Taking Charge of Your Health – Part II of III

In my family’s quest to get healthier, we have faced many challenges and discovered lots of easy (and some not-so easy) ways to improve our health.  I thought I would share the things that we have done.  If you missed the previous post – Part I, click here.

Any change that you can make right away is a change for the better.  Remember to not beat yourself up about what you are doing “wrong” and focus on what you can improve on today.  You must be your own health advocate.

Ideas to improve your health: Move

Sitting is the new smoking! Sit less; walk or at least stand more.  Our bodies were designed to move.  Before the Industrial Revolution, humans had to work hard and exercise was not even necessary.  Technology has given us many benefits, however, it has come with a price.  It has taken away our need to move.  We have portable devices and remote controls.

Start by moving while you are doing something that doesn’t necessarily involve a lot of movement.  For example, while brushing your teeth, you can do stretches or squat up against the wall.  You have to brush your teeth, so instead of just standing by the sink, M-O-V-E!


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This Book is a Great Resource

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View this book here.

Health Choices: Food Labels

-Cut out High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) from all foods.  The book I am reading, The Daniel Plan recommends that if you can only do one thing to change your eating habits, that you cut out HFCS from everything that you consume.  Companies acquire HFCS by taking the fructose out of fruits.  When you eat fruit with natural sugar in it, the sugar is accompanied by other mineral and vitamins.

-Cut out MSG from all foods.  Research these terms because the food industry is tricky and there are so many different names! Here’s another The Daniel Plan plug: look at the picture below (taken from page 115 in the book) to see just how sneaky the food industry has become.  There are SO many names for MSG.  The consumer really needs to be educated.

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MSG makes you hungry and makes you eat more.  Great for the food industry’s profit/sales; terrible for the consumer’s health.

Grocery shopping? Shop the perimeter.

This is where all the produce is located. A good rule of thumb is: Live foods bring life to the body and dead foods bring death to the body -Terri Seacrest. Another rule: If it comes from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, run! – modified from The Daniel Plan. Natural foods include plants, grains, beans, and some dairy and meat.

Did you ever stop to wonder why or how the boxed foods have such a long shelf life?  How does the food keep so well and not spoil?  It’s loaded with junk and chemicals, that’s how!  Some natural products have a longer shelf life, but it all depends on the ingredients.  Not much (if anything) can survive in vinegar, so items with vinegar as the ingredient have a longer shelf life.

One trick that my family uses to wash all of our produce is: Soak in vinegar and water. Put the produce in the sink, fill it with water and add one cup of vinegar.  Soak for 10 minutes.  Rinse produce off and let air dry.  Many fruits are better left out instead of putting them in the refrigerator, so do your research on that too.

Find easy and healthy meals for weeknights.

I look on Big Oven, but who am I kidding, mostly Pinterest for recipes.  Sometimes weeknights are pretty crazy with a little one and a house to maintain, but I try to prepare all of our meals with real ingredients.   You know, like words that you can say out loud without thinking you’re in a chemistry class mixing chemicals.  Chicken, veggies, salad, etc.  The more that you can make for your family, the better.

A good rule of thumb is if you buy anything in the store already made (think pie crusts, dough, meal bags that you just throw on the stove to heat up) it’s probably not good for you.  Just be careful when you are reading the labels.  My family has found a few products in the aisles that are quite good.  The original flavor of Triscuit crackers has simple, real ingredients.

Another great idea for weeknight meals is to double up.  Some meals are easier to do this than others obviously.  For this, you just double (or triple) what you are making; you bake one for dinner and put the other(s) in the freezer for another night.  My favorite for this is Baked Ziti and Chicken Tetrazzini.  If you can’t double up, at least meal plan to save yourself some cooking time.  I will cook more meat one night and then do something different with it the next night.  Last night I made chicken and rice in the Instant Pot (see below) and veggies on the stove in a skillet.  Tomorrow I am going to take the extra cooked chicken to make quesadillas.

Invest in an Instant Pot pressure cooker.

I love my Instant Pot!  It cooks foods quickly without heating up your home (like the stove) and each food maintains its flavor (unlike the crockpot).  I can throw – and yes sometimes I literally throw – the food into the Instant Pot when I get home from work, push a few buttons and leave it.  By the time I have unloaded the car, changed, packed lunches for the next day and set the table, dinner is ready, waiting and being kept warm for me.  It’s a rather large investment, but WELL worth every penny.  Some weeknights, I don’t know what I did before I had this great little thing.  I can’t even remember the last time I used the crockpot.

