Author: Kristy

Too Much Stuff

Too Much Stuff

There’s no other way to say it, my kids have too much stuff. Books, stuffed animals, clothes, and electronic toys are frequently everywhere. They like to make messes, but when they get bored with what they’re playing with in five minutes they’re rarely willing to pick it up. It’s a constant source of tension for us.

I don’t think any mom wants to admit that their children might have too much stuff. We want them to have everything, right? All the fun toys, learning materials, and warm and comfy clothes and shoes are so tempting!

I was recently confronted with this issue in a way that I couldn’t ignore. On a 3 hour drive to go camping my girls cried for toys and tv for about an hour. I must admit that we discussed a portable DVD player during this time, desperate for backseat contentedness. Once we got there their moods improved only marginally–they were bored. A lot of the day was filled with complaining and testing my patience until bedtime. The next morning, however, they began to settle down. They found leaves to run around in and collect, sticks to stack, and large rocks (dinosaur bones). Madilyn found a little metal nut and labeled it “robot finger” and spent the rest of the trip doing everything, including sleeping, with her robot friend. On the trip home they played with straws, pretending that they were musical instruments, and their socks, using them as mittens, bags, and “dinosaur eggs”. There was no whining on the drive home except to express disappointment that we were going home and not back to the campsite.

How can I ignore the message here? I was disappointed in myself for even considering the DVD player, when clearly they need less media and electronics, not more! Research even demonstrates this. Kiddos need activities and experiences over objects.

We have an overabundance of loving and well meaning friends and family, myself included, that like to get new stuff for the girls on a regular basis. While it’s something that I struggle to keep up with, we generally counteract the overcrowding in a few ways:

1. Toy Tub Rotation

Sometimes I just throw toys in tubs, leave one out, and put the rest away. Once they seem bored the tub can be swapped for another one.

2. Zebra Boxes 

I haven’t done a zebra box in a while, but it’s a great motivational tool for getting children to help clean up or cooperate. You can read more about it here.

3. Toy Auction

When things just get too out of hand I will pick up everything and hold a toy auction. Little buyers get a set amount of coins–in our case they’re poker chips from a thrift store–to buy their belongings back with. I usually do about 5 book coins (although their books are kept close by anyway, because reading), 1 large toy coin, 2 or 3 small toy coins, and 1 coin for building blocks or puzzles.

4. Disappearing and Reappearing Toys

Occasionally one of my kids will ask where a certain toy that they haven’t seen in a while is. This is when I pull out what they’re missing. They usually play with it for a day or two before getting bored, and I can put it away again.

5. Sticker/stamp Chart

I’ve written about the stamp chart before. This is such a great way to get kids engaged in keeping their belongings tidy(ish) and rewarding them for helping.

6. Toy Culling

Rarely I get so overwhelmed that I qill do a culling of toys. Anything they don’t play with, refuse to pick up, or volunteer to get rid of is donated. I did this in July, and the girls were actually so overwhelmed with clutter at that time that they helped decide what to get rid of.

7. TV Time

I’m really bad with the TV. I’ll leave it on when they ask and turn it on to try and bore them to sleep. I have to have some kind of controls in place to stop myself from thos, because I have definitely noticed that the less screen time they have, the happier they are and more imaginative they play. There are soem great learning shows for kids, but I still feel interactive play and outside exploration is better.

For now, our system is that they can watch as much TV on Friday as they do worksheets/workbooks. Today it was 40 minutes. They actually got bored very quickly and left before the time was up anyway. Still a work in progress.

Fall Porridge

Fall Porridge

Some mornings I feel like making something a little different for the kids. They will only eat eggs for so many days in a row, and I like experimenting on them. ūüôā This porridge is quick and easy, with only a minimal amount of work required.

If you have leftover pumpkin, it’s so great to freeze in small containers or an ice cube tray for later. I’ve been keeping it around in cubes for fall.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup pecans, chopped or ground

1/4 cup almond meal or flour

1/4 cup pumpkin puree

1/4 cup almond (or other) milk

7-10 stevia drops

Dash of salt

1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 tbsp maple syrup or alternative (I use Lakanto Maple Flavored Syrup)

Directions:

1. In a small pot combine almond flour, pumpkin, pecans, and almond milk and simmer.

2. Add stevia drops, salt, cinnamon, and pumpkin pie spice. Stir and allow to simmer for another minute.

3. Stir in maple syrup. Remove from heat.

Serve with whipped cream or a drizzle of kefir for a hearty, fall inspired breakfast or satisfying dessert.

