Reviving Motherhood

Learning on the Journey

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The Emotional Aspects of Food Allergies, Part 2

{Cute pic, not sure WHAT THE HECK the caption means though!}

If you are the one with new food allergies, my heart goes out to you. Hopefully your family is doing all they can to make this transition as easy as possible for you. It can be hard for them too. Here are a few ways you can show love to those who care for you and live with you as you deal with food allergies.

 Express thanks. Most likely the person who does the shopping and cooking is pouring a lot of time and energy into helping you. Sometimes they will try a new food or recipe with good intentions and it will fail, you won’t like it, or it feels like you are eating the same thing a lot. Thank them for their effort anyway. It will get better, and feeling appreciated is a great motivator to your caregiver. When my husband affirmed my efforts, I felt like a boulder had rolled off my shoulders just to know he could tell I was trying my best to help.

 Offer input; communicate. Be part of the solution. Look for recipes, be willing to try new things, ask if the family could look for a safe option for your favorite foods. Let them know what you miss the most or what you’d like to try.

 Check your attitude. You have suffered a loss—not like a death, but still a loss. There is a lot of emotion tied up in foods (especially celebration foods), so let yourself go through the grieving process as you let go of those old things and learn to enjoy new ones. Hopefully your family will honor your feelings. However, also focus on all you can eat and the yummy options that are available. Seek to be positive as much as you can. The world is still a delicious place! You will have times of sadness and even anger, but try not to take them out on your family who loves you most.  And don’t begrudge your family members foods they can have that you can’t. One of the sweetest and most mature things my daughter does is to let her siblings enjoy an occasional treat without making them feel guilty.

 Don’t complain. Have you ever been around an old person who wants to tell you about her blood pressure, her gout, the corn on her foot, the latest visit to the doctor, and every detail of every health problem? No one enjoys that conversation. No one wants to hear about all the things you can’t eat either. I hope I don’t sound heartless here, but there are many other things to focus on in conversation besides your health problems. Unless the person asks, has similar issues, or offers you an unsafe food, it’s best to keep talk about your allergies to yourself (especially in social situations). Constantly bringing up your allergies makes others uncomfortable. It’s socially unacceptable, just as it’s unacceptable for me to bring up health problems I may have. Find other things to talk about.

 Have hope. At first it seems hard, but you will eventually find food options you enjoy. If you are young, you may outgrow your allergies. Also, some people claim to have overcome food allergies with special diets. Maybe that is an option for you. This trial did not take God by surprise. He wants to do great things through it. Look forward with hope!

Find Part 1 here

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The Emotional Aspects of Food Allergies, Part 1

I’m sure anyone with limitations of some kind finds that there are specific emotional issues that come into play in addition to logistical ones. I’m starting a 3-part mini series about how to deal with the emotional aspects of food restrictions. Just remember, I’m right in the throes of figuring this out, but here’s what I’ve discovered so far. 10 years from now hopefully I’ll know a lot more.

 First I’d like to address the caregiver, since that’s the perspective I deal with on a daily basis. As caregiver, you probably don’t know exactly what your family member is going through unless you have been there, no matter how you try to empathize. So don’t act as if you do. But here are a few things you can do to help.

 Be positive. Try not to act inconvenienced by having to prepare special foods or change the way you cook to accommodate those with allergies. I’ve succeeded at this some of the time and failed some of the time.

 Be as creative as you can with the resources you have. Just keep trying things within your family members’ limitations. Don’t become discouraged if something is a bust or if no one likes it. Pick yourself up and try again. I have a (albeit short) running list of foods that were a big hit. I’m rotating them back through the meal plan. I also have a list of things they don’t like or are tired of. I’m always on the lookout for new things to try. I keep a list of those on my fridge, along with where I found the recipe for future reference. This is constantly at the forefront of my mind when I plan meals, shop, and think about food.

