Saturday, November 23, 2013

I Once Was Blind...An Aha Moment

Joy making bread

I am a perfectionist.  Sometimes.  Mostly when it comes to my baking.  I want my baked goods to turn out perfect and delicious.  I want my kitchen to remain orderly and not end up covered in the spoils of flour and sugar and yeast.  Don't even get me started on the less savory things like honey and oil and other gooey ingredients getting all over my kitchen.  Painful.

So imagine this scene.  An ordinary home kitchen-mine.  Two moms.  Twelve girls ranging from 3rd-6th grade.  120 sugar cookies.  4 tubs of frosting.  10 containers of various sprinkles.  Free license to decorate enough cookies to take home to their families.


Absolute total complete beyond my imagining chaos.

I stood there watching the girls dipping their fingers into the frosting jars and licking them.  Dumping mountains of sprinkles on their cookies.  Spilling sprinkles all over the table and floor.  Frosting being smeared across my table.  The mess.  Oh my goodness.  The mess.

I almost died.

But then inner Lisa had a talk with myself and said, "Look around at these girls.  Laughing.  Talking.  Having a great time.  Doing something innocent and fun.  Is having a clean kitchen and perfect looking cookies more important than this moment?"

So I ushered the girls out of the kitchen when they were done and got to cleaning up the worst of the mess while they played a game with my hero (the other mom) who agreed to stay and help me with the party.

Later as the girls were all leaving, they all stopped and thanked me, telling me they had a really good time.  And it wasn't even prompted by their parents.  They genuinely had a good time.  And I thought about that later as I was sweeping up sprinkles and scrubbing frosting off my table.  But the lesson didn't stick until this morning.

A little kitchen chemistry as Joy learns to weigh ingredients

I needed to make bread for dinner and Joy asked to help.  She basically made the bread by herself, measuring the ingredients herself on the scale.  Every time I tried to intervene, she pulled the measuring cups away and said, "I got this, Mom.  I can do it myself."  Once again my eyes saw the flour and yeast and water on the counter and floor.  But then the Holy Spirit checked my soul and said, "Lisa.  Stop.  Let her do this.  You can clean up the mess later.  She is learning to make bread and to create something to be proud of.  Let her.  It's okay if it isn't perfect.  It's okay is things get spilled.  The lesson is more important than the end result."

So I backed off.  I let her do it all by herself.  I died to my desire for perfection and order.  And I left the end result of our bread up to Joy.  After we were done mixing up the bread, I started cleaning up the kitchen and doing the dishes.  Joy said she would help me with the hand washing.  Again, I wanted to step in and do it myself because Joy's method of hand washing involves half a bottle of dish soap, lots of water on the floor, and dishes that are still dirty when she's done.  But I let her wash them anyway with plans to rewash them when she was gone from the room.  As she was washing the dishes, I glanced behind me and saw this.

I almost insisted it be picked up immediately because we were in the process of cleaning the house for company.  But again the Holy Spirit checked me and something very different came out of my mouth.

"So why are the stuffed animals all over the hall?"

"I'll pick them up when I'm done doing dishes."

"No, I'm not asking you to clean them up.  I'm asking what game you are playing."

"Really?  We're playing a toy game.  The hall is death valley and David has to kill all the animals in order to get through."

"So how does he kill them?"

"He has to throw his fish stuffed animals at them."

"Who came up with this idea?"

Lizzy piped up, "I did!  I came up with the idea and Joy made it happen."

"That sounds like a really imaginative game.  I'm glad you are having fun."

And this was the moment that I realized that I have spend my kids' entire childhoods focusing on the wrong things.  I see the mess.  And only the mess.  Yesterday I would have seen the mess and told them to clean it up.  I wouldn't have asked them why the mess was there.  I wouldn't have asked about their game and how they play it.  I wouldn't have let them keep my hall lined with stuffed animals.  I have had blinders on my eyes all this time.

Messes can be cleaned up.  Order can be restored.  But creativity and ingenuity and learning and sense of accomplishment can be squashed in a heartbeat the moment Mom steps in and says STOP.  Clean up this mess.  No, don't do that.  Here, let me help you.