Primary Color Blending Sludge

Primary Color Blending Sludge

I can’t think of an eloquent word for the consistency that this creates. Paste? Slop? Sludge? It’s gooey and colorful and a little bit gross, which I think makes it perfect for young kids, always happy to stick their hands in goop.

This little activity is super simple and great entertainment for the kids. It’s messy, it’s fun, and my kids always love some good quality sensory play. As an added benefit, you can choose to do primary colors as an educational example of color blending.

A word of warning: this is an outdoor activity! Make sure that you immediately wash vinegar off of wood. I am a little embarrassed to admit that by letting my children do this inside on our table, I accidentally ruined the table by rushing them off to the bathtub rather than cleaning up first. On the bright side, it was a very old, beat up table, so now I get to learn how to fix it.

Supplies:

Baking soda

Water

Food coloring or watercolors (food coloring may stain hands)

Bowls and utensils for mixing

(Optional) squirt bottles with vinegar water–careful where you do this!

Steps:

1. In your bowls, add a cup or so of baking soda. You may use as many bowls/colors as you like.

2. Add water until it turns into a pasty consistency and stir together.

3. Add food coloring and stir.

4. Separate colors into containers. I did some stripes of color in a large Tupperware container for each kid.

 

5. Give them their squirt bottles and watch them have fun.

Dairy-free Cloud Bread

Dairy-free Cloud Bread

I really love dairy. I think I’ve probably said this before. What’s not to love? It’s a delicious food group. Unfortunately, my body does not love it back. I constantly flip flop back and forth between eating wonderful, cheesy and cream-based concoctions, but when I’m honest with myself there’s no denying that my body is happier during those periods of exclusion.

So once again, here I am in grain free, dairy free, soy free land. Hey, I guess it could be worse–it could be the AIP diet again. Life is SO hard without eggs and nuts.

Here’s something I wondered this morning at breakfast: what’s one to do if they just want a simple, old fashioned sandwich while trying to eat keto(ish) and yet they’re avoiding these problem foods? I really just wanted a breakfast sandwich tbh. My husband says gross, but my mouth (and kids) say yum. Bacon, eggs, and turkey stacked into something simple and magical.

Here’s the dairy-free magic, ya’ll. It’s carbier than the dairy version, but no offense, cream cheese cloud bread, this tastes much better and somehow less eggy.

Ingredients:

3 eggs, eggs and yolks separated

Dash of cream of tartar

1/4 cup almond flour

1 tbsp almond milk

1/2 tbsp onion powder

1/4 tsp oregano

1/4 tsp black pepper

1/4 tsp salt

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 325¬į. Separate egg yolks and whites into different bowls.

2. Add cream of tartar to egg whites and beat until white, frothy, and retains shape/peaks. I think of it as a meringue bread.

3. Add spices, almond flour, and almond milk to the egg yolks. Beat into a liquid.

4. Fold the egg yolks into the egg whites.

5. Spoon onto parchment paper about an inch thing. I just make small circles 2 or 3 inches wide, about sandwich size.

6. Bake for 15-20 minutes.

These should be stored in the refrigerator. When you want to reheat them, just pop them in a warm oven for a few minutes.

 

Series: Natural Sugars (Part 2)

Series: Natural Sugars (Part 2)

This week we’re going to take a look at a ton of¬†natural sugar alternatives. These substances are caloric and contain sugar in natural forms.

Natural sugar options can be complicated. On one hand, they’re sugar, and sugar is sugar no matter where it’s coming from, but on the other hand, some of them have benefits. Let’s take a look.

Honey, raw honey, hackberries, pomegranate, and Texas persimmons.

Honey

Most of us know of honey’s antimicrobial properties. It’s therapeutic uses are enough for me to keep a large jar of raw honey in my pantry. Raw honey has¬†antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, amino acids, and enzymes that processed honey doesn’t. Raw honey also has a much lower glycemic index than processed–30ish vs 75ish–and tastes much better (that’s just my opinion).

When someone has a sore throat in our house, they either get hot tea with honey in it or a special slushie with honey.¬†It can be used for other purposes, too. I’ll be honest (and gross), I’ve even used manuka honey for a drawing salve for staph with good results.

Maple syrup

Most of us can agree that maple syrup is delicious. I haven’t had it in a while, but it’s one of my favorite sugars flavor-wise. It’s got a moderate glycemic index, mid 50s. Nutritionally it’s got a few minerals. I usually steer clear of it, mostly because I still have lots of weight to lose and health to gain. If I were in great shape and super healthy, though, I would probably keep a bottle around.

