Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year 2014

As I reflect on 2013 I'm in shock at how many wonderful things our family has experienced.  We started the year out by counting down to March 3rd which was the day we flew to Florida for Abby's 6 day Disney World, Sea World, and Universal Studios Make A Wish vacation.  We had the most AMAZING, unimaginable, relaxing, memory making, and once in a lifetime trip we could have never imagined.

When we came home we were so sad that it was over, but we were so touched by the founder of Give Kids The World and his amazing story that we were moved to do even more with The Abby Marie Foundation.

In the beginning of April my mom started an awesome job at Duke that had her traveling all around NC.  In May she went to Wilmington, so we decided to take a trip to Carolina Beach (one of our favorite NC beaches) since it's so close to Wilmington.  We stayed there for a few days and had an awesome time.  During that trip I had a very strong feeling that I was pregnant, but my family didn't believe me...they never do, lol!  I still had about a week to wait to take a test, but I just knew I was.  One week later at midnight on the day I could take the test I got up and waited for the test to tell me what was up.  Sure enough I was pregnant!!!

Once July rolled around I couldn't believe how fast time was flying.  Emma began kindergarten, and we began the paperwork to enroll Abby into kindergarten and start her IEP.  In September we found out that we were having a boy, which I knew in the depths of my soul from literally day 1 of this pregnancy.  I had his name picked out from week 5, but it's changed a little over the first trimester.  Originally it was going to be Lincoln Kennedy, but we didn't think he needed two president's names, lol!  We talked about Lincoln Michael, since both of our dad's names are Michael.  If you've wondered, yes he is named after President Lincoln and Thomas has no link to anyone, we just like it and thought it flowed well.  The girls are named after family members, but Lincoln is our first child that's not named after anyone.  I plan on him being president, so I felt he needed a strong name.  I'm kidding...no really I'm not, lol!!!

In September we also thought we had finally found the perfect floor plan for Abby to grow and develop in, while also meeting all of the needs of our growing family.  We picked out our lot, were choosing our counters, flooring, cabinets, etc...  We were really excited, but as the weeks passed we started to feel like something just wasn't right.  We took a little break from the house and gave it a few weeks.  We weren't planning to start building until February of 2014, but we wanted to make sure that we didn't make any wrong decisions.  In the first week of November we stumbled upon a house that caught our eye.  A few months prior my mom had stopped at a garage sale there and the owner had told her that they would be putting it on the market in the next year.  My mom drove us by at that time, but I remember thinking that it probably wouldn't work because it has 3 stories.  It was a beautiful house, but I honestly never gave it another thought.  Well wouldn't you know it, the house that we stumbled on in the beginning of November was the same house from a few months prior.

We decided to take a look and ended up LOVING it.  It had a perfect bedroom for Abby, plenty of room in the common areas for her wheelchair to roll smoothly through the house, a big bathroom and kitchen downstairs for her to learn daily living skills, and what I LOVE the most is that the laundry room is connected to her room.  If you have a tube fed child, then you know how often bed sheet and clothing changes happen that ultimately send you running to the laundry room with tubie food filled sheets and blankets.  There are so many other great things about this house, but there are also a lot of things we knew we'd need to do to make it our home.  We decided to put our offer in and a few days later we found out that the owners had accepted.

Later in November my aunt and uncle came to visit us from California and by the end of their visit they were excited to make the move here in the spring.

December has been great, I've just been in horrific pain and am sooooooooo ready for 2014 to roll around so that I can give birth to an amazing future president, lol!!  In all seriousness though, as I reflect on the past year I'm floored that God has blessed us in so many areas of our lives.  Both Abby and Emma are healthy, we're going on 3 years without any brain surgeries or surgeries in general, I've met an amazing chiropractor that's helped me heal from years of pain, Matt's VA disability was processed and approved for far more than we expected, and we just bought a new home.  I honestly don't know if I can say what has been the most amazing thing from 2013, but if I had to say what I'm the most excited about right now...it would be starting the new year by bringing a new life into this world.  I always felt like someone was missing from our family, but I honestly didn't know if I had the energy to add another child to the ever growing chaos we call life.

I've taken a lot of time to reflect, but I've taken very little time to dream about the next year.  I am very excited to get back into a regular workout routine, go back to work (mainly in my at home office), drink smoothies again every day (I don't drink them every single day anymore because that's not what Lincoln has wanted), and go on our first vacation as a family of 5 at the end of February.  I'm excited about a relaxing vacation, but am not looking forward to a 3 to 4 hour drive with a new baby, an Abby that thinks she needs to yell at us every time we get in the car, and Emma who thinks it's absolutely vital to talk non stop.

Ultimately it's going to be a great year...looking forward to taking things a little slower with a little baby man and my miraculous girls.  As for Matt, I have a strong feeling that he'll be spending lots of time in the new year getting his man cave set up, playing darts and watching whatever sport is on with his friends.  I'm so thankful for those of you that read my blog, my friends on Facebook and Twitter, in real life, and my amazing family members.  I can't wait to see what amazing blessings God holds for you in this coming year.  Happy New Year to you and you're family, and I hope you have a fabulous time ringing it in.  As for me, I'll be drinking organic sparkling apple cider, eating some taquitos, and dipping them in quacamole.  Jealous much????  LOL!!!

