family

Family Rhythm and Mealtime as an Anchor

By on November 3, 2020

I have been thinking a lot about our family rhythm and mealtimes. These are the ways our family moves day-to-day and stays somewhat balanced. My husband and I comment often about how much prep work it takes to keep our family moving along in a (somewhat) harmonious way. One thing we do is have our evening meal together, as a family. Dinner time is our major anchor of the day.

During my childhood, our family mealtimes were tense. We always had to walk on eggshells around my dad– you just never knew when he was going to blow. I learned to eat as quickly as possible and excuse myself to my room to avoid the temper- flares. I’m sure the value I place on family meal-time has its basis in correcting that childhood stressor.

Also, as I’ve learned how important gut health is and how our stress levels affect our digestive processes it only makes sense to have harmony around mealtimes.

Fine Tuning the Engine

This is one important piece of our daily rhythm. As I mentioned, it takes a lot of energy to make it happen. Food is one of our highest budget items, we plan, prep, and work ahead of time so that the evening transition is relatively smooth.

Our daily schedules are full. We have many different places to be, many different meal “shifts”. However, we work to adjust and adapt our schedules so that everyone can participate in our evening meal. Dinner is the time we all round out the day together. Even when we have crazy days, we try to keep this as close to “normal” as possible.

The larger our family has grown, and the more mouths we have to feed, the more predictability is necessary. Having regular meal and snack times is an anchor that helps the rest of the family rhythms to fall into place. The kids generally know what to expect in the few hours after each meal or snack.

Transitioning to a Family Meal

As we move into our evening meal, there are few things we do to set a positive atmosphere. Since the table is the center of our focus for many other things, we make sure all of the days projects and toys are cleaned up and add a “special” touch. This is often a candle or flowers, and sometimes cloth napkins.

I like to make sure the atmosphere is relaxed and conducive to digestion. The familiarity, the regularity, and the calm all promote healthy digestion and mental attitudes around our food. We don’t have television, news, or any distractions at the dinner table and we keep our conversation light and positive.

My husband is great at promoting gratitude as we start our meal. Sometimes we start our meal sharing 1 high and 1 low point of our day. This lets us decompress without dwelling on a negative. When Keenan was small we would start our meal with a verse as a way to promote gratitude. I have found many nice blessings in books, or it could be based on your religious preference.

All hands are on deck with our dinner preparation and serving. Each person has a role in getting it together. Generally, I do the cooking. My oldest is in charge of after-dinner dishes, Gus guides the little kids and helps them set the table and fold the napkins. He also cuts and preps their food and gets them settled and ready to eat. For me, this is a huge relief. Not everything is on my shoulders and I can actually sit and enjoy the food I have prepared.

The Busy Table, Rhythm as Discipline

In our home, our table is one of the busiest locations in the house. We all gather for many reasons. It is our “Grand Central Station”. Our place of celebration, creativity, education, play, and family meals (and clutter, lol).

Having a regular family rhythm and structure is the main component of our “discipline” tactic. We have found that predictability and routine have created an atmosphere of trust and established boundaries. The kids know what to expect day in and day out (basically) and what is expected of them so there is much less room for “error”.

And yes, we have our days and struggles (in NO way am I saying we are perfect and have it all together). I have just found in my mothering years, that creating a somewhat predictable family rhythm can really eliminate a lot of problems before they begin.

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budget | family

Tips for Eating Well on a Budget

By on March 11, 2020

I can’t write a post about marriage without following up with a post about money.

Tax time is always fun. Of course, I’m saying this tongue-in-cheek. For me, each year is a humbling experience when tallying up our expenses. Taxes this year prompted me to do a major budget overhaul. Gus and I have some big goals for the next couple of years, so looking at our expenses was a must. We are also always looking for ways to simplify life, and taking a look at finances is a good way to see your habits.

What we found out is that other than our home, our food is our largest expense. We were regularly spending over $1000 a month on food for a family of 5 (and one is a toddler and the other an infant). Some of that is due to dietary restrictions and buying alternative pantry supplies. However, the majority is just from mindless spending, grocery shopping for fun, and often wasting.

I don’t know how many times we have had to throw away a pound of asparagus because it was buried in the drawer and ended up slimy before I could cook it.

We are now taking control of this situation and working on a healthier budget while maintaining a gluten/grain-free, refined sugar-free diet. Monday morning I attended a meal-prep class that was offered in my MOPs group– it was a very timely class and I was glad to see I was on track with budget and planning.

The suggestion I heard that really resonated was that our budget should be something close to $115 per person, per month. Wowza! Following that formula would drastically reduce our spending. So, here’s how I’m making that happen.