Coconut sugar/Palm sugar

These seem to be pretty popular in the Paleo stratosphere. The GI is fairly low, 30s-40s, and the nutritional value is decent. Honestly, though, I tried it a few times and just wasn’t into it. I’m not even really sure why, but I certainly don’t think I’m missing out by avoiding a sugar that I didn’t enjoy using.

Molasses

Molasses is the byproduct of extracting plain white table sugar from sugar cane. The good thing about this is that molasses contains all the nutritional value that table sugar doesn’t, including¬†iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, copper and zinc. The flavor of molasses is pleasant, both complex and earthy. We keep a bottle of it around for homemade BBQ sauce, pulled pork,¬† and other various recipes. We don’t use it often, but when you need it there’s not really anything great to substitute for it.

Agave nectar 

Okay, here it is: agave nectar is AWFUL! I remember the “health” world going crazy for it a while back, which is just nuts. It’s got nothing going for it nutritionally, the natural glycemic index of it is midline 50s, and processing techniques increase that. It’s¬†85% fructose–that’s higher than corn syrup, for goodness sake! Agave nectar is a prime example of the fact that not everything touted as “natural” is better or healthier. Like, honestly, there’s no reason to ever eat this stuff, it’s going straight to your liver.

Fruits

Oh, man, fruits are so tough. On one hand, they’re delicious, but on the other, they’re sugar. I know that when I’m eating fruit I want more fruit (sugar addiction and craving cycles!) and my kids are the same way. Honestly, I let my kids have fruit about once a week. Usually we stick to whatever we can get high nutritional value from, such as berries. Dates have a great nutritional profile, too. We have been foraging for wild Texas persimmons¬†and hackberries lately, which is great fun and the kids really enjoy getting to eat what they collect. I’m all about that nature stuff, y’know.

Yacon syrup

Yacon is a little known, fairly new thing. It doesn’t raise blood glucose, but contains fructose. Supposedly it tastes similar to caramel. The nutritional profile is supposedly pretty good. There’s not a whole lot out there about it yet. When I lose a bit of weight I’ll have to give it a taste–the fructose is obviously not ideal, but it’s low enough that I would consider trying it once.

Series: Sugar Simplified (Part 1)

Series: Sugar Simplified (Part 1)

I’m sure you’ve noticed by now that the recipes here don’t feature refined sugar, and infrequently natural sugars such as honey, molasses, or fruit.¬†If you’ve ever wondered why, you’re about to find out!

Proper nutritional education is essential for everyone, but especially for those of us who are trying to help nurture little ones (and raise good eaters!) I was taught almost no kind of nutrition growing up–thanks coaches teaching health class–and the little bit of information was scarce. You know, eat your fruits and veggies, bread, potatoes, pasta, lean protein, and avoid fats. It also turns out that it was bad advice to begin with (Thanks, Ancel Keys!)

This week we’re¬†going to be starting a new series addressing all of the different sweetener options out there. We’ll cover sugar, natural sugars, sugar alcohols, and artificial sweeteners–their composition, effects on the body, and potential health implications. So let’s get down to brass tacks. I hope that you enjoy learning with me!


Today we’re kicking it off with a talk about sugar.

What is it, anyway?

Sugar is a group of sweet tasting soluble carbohydrates which are (very) frequently used in food. The high use of sugar as a food additive today is astonishing–it’s used in everything from common beverages and breakfast cereals to meats and sauces.¬†The average person in developed countries consumes roughly 73 pounds of sugar a year (and 53 pounds in undeveloped countries). Frankly, that’s just appalling. This is straight from wikipedia: “As sugar consumption grew in the latter part of the 20th¬†century, researchers began to examine whether a diet high in sugar, especially refined sugar, was damaging to¬†human health. Excessive consumption of sugar has been implicated in the onset of¬†obesity,¬†diabetes,¬†cardiovascular disease,¬†dementia, and¬†tooth decay. Numerous studies have tried to clarify those implications, but with varying results, mainly because of the difficulty of finding populations for use as controls that consume little or no sugar.”

Many people know of¬†glucose and fructose. Contrary to what most people believe, fructose, also known as fruit sugar, is¬†not a healthier sugar even though¬†“it is natural sugar.” In fact,¬†many¬†health experts believe fructose is the worse of the two.¬†I’m not going to into the chemistry of it for two reasons: one, others have done it before me and written about it more eloquently than I ever could, and two, laziness.

Why is¬†sugar such a problem? Let’s take a quick look at what we know sugar does to the body. It impairs the immune system and your ability to regulate appetite by decreasing leptin production. It increases oxidative stress in the body, promotes free radicals, and even feeds cancer cells.