And so I am making a promise right now that I will stop focusing on the wrong things.  I will ask questions before making demands.  I will see the creativity and ingenuity before the chaos.  I will embrace the learning opportunities and pride in accomplishments without stressing over the resulting mess.  I will see my children as mad geniuses busy inventing instead of as F5 tornadoes bent on destroying my orderly life.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Cleaning Blast

Folding their own laundry

Sometimes inspiration hits me out of no where.  I get an idea in my head and I think, huh, that just might work.  Today I had one of those ideas in regards to how I handle cleaning the house.

My usual pattern of cleaning is to assign chores.  David, you clean the bathroom.  Lizzy, pick up the living room.  Joy, the dining room.  Which the kids will do--more or less.  But it usually involves some whining.  And the need for a few reminders to stop dawdling or playing with found toys.  And I often have to drag at least one child back to the room to address something they left undone.  Sometimes they do a good job without much oversight, but not always.

So today we had to clean up the whole main living area because we have company coming over this weekend.  I thought about doing the cleanup in our normal way but then I started thinking--the kids always do better when I am right there to oversee their work.  But I can't be in three different rooms at the same time.  So what if instead of assigning individual rooms, we instead cleaned everything together.

And thus I created what I call the Cleaning Blast.

"Oh," says David.  "Is that where we attach a rocket to everything and blow it up?"

Here are the rules:

1. Everyone helps

2. We tackle one room all together with everyone doing something

3. We don't leave the room until it's all done

4. Haul the trash can from room to room with us so there's no need to run to the kitchen every few seconds

5. Once the room is all picked up, move onto the next room

6.  The most important rule--Blast loud music because it's impossible to clean without the music blasting

Our dining room table cluttered with school "stuff"

We managed to clean the living room, dining room, bathroom, kitchen, the kids' bedrooms and fold a hamper of laundry in 45 minutes.  All I have left is the pile of mess that always hangs out on my kitchen counter--AKA the dumping spot.  Were I to have assigned the rooms like I usually do, we may have gotten half that done.

I am not going to resort to cleaning blasts every time we do chores, but it will definitely be my new once-a-week routine for our bigger weekly cleaning.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Sugar-Free, Yeast-Free Homemade Ginger Ale

3 Approve, 1 Says Yuck

It has been said that if you are going to give up a habit, you need to fill that void left by the bad habit with something good.  Otherwise you will most likely return to your bad habit.  Well, I have an addiction to soda.  Hard core addiction.  I love Diet Pepsi, Pepsi Max, and will drink Diet Coke-ish products when Pepsi is not available.

For years I have been drinking this delicious poison.  About two years ago my Hubby decided that he was going to quit using artificial sweeteners after reading about the bad things they can do to you.  At that time, I decided I would join him.  Thus was my first experience with aspartame withdrawal.  We both felt like we'd been hit with the flu.  Aches, pains, agony as our bodies went through detox.

Hubby was a good boy and didn't go back to drinking soda.  I was not so good.  I lasted about four months before I just could not go another day without drinking something other than water.  Juice is gross, milk is worse, coffee tastes like death in a mug, tea like dirty water, pop is out, which leaves me with water.  Boring old water.  No wonder every time I've tried giving up pop I only last a few months before I can't take it anymore.

Today I was reading an article about ginger and how good it is for you.  And then a little later I read a totally different article about curing super bad morning sickness by eating fermented foods (I wish I had read this article 11 years ago) and talked about the benefits of root beer and ginger ale when made the old fashioned way.  Say what???  I could make my own ginger ale?

Of course I had to do some research on this.  I like pop.  I need to eat more ginger.  I am going to make my own ginger ale.  The first recipes I found involve sugar, yeast, and fermentation over a few days.  I thought about that for about two seconds and decided that waiting was not for me.  I kept looking.  Which is how I found the quick method.  Steep fresh ginger root in boiling water, add sweetener, vanilla, and pour over bubbly water.  Hello instant gratification!

I dragged the kids to the store to buy bubbly water (I went with sparkling water because it was the cheapest) and ginger root.