Health Advocate: Oil pulling

Your body has many toxins that it needs to rid itself of and there are many natural processes that do this.  Oil pulling is a way to detox right in your mouth.  You put coconut oil in your mouth and swish it around for 15-20 minutes and then spit it out.  Yes, you read that correctly 20 minutes.  I usually do this in the morning while I am packing lunches and fixing breakfast.  Make sure you drink a glass of water before so you can sustain the length of time.  I like to add essential oils to the coconut oil for additional benefits.  See the recipe that I use here.  I only recommend using Young Living essential oils because they guarantee that their oils are 100% pure.  I have another post on essential oils here.  See more information below.

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You still brush your teeth, oil pulling is done in addition to this routine.  I try to pull the water through my molars really well, as it is hard to brush there.  Flossing is painful and my teeth are so close together I haven’t been able to find a floss that works.  I just went to the dentist and they said my teeth look great and told me to continue what I was doing.  It’s the first time in years that they haven’t lectured me about flossing.  I don’t know if everyone will have the same results, but oil pulling works for me!  I try to do it 4 times a week.

Health Advocate: Dry Brushing

Okay, if you thought that oil pulling was weird, this one may really make your scratch your head.  To purchase the exact same one that my family ordered, click here.  Basically, you rub the brush across your skin in stroke-like motions toward your heart.  It stimulates the lymphatic system, detoxes the body, increases circulation and exfoliates the body.  Read more information here.  It was really weird at first and probably wasn’t pleasant for about a week.  Once you get used to it, I think you will enjoy it.

 

Remember to make small changes that your family is capable of and comfortable with so you can experience the health benefits.  It takes 21 days to form a new habit.  Give yourself grace and mercy when (not if) you mess up.  Try not to harp on your failures, instead celebrate your successes!

Click here to read Part III.

Having A Christian Marriage

Last weekend, my church the Uprising, had two guest speakers from Georgia come to speak to couples about being in a Christian marriage.  Wanda & Michael Collins spoke about how a Christian marriage should operate, tips to keep your marriage holy, and its purpose.

Best Christian marriage seminar
This image is from their website.

1. JESUS is coming soon.  Make sure your relationship with GOD is solid.  They encouraged husbands to guard & protect their wives spiritually.  Make sure that you have your own relationship with God and that you pray together, but also separately.  Read the Word together also.

2. Remain faithful & pure.  You need to set boundaries for yourself.  Be mindful of the media & its agenda.

I can’t believe how fast food places are using sexy models to sell their burgers now.  It’s craziness!  One thing that Wanda kept saying over & over again was to guard your gates: your ears & eyes.  Pay attention to what you are watching and listening to.  Watching television with promiscuous behavior and listening to music with profanity will infiltrate your sub conscience and affect you.

Great Advice for Anyone

3. BE passionate for GOD, not just lukewarm.  -See Revelation 3:15.  This reminds me of the movie War Room where the lady gives the other woman lukewarm coffee to prove this point.  Cold and hot both have their place; you can’t do anything with lukewarm.  God wants you to be passionate about Him because He is passionate for you!  Wanda pointed out something that I had never thought of before.  In the Old Testament, when they gave sacrifices to God, they brought the sacrifice to the alter & killed it for God.  When many people marry, they do it at the alter – showing that you die to yourself for your spouse.

4. Dying to Self.  If Christ died for His bride, why can’t you?  Ephesians 5:26, Galatians 2:20.  The speakers pointed out that you shouldn’t let your flesh control you – that’s your mind, will, emotions – instead, you should allow the Holy Spirit to control your actions.  -Luke 22:42

This helps with your witnessing to others.  We need to let Christ live through us to show others the way, not just give lip service!  As Christ-followers, we need to stand out.  Dying to yourself will definitely make others curious, which opens the door for some honest sharing.

5. Ask GOD to fill you with Holy Spirit because you can’t do this on your own.  They said to think of something that your spouse does that drives you crazy.  Maybe it’s not turning the lights off when you leave the room, chewing with their mouth open, interrupting you when you are talking, etc.  Your spouse was given to you by God to help develop you.  Your spouse is killing you because they are helping you die to yourself!

We all need sandpaper in our lives.  Some people are the coarse and others are the fine sanding.  At the end, there is a beautiful masterpiece, but the process can be painful.  Your spouse helps make you a better person.

Powerful Advice for Christian Marriages

6. The Collins’ gave this important request to wives: Give your husbands quiet time so that he can hear from GOD.  Wives are not the Helper.

So many women (myself included!) talk so much that there is little time for quiet.  Don’t feel like you have to fill every moment with sound.  The silent brings a calmness – Be still & know that I am GOD.

Make sure that you (wives) guard your words and are in tune with Holy Spirit.  Ephesians 5:25.  They reminded wives to keep GOD a first priority, husband as the 2nd and children as 3rd.  This is very difficult to do sometimes.  It is very easy to put your children before your husband.  That’s not how GOD designed it.  Just remember: you have your children with you directly for only a season, but GOD designed marriage to last for the rest of your life.

