GETTING READY

We've just come through one of those weekends that don't feel very restful. We were in full divide-and-conquer mode. I hardly saw JB as we swapped kids in driveways and hallways. 

And so it was that I ended up standing at the kitchen counter last night—just before midnight—making a banana bread for this week's lunch boxes. In a haze of exhaustion, I ended up pressing the go button instead of the release on my electric mixer. 

Banana bread batter went everywhere and splattered all over the cupboards above the space I was standing. I didn't bother with them and headed to bed instead.

I know it's going to be one of those weeks—when I've got an impossible list to accomplish and a heart that wants to be somewhere else. 

I felt it first thing this morning as I swiped a cloth across the caked on batter and thought about how we really had to do something about our peeling kitchen cabinets, which then set off a rolling list of to-do, to-do, to-do that left me dizzy. 

This is the what happens to me when there's something I don't particularly want to deal with or face; I let my mind get cluttered with lists and distractions. 

My baby girl is turning four this weekend. I've been feeling a swirl of emotions for a few weeks now. And her building excitement has me near tears. I don't feel ready. 

Grateful?

Yes, deeply so. 

Sad?

Yes, that too.

Normally, JB throws me a good-natured eyeroll when I get like this, but he's feeling the same. 

Four is officially outside the baby days, isn't it?

No longer a baby or toddler, and well on the way past the preschool days.

Too big for the crib.

Too fast for a lift on the way to ballet class each week. 

Leahruns

She's leaving these days behind, which means we are too. 

This birthday will mean the early days of parenthood are over, and my heart hurts with the thought of it.

There are so many moments from the last twelve years that I want to remember, to hold on to, to go back and do again—because they gave me so much joy. 

My girl came along as I was stepping out of the haze of three kids in four years, as if to show me that I had figured it out. She has been on the receiving end of my best parenting and has filled a space we didn't know was there. 

She is the clasp that loops the very first days of parenthood to our present day life and holds it there, reminding us of the "remember whens" for each of our children. 

Last week, she caught me with my eyes closed, my mind somewhere else.

Why do you have your eyes closed, Mum-mum?

Oh I was just thinking about something.

I think you were making a wish, Mum-mum. I hope it comes true.

I opened my eyes and looked at her standing in front of me, eyes round with delight, dimples flashing on her slimmed down cheeks. 

And she reminded me again. Banana bread, peeling cabinets, homework, dance class, swimming lessons, date nights in the family room. 

All of it...my greatest wish already here. 

 

 

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{GUEST POST}: Back To School Bars

Happy New Year! It's good to be back to routine and familiar rhythms, isn't it? Though when it comes to making school lunches, I'm sure there are more than a few of us who want to stay in holiday mode awhile longer. 

Let me help by introducing my very first guest blogger, Maggie Savage. I approached Maggie because I'm not only a big fan of her blog She Let Them Eat Cake, but of her beautiful outlook on family life.

Maggie

Maggie has dedicated herself to cooking and living gluten-free since her husband was diagnosed with Celiac Disease in 2004 and later made the decision to raise her two young children gluten-free as well.

Although we aren't gluten-free at our house, we've become more aware of the value of reducing processed elements in the food we eat, which naturally eliminated a lot of gluten.

In the past year, I set a goal of putting less ready-made and more homemade food into my kids' lunches. I'm not perfect, but I'm trying. 

Maggie does a great job of showing us that gluten-free is not only healthy but delicious. Her photos are gorgeous and her knowledge and creativity are plentiful. 

Welcome, Maggie! So happy to have you here. 

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As we head into the new year (I know, I can’t believe it either), I feel like I’m stuck in a lunchbox rut.  My kids seem happy enough with the same old lunches, but I’m ready to switch things up a bit! 

Packing a healthy, delicious, nut-free and gluten-free lunch isn’t always that easy.  I like to make sure every lunch has some sort of a homemade treat.

Here are some tips to help you switch up the lunchbox a little.  

  • Find a good, nutrient-dense cupcake or cake recipe, make sure it’s one that your child has tested and approved. Top mini cupcakes (I use a mini muffin pan) with chocolate avocado pudding instead of sugar-filled icing. Keep a few frozen so you can pull them out on a moment’s notice – they’ll be thawed by lunchtime!
  • Get a good cookie recipe too – I like to make sure my school-bound baked goodies are nutrient dense and nut-free. Baking with grain-free flours and high protein grains will help to balance out the sugar rush and make for optimum learning (and less tummy aches).  I like to use unrefined sugars in my baking too (sucanat, coconut sugar, maple syrup, honey).
  • Get your kids into the kitchen and baking with you.  I let my kids pick a recipe from one of my cookbooks, that way I know they’re at least going to try it.  And we always have fun baking together, plus it’s basically science and math in action!  They’ll be proud when they see their baked good in the lunchbox.
  • Instead of buying granola bars, try making your own.  Store-bought granola bars are actually quite high in sugar and oils.  Making your own let’s you choose healthier ingredients, and you can cater the ingredients to your kiddies tastes. 

These gluten-free, dairy-free, and nut-free chocolate chip granola bars are delicious and nutritious (definitely not taste-free). 

Maggiebars

2 cups certified gluten-free oats (if gluten is an issue)

1 cup pumpkin seed flour (ground raw pumpkin seeds)

½ cup raw pumpkin seeds

½ cup raw sesame seeds or sunflower seeds

½ tsp sea salt

½ tsp ground cinnamon

½ cup coconut oil, liquefied

1 tbsp psyllium husks

½ cup local honey

2 tablespoons ground chia combined with ¼ cup water

2 teaspoons vanilla

½ cup chocolate chips or dried fruit

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1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 9×13 pan with parchment paper (put a little oil under the parchment to make it stick to the pan).