Key ingredients

I boiled water on the stove and threw in the ginger and some pure strevia extract.  I let it simmer for 10 minutes and then steep, covered and with the burner off, for about a half hour.  Then I strained it, added in some vanilla and lemon extract, and mixed 3 ozs ginger concentrate with 5 ozs sparkling water poured over ice.

Boiling the ginger

David and Joy declared it delicious.  Lizzy said it was gross.  I thought it was pretty good, though next time I am going to omit the lemon extract.  But I am really happy with the results of my first foray into pop making.  This is definitely something I will try again.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Baking With REAL EGGS!!

What?!  I'm minding my own lick-ness.
Wow does that girl crack me up

Almost ten years ago I received the news that my sweet, little boy was allergic to eggs.  Thus began my journey in egg-free baking.  I learned to make cookies, sweet breads, muffins, cake, and other delicious baked goods without eggs.

In the beginning, my results were slightly less than wonderful.  But over time I became a pretty darn good egg-free baker.  I perfected the eggless chocolate chip cookie to the point that people raved about my cookies, not realizing they were lacking a key ingredient.

And then a few weeks ago I took David to the allergist for his annual check up.  Two years ago his doctor said that we could try introducing eggs in limited amounts in baked goods.  I was never brave enough to try that.  But now I was ready.  I told the doctor that I wanted to try giving David eggs and he said definitely.

Thus opened a whole new world to David and potlucks.  For me and my baking.  For my family.

Enter baking WITH eggs.

I made a cake with eggs.  David tried it.  He didn't like it but he tried it.  And then today we baked up real sugar cookies and cupcakes for a girls event Lizzy is attending tomorrow.  Delicious, sugary, eggy cookies.  Oh my.  It has been way too long.  I tried egg-free sugar cookies in the past and they just never turned out quite right.  Passable, but always missing just a little bit of something.  No more.

I present to my readers our first batch of cookies made with eggs in our household for the first time in almost ten years.  I used this recipe I found of the Food Network.  They turned out beautifully.

10 dozen sugar cookies ready to be decorated

You will notice Lizzy mixing cupcakes in a bowl.  Thanks to all the baking lessons she's been getting from a friend of mine, I was able to hand her the box and say "Make this."  She only needed to know what temperature to set the oven to.  Otherwise she made them all by herself.

As for David and Joy, again, due to the influence of my friend, the baking teacher, I decided to back off and let them make the cookies with only minimal help from me.  Not the easiest thing for a woman who cringes every time flour gets spilled, butter goes flying, etc.  But they did a really good job and only made a medium size mess.  Which I made them clean up.  And I quote, "You know, the best part about baking is cleaning up."  Really?!  They even have to ask.  But they washed up their dishes anyway.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Finally Making A Home

His and Hers chairs--which will not be misused by the children
under penalty of banishment from said chairs forever

Hubby and I bought our house over six years ago with the intention of it being our "forever" home.  It is big enough for our family without being overwhelming, a ranch style home with main floor laundry, right down the street from both our parents and my Grandma, in a good neighborhood.  The sort of home you would buy when you are looking to retire.

Somewhere along the way we lost sight of the "forever" part of our plan and started dreaming about our next house.  The house we build that has the big master bathroom, the extra room on the main floor so I can stop using our dining room as our school room, higher counters for all 6 feet 7 inches of Hubby, a bigger mud room we can all fit into without tripping when it's time to leave or come home, with the acreage and mature woods without undergrowth.  And maybe a pond or creek somewhere would be nice.

We started talking about it and making plans.  We made decisions to not make improvements on our current home.  Wood floors in the living and dining rooms.  Cork flooring in our bedroom.  Turning our 3 seasons sunroom into a 4 seasons room, thus creating a school room.  Redoing the master bathroom.  Turning the basement playroom into a game room where more than just kids would want to hang out.  Installing a third bathroom in the basement where we already have the plumbing stubbed in.

Tonight after Hubby and I wrestled the living room furniture around to fit our new recliner (okay, HUBBY wrestled the furniture and I just sat there and directed while Hubby kept telling me to sit down and not try to move anything), we sat down in our matching seats and started talking.