7. Next, for the husbands: put your wife before other people & things.  Take the lead in dying to yourself.  Nothing but God should come before your wife.  Not your job, your phone, even your ministry!  Your marriage is a ministry.  The Collins’ encouraged couples to create a mission/vision statement for their marriage.

If you are constantly putting the other spouse first, many problems and arguments can be avoided.

marriage advice for Christian marriages
Stop fighting each other!

8. They closed with this: How do you know you’ve died to yourself?  Your responses will change because you’re trying to please the Father.  Remember: your spouse isn’t trying to cause you harm!  That’s the will of the devil.  You should not be fighting your spouse [both of you pointing guns at each other]; the two of you should be fighting off the devil and attacks together [both of you standing back to back with guns pointing outward-think the Charlie’s Angels stance].  Fight the real enemy, not each other.  They encouraged couples to use their story to make a difference.

The purpose of your marriage is to make you holy & glorify GOD.  Make you HOLY not HAPPY.

Other Resources:

They recommended a book: Sacred Marriage.  Sounds like a great read.

I highly recommend using the Collins’ website.  It’s jam packed with devotionals, coupons and other resources with information to benefit your Christian marriage.

Here’s the website of my church.  Find sermons and information on other activities.

What I try to remember is this: love is not always a feeling, some days it’s a choice.  No matter how you feel, you made a promise to GOD that you would love your spouse until the end of your life.  There will be hard times mixed in with the good.  Don’t give up during your lowest points!  That’s when GOD can grow and stretch you the most!

Our relationship with GOD and each other has always grown immensely in trying times.  Marriage is no exception to that rule.  Don’t give in to popular culture and think if something is “broken” that you throw in the towel.  Fix it, make amends, try something different, talk to someone you trust, and pray of course!

Try to love your spouse the way that GOD loves your spouse.

Taking Charge of Your Health – Part I of III

Great health tips - know that you are eating pure, real stuff

Okay, so my family started changing our health for the better about 2 1/2 years ago when we were expecting our first child.  We decided it was time to stop talking about getting healthy and just do it!  Little did I know that our decision would change our lives forever!  Now, please don’t think that I believe I have it all figured out.  I am still learning new health tips and tricks every week.  Just wanted to share with my readers some things that we have learned along the way.

To make it easier, ideas will be presented going from simple changes to more drastic lifestyle changes.  You don’t necessarily have to go in order; this order just made sense to me.


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Step 1: Drink Water for Your Health

Drink half your weight in ounces of water and get at least 8 hours of sleep each night.

I know, I know.  Drinking that much water is difficult.  It is much easier to do when water is the only thing that you drink.  We love our Hydroflask travel containers and my hubby loves to drink beer out of their flask.  Stainless steel is way better than plastic and it maintains the temperature.

I have a glass of water before I eat every meal.  The best thing for your digestive system is to drink water at least 15 minutes before and after the meal, not while you are eating.  Drinking while eating disrupts the normal enzymes that are breaking down the food you are eating by watering them down.  It’s also better to drink water that is room temperature – unless it is during the summer and your body needs to be cooled down.

I know there are some devoted soda drinkers reading this……. It’s always a good idea to research what you are consuming.  I read somewhere that a bottle of Coke has like 37 teaspoons of sugar in it!  Sodas are empty calories.  Let.Them.Go.  I had a family member give up sodas cold turkey and she lost like 10 pounds!

You are going to have to use the restroom more often, which although might be inconvenient, is actually better for your body.  Flushing your system out is a great way to rid your body of toxins.

Side note: Sleep should be a no-brainer, but we always seem to cut into sleep time.  Sleeping gives your body time to relax and reset for the next day.  Not getting enough sleep affects your mood, metabolism and energy level.

Great health tips - know what you are eating

Step 2: Be Educated about Your Health

Educate yourself about the food industry and tricks. Check out Food Inc. on Netflix.  The food industry has basically hi-jacked the food that we consume.  Between genetically modifying the cellular structure of produce to pumping animal meat with all kinds of hormones, they are really causing havoc in our bodies.  The consumer prefers breast meat, so the food industry has modified chickens to have larger breasts than normal.  There are NO studies available to show the long term effects this has on the humans who consume the food!  And we wonder why children in 3rd grade are going through puberty…….The bottom line is that the food industry is out to make money.  They modify ingredients because it’s cheaper to use fake sugar than the real stuff.  Also, sugar makes food more addictive, so that’s why it’s in almost everything.  EDUCATE yourself people because the food industry is not your friend.

Read the ingredients of the food you buy. Don’t just look at the Nutrition label!  A good rule is if you don’t know how to say the ingredient out loud, you shouldn’t be eating it.  Also, the fewer ingredients, the better.  So many boxed foods contain ingredients that are 18 letters long and look like they belong in a chemistry lab.  You need to know what you are eating!

