and uncertainty.

I've realized something though, being pregnant after a miscarriage. I've realized that we women should talk more about it. I know it's difficult to talk about miscarriage, and probably for some even harder to talk about being pregnant after that experience. But I believe fully that opening up about those fears, worries and thoughts that won't stay out of our heads is important and helpful to the mom-to-be. 

I told my sister instantly this time. But I told her to not ask me about it, because I thought we'd jinx it with even her knowing. But I HAD to tell someone else besides my husband. I needed to be able to text her random feelings and questions so she could reassure me things were fine.

But we waited to tell everyone else in our life until about 12 weeks along. That was super hard this time. It was my choice. I wanted to wait "until everything was OK." Whatever that meant. I wanted to wait until further along, which means in medical terms a decrease in chances of losing this pregnancy. I hated that I even had to consider that. We told with our other two children at 7 and 8 weeks along, bursting inside to tell everyone our special news. This time, I was scared. I wanted to wait to be sure.

But here's what I've learned post-miscarriage and now in the midst of a pregnancy... we CAN'T be sure. We cannot know what is going to happen with any pregnancy. I had two very healthy pregnancies before a miscarriage. I'd have thought that third one would have ended OK also. We can't know these things. We just can't.

With our miscarriage, we did tell our closest friends and family members what happened afterward. We wanted their support and for them to realize why we were quiet and a little off at family functions. I was grateful nobody at work knew of our experience, it was easier to deal with... so perhaps waiting a little while to tell people is helpful.

This time, however, waiting until 12 weeks to tell everyone was my choice, but a hard one. To be scared and in isolation is not a good option for moms who have gone through something difficult.

I didn't realize this at the time, but as soon as we told others, little by little my fears dissipated. I felt a weight coming off of my shoulders with every text I sent or call I made or hug I received from an excited family member. Their smiles, hope, joy and happiness for us sort of fought off the fears I had within me for 3 months. Every time they asked me a question, "How are you feeling? Are you going to find out what it is? Do you think you know what it is this time? Do you feel different this time? What do your kids think, are they excited? Where will baby stay in your house?" I couldn't help but enjoy it, embrace the possibilities and changes in store for us. 

Every single time they congratulated us or "liked" our picture announcement on Facebook I felt inside this hope I hadn't felt before in the weeks of isolation not talking about our pregnancy. I started saying and thinking, "We're having a baby," versus "I'm pregnant." There's a difference. Those who have been through a miscarriage probably can relate to that difference I'm talking about. Being pregnant can go away, unfortunately, but having a baby is forever and it's happening and real. It's hope.

I started to allow myself to feel the baby clothes in stores and imagine buying some. I eventually did buy a couple of onesies and felt OK having them in the house. I started wearing maternity clothes and bought a shirt one day, feeling proud of myself, that I was telling my fears to shut up, that YES I'd wear this maternity shirt in a few months and all would be OK this time.

I settled into this pregnancy as soon as we told others our news. I was on edge, nervous, afraid, and unsure before that point. But when people showed me that there was nothing wrong, we could be hopeful and happy, I settled into that idea and it overtook me in such a calming way. 

I'm still nervous. I still have moments every day where I wonder what that feeling was or if this or that is OK. I count the moments until I'm going for my next ultrasound to be reassured all is well inside my growing belly. I still have a week in mind in my head where once I reach that point I'll feel more reassured that all is going to work out OK. And I secretly have this feeling of wanting to get to full term just so I can meet this baby quicker than I'd wanted with my other pregnancies. I just want to fast forward to the moment a baby is placed in my arms so I know we're in the clear.

I still freak out a little more than the last pregnancies. BUT it's not overtaking me. It's not controlling my experience. I'm saying baby all the time and talking about how our lives are going to change a third time this fall. I'm planning the baby's room and making a list of things we need to buy at Babies R Us. I'm talking to my kids about the baby sibling they will have. We're making plans and being excited. Because that's what hope is all about. And hope is the only thing to have after a miscarriage experience.


