Friday, February 18, 2011

Healthy Breakfast Options

Whether talking to a working mother, or the stay-at-home mother there is a common place that we can come together and agree. Mornings are complete madness. The constant checking of the clock to keep everyone on schedule to get out the door on time, or at least as close as possible. Do we have everything? Do we have everyone? Oh yeah, breakfast.

If you are like me, I have very little energy and motivation in the morning. So, breakfast often becomes a list of options that are semi-healthy but fast and easy. But now those options have run their course and I have begun the search for better breakfast options. And in that search I have stumbled across some very unnerving information. The list of "do not eat" is much longer than the list of "eat." And on top of that, I found an article claiming that boxed cereal is not considered food.

Yes, it is true. Boxed cereal is beginning to be considered by some not to be food, but a food product. This wonderful staple that I have turned to in my mornings of madness has betrayed me. I thought that I was feeding my children "whole grains" and "organic" cereal. But alas, it is not true. According to the article by cereal's processing strips it and actually damages the proteins. The proteins that naturally would be healthy for us, then becomes toxic. And most cereals, organic or not, contain sugar. And if you go the conventional route, we have all heard the risks of the dyes and high fructose corn syrup that they load into the cereal.

So, now what am I to do? My search was not going the way I had planned. But finally I came across an article at talking about some great tips for some healthy breakfast ideas. So, here they are broken down in an easy-to-use list.

1. Fruit - Good old fruit. Healthy and full of nutrients. It is also a great way to curb those morning sugar urges/addictions.
2. Yogurt parfaits or smoothies - the best is that both of these are fast and can be eaten on the run if you have to. And there are lots of combination possibilities with flavors and textures.
3. Bake your own breakfast bars - this is my new goal to try. I will be on the search for some great recipes to share, and please share if you have found some of your own.
4. Eggs - Simple. Eggs are one of natures superfoods. You can't give your kids a better source of protein to start their day other than a good ol' egg.
5. Breakfast sandwich - redefine your thinking on the sandwich. Natural peanut butter, honey, and whole wheat toast is a great healthy option.
6. Oat porridge - there is a recipe on the link to the for this. It is supposed to be a great option for children and infants. You soak the oats and it helps to take the strain off of their digestive system. The longer you soak them, the less the strain. This one takes a little more planning ahead, but is a great option for younger children.

So, whether you are rushing your little ones to daycare, or you are wrangling them at home for the day, I hope that this list of "to eat" options helps to manage your morning madness. Or at least makes the breakfast options a little healthier and easy to manage.

I would love to hear any healthy morning food ideas that your family has found! Please share. My mornings need all the help they can get! :)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

"What Do You Think?" Wednesday: Preschool

My son turned 3 this past week...{big sigh}... He is a big boy now (as he loves to tell me 100 times every day!)...{another big sigh}...And I am looking for a Preschool for him to attend next year.  I cannot believe how fast time flies! I remember people telling me that before I knew it my son would be in school... and I did not believe them!

 I have a couple of tours set up of perspective preschools this week.  I am excited to see them, but don't really know what to look for in a good preschool. 

So tell me:
What kinds of things do/did you look for in a good preschool? 
What kind of questions should I ask?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Toddler Tuesday: Fun with Cups!

We like to have fun around here... and if it can be done on the cheap - even better! : )

Here are some fun things that we do with a stack of plastic cups:

1. Building cup towers and knocking them down
Seriously, this never gets old for my 3 year old!

2. Stacking and unstacking... so simple... but he loves it. 
 I add in counting sometimes to make it more educational. 

3. Building bridges with boxes from our pantry. 
He likes to drive his cars under them  and on top of them!

4. Cup bowling! 
I stack 2 cups on top of each other to make the pins and we roll the ball at them.  

Even the baby loves to play with cups!   

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine Challenge

It's Valentine's Day and love is in the air! Well, actually at my house, love is my husband is in London today while I am here in Connecticut. So it's just me and the kiddos and way too many conversation hearts. UR CUTE, KISS ME, YOU ROCK, etc. My kids never tire of reading those things. And it's like they think I wrote the messages on there myself, just for them.

And that got me thinking about other ways to tangibly express love to my children. Supposedly, there are five different "Love Languages". Words of Encouragement, Quality Time, Acts of Service, Physical Touch, and Gifts. We all need all of them to feel loved, but usually each person has one or two that really speak "Love" to him or her in a powerful way...a primary love language. So my first Valentine Challenge is to try to find out each of my children's primary love language(s). Some suggestions that I have read are to "have your child draw a picture or call out ways that parents love their children (without influencing their answers)". "Observe how your child expresses love to yourself and others." "Listen to what your child requests or complains about most often." "Or you can experiment by expressing love each way, and then noting your child's response." I am totally going to try these experiments this week!