Step 3: Don’t Eat Out

Eat out sparingly. When eating out, it is really hard to know exactly what you are eating and to eat healthy. So, eating out should be a treat.  We reserve eating out for special occasions.  It’s okay to give in to cravings and eating the not-so-healthy foods every once in a while.  This prevents binging on foods when you deprive yourself of them.

It has also been great that I wash and cut our vegetables to have on hand. When you are hungry, you want something to eat right then; not something that has to be washed and cut. When you are hungry, laziness WILL win.  If you have the choice between fresh cut veggies and greasy potato chips, your body really wants the veggies.  Healthy foods that are all ready to eat increase the chances of you actually eating them.

Step 4: Clean Out Bad Foods

This is a big one.  Clean out your pantry.  If you currently have foods in your house that are awful for you and your family to consume, the best thing to do is get rid of them.  Now, I am not one to toss perfectly good food – meaning it hasn’t expired yet.  But, if you really want to take control of your health, this is a vital step.  You don’t necessarily have to throw the food away.  Find a local food pantry or homeless shelter in your area and donate the food.  It’s a win-win.  Your family instantly has the bad food temptation removed and some people who have nothing to eat can at least feel full.

Great recipe for healthy waffles!

This one was really hard for me.  I do NOT like throwing food away and felt like we were being wasteful when we boxed up all the food we didn’t think we should eat any more.  After a few weeks, I began to understand just how powerful food can become.  DO NOT let your food cravings control you.

Mind over matter really works.  When your body is used to eating whole, healthy ingredients, it will not want the other junk.  Sometimes I will see how long I can go without [insert your favorite indulgence] just to test myself.  Remember, it’s all a balance.  Try to eat mostly healthy and allow yourself to “cheat” every once in a while, but not so often that it becomes a habit.  We try to live by the 90/10 rule.  That’s 90% of the time we eat healthy and 10% of the time we give in to cravings of not-so-healthy foods.

The most important thing that I have learned through this process is to give yourself grace.  You will make mistakes.  You will mess up.  That’s what learning is all about, though!  Don’t get discouraged!

Click here to read Part II.

For more information, check out my video:

Organizing Essential Oil Bottles

After being a Young Living distributor for over two years, we have accumulated quite a few bottles of different essential oils.  We ordered cases to store them, but not only was that getting expensive, but the cases have tops.  This makes them great for travel, but not so home-friendly.  The way we were organizing essential oil bottles had to change!

How to store essential oils on the cheap!
We love the case and the cap labels, but are running out of room!

After doing lots of research, the containers that were available to purchase just seemed like too much money.  My husband suggested that we use the containers that the company sends the oils in since they basically cost us nothing extra.  So, we started saving the containers.

Making Your Own Storage / Organization

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These are the containers that we were shipped in one month’s large order.  It doesn’t take long to build the collection needed to store a large amount of oils.

Store essential oil bottles using materials that you probably have on hand.

Cut the tubes to the desired height.  Hubby used a hack saw to cut them.  We decided to cut them all the same so the small 5 ml bottles would also fit.  I used a ruler to make the rows straight.

Essential oil bottle storage!

Attach the cut tube pieces to a piece of cardboard that you have already cut.  (Measure how large you want to make it first.)  I started using hot glue to attach, but then I ran out so hubby picked up some tacky glue at Lowe’s and that worked great.  Glue, place, press.  Repeat.

How to store essential oil bottles in the home.

Here’s what it looks like!  This storage system works great for us.  I measured and created this to fit in a drawer in one of our cabinets.  That’s awesome because you can customize this to whatever size you want.

As we get more oils, we re-arrange the bottles.  Our type A personalities require us to store the oils in alphabetical order.  Yes, I re-organize them each time we get a new oil.  It just makes it so much easier to find what you are looking for!  This system makes it easy to change where the bottles are placed.

Storing this amount of bottles can be very challenging.  I hope that you find this helpful!

Learn more about Young Living here.  Read more about essential oils here and here.

Ways to $ave money

Saving money is definitely important in all aspects of life, but especially if you are trying to pay off debt.  The average American household as of April 2014 has $203,163 worth of debt including mortgage, student loans, credit cards, etc. (Source).  I’m almost positive that this number must be higher now.  Our cultural mentality is gimme gimme more more more.  I’ve written about de-cluttering in a previous post.  Less is more, especially when you don’t really have the money.  So, with that being said, let’s talk about some ways to save some dough.  These are listed in no specific order…….

