Life. Love. Family. Our Perfect Imperfection. Living life as a Catholic, homeschooling family with three amazing, unique boys, a too-oft serious, frustrated and anxious but also loving momma, and a fun-loving, hardworking dad.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Our attempt at a dye-free Halloween

Halloween can be quite challenging when it comes to one thing that we try to do. We aren't perfect about it, but we avoid artificial, petroleum-based food dyes when possible. With all the candy and treats that we have no control over, it seems it would prove very difficult, right?

Today's celebrations start with a small party in Alex's class - E's class doesn't have one as they are middle schoolers - and that entails cookies with frosting and sprinkles, juice boxes, and candy.

I signed up to bring juice boxes and sprinkles because Alex requested it. We chose Capri Sun 100% juice boxes, and that made it easy to avoid dyes as well as HFCS, though I'm sure there are healthier options. Sprinkles were a little more difficult. Of course, I don't want him to feel bad about not having colored sprinkles like the other kids, but he understands our reasons. We did find plain chocolate sprinkles that don't have artificial dyes. (It was odd though, one well-known brand had small containers of chocolate sprinkles with no dyes but their large containers of chocolate sprinkles had red 40, yellow and blue - can't remember the exact #'s - dyes!) I remembered seeing organic sprinkles somewhere, and we found them at Kroger. They aren't as vibrant - more pastel in color - and were $3.99 for a 1oz package. Well worth it though to make the boy happy :) Here's the brand we bought Let's Do Organic Sprinkelz Organic Confetti *note the link is for bulk 12 pk on*

He understands those are JUST for him, and I explained to the teacher the deal. She was very understanding and actually asked if he was supposed to have cupcakes and things on days other students brought birthday treats. I told her that we feel he is old enough and understands and that he can make an informed decision. I know sometimes he will choose to eat the bright blue and green and pink frosted cupcakes, and other times he will decline. He knows how he feels later and the next day or two and whether it's worth it. Also, I am only concerned with what is in my control. If I can send an alternative for a party, then I will. If I don't know what/when a birthday treat is, it's truly ok.

Back to the topic at hand. Trick or treating today may actually be cancelled or delayed due to bad thunderstorms predicted including high winds. If it was just a little rain, we'd still go out, but we'll see. All the candy that the boys will receive will undoubtedly include brightly colored candy, gum, jawbreakers, licorice, and who knows what. We are going to sort the candy and the boys can keep anything that is dye-free. Then they have a couple of choices. We can go buy dye-free lollipops and gummy bears to trade them for things they can't have; they can combine all their "no thank-yous" and leave it for the switch witch to trade an item; we can keep some things for a gingerbread house at Christmas time; or a combination of the 3. I think if they choose the switch witch, she will bring them a gift card to buy something they want. I'm considering not even doing the "switch witch" and just telling them they can trade mom and dad candy for a toy/gift card. I guess I should probably decide pretty quick, since today is Halloween ;)

I know some may think I'm ruining their fun, and a few years ago I may have felt the same way. But I know what's right for my family and my boys. They still get to dress up in costumes, go trick-or-treating and eat some candy but they don't get an overload nor will they eat tons of petroleum-based dyes. 

After E's 4th grade science experiment, and the results, I will never doubt our decision and the position we have on those dyes. Don't know what I'm talking about? Long story short: E had 2 mice and a maze. Both were given regular water and food and ran the maze for a week. Times got progressively better. One of the mice was given red food coloring in his water for a week. The other was not - he was the "control". During the second week of maze trials, the mouse given red dye got slower and couldn't figure out the maze. His times went from around 60 seconds to an ending time the last day of over FIVE minutes. He also became aggressive, erratic and confused. We used food coloring that you buy at the store and just put a few drops in his water bottle. No more than what people eat DAILY! After stopping the experiment, his behavior seemed to return to his pre-dye state. The "control" mouse kept similar times during the entire two weeks and his behavior never changed. The maze was never changed so logically after a week of running it, they knew the route pretty well. It was very interesting and E worked very hard on it. Again, I will never doubt our decision after seeing the difference.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

You know you're tired when...