Until next year...

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Abby's First 2 Days Of School

Although Abby's only been in school for 2 days, it was so nice to be able to sleep in this morning and know that I didn't have to get both girls ready to drive to 2 different schools 30 minutes away from each other.

I can honestly say that from the time they were born it never ever crossed my mind what having them both in school would be like.  Not because I didn't see them both attending, but mainly because I have to take one day at a time in order to not become too overwhelmed.  During Abby's IEP meetings the team and I decided that it would be best for Abby to be on a modified school day starting at 9:30 and ending at 12:30, 3 days a week.  Since Emma's school (right across the street) doesn't have the type of classroom that's capable of meeting all of Abby's medical and academic needs, she wasn't able to be placed in that school.  Our hope was that she would be able to go to a school that's a few minutes from our house, but unfortunately that school didn't have any open spots since in a classroom like Abby's there are only 8 kids.  The next best option was a school in a different town, 30 minutes away.  I HATED the thought of her being that far away and we would NEVER EVER allow her to ride a school bus, so I knew that meant my morning would consist of becoming a bus driver.  I prayed, prayed, and prayed about it and felt that God was leading us to allow her to go to this school.  The teacher was amazing, the school is amazing, the other kids in her class are absolutely a blessing, and the school board has been amazing in accommodating Abby's schedule, as well as mine.  I'll be honest, I'm a hard headed and strong willed person and I go after all situations that affect Abby with full on stubbornness until the situation is benefiting Abby in the specific way she needs it.  I always say that's surely why God gave her to me, because my personality that always got me in trouble growing up actually benefits her life and makes the quality of her life that much better.

So once Matt and I came to the conclusion that allowing her to go to the school that's 30 minutes away was the best choice, I then sat for hours the night before her first day trying to figure out the logistics of getting them both to school on time.  Here's a little idea of how it's working for us and why I feel like I need to be given the official title of bus driver, lol!!

The night before a school day Abby eats for the last time from her feeding pump at 9 pm.  We clean that out and get it ready for her first feeding the next morning.  We then also have to put a new pump bag in the travel pump bag so that when she's done eating the next morning we can transfer the pump to the travel bag and hook up the new feeding bag.  Confused yet?  If you tube feed your child then I know you're following right along, lol!!!  If you don't, that's ok...count yourself blessed that you have no idea what I'm talking about, lol!!!
I wake up at 6am, which for me is not that early, typically.  Being pregnant it's harder for me to wake up early, but that will change drastically when the baby is born.  I make Emma's breakfast, get Abby's pump ready, and make Emma's lunch.  They get up at 7am, Emma dresses herself, I dress Abby and change her diaper, hook her up, and Emma eats breakfast while I go get dressed and do my hair.  I come back down in a hurry, get their back packs ready, do their hair, brush Abby's teeth while Emma brushes her's (side note - does anyone else keep a set of tooth brushes downstairs to make school mornings easier?  I figured that out quickly even with just Emma going to school.  It was like pulling teeth just to get her to go back up the stairs to her bathroom and brush her teeth in the mornings.  Now we have tooth brushes downstairs as well and it's made life so much easier.  Wish I'd thought of doing that years ago), and get Abby's AFO's (leg and foot braces she has to wear) & hearing aids ready to put on after she's done eating.  Abby finishes eating at 8:30, 5 minutes before we have to be in the car.  By this point I'm sweating like a construction worker in 110 degree summer weather.  I unhook Abby, fight her to put her AFO's and hearing aids on, take her pump to the kitchen to transfer it to the travel bag we prepped the night before, and put all of the bags in the car with her chair she takes to school.  Emma's bag has to be placed in the front seat and the passenger seat has to be strategically placed in order for her to get out of the car without running into Abby's AFO's, which makes Abby mad.  Emma has to get out on Abby's side in the carpool lane at school for safety reasons.

Once we're all finally in the car with all of the bags, chair, and any other medical equipment necessary for that day, we drive literally around the corner to get in the carpool lane at Emma's school.  I used to love having the option to walk Emma to school, but those days are long gone.  Emma's school starts at 9:15, but they're able to go in and play in their classroom from 8:45 until the 9:15 bell rings.  I let her out of the car at the 8:45 bell and say our love you and see ya laters.  I then drive out of the neighborhood and into morning traffic to get Abby to her school.  Abby typically takes a 30 minute morning nap on our drive.  Since school has already started at her school (traditional school calendar year), I pull into the bus lane and her teacher meets me out there.  We then transfer Abby to her stroller/chair, hand her teacher her back pack and feeding pump, and I say my love you and see ya laters.  Once Abby is in the door I turn around and drive the 30 minutes back home.  I arrive back home at 10am and have 2 hours to get some work done before I have to leave to pick Abby up at 12:30.

After my 2 hours are up I get back in the car at 12pm and drive the 30 minutes back to pick up my Abby.  Abby and I arrive back home at 1pm, she takes a nap, I get more work done for the next 2 1/2 hours, and then we load back into the car to pick up Emma at 3:45pm.