"I don't think we're going to move," says Hubby.

"Okay," says me.

"I want to start making improvements on our house and make it the house we want it to be.  Starting with the sunroom.  We're going to turn that into the school room and reclaim the rest of the house from all the books and papers and art projects."  Which involves insulating the plywood floor, the walls and ceiling, installing windows in place of the storm panes, and putting in a real door and not just a screen door.

I reached a point recently where I realized it was time to...I don't know...grow up maybe?  That I needed to stop dreaming about a different house and start investing in the house I have now.  Which is why when I was asked for my Christmas list this year, it only had one thing on it.--money to hire a painter to repaint almost the entire house.  It is something I have wanted to do for several years now but just never found the time or energy.  It is time to buy furniture that is not just functional, but actually matches and looks good together.  It is time to not just slap pictures up on the wall but to actually try to decorate.  It is time to be...a grown up.  Gulp.

So be prepared for big changes in the pipeline as we turn this house into a home.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Answered Prayer In The Midst Of Yuck

Snuggling with Joy as I rest up

I shared about my fun times with appendicitis.  But I left out a few things that are pretty amazing to me.  Things that really showed God's love and blessing despite my misery.

Previous to going into the hospital, I had a sinus infection.  Stuffed up, could barely breathe through my nose, head pounding sinus infection.  I actually had a doctor's appointment for the next day so I could get an antibiotic to knock out my illness.  Incidentally, my research suggests an infection of another sort (sinus) can cause appendicitis.  Who knew those sinuses could be so dangerous.  Anyway...

I was laying in the bed in the ER, miserable, in pain, exhausted because it was well after my new normal bedtime of around 10:00 pm.  The CT scan was taking forever to happen due to a back log.  I just wanted to sleep.  But I couldn't sleep nose was stuffed up.  And I'm funny where I can't sleep if my nose is stuffed up.  I have to use nasal spray to clear it up.  The nurse offered me morphine.  I asked for Afrin.  "I'm sorry, I can't give that to you."  Fine.  Then I guess I won't sleep.

So I just laid there, kind of brooding in my head, how the heck am I supposed to sleep?!  I didn't want to watch TV--like there's anything on at 2:30 am anyway.  I had already stalked my email and facebook and any other website I could think of.  I decided to pray.  

Lord, I know this is silly when I'm laying here in a hospital bed most likely looking at surgery soon.  But if you could just heal my sinus infection and help me to breathe, I would really appreciate it.

Nothing happened.  Oh well.  I will just wait for drugs to cure me.  But then an hour passed and I started breathing better.  A few minutes later and my nose was completely clear.  I finally drifted off to sleep.  When I woke up a while later, my nose was still unstuffed and the fog in my head was gone.  Like completely healed of my sinus infection gone.  Just like that.  This is the only time I can ever remember being completely healed almost instantly.  My appendix was still broken, but God healed the rest of me.  

And then the fun part.  Around 6:30 am they finally admitted me to the hospital and someone came in to wheel me to my new room.  I was groggy, having just been woken up, so I didn't realize who was pushing my bed at first.  But then I looked up and was like, "Hey, I know you."  Pushing my bed was a guy I used to work with back in my A&W Restaurants days.  I haven't seen him since I was 18.  We had a nice chat between the ER and my new room.  

Finally, the last surprise was that out of all the places they could have stashed me in the hospital, I ended up on the floor where my sister-in-law works.  She was off work at the time, but I was very well taken care of by her coworkers.  They were extremely nice.  If I ever end up in the hospital again, I hope I get placed back in the same unit.  

Yes, I am one of those weird people who actually thinks hospitals are fun.  I was sort of sad when they kicked me out a few hours after my surgery.  I was looking forward to laying around all day being waited on, my meals delivered to me, and not having to do my own dishes.  I don't even mind shots and tests and surgery--I think they're actually cool.  When I woke up from my surgery, I asked the nurse if the doctor took a picture.  She handed me a glossy picture of my appendix and let me keep it.  I showed the kids who were not as excited as I was to see it.  And no, I will not share it here because it is kind of gross if you aren't interested in that sort of thing. Ha!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Appendicitis--When Stomach Pain Isn't Benign

Dr. Joy says "Mommy, you're sick."