  • IMG_3075Make a Budget and stick to it!  Have a monthly budget meeting.  You can learn more from Dave Ramsey here.  In fact, if you are trying to pay off some debt, I strongly recommend going through the Financial Peace University.  That will give you some ideas and tools to really attack your debt.  Great starting point.
  • Shop second hand.  Consignment shops, thrift stores, used/refurbished online items.  There are many great items in my closet and home that we have purchased used.
  • Cancel monthly trash pick up.  You will have to check with your state to see if you are able to do this.  We live in Delaware and order cards from the state to take trash bags to the transfer station.  There is an upfront cost of purchasing a large container to hold your trash and recycled materials, but it is well worth it.  We were spending about $35 per month on trash and recycling services.  Now, we are spending about $30 per YEAR!  My husband takes a load about every two weeks.  It does take some time, but the financial gain was awesome!
  • Cancel Netflix/Hulu/DirecTV services.  My household has talked about this, but we haven’t actually done it yet.  Families spend too much time watching television when they could be doing other things together.  This not only saves money, but gives a gift of TIME.
  • When preparing meals for dinner, double or triple the recipe.  This also gives you the gift of TIME.  Make two or three of whatever you are preparing and freeze the extras.  It’s not that hard to make more when all of the ingredients are already out.  Then, you have extra meals that you simply take out of the freezer and bake/warm-up.
  • Don’t go shopping.  We stopped going to the mall after doing the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University.  We were spending too much money on things that we really didn’t even need.  Instead of going to the mall, we take a walk, go to the zoo, etc.  Read more about family activities here.
  • Get creative on dates.  See who can find the best coupon, price, deal, etc.   We like to put J to bed and then do something together at home.  It’s easier and cheaper.  Minimal planning.
  • Call companies and ask for a cheaper rate.  Usually when you threaten to to cancel a service, companies will find all of these great deals for you, which has always frustrated me.  If they can offer it when you complain, why not just give it to me to begin with?!  We have called our car insurance, Internet provider and cell phone provider.
  • Grocery shop using a list.  During your budget meeting, you will need to decide what amount you have available to spend on food.  Use that to meal plan and create your list.  We use the Buy Me a Pie app to create our grocery list.
  • Don’t buy things just because they’re on sale.  This one is really hard for me.  I love a bargain.  But, I was buying things because I liked the price, not necessarily the item itself.  Now, I decide whether I like it before I see the price, and then decide if I will buy it after I see the price.
  • Sleep one night before making major $ decisions.  Buying cars is not a fun process for most people.  Even though you just want to get the process over with, we have found that if you leave the lot and then decide, you are less likely to make the wrong decision.
  • Ditch the drugstore.  Stock up on homeopathic supplies instead of going to the drugstore.  Essential oils, Rescue Remedy, and Sovereign Silver are all great ways to support your body’s systems.
  • Amazon subscribe & save.  If you sign up on Amazon to receive items monthly to save a percentage.  You can have items shipped every month, every two months, or any amount of time.  You are allowed to skip a shipment.  If you get more than one item doing the subscribe & save during one month, you get extra savings.  Read more here.
  • Use the envelope system.  This is another Dave Ramsey trick.  After budgeting, put specific amounts of cash in envelopes.  When the cash is gone, you can’t buy any more.
  • Empty all change into a jar.  When you use cash, don’t pay for things with change.  Put your change in the jar and when it’s full, use it to do something special.
  • Don’t buy clothes.  This was really hard for me.  I love to shop.  And I love clothes.  When you think about it, we really don’t need that many clothes.
  • Use online banking.  Stamps are so expensive!  Save the money on stamps and checks by setting up online banking.  This also saves TIME!
  • Make your own bread.  I love bread.  After looking at the ingredients and doing my own research, I learned that High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is really bad for you.  Read more about food here.  All the bread that we were purchasing had HFCS in it.  I found a great recipe online here.  It is a process because you make the dough in the bread machine, let it rise, then bake it.  I usually double the recipe.  It is the best bread I have tasted!  Sweet enough to eat plain, perfect for sandwiches.
  • Remove saved credit card information online.  It is much too convenient to make a purchase!  If you know that you have to find the card and enter all of that information in manually, you will think twice about making the purchase.  Online shopping is great, but it can be expensive because of how easy it is!
  • Make breakfast sandwiches ahead of time and freeze.  Stopping at fast food places to grab breakfast on a busy morning is bad for your health and your wallet.  When I was pregnant and eating several meals a day, I would eat breakfast at home, but was ready to eat again by the time I got to work.  Teaching made it difficult because I’m not really supposed to eat in front of the students.  I would bring in breakfast sandwiches and eat one right before the students came to school.  It’s really easy to find lots of recipes for these on Pinterest.
  • Embrace a simplistic lifestyle.  LESS is MORE!  Think birthdays & Christmas…… We decided that J would only receive a few presents for her birthday and Christmas.  Something to wear, something to read, something she wants & something she needs.  Although she is only two, we plan to continue this so she doesn’t learn to expect all of this STUFF.  It makes me sick to hear how much money people are spending on their children for Christmas and birthdays.  The retail industry really has ruined holidays.  I want to teach her about the meanings behind why we celebrate, not set her up for a life time of expectations.