By the time both girl's school days are over I'm EXHAUSTED!!!!  The school eventually wants Abby to work up to a 5 day schedule, but I can't see how that will work at all, at least not until she moves to the school that's closer to us.  She's on the waiting list and will move over there for first grade, but for now I can't imagine making our current schedule work 5 days a week.  My prenatal appointments with my maternal fetal medicine doctor is 45 minutes away, so if Abby went to school 5 days a week it would be impossible for me to ever go to my doctor's appointments, chiropractor appointments, meetings, dentist appointments, take a shower without rushing, breath...LOL!!!

As far as Abby's doing at school...she LOVES it!!!!  She's learned about frogs, written the numbers 1-4, painted, started learning about Letter Land, colored F for Fire Fighter Fred, and has made friends with the 3 other kids in her class.  I'm so happy to hear about her day when I pick her up.  She's hanging out in bed this morning because she can, and she's LOVING it!!!

Ultimately even though I'm thrilled beyond words that both of my babies are doing well and loving school, I feel like a bus driver.  I had a favorite song in high school that I never in my wildest dreams thought would relate to my life as a mother/special needs mother.  No matter how much education I may have and how many patients and clients I interact with throughout the day...I'm just a bus driver.
Here's the song...I think many mothers can relate, lol!!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Great Poop Debacle

Ok, so poop in a diaper is not an uncommon happening.  It occurs more often in one day than most parents would like.  When the girls were babies I became so accustomed to poop diapers that (like most parents) the occasional poop on the hand or arm was the norm.  When the girls were around 2 1/2 and Matt was deployed for the third time I began to have dreams of potty training and a diaper free life.  I was never the type of parent to push Emma to potty train by a certain age, rather I let her learn at her own glacial pace.  Yes it was frustrating, yes she stayed in diapers until she was 3 1/2 and stayed in pull ups until she was 4 1/2, but the most difficult part of the entire process was learning how to wipe.  I could care less if my child wasn't keeping up with the potty training jones's, but rather that she had it down pat in time for school & was comfortable using a public restroom.

With Abby it never really crossed my mind early on that poop diapers would be a forever and a lifetime sort of situation.  Of course I think the majority of that was because I wasn't sure what her development would be like and you always hope the best for your child.  I can't say that I was disappointed by any means when I came to the realization that I would be a butt wiping mama for the rest of my years, but I had just never really given it much thought beyond that.  Recently I've been a little up to my eyeballs in the nitty gritty and I feel as though it is slowly taking over my life.

Since the girls were born they've for the most part pooped at the exact same times.  When they were both in diapers it could get a little hairy, or should I say stinky, when I'd have two chubby babies crying on the floor waiting to be changed out of their miserably stinky diapers.  Thankfully at that age neither of them were too curious about what their poop felt like, or tried to roll away with it still lathered on their rear ends.  I had a pretty easy time with both of them, until recently.  Other than the time I caught Emma at 2 years old with a blow out on the couch, while calmly eating it - EWWWWWWWWW- still grosses me out!!!!!

Lately Abby has become increasingly interested in what her poop feels like, looks like, and smells like while I'm changing her diaper.  She's always been pretty laid back, never really concerned with things that typical kids are interested in, and so I never thought I'd be in this disgusting place with her.  For a while I would say to myself "Self, let's just chalk it up to a sensory activity" LOL!!  Until this week...when I had to run out and buy some bottled formula for Abby and all they had was chocolate flavor.  We don't usually use bottled formula and don't have a prescription for any type of feeding tube medical food.  I like to make her food/formula as much as I can at home, but this particular week has been a crazy and exhausting one for me, so I ran and grabbed some formula for her at the store.  By around the second day of being fed chocolate formula 4 times a day, Abby's poop had began to turn the same color as the formula.  Well, that's never really been alarming or caused a problem at all.  No biggie right?  At lunch time on this particular day, I took Abby up to her room and hooked her up to the feeding tube so that she could enjoy her lunch while she took her nap.  I was heading into the room right next to her to sit at my desk and get some work done.  Most of the time I don't go in and check on her while she's eating unless I hear a strange noise, have a gut feeling, or she begins to cry out of pain.

One hour later I heard the feeding tube beep loudly, so I walked into her room talking to her in a sing song voice (as I typically do), only to find that she had unhooked her extension (tubing that attaches directly to her mic-key button, then attaches to her feeding tube tubing on the opposite end) and was laying in a MASSIVE puddle of sticky, stinky chocolate formula.   This has happened one million and one times over the years.  It's extremely annoying and time consuming to change bedding, diaper, and clothing, but in the special needs tube fed world...it's not anything huge.  Okay, so as I try to figure out where to begin cleaning, I decided it would be best to lay a blanket on the floor, transfer Abby to the blanket, and then get started on the bed.  As I transferred Abby to the blanket my nose picked up the scent of poop.  Okay, so now I had a stinky on my list of things to clean as well.  I took a deep breath (breathing in a little too much of Abby's stinky) and continued to clean up the brown mess.