What I've learned is that I wish I'd told a few more people earlier on. 

My advice to you if you've gone through this is to keep your news to yourselves until the first ultrasound and then if all is OK and you feel better at that point, then tell everyone! Tell people slowly, tell them all at once, but tell people. Let them help you feel more confident about this process. Let them be there for you through the fears. Have people who you can talk to openly about those strange thoughts you're having of worry and uncertainty. It's good to share those things so they don't consume you, so you can enjoy this pregnancy.

I'm in a good place now. I'm excited. I believe a lot of that is the growing belly, strong ultrasounds and the hugs and happiness on others' faces.

I hope you are able to find these things for your own journey through this pregnancy after miscarriage.



Tuesday, April 19, 2016

avoiding food dyes: decreasing meltdowns and improving our health

A couple of years ago I read in a magazine about how food dyes and coloring are not good for children's behaviors. In fact, they can lead to kids acting aggressive, defiant, and lead to attentional issues. We have a busy boy, who already has tons of energy to spare (something we love but also find tricky to manage at times). We did not need anything extra causing behavioral issues in our growing boy. So we started experimenting with avoiding food dyes in our foods, but specifically his snacks and things he ate daily.

I also read this incredible book about a regular mom who had several kids and one became allergic to some foods... so she started researching more about what they were eating. She could not afford to change everything at once. She made small changes and decided if she made 20% of changes and 80% was the old way, that was better than nothing. This really resonated with me to make small changes of my own in my family's health.

Here's the review, I encourage you to read this!
http://themommystories-friends.blogspot.com/2014/04/book-unhealthy-truth.html


Sugar & Coloring = Challenging Behaviors
We already knew our boy is sensitive to sugar. I say it's like an allergy for him, similar at least. It's not life threatening, thankfully, but it's definitely something he doesn't tolerate well. He gets busier, more active, louder, and his meltdowns occur - huge highs of excitement and loud noises and bouncing everywhere, down to very low lows where he's crying and upset over every little thing. Along with decreasing food dyes, we limited sugar.

We're a sweet-tooth family, admittedly. We don't deny our kids' the fun treats that all kids get at amusement parks or at birthday parties. That's our choice right now and we manage it. But in our home and with things we can control we limit sugar and have eliminated food dyes at this point.

Everyone around us noticed a difference in our son's behavior, patience level, and activity level when we decreased food dyes from his diet. We didn't see that drastic of a change, but we noticed it helped and didn't hurt and it was obviously healthier, so we've continued about two years now.

What I do notice is when he does have food dyes (mostly birthday party cupcakes or cake frosting coloring) he's off the wall sometimes. It's not good emotionally to feel that way, to have huge highs and lows, but also physically can make a belly ache and headache.

Research Shows... 
So we believe in avoiding food dyes. There is a lot of research out there as to why it's important to try to consider eliminating these from our kids' diets.

Here are a few articles I found:

  • http://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/childhood-adhd/food-dye-adhd
  • http://wellnessmama.com/36873/do-food-dyes-affect-behavior/
  • http://www.additudemag.com/adhd/article/2991.html
  • http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/does-artificial-food-coloring-contribute-to-adhd-in-children/
  • http://www.npr.org/2011/03/30/134962888/fda-probes-link-between-food-dyes-kids-behavior
  • http://fooddyediaries.blogspot.com/2009/07/update-of-my-favorite-dye-free-foods.html
  • http://cspinet.org/fooddyes/testimony.html
  • http://allergy-symptoms.org/red-dye-40-food-list/
  • http://www.red40.com/index.html


The GOOD Stuff
Finding which foods do NOT have dye in them was a huge trial and error! It took me SO much longer in the grocery store the first few months when avoiding dyes.

