I don’t know why I first picked up these stainless steel condiment cups at Walmart but I know I didn’t have any idea they’d be used this often.   They are absolutely indispensable for portion control in our house!

We use them for serving up all kinds of snacks and treats:

*Nuts and seeds  (this cup holds the recommended one ounce serving of nuts)

*Trail Mix

*Mini marshmallows for hot chocolate

*Chocolate chips for a treat

*Maple syrup (it’s way easier to control serving sizes when everyone gets their own cup with an appropriate amount)

*Dried fruits

*Goldfish crackers

*Peanut butter for dipping

*Salad dressings and dips

*Ketchup or BBQ sauce (specially for my son who would fill half his plate with ketchup if it weren’t for this handy cup)

*Granola for yogurt

*Anything you want to the kids to only take a ‘little bit’ of… but they can’t figure out how much is a ‘little bit is’!

These things get tons of use in our house.  I highly recommend them for controlling portion sizes of things that should be measured by the tablespoon or ounce.

 

 

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With the news I’d developed an insulin resistance problem came the realization that carbohydrates really were the enemy.  It was time to change my relationship with carbs.  There’s strong risk of diabetes on both sides of the family so it made perfect sense that I should also change the way my kids related to carbs.  

Enter hurdle number one:  my husband.   My husband loves his pasta.  I mean really, really loves his pasta.  He also loves his white rice.  Yes, that wonderful white rice he’d eaten at practically every meal in his house growing up…every meal that didn’t include pasta, that is.  And to boot, he didn’t mind white bread all that much either.  Ok, he really enjoyed his white bread as well.

I had a diagnosis.  He didn’t have any such motivation.  But being the great husband he is, he agreed to give up his beloved white carbs for me.   Now that’s love, folks.

The easy switch was to whole wheat bread.  100% whole wheat bread.  No one really minded that switch.  Specially since we still indulged in white specialty breads and rolls at that time.  Whole wheat toast was a-ok.

Pasta and rice were another story.  So I learned one of the most important lessons of changing my family’s eating habits.  Go slow.

We started with a pasta that was made with part whole grains.  I won’t say anyone loved it but they didn’t hate it either.  We ate that for about 2 years before I made the full switch to 100% whole grain pasta.  When I did, no one even noticed. 

Rice took much longer.  My husband couldn’t stand brown rice and I have to admit, I didn’t care for the fact it took twice as long to cook.  I gave it a whirl a few times but ended up shelving it (literally) for a couple years.  Just within the past couple of months I’ve made the commitment to going through the hassle of making the brown rice again. It’s been a challenge. 

But surprise, surprise.  The kids love the brown rice.  I would make both white and brown (to keep the hubby happy) and the kids were only eating the brown.  Meal after meal this happened until my husband finally had to give in.  He knew it was silly to have both kinds of rice and he was the only one eating the white rice! 

He’s not going to say he wouldn’t still prefer the white rice, but he’s also willing to admit the brown rice isn’t bad.  It took a good long while and some extra effort on my part but it seems we’ve finally switched over.  🙂

The rest of the breads have also slowly become whole grain.  Bee in particular loves her white rolls and I do indulge her on occasion.  Overwhelmingly though, the kids choose, eat and enjoy the whole grains.   Even Adrian has made the switch from white bagels to whole wheat. 

Carbs don’t have to be the enemy. Over the course of a 5 year period we went from a family who ate tons of white bread, rice and pasta to a family that eats far less of all those things.  And when we do have them, they’re full of whole grain goodness.  It all starts with a loaf of bread.  You can do it too!

Through conversations with my friends, I’ve been considering how my family eats lately.  A decade ago I never could have guessed so many healthy habits would be entrenched in our lifestyle.  I figured it wouldn’t hurt to write about some of the things we do and how we got here.

 

Of course I have to preface it with a warning.  We do not have a perfectly healthy diet and we never will.  I don’t know anyone who does it 100% right all the time and I have no interest in being one of those.  We enjoy our food.  We still intentionally make some really unhealthy choices sometimes.  I’m not writing this cause I have all the answers.  I’m just going to talk about the positive changes we’ve made in our overall habits.  No one should take this as ‘healthier than thou’. 