Once I had the bedding in the laundry, new bedding in the crib, and new clothes, diaper, and wipes for Abby, I struggled with my ever growing belly to get on the floor and begin the brown clean up.  If I wasn't pregnant I would have just cleaned her diaper area and then given her a bath, but my belly is too big and Abby is too long and heavy for me to lift in and out of her bath chair anymore.  One day I will once again be able to give my baby a bath, but until Thing 3 gets out of my belly Matt is the 100% bath giver.  So I resorted to a baby wipe bath and a new diaper.  Once I had taken all of Abby's chocolate soaked clothes off, I realized that this child had formula all over her legs, stomach, back, and rear end.  Once I removed her diaper to begin cleaning, I kind of became overwhelmed with the color brown.  At some point I lost track of what was formula and what was poop.  Yes if I had stuck my nose close enough I could have figured it out, but would you have wanted to do that...NO!!!  In the midst of being up to my eyeballs in my now least favorite color, Abby's curiosity gets the best of her and she begins to try desperately to touch her poop.  So now I've got a wipe in one hand that I'm trying to clean her with, I'm trying to hold her in a position that will allow me to easily (I say easily loosely) get her clean, and I'm trying to figure out what other extremity of mine I could possible use to keep her hand from her bum.   I come up with nothing and try to wipe as fast as I can while occasionally tossing an elbow in to block her from her poop.

At the end of all of this I got her cleaned, diapered, and dressed, but was unsure if she had touched her poop or the chocolate formula, so I lugged her up off of the floor (which is becoming increasingly difficult for me), and took her to the bathroom to wash her hands.  While I have her plopped on my hip leaning over the sink to wash her hands I thought to myself, how many other parents do this on a regular basis with their 6 year olds.  I know for a fact that there are many special needs parents in similar situations, however what I feel is lacking is the talking about it.  Okay so maybe not everyone wants to write, read, or even think about poop, I get that.  But...it's a normal (which is really abnormal) part of our days.  No we don't need to blog or call our friends every day about how our child pulled their tube out and made a mess, had a blowout in the car seat, threw up from reflux (caused by tube feeding and other surgical procedures) on a stranger in a plane (yes that happened to us), or how difficult it is to change a 6 year old's diaper on a baby changing table in the grocery store.  However, we do need to put it out there every now and then.  If not only to break the ridiculous backward thinking that gives people a reason to believe that our circumstances are unique (I recently had a very close friend of 8 years tell me that my opinion on a particular subject doesn't count because my circumstances with Abby are unique and unlike the majority), but also for our own sanity.  It is true that many we come in contact with have no clue what it's like to parent a special needs child, but on the other hand MANY MANY do understand.

For the first 3 years of the girls lives Matt and I felt very alone in our parenting roles.  We didn't know that there were other parents out there in similar situations.  I still haven't found anyone else that has twins like ours with similar diagnoses, but that's not surprising.  I have found many friends that go through similar experiences, and I'm sure that they too get starred at in public places because they have a large child in a stroller/wheelchair sucking on a paci.  Yesterday someone in the Dollar Tree told me that I had a beautiful baby (Abby), and I just thought to myself...thank you, but what???  Sometimes  people tell me that she looks like a baby and other times people can't understand why she's in a stroller. It's always been (especially when the girls were babies) as if we're a walking show that entertains and confuses people, but it never really bothered me.  Lately it's been something that is constantly on my mind.  I've come to the conclusion that there's a lack of understanding and education between society and the special needs community.  It seems many people stare not with a cruel heart, but rather with a  well intended question mark.  They genuinely want to know why this person is this way, or why this family is so different, but are afraid of how to ask or put their lack of understanding into words.  I often say that I wish people would just ask, but if I were them how would I word it.  Even I often have a hard time figuring out how I would ask about Abby if I didn't know her.  I wrote this blog about the lovely subject of poop to put out into the internetiverse (whatever that means, lol) that this is my normal, and it may seem like a unique circumstance to have a great poop debacle and feeding tube ridiculousness with a 6 year old, but it doesn't have to if we change our way of thinking  =)

That's all for today.  My brain hurts from all of that intellectual mumbo jumbo, so now I will resort to resting my big belly while my 6 year olds are down for a nap.  Bet that isn't normal either huh?  LOL!!

Monday, September 23, 2013

I'm Having Twins...Again!

Don't you just love the power of words?  I bet you hopped over here thinking that I would be revealing that an ultra sound tech found a second baby hiding behind the first one.  Go ahead admit it, you got a little excited.  While we're on this topic, why is it that everyone and their extended family member assumes that because I have one set of twins, I must be having another set?  I get it, I'd probably think the same way if I had never had twins.  I do have to put it out there for anyone that may not know...identical twins are random isolated event.  They are unlike fraternal and do not run in families, so although having naturally conceived twins once before does increase my chances of having multiples again, it's definitely not a for sure deal.