Hope this can help another family!  Money issues always bring tension in a relationship.  Don’t let your stuff take over your life.  Take control of your finances today!

 

 

Family Fun for Free or on the Cheap

Have you ever noticed that planning activities for a family can be an overwhelming and expensive task?  You have to figure time, gas (if driving), food and cost of whatever you are doing.  It can seem like nothing is free, but there are some easy things that you can plan for free or cheap.  Family fun time is so important!  I feel like the enemy is always trying to distract me with things that aren’t as important as they seem.  Here’s a few activities that my family do on occasion:

Family Fun

Some Ideas:

1. Walk.  This is great for your health because it is exercise and forces you to spend time relationally with each other.  No electronics allowed!  That might make you dizzy anyway.  I have read that walking helps flush out your systems – that’s detoxing – plus it gets you out in the fresh air.  Obviously, this one is weather dependent.  My family loves to walk when the weather cooperates.

2. Build forts inside the house.  Okay this one is a must for building creativity in your kids.  It’s terrible how many hours young children, teens, and adults for that matter spend on screens (myself included!).  Using cushions from furniture, a few chairs, and some sheets, you can easily construct something for kids to play in.  Add something extra by eating a snack in the fort or playing a game.  This is great because it can be done at any time, regardless of the weather.

3. Play outside.  Here’s another one that brings back memories from my childhood.  It seems like kids don’t even know how to play outside anymore.  I remember being outside all day with my younger brother, only coming inside to eat.  We made up our own games which were really silly, but we had fun.  When it’s nice outside, send kids out to play.  It’s not hard to build a sandbox; if you’re not into DIY, you can pick them up pretty cheap.  *Trick: sprinkle cinnamon in the sand to keep the creepy crawlies out.

family fun

4.  Go to the zoo.  Most zoos run specials and smaller town zoos are even free.  Pack a lunch and cameras.  My daughter is only two and we have already been to the zoo dozens of times.  I just read that the Philadelphia Zoo (pictured above) offers free summer admission for educators!  Check it out here.  The site is dated for 2015, so I will keep checking to see if it is updated for this current year.

More Ideas:

5. Look at older pictures/watch old home videos.  I have dozens of scrapbooks I made back when I had time –  before I was a mom.  My daughter loves to look through the pictures and that gives me the perfect opportunity to talk to her about what happened in the pictures.  It also helps her with name recognition of family members.

6. Scavenger hunt.  This one takes some preparation so you need to plan ahead.  My mom was great about doing scavenger hunts when they had a surprise for us.  One year, she sent me & my brother on a scavenger hunt with all of these clues hidden all over the house to tell us that we were going to Disney World.  She picked up Disney / Florida things on the cheap – yard sales, thrift stores, etc.  It is fun and exciting for children.

7. Prepare a meal together.  This would work best with older children.  J loves to be in the kitchen, but she’s not old enough yet to actually help.  I give her kitchen utensils and bowls so she can pretend, but older kids could really be a part of the preparation.  It’s always fun to get everyone in the kitchen, as long as your kitchen is not super tiny!  Prepare, eat, clean up, relax together as a family.  It’s always a good idea to eat together as a family at the dinner table.  Talk about your day; you could even plan your next fun activity as a family.  No electronics!

8. Play games.  Break out the board games!  Candy Land, Monopoly, Checkers, card games (My husband’s family plays Hand & Foot, but this is very difficult for younger children.  Would be great if your children are teens or older!), JengaCootie, etc.  So many families allow themselves to be distant from one another and do not interact.  Have a weekly game night – again, no electronics allowed!

Make Time for Your Family

The main goal for family activities is to do things together.  Be in the present.  Put down the Smart phone.  In fact, put it on silent.  Communicate to others that you will be spending time with your family and allow them to leave a voicemail or text.  Keep the family time sacred!  Be a part of your children’s lives.  Know their friends, dreams, goals, ambitions.  Make sure that they feel that they are important to you and that they matter to God.  Listen to your children with all of your attention, not “listening” while checking your e-mail or texting.  I know that this is extremely difficult in the culture that we live in, but it is super important! Make time for your family.

Overall Health and Wellness

My family has been on a health journey for a few years where we are trying to improve our overall health and wellness.  So, I’ve been doing a lot of research on the various products that consumers use on a daily basis.  Its seems that for whatever reason, our country is very slack about regulating dangerous ingredients.

In addition, the average consumer doesn’t even really pay attention to the ingredients.  I can’t tell you how many people I have talked to who have no idea what natural flavors are…….. They are in almost everything!  What surprises me the most is that these same people are not concerned or bothered in any way that their food has this general ingredient in it.  Over the past two years, my family has slowly made the switch to eating more wholesome foods.  You know, like the kind where you can spell/say ALL of the ingredients.  There are some companies that are getting it right.  Every now & then, we will find a new product that has real food as ingredients.