Is this good? Seems like a ridiculous question when you put it like that, right? No, of course damage to the body isn’t good. As a mom, my number one priority is making sure that my babies get food that nourishes and builds their bodies strong.

There are three primary sugar based sweeteners used in food production and commonly available today: table sugar (sucrose), glucose syrup, and high fructose corn syrup. Sucrose is half glucose and half fructose. Glucose or corn syrup is primarily glucose. HFCS, as the name suggests, is more than half fructose. If you are going to use a sweetener in your foods, quite frankly, these are awful options.

Is there a better alternative energy source? Absolutely, but that’s a discussion for another day.

Mini Apple Pies

Mini Apple Pies

I never liked apple pie as a kid. Any time I tried it something about the texture of the apples was never quite right to me. They would be partially crunchy still and half gooey

Ingredients:

This apple filling 

4 oz cream cheese

1 cup mozzarella cheese

1 egg

1/4 cup granular swerve

4 tbsp coconut flour

1 1/4 cup almond flour

1 tbsp cinnamon

Dash of salt

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400¬į. Make apple filling.

2. In a large microwavable mixing bowl, combine mozzarella and cream cheese. Microwave for 30 seconds to a minute, until cheese begins to melt.

3. Remove from microwave and vigorously stir with fork.

4. Add egg and stir.

5. Add swerve, cinnamon, salt, coconut flour, and almond flour. Mix together until doughy. You will need to knead with your hands towards the end.

6. Using a folded piece of parchment paper and rolling pin, pull a small ball of dough out. Roll the dough into a rectangle shape about 1/4 inch thick.

7. Spoon a large spoonful of apples into the middle. Using the parchment paper, fold the sides of the dough over the apples, enveloping them in a pouch. Set aside on baking sheet with parchment paper.

8. Repeat steps 6 and 7 until dough is used up.

9. Bake for 20 minutes.

10. Enjoy.

Stamp Chart Reward System

Stamp Chart Reward System

Sometimes it can be really difficult to get kids to cooperate when you need them to. Believe me, I know. My kids can be as stubborn and ornery as their mom and dad.

One of the best ways that I’ve come up with to get the kids to help out is a stamp chart. It looks like this:

Stamps could easily be exchanged for stickers, but we use stickers elsewhere and my girls really enjoy the process of getting to ink the stamp and press it on paper, so it’s more rewarding for them.

The kids can earn a stamp in a few different ways:

1. Picking up their own messes/cleaning up toys

2. Eating like a civilized person and not throwing stuff

3. Not whining or hitting, aka trying to express emotions with words

4. A day without TV

5. Filling a row on the potty sticker chart

The rewards on the chart are usually a fun trip or activity that the kids enjoy. We try to keep the cheap, easy rewards towards the top and more expensive rewards for the end of the chart. This requires quite a bit of help from the girls to actually get to go do something like go out to eat or go to the riverwalk. The chart ends on the last day of the month, so it’s possible to reach the end without acquiring every reward–and that’s okay, too. It’s okay to not get everything. I want them to see that sometimes you don’t win, and working harder improves your odds. Right now when one of them earns a stamp they both get it, but that will change soon.

This is intended as an active, exciting way to engage them in the process of learning how to help out and pick up after themselves. It’s also a precursor to earning an allowance, or “salary.”

Having said all of this, sometimes it doesn’t work. One kid is almost 3 and the other is going on 2, so they often know better than mom and dad or just want to be bratty (as indicated by the accompanying smirk they give), but it’s alright. Some kind of system is better and more successful than no system at all.

Keto Mocha Chip Frappuccino

Keto Mocha Chip Frappuccino

It’s been so long since I’ve been to Starbucks that I don’t even know if these are available anymore, but 10 years ago this was my favorite. I have finally found an amazing, healthy recipe to replace the insanely high sugar original.

Ingredients:

1/4 cup ice

1/4 almond milk

1-2 tbsp heavy whipping cream

15-20 drops stevia

1/2 tbsp moringa greens powder

1 scoop chocolate ketone powder OR 1 tbsp cocoa powder

1/2-1 tbsp instant coffee or 1/4 cup strongly brewed coffee

Water to top

1 tbsp stevia chocolate chips, crushed (optional topping)

Directions:

1. Dissolve instant coffee in a small amount of hot water. You can also use brewed coffee.

2. Put ice in bottom of blender/bullet cup.

3. Pour cream over ice.

4. Add remaining ingredients to cup.

5. Blend until smooth. Garnish with chocolate crumbles.

SA Outdoor Adventures for Kids

SA Outdoor Adventures for Kids

Hey, hey, hey! Today, as with many August days here in San Antonio, it’s nice and sweltering. Sure, it may get down to 90, but you’d never know it with the humidity. Of course, the heat keeps us indoors in an attempt to avoid it a lot of the time, but it’s still important to get out and go somewhere. I’m a serious believer in the importance of exposure to nature for so many reasons, so we always try to go out and explore outside a couple of times a week.