Okay, so like I said...I'm having twins...again!!  I was recently feeding Abby some baby food in her high chair (yes she still uses a high chair because I HATE using her wheel chair in the house) and it hit me that I'm going to have to buy another high chair when the new baby is old enough to start eating solids.  Later that day I went to put her in her pack and play for a nap and it hit me again that I will soon have two pack and plays with sleeping children in my front room (a room that is already growing smaller and smaller due to the amount of equipment we have in there for Abby).  A few days later as I was writing my grocery list I realized that I would soon be buying double the diapers (although different sizes, I'll still buy as much as I bought when the girls were babies), the bag of 1000 wipes that would be used up within a 2-2 1/2 week period, 3 to 4 economy size organic apple juice jugs (when the baby is old enough to drink juice), and my kid cabinet would soon be stocked back up with enough bottles for two children.  Although I plan to breast feed, we'll still use bottles so that Matt and family members can partake in the feeding frenzy, and Abby still uses bottles for juice, water, and formula.

A few nights ago Matt and I went on a date to Buy Buy Baby where we registered for baby #3.  While we were there we found ourselves not only registering, but also getting excited about all of the items we found that Abby could use.  It was an eye opener for us to realize that we would once again be pushing a double stroller, giving two upset kids a pacifier, changing two times the diapers, feeding two kiddos every three hours, and forgetting to eat from all of the busyness of the day.  Although having two in diapers is by far unique, having a newborn and a six year old on the same feeding schedules, playing with the same toys, babbling while they ly on the floor during tummy time, and trying to get food in two mouths fast enough while having baby food spit on you is definitely not your every day situation.

I LOVED having twins and definitely wasn't afraid to have multiples again.  I am thankful that I have been blessed to experience what it's like to be pregnant with just one, but it's quite shocking to me that I never realized how much "just one" could take us back to the past.  I'm sure there will be things that will be easier, like Abby won't be eating by the pump every three hours throughout the night like she did when she was a baby.  I'm excited, a little overwhelmed, and a little amused how things work out.  In the spring of this year I found myself missing the girl's baby days.  I thought to myself how bored I was with just two five year olds and work.  I would pinch myself when I would think that because it was ridiculous.  It's not like I had lots of down time and had a reason to be bored, I'm just the type of person that always needs a challenge.  Now here we are with only 19 weeks to go until we bring our son home and I suddenly have boy/girl twins at home, lol!!  Who gets to say that...I had identical girls in 2007, and then 6 years later I had boy/girl twins that are 6 years apart, lol!!  I know it's ridiculous, but you get what I'm saying =)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Almond Milk 101

I was taking a break in between appointments and sat down with Emma to watch The Swiss Family Robinson.  If you haven't put it together yet, the name of this blog was inspired by the name of the book.  I liked the book and the name so much that I had to stick with it and so it became the name of this blog.  As Emma and I watched the movie I thought to myself that I should blog about something interesting today.  I love this blog & I love sharing things on here that seem so normal to me, but are quite possibly not something that everyone else already knows how to do.  
So today I welcome you to Almond 101!!  Today we'll discover how to make yummy almond milk that's cheaper than buying it in the stores.  So many people are using coconut and almond milk in their smoothies on a regular basis, and I'm often asked which is healthier.  I wouldn't say that one is better than the other, because they both offer a great amount of nutritents.  It really just comes down to personal preference.  One thing that many aren't aware of is just how many synthetic additives there are in some brands (not all, make sure to check your  labels) of both almond and coconut milk.  The additives in these milks are found in the form of synthetic vitamins, which are the chemical mirror image of the real deal.  Instead of worrrying about checking the labels and stressing over where to find milks that don't contain additives, here's an easy and quick way to make almond milk at home in your jammies =)
To begin your going to take 1 cup of raw almonds, pour them into a mason jar, and fill with 3 cups of filtered water.  Allow the almonds to soak overnight, or 8-12 hours if you're soaking throughout the day.
Once your almonds have soaked, drain the water out, rinse, and place them in the emulsifier, food processor, or blender.
Gather your ingredients - organic saigon cinnamon, pure vanilla, and organic agave.
Pour 3 1/2 cups of water over the soaked almonds, 1 tbsp. pure vanilla, as much cinnamon as you'd like, and 1 1/2 tbsp. of organic agave.
Next is the fun part, we get to mix it all up!!!  Mix thoroughly beginning on a low setting and working up to a high setting.
At this point you have 2 options, pour the milk over a cheese cloth or milk nut bag.  Pouring the milk over either of these allows you to separate the milk from the almond meat and peel.  Personally, I like to keep the peel and meat mixed into the milk because you keep more of the nutrients.  Once your milk is ready to go, grab some mason jars to pour in.
Now that your milk is ready, store it in the refigerator and enjoy knowing exactly where your milk was made & exactly what's in it!!!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

WHAT...The Kids Are Sick!!!!

What happens in your world when your kiddos wake up and they're sick?  Do you have to call in to stay home with them?  Do you change your plans and make time to care for them?  Does it throw a major chink in your chain of weekly activities, events, and worst of all...do you then feel the need to work in a pediatrician appointment at the last minute?  We interrupt your regularly scheduled broadcast to bring you a case of the sickies!!!!