You know how sometimes your stomach hurts really bad and you think for sure you have appendicitis and need to rush to the ER?  But then a few hours pass, and you pass a whole lot of gas, and the pain goes away?  So you know it wasn't actually your appendix.

Wednesday I felt fine.  No pain at all outside of sinus pain.  Hubby left to go to my brother's house around 7:00 pm.  I still felt fine.  A few minutes later uncontrollable chills set in.  Bone rattling, cannot get warm despite a sweatshirt, sweatpants, and laying in bed under all the blankets, still shivering.  My temperature went from 98.2 to 100.7 in an hour.

I laid there thinking, oh no.  I have the real flu!  And we just had my kids' friends over today.  I hope they don't get sick.  Then my stomach started hurting.  Active labor hurting.  Moaning and groaning, shivering and quivering, wanting to die hurting.

Webmd and Mayo Clinic, my two favorite sites for researching symptoms, gave me three top contenders for my condition:  Appendicitis, diverticulitis, or gastroenteritis.  Of course I figured I had the stomach flu.  Or food poisoning--sorry Qdoba, it really wasn't your fault that I felt so sick.  I shouldn't have blamed you in the first place.  You are still my favorite fast food restaurant.

And then all the pain localized to my right side.  All within a 2 hour time frame.  I was still home alone with the kids.  My parents had already spent the day at a hospital an hour away with my Grandpa.  My Hubby was at my brother's house.  I called my mom who was at the grocery store at 9:00 pm.  I told her what was going on and she said she would check out immediately and come over so I could go to the hospital.  I called Hubby and told him he needed to come home and take me to the ER.

In the back of my mind I am thinking that it's going to turn out that I am just really constipated or something stupid like that.  Because what are the chances that it's really my appendix?  Not likely.  But I still felt horrible enough to go in.  Which is saying a lot because the only time I have ever gone into the hospital for something other than child birth was when I was 5 and broke my arm.

I thought I was going to die in the car driving to the hospital.  Every bump in the road, every time Hubby pressed on the brakes, crazy pain shot through my stomach.  Getting out of the car and walking to the ER hurt.  Just standing there made me feel queasy.  The poor lady trying to check me in handed me a barf bag when I turned green standing there talking to her.  Which turned out to be a good thing because five minutes later when I was in the triage room I lost my dinner.  Nothing more embarrassing than losing it in front of other people.  Despite being sick, the pain did not diminish.

I then spent the next four hours in an ER bed, getting blood drawn, getting morphine, and eventually a CT Scan.  Eventually the resident came in and asked me if I had a preferred surgeon.  I looked at him like he was crazy--does anyone have a preferred surgeon???  It's not like I go around having surgery all the time.  But it confirmed that I wasn't crazy and that really did have appendicitis.

Hubby went home around 3:00 am after the resident assured us I wouldn't be operated on until the morning.  I tried to get some sleep despite being hooked up to an IV, a blood pressure cuff, and an oxygen level sensor while having horrible stomach pain.  Needless to say, I got about 2 hours of sleep and was anxious to have the surgery just so I could finally get some sleep.  At 7:30 am the surgeon came into my room, asked a bunch of questions and then told me I was going to go have surgery right then.  Huh?!  I hadn't even called my Hubby yet to tell him to come to the hospital.  I managed to get a quick call in before they wheeled me away just to let him know.

Hanging out in the ER

Post op, I apparently called Hubby to tell him I was worried because no one was there with me and that they were going to make me leave right away.  I have zero recollection of this conversation.  I saw this awesome video on youtube of a guy coming out of anesthesia who doesn't recognize his wife.  In the back of my mind I wondered if he was just faking.  Now I know he wasn't.

The second time I woke up I was much more lucid.  I called Hubby a second time.  He was sorting out childcare so he could come be with me.  My wonderful sister in law came over and watched our kids for the day.

My nurse kept asking me how I was doing pain wise.  I thought that was kind of funny.  My pain post surgery was nothing compared to my pain pre surgery.  The residual gas pain is much worse than the surgical pain.  I love the after affects of having my stomach filled with air--yeah shoulder and stomach pain!  After a few hours recuperating, I was deemed ready to go home.