2. In a large bowl stir together the oats, pumpkin seed flour, pumpkin seeds, sesame or sunflower seeds, sea salt, and cinnamon.

3. In a smaller bowl, combine the coconut oil, psyllium husks, honey, chia and water mixture, and vanilla.

4. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and combine.  Fold in chocolate chips or dried fruit. 

5. Use a wet spatula to press the mixture into the prepared pan.

6. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes (watch them).  Cool ten minutes in the pan and then carefully remove the granola bars (still in parchment).  Cool another ten minutes and then carefully remove the parchment paper and let cool completely.   Cut into desired sizes.  Refrigerate granola bars in an air-tight container or wrapped in saran.  These can easily be stored in the freezer for future use.

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You can also be inspired by Maggie on Twitter and Facebook.

 

 

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POTS & PANS

A couple of weeks ago, my dad stopped by our house on a busy school night. He was supposed to be passing through, maybe to help drop one of the kids off at his/her after-school activity, but it happened that we were sitting down to a taco dinner when he arrived.

Oh I don't need a plate. I'm not eating, I'll have something when I get home.

I had a hunch it was because he'd never had a taco.  

So I made him one, while the kids began to giggle and clamour from their seats for a closer view of his very first taste.

Taco

He liked it, and we had a good laugh about the punchy taste of the salsa. 

It's not that he's picky or wary of new foods; that couldn't be further from the truth. Even though he was raised on a farm in Ireland, he jumped chopsticks-first into authentic Chinese cuisine when he fell in love with my mom. 

My dad will try anything, my mom raised her family on primarily Chinese meals. He shocked the monks on Yellow Mountain in China, by accepting their traditional food. He has dined from the road side carts all over rural Asia. He and my mom have travelled to the corners of the world together, and food has never been an issue. 

But here's the kicker. He'll try anything that my mom says he should and not much else—which means her tastesbuds have become his tastebuds. 

When we joined the two of them for dim sum, a few days after the taco-eating incident, my sister and I were prepared to give them a good ribbing about their five taco-free trips to Mexico.

He doesn't eat tacos, because I don't eat tacos, our mom said while placing a bean curd dumpling into his bowl. 

We know, but don't you think it's ridiculous? 

No. It's just the way we are. 

There was no apology or sheepishness written on either of their faces.

We dropped it and went back to sharing our meal. 

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I keep thinking about it though.

The differences in their marriage, when I compare it to mine.

Though I would never think to tell JB what he should eat, we've made decisions my parents would never make for their own relationship.

My memory takes me to the pots and pan aisle of a department store, soon after I found out where I'd be going to graduate school. It was the same university that my boyfriend of two years was headed. We never pretended it was a coincidence.

We stood side-by-side, and she reached for a wok big enough for one, while I let my eyes fall on one with room for two. 

You don't need anything too big. It's just you.

I didn't tell her there, even though I knew she was looking for my reassurance. But I did soon after. 

We were moving in together: no marriage, no engagement.

All we had was the certainty that it was the right to move forward together. It was enough for me. It wasn't for her. 

There were weeks of cold silence. 

There were phone calls that ended in hang ups. 

At the three week mark, I was headed into the shower when I saw her number come up on the call display. I turned the water off and focused on the tiled wall, waiting for her to speak.

I just don't know why you're doing this to me.

She went right to my weak spot and struck hard.

The expectation that I should make my decisions so they fit other people's expectations of me. 

We both knew it had always been my way.

I wanted her to want more for me. I wanted her to be ready for me to leave that behind.

I am not doing this to you. I am doing it for me. 

And finally, we both cried. 

She never came into the house we shared, we always went to her. But still, she let herself fall in love with the boy who is now her son-in-law. She loved us around our choice to conduct our relationship in a way she wouldn't. 

I've thought a lot about the reason my mom decides what my dad should eat—she worries about his heartburn or thinks he won't like the taste of something new—and decided I don't have to.

I can have my ideas about why it's something I wouldn't do, but it's not my place to suggest they change their minds, anymore than it was her place to change my mind all those years ago. 

There is so much value in navigating my marriage alongside and in the wake of my parents' marriage. 

They never waver in doing what works for them, and they make no apologies for the choices they make together. 

That mindset has served me well, especially in recent months. And I'm very grateful for it.

Maybe we'll have tacos again together, maybe we won't. 

It doesn't really matter. 

 

 

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{Giveaway}: love notes

Luvunote
Getting four kids up, fed, dressed, packed and out the door for school each day feels a bit like running a marathon. And I'm doing it five days a week. There isn't a lot of room in our finely-tuned routine for one-on-one chats or extra hugs—even when I know they could use them. 

So I sneak the occasional note into their agendas or lunch bags, to let them know they are never far from my thoughts.  

Bentonotes

To help keep my awesome readers and fellow lunch-makers inspired, I've partnered with Every Day Grace (owned by mom and fellow lunch-maker, Lindsay) to give one lucky reader some Love Notes 4 Lunch Totes.

Your kids already know you love them, but an little reminder never hurts. 

Just leave a comment below, letting me know how the first month of school is going for you and your crew. I always appreciate helpful ideas and tips, too.

I'll randomly select the winner in a couple of weeks and Lindsay will send the love notes to your front door!

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If you want to see what I got up to in the bento boxes the first week, find me on Instagram

Easy not fancy, that's how I get it done. 

 

 

 

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