Well, here are a few things that we do to kick a virus, cold, or just an overall down in the dumps feeling in the butt.  By the way, we happen to be doing this today because one of my girls woke up with glassy eyes, a sore throat, and her shoulders hurt.  I immediately made her a smoothie, covered her with comfy cozy blankets, set out a glass of water, and headed to the kitchen to throw together some chicken noodle soup.  Although I love my babies and would drop anything and everything to make them feel better, I too must change my plans in order to care for them.  I had an appointment I was scheduled to travel for today, but as you can surely relate...my baby took center stage when she looked at me with those big ol' brown glassy eyes.

Over the years I've incorporated what we call "Sickie Prevention" into our daily routines and diets.  Most kids don't get in enough veggies and essential vitamins and minerals, so we start the day doing just that.  My kids get a smoothie loaded with fruits, greens, coconut milk, flax seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, and a whole packet of Amazing Grass blended in.

* Contains over 70% certified organic ingredients

•  Whole food source of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals

•  Supports a strong immune system

•  All natural...No artificial colors, flavors, fillers or other unnecessary stuff

•  Non Dairy, Gluten Free, Soy Free, Non-GMO, Vegan
•  Excellent source of Beta Carotene, Thiamin (B-1), Vitamin K
•  Good Source of Vitamin C, Iron, Riboflavin (B-2), Folic Acid
•  Just one 6 gram serving has the antioxidant equivalent to 3 servings of fruits and vegetables*
* (Antioxidant value determined by an independent ORAC analysis)

Maybe by this point you're thinking "My child won't eat that", well that's what I thought too...until I tried it.  They both love it, and the best thing is they think they're getting a dessert for breakfast, but really they're getting in everything most kids are lacking.  

Throughout the day I make sure they're drinking enough water.  I'm sure you heard all of your life that 8 glasses of water is what you should be getting in, but what about our little ones?  In reality, our water consumption should be based on our weight, activity level, the environment we live in, etc...  For Abby, I aim to give her 0.5 liters of water every day.  For Emma, I aim to have her consume 0.8 liters every day.  Abby is less active than Emma, and Emma weighs more than Abby.  It's important to realize and understand that not only do we as adults have our own unique nutritional needs, but so do our children!  Here's a great hydration calculator to try!

In addition to the water, fruits, and veggies, I also like to make a mug of unfiltered acv, raw honey, organic saigon cinnamon, and mix it into warm water.  Once the mix is blended, I pour it into ice cube trays and freeze for several hours.  Emma likes to eat ice whenever I let her, so I give her a small cup of the acv cubes and let her eat them.  Sometimes I'll put them into a glass of apple juice, water, or make popsicles out of them.  For Abby I like to put them in her formula or blended food to keep it cool during trips.  The taste likely is not good in Abby's food, but it goes into her tube and she doesn't have any idea what it tastes like.  By giving them the acv mixture, you're combating and preventing an enormous amount!  Here's a fabulous article on the many, many benefits of acv and raw honey!

Additionally, for each meal of the day I make sure that both girls receive plant based meals, snacking on whole foods that boost the immune system (no processed foods), get enough natural vitamin D by taking walks, playing with neighbor friends, and they do Tai Chi every morning.  Now I know that not everyone can do Tai Chi in the mornings, but my mom is an instructor, so I use that to my children's advantage.  Tai Chi is a gentle way to fight stress.  Our children shouldn't be stressed out, but the truth is that they often are.  The world has changed so much since we were young, and even more since our parents were children.  Stress is a key factor in promoting disease, and in my opinion disease and stress has no place in the body of a precious child.  These days our schools are places where we find high levels of stress for our children, after school activities can be stressful (they can also be beneficial, just depends on the child and environment), sometimes home life can be stressful, peer pressure, genetics, puberty, special needs family members, health issues, etc...  It's hard to imagine a child being stressed out, but the annual Stress In American Survey finds that parents underestimate the level of stress that kids feel and the causes of that stress.  Here's an article by Kids Health that discusses some common stressors in children's lives.

When my kids do get sick, yes it happens...but to be honest, it only happens about twice a year.  They haven't had the flu since they were 16 months old and when they do get sick, it's only a minor cold.  They haven't ever had a flu shot, so that is not the reason why they don't get sick.
However, when they are sick I always, always, always make a giant pot of Chicken Rice Noodle & Mixed Veggie Soup, which has been dubbed "Sickie Soup" in our house.

I use grilled chicken that we always have on hand, a bag of organic & non GMO frozen mixed veggies, organic free range chicken broth, any rice pasta we have in the pantry, and sea salt.  That's it!!!
While the soup's cooking, I give both girls a bath in Epsom Salt, put them in comfy sweats, cover them with comfy & cozy blankets, close all of the blinds to block out any bright lights, and serve them their soup in cute soup bowls.  Now, tell me that if your spouse did that for you, you wouldn't smile and that it wouldn't make your spirit lift even just a little?
Even at 5 1/2 years old my kids still take 2 hour naps every single day.  So, at 12pm we head up to bed and nap time begins.  Even if you're child doesn't take naps, rest time is mandatory for feeling better so try to squeeze it in and encourage quiet rest time in their beds.