And once I figure that out, my next Challenge is going to be: To make each child feel like I love them the BEST. I love the book called, "You're All My Favorites" about a mommy and daddy bear explaining to their three baby bears how they love all three of them the best. Precious!
And I know a bit about this first hand. I am the oldest of four kids, and I think each one of us growing up secretly thought that my Mom loved us the the best. Actually, we are all grown adults with families of our own, and I still think each of us secretly believes that Mom loves us the best. Sure we know she tries to be fair and spread her love around to all of us equally. But each one of us knows in our heart she really loves me the best.

Now that is a good trick! I am not sure how she did it, but I need to figure it out. Because I want my kids to feel the same way. I want each one of them to feel so loved, that they think I love them the best. But then again, not so much that they feel like taunting the other two with this information. I can just hear it now "Mommy loves me BEST!! Mommy loves me BEST!!"
That's always good for a punch in the nose. (My older son is the middle child "Rocky" is a man of action!)

So I guess that leads to my third Valentine Challenge...To somehow achieve Challenges #1 and #2 without any bloodshed! "Rocky" could prove to make this last Challenge very challenging. Then again, he may have already given me a clue to my first Challenge...perhaps his primary "Love Language" is physical touch. :)

Happy Valentine's Day! And Good Luck in whatever Challenges you face today.

And if you have any other fun and/or creative ways to show love to your children, please share!

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Dirty Dozen vs. The Clean 15

Buying organic and balancing the budget are two things that do not live in harmony at our house. I want to do what is best for my family and feed them food that is good for them, but we also need to pay bills. I am sure that this is a scenario that is not unlike yours. How do you find the balance?

There is a large variety of pesticides and chemicals that are used to grow our food in the non-organic realm. The information that is helpful is to know what foods are worse than others. If you have to pick and choose what to buy organic, than you might as well buy organic on the ones that count.

This is where The Dirty Dozen come in. The Dirty Dozen is a list compiled by the Environmental Working Group on what foods have the highest concentration of pesticides, additives and hormones. The EWG continually updates this list. It is said that if you eat the fruits and veggies that are considered to be one of the dirty dozen, you will ingest on average of 10 pesticides per day.

The other side to this information, is what foods non-organic are "not so bad." This is The Clean 15. They have the lowest level of pesticides, additives and hormones. Many of these foods have a thick skin, or peel that is not eaten and protects the food from absorbing the contaminates.

We know that organic is most likely the best and healthiest option for our families, but not always possible due to the price of food today. So when you are at the grocery store bring with you the Dirty Dozen list and the Clean 15 list like I do. It will help relieve your stress or guilt about some of the foods you may have to pick to balance the budget.

What other guides have you found helpful?

Want more information?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

"What do you think?" Wednesday - Snacks

Snacks, Snacks, Snacks. Kids love to snack! I know most moms struggle with what to give as snacks. And even once we settle on what is an ok snack, the kids get tired of the snack and are asking for a new snacking experience.

We have tried very hard at our house to eat snacks that have some nutritional value. Carrots and celery are always cut and ready-to-eat in the fridge. Apples are also always on hand. They have been a popular snack so far, but I have begun to see that they are losing their appeal.

Any snack suggestions? What creative and nutritious snacks have you found popular?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Who Moved My Cheese?

With 8 "snow days" in January and several "late-starts" and "early-releases" from school, lately my life has been in total upheaval. When I wake up in the morning I don't know if I am going to be getting everyone ready and shuttling them off to their schools. Or if I am going to be sequestered in my house with my three children trying to fill the next 12 hours with enough activities and entertainment to keep us all from driving each other crazy. I don't know if I am going to be visiting the dentist and then doing a long over-due grocery shop. Or if I am going to be rescheduling my appointment for the fourth time and then looking online for ideas of what I can make with lima beans, peanut butter, and ramen noodles (because that is pretty much all we have left in the cupboard).

All this chaos on a day-to-day basis has reminded me of a book I was made to read 10 years ago BC (Before Children) when I was a working woman. It was called "Who Moved My Cheese?" It is a parody about adapting to change. The book tells the tale of four mice in a maze and how they respond when their "cheese" has been moved. Some mope around missing their cheese and cursing the "cheese movers". Others choose to move on, looking at it as an opportunity to discover new cheese elsewhere. (This is a book that corporations give to employees before major re-structuring or down-sizing to deter whiners).