 

So to kick this off I’m going to talk about one of the biggies. About 5 years ago we gave up the more traditional fast food joints.   McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy’s, KFC, Taco Bell, etc.  

Prior to that we frequented these types of places several times a week.  My husband worked in NYC and it was a cheap, easy meal at lunch.  I drove Adrian to and from school half an hour away so many days the girls and I would be stuck out in the middle of the day.  It wasn’t worth the trip home because we’d have to turn right around to go back out to get Adrian.  We spent many days at the mall and a couple times a week we’d get fast food for lunch.

There were also the trips to Grandma’s house on weekends where we thought nothing of stopping to pick up fast food dinner on the way.  Then, of course, Grandma was more than happy to pick them up Happy Meals and Frosties.  We ate fast food a lot.

The breaking point came about the time we moved and several factors played into our decision to give it all up.  The whole family had been sick multiple times from fast food chicken.  Not fun.   Our new house was far enough away from the fast food places that giving it up at dinner was a no brainer anyhow.  Since we lived close to Grandma, there weren’t any more long trips to make.  My husband began working from home and I began homeschooling the girls so we were all home at lunch time together.

It was easy enough to simply fall away from using fast food with all those changes.  And it all gave me the notion that we could simply give it up for good.  So we did.  We made the new rule that we would not eat at any of the major fast food chains.

 I won’t say that my kids were thrilled.  Or even my husband.  No one likes absolutes 😛  But I can honestly say I never once regretted making that choice for my family.

And now?  Well, we break our rule on vacation sometimes (there aren’t a lot of choices at the airport).  But honestly, we’ve been away from it all for so long that even the kids will tell you that ‘that’ food makes them feel sorta cruddy when they eat it.  And it doesn’t taste all that good either.

We still occasionally get fast food, but we keep to a few restaurants that make our exception list:   Five Guys (I did tell you we were far from perfect eaters, right?) and Moe’s are two we’ll spring for on very rare occasions.  I know the food isn’t really better than all the big chains on our no-no list,  but I’m convinced the fact that our approved list is so short is part of what helps keep us on track.  We have an out for when we need it but we can keep our committment to staying away from all those other chains. 

Improving the way our family eats happens by changing just one bad habit.  If this is one you want to change for your family, I encourage you to make your short list of approved ‘fast food’ places and ditch the rest.  It’s worked for us.

Motivation

February 16, 2011

No one does anything without a motive. 

Short term, my girls are very motivated to make my husband and I proud of their efforts.  Long term, they talk about wanting to do well with school things so they can be well-educated adults.  They recognize this will make them better employees, better parents, better people.  All good.

Zee’s really too young yet to think much on a distant future and what learning his math facts has to do with it.  His motivation is all short-term and much more specific. 

Week to week, our kids work for the pleasure of playing games deemed ‘weekend games’.   All games that come into this house are labeled either school-day or weekend.  School day games usually have some redeeming educational quality about them.  Weekend games are everything else.

The kids are all free to play weekend games as soon as their school work for the entire week is complete.  Most of the time that’s sometime on Friday.  If all the work is completed, the girls can play all day Saturday and after noon on Sunday. 

The system works a bit differently for Zee.  Instead, he earns weekend game time for the weekend by completing his work on time each day.  Chores must be done by 2pm, teeth have to be brushed in the morning, daily school work must be done by dinner, etc.  At the end of the week he distributes the game time he earns over Saturday and Sunday.  Done right, he can play nearly as much as his sisters who get the free reign.  Usually though he misses a few things here and there and has to choose which hours he’ll have to find something else to do.

For now I think our system works pretty well.  Since the kids are working for their own motives I don’t have to fight with them over doing their work.  Most of the time everyone puts a good effort in and we all earn the right to kick back and enjoy the weekend relaxing together 🙂

My Maytag Man

February 14, 2011

This morning I took a phone call from Adrian’s school.   In the first few minutes of the call I noticed Zee, the 7 year old, wandering near my desk.  Since he’s always begging to help move the laundry from washer to dryer, I motioned for him to go ahead and do this.  It seemed easier than trying to use one handed sign language to tell him to do his math workbook.  😛

I was very focused on the important matters being discussed on the phone and only noticed bits and pieces of what was happening across the room in the laundry.  It wasn’t until I hung up and went to the laundry room that everything I’d seen suddenly made sense.