Here’s my personal list of what makes something a great day (morning or afternoon) destination:

$$$–is it cheap, or even better, free?

Will my small children be happy there?

Safety, weather, and you know, preparedness things

We moved back in February, so I have certainly not scoped out the hottest mom spots in San Antonio by any means, but here’s our favorite spots to kill some time outside with the kid monsters!

1. Guadalupe River State Park

Okay, so not in the city, I know. But hear me out! This beautiful state park is easy to get to, just a drive up Blanco Road to 46. In addition it’s extremely family friendly: they have camping, hiking, a playground (currently closed, boo), a children’s discovery center, a ton of picnic tables, and of course, swimming. There’s deeper water for parents and older kids, but for smaller children there’s also a wonderful section of shallow water. My water-timid 3 year old gets to play and splash around without being worried here. We like to take a big mat and lounge in the shade. Hands down my favorite spot to cool off.

$$$–We have a state parks pass so it’s worth it for us to go. If you don’t, you will have to pay a day use fee.

Happy kids? Very. Always have a hard time leaving.

Preparation–sunscreen (please use a non-toxic kind!), swimsuits, shade, water, snacks, water shoes¬†(don’t underestimate how painful river rocks can be on bare feet), and whatever water safety devices you feel appropriate.

2. Phil Hardberger Park

If you’ve never been to Hardberger Park with your kids it’s definitely worth a trip. This place is huge and even has two entrances, one on Blanco Rd and one on Military. There are dog parks and playgrounds on each side near the parking lots. In addition, the hiking trails just can’t be beat. There’s a large picnic area on each side, benches on some of the trails, and even a large overlook. We go hiking here a couple of times a week and always have a great time. Sometimes we do nature scavenger hunts here while hiking to engage the kids.

$$$–free

Happy kids? Usually. Sometimes a kid gets mad that she has to walk or ride in the stroller instead of being carried.

Preparation–sunscreen (or sun hat and sleeves), water

3. San Antonio Zoo + Brackenridge Park

We purchased zoo memberships as soon as we moved. It was a no brainer for us, we went to the LA Zoo all the time in California, and it wasn’t even particularly close! The girls absolutely love it. And with all the fun enclosures (sorry, animals) and features I can’t blame them. Plus, summer animatronic dinosaurs! You can take a (very short) ride on the carousel, see the pigs and goats at the petting zoo or ride the train. You could spend hours in the splashpad area. There’s all sorts of outdoor things over in the kid’s area, including adorable mini benches. There’s even a small discovery center for the kiddos. If that’s not enough (and let’s be real, you might be beat, but the munchkins have some magical reserve of energy just for moments like this) Brackenridge park is right outside!

$$$–just buy a membership. If you go twice it’s worth it.

Happiness factor? Kids always enjoy it. Even Matt and I are usually glad we went. Exhausted, but glad.

Preparation–sun protection, water

4. Eisenhower Park

I really enjoy this place. There are more difficult hiking trails if that’s what you’re looking for, easy paved trails if you need something simpler. There are nice, wooded trails, too. I like taking the double stroller here. There’s a nice little playground and a large climbing wall for older kids.

$$$–free

Fun level–decent. My kids are always happy if they get to play on a playground.

Preparation–sun protection, water

5. Orsinger Park

Now you should have a very good idea of where I live! This is our basic time-killing place. It’s got a large pavillion for events, bathrooms, a sandbox, and a very large, nice playground. Karissa is obsessed with the sandbox, but Madilyn always has to be coaxed into playing in the sand. There’s lots of lovely cedar elms and picnic tables scattered throughout the grove behind the play equipment. We always go for a little walk through the trails, too.

$$$–free (ca-ching!)

Happy? Oh, so very happy.

Preparation–a diligent parent might bring hydration? I usually don’t…eek. It’s okay, though, because water fountains.

Big Kid Bonus: Tom Slick Park

I’ve only been here once, but the playground was awesome. It was definitely better for older kids, but the play equipment was shaded and I was impressed. There’s a lake with a nice, easy trail to walk, exercise equipment, and what I’m pretty sure was a baseball diamond. This one is on the west side but was a really fun adventure.

$$$–free

Happiness–thumbs up

Preparation–sun protection, water