I was SHOCKED to find out how many foods have dyes in them. Shocked. I should not have been so surprised with marketing as it is to kids- colorful- but I really was shocked I did not realize this before now. 

My advice: go shopping ALONE the first month of eliminating dyes. You need extra time.

I'm going to give you a ton of ideas... but I need to put it out there I'm by NO MEANS a health nut or organic person. I'd love to be someday, but our budget and schedules don't allow that, and I'm a lover of food (Italian!!!) so I cannot possibly avoid all things bad for me. So... here are ideas. But if you see me eating ice cream like every summer evening this next few months, especially while pregnant, don't judge! :)

Foods we've found that AVOID food dyes:
  • Annie's Macaroni and Cheese- This was one of the first things we switched over. It's slightly more expensive but healthier. It's a staple in our home. 
  • Peach Yogurt- We buy the store brand (Hannaford, Market Basket, Wal-Mart). All do NOT have any coloring in them. 
  • Stonyfield Yogurts- This is the only type of strawberry yogurt we can buy, all other store brands or other brands have red dye in them. 
  • Chobani superhero individual yogurts- These are mixed berry but NO dyes! It's HARD to find berry flavored without the red dye in them. My kids love these! A great on the go snack or breakfast addition. 
  • Wal-Mart, Target, Hannaford store brand cereal bars - APPLE flavored only. Nutrigrain bars used to be at the top of our list. Nope not so much anymore. They all have red dye in them. We are safe with the apple flavored ones though. These aren't totally healthy, but when on the go they are helpful to us for snacks. 
  • Chocolate chips or chocolate covered raisins- Instead of M&Ms we use these in trail mixes and various treats. 
  • Vanilla or chocolate frosting for cakes and cupcakes, and plain cake mix. Check the chocolate, some have red dye.
  • Goldfish and Cheez Its- We don't get these often, but they're good for snacks at the beach and they do NOT have dyes. 
  • Annie's Fruit Snacks - These are the only ones I've found without food dyes- and they taste better, too! They're way more expensive, but when we only buy them sparingly or for Easter baskets and Halloween treats, it's OK. 
  • Granola bars: Annie's, Sunbelt, Kashi, KIND - These were a hard one to find! Every single other granola bar we found had stuff in them. All more expensive, but way healthier. 
  • Horizon peanut butter crackers- Apparently yellow dye goes into other crackers! SHOCKED on this one. PB crackers were a staple for us. Not so much now. 
  • WATER- we don't do juices or drinks. When we have birthday parties though we'll by Honest Kids juice boxes. In the summer with sports, we sometimes do Vitamin Water. 
  • Ice cream- we avoid the sprinkles since they are colored. We aim for yogurts with chocolate chips if needed. 
  • Waffles and pancakes- We make our own on weekends for breakfast and always make extra for the freezer. I was shocked THIS WEEK to find out the box of Market Basket brand blueberry waffles I'd picked up as a quick meal (I'm pregnant and exhausted these days!) had red dye in them, and yellow dye and a zillion other things. We also buy real maple syrup, luckily we live in a state where we can easily get it. Way more expensive but SO much better!