  1. Meal plan (not prep)– I plan for a week. I plan my week according to what we have already in the fridge so that we are reducing our waste. I keep a running list of what we run out of along the way.
  2. Reduce meat consumption. We are omnivores, so this will be different if you’re vegetarian or vegan. Our portion sizes shifted for us when we switched to an autoimmune friendly diet. We reduced our portions and started buying grass-fed and finished beef and pastured poultry (which is more expensive). The Standard American Diet tends to make meat the star of the show, we now make it a smaller player in a meal full of veggies. We have invested in 1/4 of a local grass-fed cow and this has been budget-friendly. I was a little concerned about the initial investment, but it has been a good one. I also stretch our meals. I make bone broths from our veggie scraps and meat bones (in the instant pot too– so nearly no effort). We roast a whole chicken for dinner about once a week, it will feed us lunch the next day and then a batch of broth. So multiple uses for one purchase.
  3. Buy in-season produce. Out of season produce is way more expensive. Just think of the cost of berries in the winter! Our bodies are designed to have varying produce, so following a seasonal plan will reduce budget and support health.
  4. Shop once a week, with a list and at one main place. This was a biggie for us. We used to chase ads, deals and products all over town (and sometimes in the bigger city). This adds up VERY quickly and sucks our time and energy. Sometimes we were shopping somewhere nearly every day. $30-50 each time we entered a store. I now shop at Aldi as our main store and stop at Publix for a few things that Aldi doesn’t carry. I have also stopped our wholesale membership to Costco. I know this works well for some families, but for us, we wasted a lot and would impulse buy. I now do an Amazon order for a few alternative products that are hard to find in our area. These are usually my alternative flours, etc. I do not do subscriptions or meal delivery services. I do not like the amount of waste it creates with packaging, and I also want to choose my own produce.
  5. I know this is stated all the time, but shop the perimeter of the store and avoid processed/packaged foods. I started this years ago, and it is just my habit now. The few packaged items I buy tend to come from our Amazon order, which reduces the cost quite a bit.

These are my most obvious tips. Soon I will share where I find recipes and how I make a rotation so that we don’t get bored or I feel like I am always in the kitchen. I am all about simplicity and time freedom. My “down-time” is limited with all of these kiddos running around and needing things, so I can’t spend all day cooking and cleaning it up!

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family

Workin’ It: Tips for Working at Home

By on August 9, 2019

I decided to write this post because I have many conversations with women who are looking for work at home opportunities or say that they could never do it because of this or that. My husband and I both work at home, and I am sharing a few tips on how I do it as a mom managing 3 kids, 2 of which are still in diapers.

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Other than my family, my biggest passion is being a momtrepreneur. I caught the entrepreneur bug early in my oldest son’s toddler years. Back then, the internet was nothing like it is today. Message boards, websites, and making crafts were how I first got a glimpse of what working at home could be.

I was super inspired by a few bloggers (now turned authors and more) and love seeing how all of those moms have evolved and their children have grown, and how their media platforms have changed.

I’m glad that I found the path I am on and love when my brain is ticking and I can create from whatever medium I’m experimenting with at the moment. The other thing I love is collaborating and working with other women who have similar passions. In my early motherhood years, finding good friends was difficult for me and I didn’t trust partnerships or collaborations. I am relieved that those ideas are gone and I have rich friendships and a circle of women who support and uplift each other. That is how the world gets better and I am grateful that my daughter will grow up with those ideas and we can dispel the idea of “mean girls”. I wrote a previous post on the importance of a mom tribe.

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Tips for Managing a Family and a Business

  1. Remove Mental Obstacles: The first thing that is the MOST important thing for me as a momtrepreneur is to get out of my own way. The dialog I have going in my head can make or break my success. There are so many things I can say are obstacles– not enough time, I don’t know how to do something, I don’t feel comfortable doing this or that. You get the idea. I work to stay positive and keep sight on a goal (for myself or for the future of our family). Ways I stay positive are nurturing my relationships with positive and supportive friends, listen to positive or uplifting music, podcasts, etc and do something each day that I enjoy.
  2. Schedule and Prioritize: This is VITAL for my success. I have a plan of action for the month, then I break it down weekly, daily and even down to when I can work and exactly what to do. An example is that I know I have 2 hours during naptime to get things done, including my lunch. So each day I make a plan for the next. I generally work during nap and an hour after the kids go to bed. In our family, we have a family whiteboard/calendar where our days are scheduled, meals are planned and I keep a personal planner for my actual work activities. When days don’t exactly go as planned, I may spend a few hours working one-handed with an infant on my boob. So again, organization and knowing your system is vital.
  3. Be Realistic with Goals and Achievements: One of my biggest flaws is that I’ll reach for the moon in my mind and will beat myself up when I can’t make it happen. So setting realistic goals and deadlines are extremely important for me to feel accomplished.
  4. Utilize Your Support TeamThe first person I go to for help is my spouse. If I have a large list or a deadline to meet, I will communicate with him what I need to make it happen. If I can delegate some of the work out to him, I will do that or will give him 100% kid duty for a while so that I am not distracted or hold any guilt. If you have friends or family close-by, ask for help. And when your business starts earning some money, use some of your earnings to pay for childcare. This took a long time for me to learn, I had a martyr complex and felt that I needed to “do it all myself”, but have since realized paying for a sitter for a few hours of silence is perfectly fine, and so much can be accomplished in a short focused time-frame. A coffee shop is my best friend. Getting away from the chaos of home, sipping on a good cup of coffee and working without a self-imposed distraction is one of my best success tools.

