Thursday, April 12, 2012

Family Harmony

fightless, whineless tv zombies
So, this week was the kids' week-off for spring break.  I have to admit, I was terrified.  They wear me out just in the hours they are home from school.  This is how I usually deal with their fighting and whining:
  1. Turn on TV. 
  2. Enjoy fightless, whineless tv zombies.
  3. Berate self for not being a "better" mother.
  4. Rinse, repeat.
Pretty sure I'm not the only one.  However, this week I promised myself I was going to do better.  Private school is expensive and I am hoping (perhaps to my own detriment) to homeschool them next year, since I'm not that thrilled with their private school, either.  I decided we would have a no-tv week, to try and practice/prepare for homeschooling.

My first plan, to compensate, was to start them on a bunch of chores, to give them a sense of ownership in our house, so a couple days ago we sat down and talked about what  chores they'd like to do and came up with way too many for them to be expected to do daily, so I scheduled it out over the course of a week.  My kids are 6, nearly 5, and 2, so we had to scale back a bit from the grand chore scheme they had come up with.  I made sure that the chores they had were age appropriate things that I knew they could do (and had done in the past).  I wrote the chores on a chalkboard, and change the chores daily (except make bed and help clean up, those stay).  It seems to be going well so far,  but I was still getting a lot of whining and fighting.  That would be when I came up with something sort of strange and shockingly simple out of the blue.  It could be something brilliant, but possibly it only works with my kids... or possibly only for a few days, we shall see, but so far it's worked beautifully.

So, what is it??  WHAT???

I realized what we needed wasn't my screaming at them to stop screaming at each other.  This seems like a no-brainer, but this is what it had come to in our household.  What we needed, I thought, was some way to impress upon them that when they're whining, or arguing for the sake or arguing, or whatever, it was ruining something that could be great.  It was ruining our family harmony.  So we sat down and I defined "family harmony" to them and talked about how great it would be if we all worked together and had some wonderful family harmony.  They agreed that it would be awesome.  So then I explained that family harmony is something we all have to work on.  If we all just argue for the sake of arguing, or start screaming when someone does something we don't like instead of discussing it reasonably, we'd never have any family harmony.  Beyond that, sometimes we have to actually compromise, that is, do something you don't WANT to do or not get everything YOUR way every time, just for the sake of family harmony.  I pointed out times that I had done it in the past, and times that I recall that they had compromised and things went more smoothly than other times when they didn't.  We have discussed compromise before, but only from an individual perspective... not from the family harmony angle.  So after a nice long discussion about family harmony, I asked them if they thought we could all work toward this this week.  They seemed sort of excited at the prospect!

Since that discussion, whenever they start fighting or whining (with the older two, the 2 yr old still doesn't get it, of course), I go to them and say "but, is this worth fighting over or is family harmony more important?"  or "do you think you can compromise on this one for family harmony's sake?" or something along those lines.  The kids are responding astonishingly well.  There's only been a couple times when we had to figure something else out, but *gasp* I actually had the energy to work with them on it because I wasn't so exhausted from dealing with all the fighting!  I'm thrilled!  I totally have my fingers crossed that this will work long-term.

Hope that helps someone else.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Elana's Cinnamon Bun Muffins (and transformation to paleo "mug" recipe)

I have a new favorite go-to sweet: the Cinnamon Bun Muffin from Elana's Pantry! I made them this morning (without the frosting) and my kids gobbled them up. OMG, they're so good. I prefer to use honey in place of agave and melted butter in place of the oil she uses, though, but I'm sure they're wonderful the way the recipe is written, too. Look at the texture! It's so nice to get a nice fluffy muffin when using no xanthan gum or gluten. Gotta love that... and it's technically "primal" though if you use a different oil (probably would be fabulous with coconut oil) you could call it paleo, though I'd warn you against basing much of your paleo/primal diet on this because of how much honey is in it.

I've even tweaked the recipe to be one of the wonderful "mug" recipes - instant microwave gratification! Here's my tweak of the recipe:

Mug Muffin:

2 Tbl butter, melted
1 Tbl (or so) honey
1 egg
1 tsp of vanilla
1/3 c almond flour
2 tsp coconut flour
a pinch of baking soda
a pinch of salt

Mix the wet ingredients together (make sure the melted butter is not hot before you put in the egg!), then add the dry ingredients. Mix well, and then microwave it for 1 1/2-3 minutes or until the top looks no longer squishy/wet. I'm sure it'll depend on the microwave.

1 tbl butter cut into pieces
a drizzle of honey
a sprinling of cinnamon

While the mug muffin is still hot, put the butter pieces on top and let them melt. If they're not melting very well, you can put it back in the microwave for 10 seconds or so. Drizzle on honey to taste, then sprinkle with cinnamon to taste. Enjoy with a spoon while warm!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Let's talk birthdays!

Since the last post I made, we have discovered that the milk intolerence I discussed previously was actually caused by a gluten intolerance. How, you may ask, did we find this? Welllllll... my husband found out he had an autoimmune disease and it was recommended that we cut gluten for him. Turns out it made a huge difference in his pain levels, so we have kept it, ever since. SO, for a while we were dairy-free AND gluten (and most grains) free. Six months later, I decide to take the plunge and try out the paleo/primal diet, for health reasons. Within A WEEK, my anxiety went away and most of my depression symptoms. I was shocked, but obviously thrilled. Sure enough, if I have more than a bite or two of something containing gluten, I get anxiety and insomnia for the next few days.

Of course, after that, we sort of automatically started cutting out most of the gluten for the kids. Then, after a couple months of being mostly gluten free, Oliver (my older son with the supposed dairy issue) is handed a couple pieces of cheese (uh, by me - total mommy fail), but NOTHING HAPPENED. We were shocked and assumed it was a fluke and continued with our dairy-free lifestyle for several more months before we decided to try him on the dairy again. It seems that being gluten-free can heal up the "leaky gut" enough so that the dairy no longer bothers him. The weird thing is that it takes more than one dose of gluten to get much of an effect, but used to only take a tiny bit of dairy. Anyway, so now we're mostly grain-free (I've found that most non-gluten grains bloat me terribly), and not dairy free, though I've become fairly adept at dairy-free cooking since we were dairy AND gluten-free for almost a year!

So, anyway, I'm sure you're all wondering where this is going. My second son (third child), Avery, had his second birthday last weekend! I made wonderful "triple chocolate cupcakes" from Elana Amsterdam's "Gluten-Free Cupcakes" book. I love her site, too. TONS of grain-free recipes that *gasp* actually taste good! Who knew you could get complements from grain-eaters saying "Well, I could go gluten-free if it was all going to be like this!" Needless to say, it was well worth the purchase of that book. Highly recommend.

Last summer, for Oliver's birthday, however, I was in the midst of trying to be gluten AND dairy free. That's when a bit of magic happened! I received my copy of Martha Stewart Living and on the cover was a fun, spectacular, beautiful cake! And it happened to be DAIRY AND GRAIN FREE!! I had to go for it, of course. Turns out it's also delicious and totally worth the time and effort. FYI, if you make this cake, don't use huge papayas. I used like 1/2 of one papaya's juice and it was too much and made that layer a bit too icy, but the other layers I made were wonderfully light and creamy. Delicious!