Other healthier options:
  • Hormel lunch meats- no preservatives. 
  • Homemade taco seasoning- no need for salt! 
  • Target brand dye-free cough syrup, Tylenol, etc. for colds. This was a big one! I had no idea they included dyes. 
  • Target brand chewy vitamins- Children's Up and Up Gummy Multivitamin (next to the Lil' Critters' ones). I had no clue to look at dyes in vitamins. You'd think these would just be healthy?!
  • Sarah Lee whole wheat bread- has no corn syrup or sugary extras. I had no idea to look for this in breads. 
  • Skippy or Jif natural peanut butters are cheaper options and healthier than regular. 
  • Welch's natural strawberry jelly has no corn syrup or preservatives. We make our own every Christmas time, but if we run out we purchase this. We do TONS of just peanut butter sandwiches, because my kids prefer it, so we don't use a ton of jelly. But if we do, this one is a good option. 
  • Plantains, pretzels, and crunchy snap peas are good options for snacks that don't have dyes in them. Some popcorns, and definitely things like Cheetos and Doritos have dyes in them. 
  • Soaps, shampoos, etc. The ones that are totally jazzed up with kids' character cartoon people on them and colors on the outside- HAVE DYES in the inside! YUCK. I am sure it's not as bad as actually ingesting the dyes, but I just don't want to know I'm lathering my kids in yucky stuff that's bad for them, when I'm trying to CLEAN them in the tub! So we use clear or Burt's Bees options in the tub when we can. 
  • Fresh or frozen veggies and fruits, not canned.
  • Cereals - We do a lot of oatmeal, but also for cereal we stick to basics like honey nut cheerios and raisin bran. 
  • Holidays- for Easter, Halloween, etc. we stick to regular chocolate, or snack foods like yogurt covered raisins, Cran-raisins, etc. They don't need the extra sugar!
  • Check sauces- Ketchup, barbecue sauce, and salad dressings. 
  • Check toothpastes! We use Tom's.
  • Go blueberry and strawberry picking! We pick tons in the summer months and freeze them to put in yogurts, smoothies and on pancakes all year long. It's way healthier than buying them at the store in the winter with pesticides on them. It's also the BEST activity for kids.
  • Cheese- buy a huge block and shred it yourself. Less preservatives. 
  • Pasta-I try to do half and half whole wheat and plain. My family doesn't like the wheat, but when I do a mix it's less of a taste change.
  • Apple sauce- I buy no sugar added store brand apple sauce for the fridge and individual cups for summer outings. My kids don't mind it at all and I think it tastes fine. I like to make my own in the fall, but when I am on the go these work great. 
  • Pizza- Make your own! It's so much better! Buy dough and different toppings at the salad bar even. It's fun and fewer preservatives.
  • Granola- I make my own sometimes, but also I've found some gluten free options which is healthier as far as wheat causing sugar and carb highs and lows in kids.
  • Outings- When we go out to amusement parks or something for a day, I pack our own snacks and sandwiches, mostly to save money and time so we don't have to stand in line for food but can eat whenever, but also to be healthier. This doesn't work at fairs! Everyone wants a corn dog and covered apple right?! 
  • Rewards- Try stickers, pennies, bouncy balls, instead of M&Ms and fruit snacks. We used treats for potty training... but we also used ponies, and books and toy cars. Try to choose the latter when you can. 


Oy ve. I'm overwhelmed.
Yup. Pretty much. It's very overwhelming at first to figure this out and navigate the food label reading process. I still don't have it perfect. No joke after two years, a week ago I bought something I thought was fine only to find it had 3 of the dyes in it!

For me, what's helped is realizing I do NOT need to be perfect. I cannot be in this day and age and with our busy lives and limited budget. I cannot buy all organic food even if I wanted to. BUT I CAN make SOME changes that make all of us healthier in the long run. 

So start small. 
For us, that meant switching from Kraft Mac and Cheese (which I've heard they are fixing lately to have less bad ingredients in it! Yay!) to Annie's Mac and Cheese. It was one change that added a few dollars more a grocery trip, but we didn't feel it as bad since we didn't do all the changes at once.

Everything in Moderation: Teach Your Children
I think it's also important to do everything with food in moderation. We can't possibly avoid all treats, particularly as parents of young kids. Birthday parties happen almost every weekend it seems.

We have to teach our kids to recognize how these foods impact their bodies. My son can say "I can't have more than one cookie today because I don't want my body to go all crazy and get in trouble." 

He knows what sugar does to his body. He still wants treats, of course, and we still allow them, but we don't overdo it. We do one treat a day. We order the child's size ice cream, and prefer to order the yogurt or sugar free vanilla when it's available.