Having a plan and setting aside work hours are two of the first steps to success. Also, having the ability to rebound when things do not go as planned is powerful. It takes a lot of strength to be both a mom and a business owner, and it is very rewarding and can provide so much for yourself and your family. 3 kids, a husband, and a business is sometimes overwhelming. However, I have found methods within the madness to keep my business and my family healthy and happy.

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family | musings

Surprise, Surprise

By on November 7, 2018

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October was a month for the books! My husband and I found out that we are expecting our second child together. It has been a bit of shock and awe, I have had emotional days of “what the hell are we thinking”, and of course bliss and being ecstatically happy.  Mentally I was not prepared for the 2 lines on the test. My mind was wrapped around chasing our very active toddler, helping my teenager through his first year of teenagerhood, and really pushing for business growth.

The past 3 years have been full of major life changes! Moving, natural disasters, divorce, death, marriage, babies– I think we have covered all of the major categories– sometimes more than once. Why not add one more!?! Gus and I are a good team and always up for an adventure, so cheers to the newest piece of our puzzle. And at least I am still (barely) in my 30’s!

The thought that has eased my mind and worries is that I have given myself a major health revamping this year. After having Ezra and dealing with a difficult pregnancy, birth, and recovery I knew I needed to look deeper into healing. I have tried many things over the years to heal my hormonal & autoimmune issues and 2018 was the year to find the missing link. Ezra and I both responded very well to the lectin-free diet, his issues resolved rather quickly after we acclimatized to the changes and I had a lot of healthy “side-effects” from the change as well.

I believe I have the tools to really give this pregnancy a good head start for a different type of delivery and health outcome than my previous experiences. I am, of course, doing things by the book medically and will be watched like a hawk– I am completely fine with giving extra blood and urine to the lab! Life is full of adjusting and adapting to whatever surprise is around the corner. Our newest surprise is due in May– so mommy, daddy, and big brothers still have plenty of time to adjust and find our routines along the way.

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family | yoga

Excuses or Expansion?

By on September 14, 2018

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Wowza! I have not blogged in over a month. Time to bust out of this writer’s block. Time management and balance are two things that I will have to work on forever!  Having a family often interferes with the rigid structure I would like to have planned for myself. My to-do list may have 10 items on it and sometimes accomplishing 3 is a stretch! Things like injuries, ear infections, and teething toddlers dictate how a day will be spent. Yesterday was one of those days. The teething toddler has been up every 2 hours for several days. My normally patient, easy going guy was accident prone, whiney, inconsolable, and exhausting to the parental units. By 6:30pm I was in my own sort of meltdown mode. So much so, that I had to have a cry at the beach.

Tears always make me feel weak. I have never liked to cry or been much of a crier. My husband is a softy who will tear up at the slightest thing, so I have been working to take on some of his softness. Tears are not a weakness, they are a release. Learning to have compassion for myself, loving myself, and nurturing myself are things that are at the forefront of my inner work. The beach is a good place for me to have these moments.

Moving to Florida and having an ocean at my discretion was something I never quite planned for, however, it was a wonderful change for our family. The ocean represents expansiveness, constant change, ebb and flow. As you can see, there are many metaphors linked to the ocean.  As soon as my feet hit the sand, I can breathe deeply. Occasionally, I will take that deep inhale and realize that my breath has been constricted most of the day. I will look out at the horizon and my eyes will soften to take in the view. Tension also often resides in our eyes. Eyes will bulge forward in their sockets, preventing us from living in a relaxed mental state. For me, the ocean is a quick fix to facilitate a deeper state of relaxation, and often release.

I have learned that crying is not a sign of weakness, and allowing tears to flow is less damaging than bottling up the emotions and creating all sorts of tension patterns in the body that can lead to pain; both physical and emotional. My tears flow less than 5 minutes and can have a lasting healing effect for weeks or even months! A quote I have held close to my heart is  “you can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf” by Jon Kabat-Zinn. Surfing our emotional waves and working to maintain balance is a huge key to life and one that I am reminded of on those days when I make time to visit the ocean.

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