When my girls get up from their naps between 2 and 3, I give them a mug of warm water with honey and lemon, and allow them to relax on the couch for as long as they like.  Abby of course receives all fluid through her feeding tube.  The two simple ingredients, honey and lemon, help relieve the worst cold symptoms.  Honey soothes sore throats and lemon juice fights off bacteria. The antioxidants in honey boost the immune system, as does the vitamin C in the lemon juice. Wafts of steam from the drink can also help relieve nasal decongestion.

Typically by 4pm the girls begin to feel better and Emma almost always wants to go out and play with friends.  I do however keep her inside and continue to encourage her to drink water & allow her body to relax.  We end the day with smashed carrots and sweet potatoes drizzled with a small amount of pure organic maple syrup, and fruit cream (faux ice cream) to soothe a sore throat (if they have one).  
Orange fruits and vegetables, such as carrots and sweet potatoes, are rich in beta-carotene. When we eat these foods, our bodies convert this organic compound into vitamin A, which is essential for maintaining a strong immune system.
Vitamin A is especially important for areas that go haywire when we catch a cold: It keeps the mucous membranes that line our nose and throat—one of the body's first lines of defense—healthy and functioning properly.

Normally by morning both of my girls are feeling back to 100%, and we can resume our regularly scheduled broadcast, lol!!
Do you have any tips or tricks that your family responds well to when the sickies have invaded your house?  Do you have any sickie prevention tips?  If so, please share them on my FB page  for others who may be in need of some tips =)

*Please don't hesitate to take your child to the pediatrician if necessary.  These are tips to help promote health and overall wellness, but sometimes the sickies do need a little help in the form of a doctor.*

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Spend Less On Groceries and Bring Home More.

Today we're going to get down and dirty with pantry staples & grocery budgets.  Two weeks ago I did my shopping and spent only $185.00 for a two week period.  Last night I did my bi-weekly shopping again and only spent $105.22 and that will take care of the next two weeks.  We had so much left over from the last grocery trip that I didn't need to do a full blown shopping trip this time.  AWESOME!!!

Here's my receipt from Trader Joe's last night.  Not everything on this list is necessary.  Matt asked for chips & pastrami, & Emma asked for blueberry cereal bars, cheese crackers, and cinnamon school house cookies.  Just so you know, the chicken tenderloins are organic, they just don't say it on the receipt.
and here's my receipt from BJ's Wholesale Club

Before I delve into the nitty gritty I want to share with you what my refrigerator looks like after only spending $105.22 last night and combining it with what we already have.  Doesn't look like we're going without.  Wouldn't you agree?
 Refrigerator is FULL!!!  Please excuse how unorganized it is right now =)
 Bottom half of freezer is stuffed (the gluten free pizzas are my mom's that she bought) for family movie night on Friday.
 The top half of the freezer is full of fruits, veggies, and a loaf of bread from a local bakery that uses organic whole wheat.
The pantry is also full.

Trader Joe's:
Veggies (I prefer to buy as much as I can at the Farmers Market, but depends on the season) such as:
Organic avocados
Organic tomatoes
Organic bell peppers
Organic bok choy (once every 1-2 months)
Organic carrots
Organic celery
Organic onions
Organic baby green salad
Organic arugula
Organic baby spinach
Organic kale
Organic raw garlic
Organic sweet potatoes

Fruits such as:
Organic apples
Organic pears (once every 1-2 months)
Organic oranges

Organic whole wheat bread
Organic whole wheat tortillas
Organic hummus (unless we make our own)
Raw Almonds
Raw Walnuts
Raw Cashews
Organic raisins

Organic natural unsalted pb
Organic superfruit (no sugar added) preserves
Sea salt
Organic low sodium veggie broth
Organic free range chicken broth
Organic saigon cinnamon
1 can of organic black beans
1 can of organic great northern beans
Organic mayonnaise
Organic rice noodles
Organic spaghetti sauce
Organic cold pressed olive oil
Organic almond meal (once ever month)
Organic coconut oil
Organic vanilla coconut milk (4 at $2.99 each, compare that to cow's milk)
Organic honey greek yogurt (for Abby)
Organic vanilla yogurt (for Emma)
Soy free, dairy free Earth Balance butter
Apple Gate Farms roasted turkey (lunch meat I buy 1 and advise them to use it sparingly)
Trader Joe's raw cheddar cheese 
Trader Joe's sliced American cheese
Frozen organic blueberries
Frozen organic pineapple
Organic frozen strawberries
Organic frozen sweet potatoes
Organic frozen green beans
Organic frozen asparagus
Organic frozen corn
Organic fire roasted salsa
Organic Enviro Kids cereal (1 small box)

Organic Bragg's raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar
So Delicious coconut milk coffee creamer
Jay Robb's egg protein powder
Whatever brand of toilet paper & paper towels are on sale
Organic bananas (LOTS) they're on .57 per lb!!!