  • You wake up at 7:02am (after waking several times before that, including almost exactly one hour ago, and plan to just "rest your eyes for 5 more minutes") and you have to leave to drive your children to school by 7:20.
  • You almost forget to wake the youngest child in time, who's only 21months and thankfully doesn't need to get dressed or eat breakfast before we leave, despite the fact that when you woke up he was cuddled up in your arms in the bed...
  • You forget at least 5 times that it's only Wednesday October 30th.
  • Even though you finally remembered it's only Wednesday, as you are driving home after dropping 2 older children off, you STILL remember there are juice boxes and sprinkles in the back of the van and think the 8 year needs them for his classroom Halloween party. Which is tomorrow. Not today.
  • When leaving school, you turn right out of the parking lot. And don't realize you've gone the wrong way until you reach the end of the road, almost 6 miles North of where you were. At 32 Mile rd. When you should have taken a left. And THEN a right. And have to go 9 1/2 miles South now instead of 3 1/2. Not too mention you went North instead of West. And you've driven this route every school day for the last 4 years and now 2 months... 
  •  You've been home for over 2 hours and forget to let the dog out, even though you've seen him, petted him and made sure the oldest boy fed him before school.

Yeah, I actually made myself a pot of coffee today. I don't do that on weekdays, at least not often. I'm going back to bed ;) 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Dinner time conversations

Tonight, I was cracking up laughing at my guys. The conversation started with Jason asking what Ethan was looking at, if he had something in his ear or on his face or something. It went something like this:

E: yeah, you have a flat screen tv in your ear. Oof. Here, I got it out. *pretends to hold a giant flat screen with his head turned sideways, looking like his ear is on the ground*

Jas: You look like an Indian scout listening to the ground. Tonto!

E: What's Tonto?

Alex: It's Pluto and it's a planet!

Me: *laughing starts*

Jas: NO *laughing* It's Tonto, he was The Lone Ranger's guide and friend

Alex: OH!! Toto!!

Me: *more laughing*

Jas: *laughing* No Toto was in The Wizard of Oz. Dorothy's dog

E and Alex: *laughing hysterically*

Jas: *out of the blue* Kevin the wonderful.

Then he proceeded to make up an idea for a cartoon that would be like adventure time, but not. Kevin that looks like the guy from minecraft, his dog Crouton, and their little ninja named Lysol. They live in a refrigerator cardboard box. It would be called Quest Seconds or something. His whole story line was pretty hilarious.

Monday, October 7, 2013

What we are eating

*Just a note: This is not a sponsored post, in any way. I just want to share something that we are trying out in case it may help someone else. I don't get anything for sharing and I am paying for my membership. I just joined on Saturday, so it's still very new to us. :) *

I've been struggling with meal planning and going grocery shopping lately. I want to make some new or different meals - at least sometimes - but we seem to fall back on old favorites way too often.

Obviously they are old favorites for a reason, but it gets boring after a while and nobody wants to eat it. We are still trying to eat real, homemade meals - in other words, not from a box or mix - for most of our lunches and dinners, although we still tend to rely on cereal way too much in the mornings.

Jason and I watched a documentary the other night, The Perfect Human Diet. While I don't necessarily agree with it entirely, we did learn some interesting things, and Jason suggested trying a paleo diet/lifestyle. We aren't going completely "paleo" though, but limiting our grains quite a bit more. Having only started this yesterday in full force, it's been a definite change.

I usually plan two weeks of meals and go grocery shopping for 90% of what we need every other Friday or Saturday and get perishables as needed the next week - milk and dairy, veggies, fruit -  which can be challenging in itself due to 14 dinners planned plus figuring out staples for breakfasts and lunches. The boys tend to take the same thing day after day, or at least week after week, which again can get boring.

On Saturday, after deciding to start planning for just a week, I attempted to find some new meals and while I found a few, I just couldn't concentrate. I remembered a site I'd heard about, eMeals, and decided to check into it. After a brief discussion with Jason, we signed up for a 3 month 7-day dinner meal plan - the paleo one - as well as adding on the 5-day lunch and 5-day breakfast menus. They give you a full week of dinners including recipes and grocery list, and for 5 days for the lunch and breakfast ones each.