Take Time to Do Your RESEARCH

Many food companies unfortunately are only in it for the profit with little or no regard to the general health of the consumer.  It is up to the consumer to do their own research and spend the extra 10 seconds in the aisle looking through the ingredients.  There are so many people who do not want to do that!  I wonder how many of our diseases are prevalent because of the food/junk that we are filling our bodies with.  Do your research.  Know what you are eating.  If I can’t pronounce or don’t know the ingredient in something, I generally won’t buy it.  The chips below were a recent find at Sam’s Club. Three ingredients!

Read the ingredients of what you are putting into your body. If you can't even say the ingredient out loud, do you think you should be eating it?

I like to apply the real ingredient rule to all products in my home.  Home care products are perhaps the worst.  Many ingredients of well known and used companies are known carcinogens and endocrine system disruptors.  The skin absorbs ingredients too!  If you wouldn’t eat it, don’t put it on your skin.

Clutter is bad

…….. Having clutter says a lot about the current culture that we live in.  Many people believe that more is better, but I’m here to tell you that it is NOT.  Having more stuff means you have more stuff to clean/clean around.  It means that you have spent time & money on something that does not serve a purpose.  I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have nice things.  Just remember: they are things.  I hate cleaning to begin with, but when you add moving 50,000 things around just to dust, it becomes completely overwhelming!

This tiny living movement is encouraging, although, I don’t think at this stage in my life that I am willing to sacrifice that much space with a child and God-willing more to come.  At least, it’s making people think about what is important and what can be relocated.  Sell your stuff to make some extra cash, donate to a local thrift store, give to needy.  The options are endless.  And although it may be really difficult to get started, it is well worth the effort.

I think the hardest part of the home for me to get rid of was in my closet.  I don’t know what it is about women and clothing, but man was that hard.  Once I made the first step, it has become really easy and FREEING to scale down my wardrobe.

I read somewhere that everything we own holds a place in our subconscious mind.  Whoa.  Every. Single. Thing.  I have moved several times, so I know how much stuff we have.  Just that thought alone has made me more willing to let go of things that really have no purpose or meaning.

I encourage you to try it.  Pick one room in your home and look around.  Is there anything in it that doesn’t serve a purpose?  Could you do without something for two weeks?  Two months?  Two years?  If you don’t even know that you have it, shouldn’t it be used by someone else?  I promise that once you start, you will feel so much better.  If one room is too intimidating, try one area.  I used to be big into scrapbooking, so I focused on my scrapping stuff.  Start somewhere.  This week.  Challenge accepted?

My Top Ten: Infant

So, here are my favorite products that we used with our first baby.  Some of these are a true investment, meaning they cost a lot more than other products.  We believe in spending more for the quality and do not want to cut corners when safety is an issue.  Keep reading to learn about the best products we love!