We also compensate when we do have that yucky stuff. We make sure we "get the energy out" after eating it by drinking TONS more water and by running around purposely to help our child even out again. We serve more veggies and fruits that day. 

At birthday parties, I help the host with passing out cake slices. This way it's a win-win, I'm helping, which I like to do anyway, but also I can request a smaller slice for my kids, and even wipe off a little frosting if I need to. I do this inconspicuously. I don't make a big deal. My kids don't see it. And so far (age 4 and 6) they don't even notice anything different. If we are at a party and there is juice or punch AND a cake/cupcake, my kids choose which one they want. I bring water bottles. Sometimes I allow them to have both, depending on the day, but typically they make the choice and are fine with it. Again, not making a big deal in front of friends, it's a quiet conversation and we play it by ear.

My daughter just had a birthday. Her cake of choice was Frozen, covered in BLUE BLUE BLUE icing and frosting. Yikes. Just looking at it I felt sick to my stomach! BUT it was her day and it was one day of the year, so yes, I allowed her to do what she wanted. But to compensate, we served fruits and veggies at her party for snack foods and she drank tons of water later on in the day.

It's OK to make changes that are healthy and also to keep some things the same for a while until you're learning more and working with your family.

Do your best! Just make one small change. I swear it'll make a difference. 

Note: Just eliminating sugars or food dyes is NOT a cure-all to behavioral or attentional issues in children. There are oftentimes other factors happening. It helps to document, keep track of things BEFORE making changes, do this for at least 3-5 days. Then make one change at a time and see how it goes for a week or two before changing more. It takes time, patience and effort. But it's well worth it for happier and healthier kids!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Dear 4 year old Addisyn,

Dear Addisyn,
You're FOUR! I can't believe where the time has gone. You are such a sweet, sassy, silly, smart, amazing little girl. Big girl really. I cannot believe how much growth I see in you from last year at this time until now. You're still my little girl though. You love to be snuggled by mom and dad. You suck your thumb, which I know we need to figure out, but you're so sweet it's all good. You LOVE reading, playing with baby dolls, and ponies. They are your favorite. We had your birthday party at a horse farm, with rides and a cowgirl outfit and everything. It was super fun. Your best party yet! It's so fun watching you become this awesome little girl.



As we head toward you becoming five, which then means Kindergarten, it's crazy to me to reminisce about where we were. You were this tiny thing, crawling and giggling and drooling and then potty training... and now you ride a tricycle and you can pump your legs SO high all by yourself on the swings! It's pretty amazing. Your hair has finally grown out, and it's long enough for a hair cut!

You bring me flowers every single time you see them growing in the wild. Every time. It's the sweetest thing in the world. I appreciate it every time. You are sweet. Always.





You love adventures. You always want to go play in the dirt sand pile with your brother, or ride in his tractor. You love fishing with Dad. You are messy - but in a dress. Always. It's adorable. It's literally how we said we'd raise you from day one in the hospital. We said we'd dress you up in pink and purple and dresses galore, because that's just FUN as a mom of a new daughter. But then we said you'd be covered in dirt just like your big brother. And so you are. A mix of sweet and sassy. It's my favorite thing.


I love seeing you come down in the morning. I love how you aren't quite awake yet. I love that everywhere we go you take a doll or a "stuffy" as you call them. You rotate them, too, nobody is a favorite. You love dolls and horses and stuffed animals. You play nonstop with little figures and princesses. You dress up often- most often in your Super Girl costume that barely fits from a few Halloweens ago.

I'm so grateful you're my little girl. I love seeing you grow and write your name, oh when you write your full name with all the right letters it makes me melt with pride. You are so grown up already. At preschool you wave to me the entire time, you stay in the window until I drive away. It's my favorite thing. You consistently say "Bye Mama, Bye..." it's so sweet. You won't leave until I'm gone.

I love everything about you, sweet girl. Thank you for being mine. I can't wait to see you grow....
Love, Mama