There were 2 breakfast recipes we decided to skip (a smoothie and a pineapple cashew bar), but the other 3 look perfect for us to try. We are filling in cereal, scrambled eggs and toast or pancakes on the other 4 days this week. The lunches all look yummy and do-able. Today's was a parfait and pears with nut butter. I tweeked it a bit to fit our tastes, using regular french vanilla yogurt instead of french vanilla greek yogurt, granola cereal instead of pearl barley, and just strawberries rather than strawberries AND blueberries, and replacing nut butter with wowbutter, due to nut allergies at school. (I worry a lot, and even though there aren't allergies in either of the boys' classrooms, they aren't always diligent with the hand washing, etc and I'd hate for a friend in any other class that they see in the hall/lunch/recess that has an allergy to have a reaction. Better safe than sorry and they don't really mind :) )

Dinner last night was all new. Even though we've had ribs before, it was a new recipe. We baked baby-back pork ribs with a dry-rub for about 3 hours, till they were falling off the bone. For the side dishes, the boys had simply cheetos cheese puffs - no food coloring, although still processed, it's a compromise - and we all had spicy turnip greens. Having never cooked OR eaten turnip greens, I wasn't sure what to expect. With Jason's help in the kitchen, dinner turned out good! The turnip greens were sauteed/boiled with onions, garlic, olive oil, apple cider vinegar and dill pickle juice and then seasoned with sea salt and red pepper. They were sour, but not horrible. E and Alex really liked the ribs, with a bit of bbq sauce added, as did I. Jason ate them with and with out bbq sauce. Jack didn't want anything to do with the ribs. Jas, E, Alex and I ate the turnip greens - although the boys only had to try a small amount and weren't too enthusiastic, they did eat all of it! Jackson was leary about the whole meal to be honest, but did end up eating cheese puffs, a banana, and the ONIONS from the greens!! LOL. He kept saying "grapes, grapes" and pointing to the little diced onions, so Jason kept giving them to him.

Tonight, we are having fish and roasted veggies, and some baked fries for the boys. I have back-up stuff in the house just in case - fish sticks for the boys as the fish recipe sound a bit spicy. Although, they will probably at least eat some of it. I'm just glad they are willing to indulge me by trying this stuff ;) I won't be a short-order cook, but I'm willing to add something that I know they will eat to an all-new or mostly-new meal so they won't go hungry if they truly don't like it, and they are willing to eat at least a bite or two of most everything we offer them. Well except the toddler. He used to eat anything, but he's at a pickier stage now. That's ok. Just got to keep offering. Right?

One thing I'm not sure about with this new menu-plan thing is that I went way over budget for the week. I bought a week's worth of groceries, but spent almost all of our 2 weeks worth of grocery money...

Though I'm sure quite a few things are more than a week's supply - staples for the pantry. Plus we have 3 meals worth of meat that we had "extra" in the freezer from 2 weeks ago: a whole chicken and 2 lbs of ground beef. As well as adding an second roast since I bought 2 this week for a good price. We also usually have leftovers once a week, so we will do that, and move one of this week's meals to next week, as well as add one to next week, so that will only leave one dinner and then some breakfast/lunch items to buy. I will have to readjust our budget some though I think. It's a work in progress, but it will work out. I don't know when I've bought so much fresh produce!

I hope that nothing in the fridge freezes prior to tomorrow. We get our new one delivered tomorrow after 9am. I seriously can not wait!!! I've been watching the lettuce, kale and baby spinach, especially, like a hawk. They seem to freeze the easiest and then it's ruined. 24 hours!

I'm glad we decided to try this menu plan though. It's pleasing to all of us - Jason gets meat or seafood at every dinner (his favorite) and I get to serve more veggies and we get to try new things, while cutting down on the one thing I'm seriously addicted to: grains and starches. Plus it saves me time and energy. That makes me especially happy!

It's also October and we are trying - unbeknownst to Jason and the boys - eat less processed foods. Not completely unprocessed but much, much less.

We ordered pizza and cheesebread Friday night and all I could think about after and the next day was how much my stomach hurt. I mentioned it to Jason, and he said the same thing! It wasn't even that good tasting! Totally decided it's going to be quite awhile before we order pizza or even eat out anywhere.

How do you plan your meals? Do you cook a lot at home? Are you adventurous or at least willing to try new recipes or are you more conservative, sticking to your "old favorites"?