I actually thought the book was pretty cheesy. Literally and figuratively.

But now I feel like I am trapped inside that cheesy book.

I wake up expecting things to be a certain way...and then no cheese! Ok, one snow day is no problem. Hey, I love being home with my children! Let's go play in the snow! Day Two, no sweat. Let's make cookies and put on a puppet show. Day five...umm, really? Another snow day?? I guess we'll have a Dora and Diego marathon. And then we'll go scrape the ice off the drive way. YAY! Day Eight...are you freaking kidding me?!? God, take me now! I await your loving embrace.

Don't get me wrong, it's not the time spent with my children that is driving me crazy. (OK, maybe just a little bit!) But more so, it is the fact that our normal routine is being disrupted day after day.

And the truth of the matter is that I do a pretty good job losing my cheese all by myself, without any help from Mother Nature. I have the best of intentions, but I am often scattered and forgetful. I often walk into a room, unable to remember why I went in there. And I am always losing things. Either because I put something somewhere while I was distracted and I have no recollection of it. Or because one of my children found another home for it, and he has no recollection of it.

Maybe I should write my own book, "Who Moved My Keys?" I doubt it would be a best seller, but it might help me locate these very important items. Which I can't seem to find. Which I might need. To drive my car. If it ever stops snowing...

Friday, February 4, 2011

I'm Hungry.... What's for dinner?

One of the Mommy Tsunamis that I find hitting me over and over is dinner time. The crisis hour of the day approaches. You know, the one where the kids turn into constant whining machines, regardless of the amount of discipline or sleep in the last 24 hours. And for some reason, I find myself completely befuddled by their behavior, and say to myself "what is the problem here?" And just as I ask myself this, the kids start whining in unison, "I'm hungry....What's for dinner? Are we eating soon?" Oh yeah. Dinner.

How this happens to me most days is a mystery to me too. It's no surprise that we eat this time everyday, and that I am going to have to prepare something in order for us to eat. Some days I have things together and have a meal well planned out and ready to go. But lets be honest, this is not most days for me. Between kid activities, appointments, and errands my day "at home" is not at home. So I have come up with a survival solution. Easy, go to meals.

Easy go to meals for me are the ones where I try to have the ingredients on hand most of the time, so I don't have to run any last errands to pick up missing items. They also involve few dishes or time in preparation. I would like to share our family favorite with you. Cranberry Chicken.

Cranberry Chicken:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Place 3 or 4 chicken breasts in a covered baking dish.
1 can of whole cranberries sauce
1/3 c western dressing
1 packet of dry onion soup mix
Cover the chicken with the sauce mixture
Bake for 1 hour

I usually serve it with brown rice and a salad.

This recipe is a constant request from my family, and has also become my go to meal to bring to new moms just home from the hospital.

What are your meal time survival strategies? Any great go to recipes to share?

Happy cooking!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

"What Do You Think" Wednesday!!

It's been a long winter...and it's not even half over. We have been spending a lot of time in the house. And it shows. So as I was surveying the disheveled landscape, I thought to myself "I need to make these kids do a little more to help out around here."

Now, my question is...Do you have your children do chores? If so, what? At what age? Weekly or daily chores? Do you reward them with stickers or money or nothing? And how is is working for you??

Do you have them rub your feet and feed you grapes? Haha. That does sound nice though, doesn't it? Maybe chocolate instead of grapes...Ok, back to reality!

The bottom line is that I think my kids need to work a little harder and I need to work a little smarter! I would love your feed back!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Toddler Tuesday: Paint Sample Magnet Fish

Here is a fun toddler activity that I made for my other blog: Fireflies and Jellybeans

My son still loves to play with it!

Here is an easy way to have some fun with your toddler! Go fishing with Paint samples!

Here is what you will need:
Paint Samples (2 of each color)
Paper Clips (one for each fish)

1. Take 2 paint samples of the same color and glue them together with a paper clip sticking out in between them.

2. Repeat with all the colors that you like!

3. Now use your scissors and cute out fish shapes

Be creative! I cut a jellyfish (the purple one), an octopus (black one) and a star fish (brown one)... the white one is supposed to be a shark, but he is a bit small.

I already had a magnet fishing pole from a magnet puzzle but you could easily make one from a wooden dowel, string and a magnet.

My son LOVED it. He kept saying "More! More fishing Mama!"

Too much fun!