So, here is the moral of the story.  Usually when I feel sick, it is not the worst possible diagnosis.  But sometimes it is.  And it's important to not ignore that 0.0001% time.  Now, going forward, I will know that any horrible stomach pain is not appendicitis since you can only get that once.  It will have to be some other mystery diagnosis only made unmysterious by the wonders of Webmd and Mayo Clinic.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Chicken Carbonara THM Style

My almost gone dinner--Oops.
Next time I will take a before picture.

My sophomore year of college, back when Hubby and I were just friends, we had a discussion about his love of cooking.  I told him I was going to marry him just for that.  Since then Hubby has grown into an even better cook.  The sort of cook who doesn't ever look at recipes because he just knows.  The sort of cook who can look in an almost empty fridge and throw scraps together and make them taste delicious.  The sort of cook who, when he was doing a year of service in Belfast, Ireland where he lived with a bunch of guys and was the household cook and made lentil stew during the season of Lent, the guys told him he had to stop making the food taste so good because it was undermining the simplicity intent of the meal.

Since I started following the Trim Healthy Mama lifestyle, I haven't been letting Hubby into the kitchen very often.  I've tried teaching him about the three types of meals--Satisfying (low carb, higher fat), Energizing (low fat, higher carb) and Fuel Pull (low carb, low fat)--but sometimes it's hard for him to remember that you can't throw half a stick of butter into an E meal or pasta into an S meal.  

Tonight he asked to cook dinner.  I had Chicken Carbonara, something I've never cooked before, on the menu.  I ungraciously stepped aside and turned over the kitchen and walked away.  Hovering only makes me anxious that he might slip some flour in the sauce.  

Hubby hit this one out of the park.  The kids, my oh so picky eater kids, said, and this is a direct quote:

The actual toppings taste better than the pasta.  This is really good.

Ya, we were shocked as well.  So of course I forced Hubby to sit down and write out what he put in this magical dish that David, our pickiest eater, scarfed down before anyone else was even done eating (this only happens when dinner involves things like pizza, hamburgers or hot dogs).  I even took a picture of my half eaten meal mostly because I didn't even think to take a picture before it was almost gone.  

As we were eating dinner, Hubby and I both agreed that this recipe lends itself to a variety of vegetables.  Spinach, red peppers, peas, etc.  Next time we are going to switch it up a little and see if we hit an even better combination than what Hubby cooked tonight.  I do need to make a disclaimer here.  If you use regular pasta, this meal would be considered a crossover, meaning it is totally not on plan.  Dreamfield's Pasta has very low net carbs, so it is okay to eat with high fat meals like this one.  And Hubby added the carrots since he was cooking, but I have since cooked this recipe again sans carrots which would keep this recipe in solid S territory without fear of crossing over.   

So here you all go.  Hubby's THM-S style version of Chicken Carbonara.  

Chicken Carbonara

1 box Dreamfield's Pasta (any shape)
9 slices turkey bacon (you can use regular, this is just all we had)
1 T olive oil (if using real bacon, omit)
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, diced
1 head broccoli, cut into florets
1 carrot, thinly sliced
6 ozs mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T butter
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 cup heavy whipping cream
3 T dried oregano
1 1/2 T dried powdered fennel
1/2 t xanthan gum
Salt and Pepper to taste

Cook pasta according to package directions.  Blanch carrots in boiling water for 3 minutes.  Drain and set aside.  Cook bacon until crispy in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Set aside.  Add oil to the hot skillet and cook the chicken until it is no longer pink.  Add veggies and stir.  Cover and cook about 10 minutes, stirring often, until the broccoli is soft.  Drain any excess liquid from the pan.

Stir in the garlic and butter.  Cook 2 minutes.  Cut bacon into small pieces and stir into the skillet.  Stir in the cream, cheese, fennel and oregano.  Cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce is warm and bubbly.  Sprinkle and stir in the xanthan gum.  Simmer until the sauce starts to thicken.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve hot over pasta.  Enjoy!