Not only did he move the laundry from the washer to the dryer but he turned the dryer on.  Then he loaded the washing machine.  A whole load of whites, and only whites.  Then he went and got his stool so he could reach the laundry soap kept in the cabinet above the machine.

He measured out the soap and then turned the washing machine on.

So upon finishing my call I found both the washer and dryer humming happily along.

😮

My first reaction was to grill him on the steps he’d taken.  I’ve never taught him to do this so surely he must have made some error somewhere in the process. 

Um, no.  He knew the correct amount of soap to use, the importance of separating the colors, the right cycles for each of the machines…

Then I had to force myself to do the responsible thing and tell him that he’s a bit too young to be starting up major appliances on his own.  As much as I appreciate the help and as proud as I am of the awesome job he did, from now on he’ll only be allowed to turn the machines on if I’m supervising.

Secretly though, I’m thinking another year or two and I might get a break from doing laundry around here 😛

Introduction to the MMO

November 3, 2010

Almost 3 years ago I wrote about how I wished I could somehow share the MMO experience with the girls.   Besides the safety concerns I had back when they were 9, there was also the matter of cost. 

Fortunately, Lord of the Rings Online has recently gone free to play.  That coupled with my husband’s interest in trying it out led me to decide that this might be a good time to introduce the girls to the joys of playing a MMORPG. 

This past weekend we all created our characters and began our journey into Middle Earth.  The girls spent some time reading the wikis to choose their race and classes.  They read and tried to follow suggested naming conventions for each character as well. 

They were already familiar with many of the game concepts and lore from their exposure to the Lord of the Rings books and films as well as other similar games such as Neverwinter Nights 2.  I’d hoped to stick together, thereby increasing my fun and easing my doubts about letting them loose in a game full of other people, not all of them nice.  But they couldn’t wait to explore this new world and each took off in their own direction leaving my husband and I to quest together alone.

It didn’t come as a surprise to find that they each had a different style of game play.  Gee is like her father and jumped right into fighting and crafting, learning a lot about all the different skills quickly.  She leveled at a fair pace and while she earned quite a bit of money, she also spent it on skills and equipment as quickly as it came in.

 Bee takes after me and prefers to spend her time exploring the world and imagining her character to life.  Yes, it seems she has that dreaded roleplaying bug.  She’s spent a good deal of her game time trying to figure out what her character’s goals in life are, opening up MS Word to begin a journal for him and thinking about how to write about his adventures.

To aid in our in game communication, we’ve set up a kinship which allows us to be in a chat room together.  We also set up accounts on X-Fire so we could voice chat from the different rooms in which we play.  So far it’s been a lot of fun for all of us.  🙂

Getting to Done

October 18, 2010

“Mom, what do I have to do to be done for the day?”

I can’t say I don’t understand when the kids ask me this.  I spend so much of my own thought life going through endless lists of what needs to be done trying to find the end, the break, the place where I can say ‘I’m done’. 

If I can just finish these dishes and put in another load of laundry and get him out of the shower and help him with his music then I can sit and finish that cup of coffee… oh wait.  He needs his meds and look, there’s no Koolaid left so I’ll have to make that first before I can give him the meds…. and look at the time!  What on earth are we gonna have for dinner?  Ok, this.  But he won’t eat that so I need to find him something else to eat…..   Only 3.5 hours more till someone goes to bed and THEN I can sit down…

Yes, more time than I care to admit, I spend rushing through everything I’m doing trying to get ‘done’.  Problem is, ‘done’ doesn’t come around all that often.  Some might argue it never really comes, I simply give up on what’s left till tomorrow.

And the effect of the constant focus on ‘done’?  Well, I don’t tend to enjoy the ‘not done’ so much.  Sure, washing dishes, doing laundry and making Koolaid isn’t fun or exciting, but then there’s gotta be a way to relax and enjoy it more.  Not rush through everything to get to something else….

The trick of course is learning to do just that.  I’m trying to catch myself and take a deep breath and try to focus on something other than that distant ‘done’.   But I’m definitely not ‘done’ working on this problem.