Whole Food:
Organic non GMO brown rice, black, and pinto beans (buy enough to only have to go 1 -2 months)

BJ's Wholesale Club:

All natural ground bison (it's illegal to administer antibiotics and growth hormones to bison & it's healthier & less fatty). A great tip for making meat stretch is to take 1 lb. of ground beef or bison & separate it into 2 baggies.  With the bison I'll separate 2 lbs. (comes in 2lb. packages) which will actually make 4 meals.  
Organix moroccan argan oil shampoo (usually $6.99 at Walmart and $7.99 at Target for the 13 oz bottle, but at wholesale clubs you can find the 25.4 oz bottle for $9.99!!!  My whole family uses this!!)
2lb bag of organic quinoa for only $4.99 (major savings alert!!!) 

Farmers Market:
Grass fed bacon (only when the family choses this as their meat for the 2 week period)
Grass fed beef (only when the family choses this as their meat for the 2 week period)
Raw unfiltered local agave (a bottle of agave lasts us 1 to 2 months, so this isn't a regular stop)

Local raw honey

Every time I make a grocery list, I ask my family what type of meat they would like for the 2 week period.  I only buy 2 types of meat during that 2 week period, and the amount that comes in the package I buy decides how many meat based meals I'll make in that 2 week period.  I ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS make a meal list with 10-12 meals on it.  From those 10-12 meals I make my grocery list. I write the list in order of the stores.  Yes, that does sound like it would take an outrageous amount of time, and yes it did when I first started doing it.  But child please, you and I both know good and well that you have your grocery store aisles memorized to a degree.  If the majority of Americans didn't they wouldn't spend so much on unnecessary foods!!!!  We all know that when we walk into our local Walmart we'll find frozen foods in a particular area.  The only thing in a big box grocery store that most people have a hard time finding is organic and natural foods.  Wheeeew, ok...now that I've said that, on to the actual shopping day.

I give myself a budget of $200.00, but aim to spend less.  When I walk into the store I'm always tempted to buy flowers.  The reality is that if my goal is to save money, why do I need to spend $5.99 on hydrangeas that will die in a few days???  So, I grab my will power up by the panties and I head toward the bread section.  I LOVE bread, so I'm easily tempted to throw all kinds of breads into my cart, but again if i'm trying to save and tone my body, why am I trying to justify several different types of breads???  My point is, if you're writing your list and filling it with items that you need to nourish your family's bodies, soul, and create a connection to their food, then you need to STICK TO THE LIST!!!!!!!!  Be militant about it, don't sway from the mission!!  However, while you're in the store create a connection to your store by getting to know where your food is coming from.  Look at the labels, talk to the produce girl/guy about when they get their organic produce in so that you can get it when it's freshest.  Find joy in the fact that you're doing something AMAZING for your family and yourself while shopping.  Don't dwell on the number EVER!!  Dwell on the blessing that you're there and are able to provide nourishment, balance, health, and love through the food your going to serve to your children.  

The BIGGEST money saver when it comes to groceries is - DUN DUH NA NA - YOU MUST SACRIFICE THE CRAP AND PROCESSED FOODS TO MAKE IT WORK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
You don't have to cut it out completely if you're not ready, instead crowd it out with nutritious, whole, and clean foods if you're ready to make those changes & save money.  Matt works with a guy who has 4 kids.  He shared with Matt that his family goes through 4 gallons of milk every week and that it's breaking the bank.  I said "WHAT!!!!!!!  4 GALLONS OF MILK!!!  You mean to tell me that those 4 little bodies are consuming 4 whole gallons????  NO, NO, NO, NO, NO!!  Did you ask him if he's ever thought that as the parent all he has to say is no more milk, have some water?"  Did you know that:

*According to the National Institutes of Health Fact Sheet on Vitamin D, http://dietary-supplements.info.nih.gov/factsheets/vitamind.asp, vitamin D3 derived from lanolin, (the oily wool of sheep), is the form of vitamin D that is typically added to cow’s milk in the United States. It may also be added to evaporated milk and infant formulas, margarine, and yogurt. Vitamin D2 derived from yeast may be added to certain rice milks and soy milks. Either, but mostly vitamin D3, may also be added to fortified breakfast cereals and fruit juices.*

Would you get the vitamin D by eating the oily wool of sheep?  Most likely not!!  Why feed those precious bodies with products that COST TOO MUCH, have added antibiotics & growth hormone, and don't really even naturally contain the whole reason most parents feed milk to their children - vitamin d and calcium.  HELLO!!!!  So here's what I propose.  If you're big milk drinkers but want to save money, buy 1 to 2 gallons less than you usually do and replace it with a natural milk & (coconut milk, almond milk, oat milk, etc...buy it for it's natural benefits), save the difference and add it to your child's college fund!!  Your kids will most likely not like it at first, but when you clean your body of the processed foods, your taste buds will change and the kiddos will begin to like things they never liked before!  Trust me, I've seen it and participated in it over, and over, and over again!

The real question to take home is - are you ready to save, make some sacrifices, achieve health, balance, & financial stability?  If so, my family is here for yours and remember that we've been through the trenches of debt, bulimia, brain surgeries, deployment, inflammation, major weight gain, weight loss, and all while raising a family.  If we could do it, so can you!!!

Here's a Robinson Bi-Weekly Pantry Staples Printable to make shopping easier.