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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emotional wellness

The Great Pause

By on March 30, 2020

Here I am writing from my little nook in St. Augustine. It’s noisy, the kids have pulled out all of their toys. I look at the clutter around me and sometimes I don’t feel a huge change in my day-to-day. Having Mira has really slowed my pace down and I already feel like I live a rather quiet life. I feel that familiarity until I want to go to the beach or run to a thrift store and can’t.

We have spent these few weeks trying to stay positive. We are adjusting and adapting to our current new reality. While staying focused on our goals and being gentle with ourselves. We have had to pull out all of our tools to stay positive as we have more confined time together and have to navigate the emotions that go with all of the world’s current uncertainty.

I know as a global collective, we are all adjusting to our new reality. People are working from home who are used to going to an office, people are laid off, people are worried about their health, their finances, having their children home for school, and the list goes on.

Finding ways to stay relaxed and calm helps me so much as a wife and mother. The calmer I am, the easier I can breathe– the easier the family life and rhythms fall into place.

I have found it a necessity to stay away from (majorly limit) social media and the news. The days I spend too much time on social media really disrupts my sleep. I see and feel everyone else’s emotions. Their fears, worries, and theories. I have enough of my own and seem to be able to feel it all intensely when I lay down to sleep at night. My mind will go to the worst-case-scenario mode and will keep me up for hours.

To find my calm, I need to be 100% present with whatever I’m doing. If I’m doing laundry, do laundry. If I’m with the kids, I actually play with the kids. The phone is put away, I get out of my head and enjoy the NOW for what it is.

The simplicity this quarantine is allowing my husband and I to connect to each other and our true value of living a simple life. A life with way less consumerism, way less waste, no need to hoard– the need is to be resourceful. It’s been kind of fun to plan ahead more and shop less.

For what it’s worth, embrace the chaos. Send yourself loads of love when you start feel your feelings. It’s okay to feel fear, it is okay to feel anger, just don’t let the fear or anger (or whatever it is you feel) define everything. Finding a sense of peace is the best thing we can do for ourselves and our families. I feel like where we are mentally and emotionally right NOW will mean so much on the other side of this crisis.

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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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