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  1. blog pic 2 Phil & Ted’s lobster high chair.  This thing is really expensive, but worth every penny.  J is almost 2 and we can still easily use it….. I think we put her in it starting around 6 months.  It clamps onto the table and is VERY secure.  Trust me, as a first time mom I was a little skeptical about how safe this was until I used it once.  Sold.  Will never be without it again.  It also travels very nicely, folds up & has a carrying case.  It is worth the spurge for my family.
  2. Lotus bed.   Another pricy option compared to the Pack n’ Play.  I especially liked this one because I nursed J and could lay next to her with the side zip closure.  And for all of your worry wart moms like me, there is a secure closure with the zipper so the baby can’t get out.  This is another thing that can be used well past the infant years.  We recently stayed in a hotel and J slept in it without a problem.
  3. Violet singing dog.  This stuffed dog is made by Leapfrog and can be programmed with your child’s name, and you can select what kind of music it plays.  We used to turn this on every time we wanted J to sleep: nap & bedtime.  She is almost 2 now and turns it on herself.  Great for travel also.  We don’t stay anywhere overnight without it.  I was leery about having a mobile for the crib, so we went without and used Violet instead (on the floor in front of the crib when J was really little).  The boyish version’s name is Scout.
  4. Baby Bjorn stool.  I am short.  We purchased a super nice convertible crib and dresser set before J was born.  We were thinking long term and the dresser is very tall.  This stool has been a life saver for me – invest in one if you are vertically challenged also.  When J gets a little older, we plan to use this for in front of the sink.  The other stools seemed to give a little when I stood on them – this stool seems like it could hold hundreds of pounds.   We know that it holds at least 180 pounds.  Another more expensive option, but remember: you often do get what you pay for.
  5. blog pic Puj tub.  My husband and I are not really into clutter (see other posts) and did not want to purchase those infant tubs.  They take up so much room and we did not want to have to think about storing.  This tub fits in the sink and travels amazingly!  We used this until J was old enough to sit up on her own in the sink.
  6. Chicco Keyfit car seat.  Sadly, I was unable to find the travel system including stroller that we used.  This car seat has amazing reviews and really makes transition from car to house / house to car easy on mom and baby.  There were many times that J would fall asleep in the car and we could just unlock the car seat, set the car seat inside, and let her SLEEP.  The base stays in the car and the seat can lock/unlock in place.
  7. Tommee Tippee bottles.  I nursed, but having bottles was a nice option.  We used them when we were out for shorter trips and if we wanted to go out on a date.  When I went back to work, obviously, bottles were needed.  We bought smaller ones for when J was an infant, but I wish we had just purchased these larger ones from the beginning.  These bottles do not leak like Dr. Brown bottles and they are shaped so babies can easily hold them. I’d recommend at least a three pack.  You go through these things like crazy!
  8. Nose Freda.  Okay.  Hear me out on this one.  At first, when hubs showed me this, I was grossed out – which takes a lot because I’m a science teacher and usually enjoy weird things.  But, this thing was the only way we could really clear J’s nose out.  Forget those nasty bulb aspirator things that the hospital gives you.  Talk about germ infested!  How do you clean it?  Anyway, this thing works.  The only snag we have run into is now that J is older, it is hard to keep her still to use this.  We use after squirting saline up her nose.
  9. Dream Baby scissors.  Another struggle we had in the beginning months of bringing J home was trimming her nails.  It is absolutely terrifying when you have to trim those tinny tiny little nails!  These scissors are slightly curved upwards, which is oh-so-helpful.  The traditional nail clippers have a larger portion for you to grab ahold of which is also helpful.  We actually got a different set with the toothbrush that came with three different ones.  It helped when J was teething and helped get her used to putting something like that in her mouth.
  10. Bibs.  I know all of the stores sell those cutesy little fabric bibs that everyone wants to get.  Especially for baby showers.  Don’t you know what that little baby will soon be eating?!  Squash, sweet potatoes, beets.  Those stains were extremely difficult to get out of WHITE fabric bibs.  I wish that we would have found these bibs sooner.  I don’t know if I would have even wasted money on the tiny fabric ones.  Ok, maybe a few when J was really young, but I got plenty of those from friends and family.  These plastic bibs are the stuff.  You can unsnap it so it lays completely flat – awesome for cleaning.
  11. BONUS: Teething necklace.  When J was about 11 months old, I found out about this baltic amber teething necklace that provides natural pain relief.  I was a little skeptical at first and very nervous about putting it on her neck at night.  But, we decided to give it a try.  In between each bead is a knot, so even if the necklace broke, not all of the beads would fall off.  We forgot to put J’s necklace back on one night after her bath and she was up several times crying.  This momma was SOLD on the necklace from that point on.  Now, J likes it so much, we just let her wear it even though she is finished teething.

Everyone’s experience is different, but I know that if we had to start all over, we would definitely purchase all of these items again.  They may be a huge investment upfront, but the time and hassle they will save you is soooooo worth it.  Besides, that little love bug of yours will soon be big & walking around, too busy for so much cuddle time with mommy.  Snuggle while you can!

[Update: We are expecting Baby #2 and plan to use all of these products again – with the exception of the car seat; because of the age difference we wanted to purchase new.  Excited to pull them out of storage!]

Einkorn Waffles

Making healthy foods doesn't have to be difficult. Easy recipe & great taste.
Ingredients needed

Einkorn flour is the purest form of flour, you know the stuff before humans get involved and modify/denature the plant.  Although I love teaching science, I do not love scientists messing with the foods that I eat!  My family prefers the closest we can get to natural ingredients.  There are no long-term studies on all of these GMO that are used in foods and how it affects our bodies…… but I digress.  That’s another topic for another post.

Above are the ingredients that I used to make my first ever Einkorn waffles.  The batter’s consistency was thinner than I am used to, so I burned the first batch.  Oh, and I forgot to read the directions before I started and realized that I had the temperature up too high.  The back of the box gives you the recipe for pancakes / waffles.  I added some flavor-infused olive oil and my favorite essential oil for breakfast recipes: Young Living‘s Orange.

Once I mastered the temperature and consistency, these came out great.  They are not as crunchy as your typical waffle, but still tasted great.  I think I added 3 drops of the Orange essential oil; next time I will add 6 drops.  There was a hint of orange, but not too much flavor.

I haven’t tried the pancakes yet.  We are currently doing a fast, so that will have to wait!

Update: The pancakes were SOOOO much better than the waffles!  They were slightly denser than your brand name box mix, but had a great flavor.