 Offer non-food rewards and treats. The kids and I came up with a long list the other day, which I’ll post this week. Gently move your family away from the idea that celebration always means food.

 Honor the grieving process. Your family member hasn’t lost a loved one, so of course it’s not that kind of grief, but they have experienced a loss. Throughout history and cultures, food has held an important place in memory, celebration, and tradition. There’s so much emotion tied to food memories and experiences. When your child realizes that he’ll never again be able to enjoy Grandma’s famous peanut brittle or eat cousin Johnny’s birthday cake, it brings feelings of isolation and loss. Be gentle and understanding. Don’t take it personally if your family member is angry or sad. This doesn’t mean you have to coddle them, just respect their feelings.

 Focus on atmosphere. You might not have a lot of variety on your table, but you can still clean the dining room, light a candle, put on some soft music, add a pretty centerpiece, and use real dishes. Offer a blessing. Guide the family toward uplifting conversation at the table. At our house we each share the best thing that happened that day. We’ve also enjoyed conversation starter games. Good conversation and a pleasing atmosphere can make even a simple meal fun. The table should be a safe and positive place. Will this happen 100% of the time? No, but it’s something to shoot for. Remember Proverbs 17:1: “Better a dry crust eaten in peace than a house filled with feasting—and conflict.”

Find Part 2 here

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Dark Chocolate Clusters-Dairy Free, No Refined Sugar

1 box Baker’s unsweetened baking chocolate

1/4 c. coconut oil

1/2 c. honey

4 cups any combination of dried fruits, nuts, and seeds.  (Our current fave is coconut and craisins–I know, craisins have some sugar…boo!)

Place chocolate in microwaveable bowl.  Microwave for 1 1/2 minutes.  Add coconut oil and honey.  Microwave for another minute.  Stir until chocolate is smooth.  Stir in dried fruit/nuts/seeds.  Drop onto wax paper and freeze.  When they are hard, you can put them in a container.  They hold their shape at room temperature but get a little soft.  I like to keep mine in the fridge or freezer.  Makes about 16.

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Thrifty Curtains

Excuse the horrible picture quality.  I’m such a novice with my camera.  But I wanted to talk a little bit about thrifty decorating.  DISCLAIMER: I’m no decorator, as anyone who has been to my house can tell you.

I’m learning.

I have never been good at decorating, first because I just didn’t know how, and secondly because I didn’t feel I could justify the cost.  I wrote once about how I spent a lot on some bedroom drapes once and vowed never again.  I have read a lot of blogs by women who have created beautiful homes on the cheap for their entire lives (one of my favorites is The Cultivated Nest).  They encouraged me that I could do it too, so I started trying to think outside the retail box.   At Christmas I created some pretty window treatments with clearance curtains and ring clips and I was happy with the change but it was a lot of red.  For $9 I could live with it, though.

The other day I was at the thrift store.  Yes, I shop there.  I will have to write a post one day about coming out of the thrift store closet.  I have found so many treasures (often new with tags) for pennies on the dollar.  Anyway, Tuesday the ladies were putting out their new stock and one of them asked me “Are you looking for curtains?  These just came in.  They’re $12.”

Well, I wasn’t sure but I grabbed them anyway.  Nice curtains and drapes go quickly at the thrift store and I wanted to have them in my hands in case anyone else was looking too!  In the end I decided that since these curtains would go well in our room and they were clean and in perfect condition, I’d shell out the $12.

I’m SO glad I did!  I washed them and hung them the next day.  They were too thin and filmy to block out as much light as I needed, so I did sew a double lining on the back, using flat sheets I had.  (My kids hate sleeping with flat sheets, so yay me, when I buy a sheet set I have extras for projects like this.)

There’s no real profound purpose to this post except to encourage you all that we can make pretty changes in our homes that don’t cost a lot.  I constantly hear women say “I can’t decorate because I don’t have much money.”  I am realizing that is not true!

While I was at it I gave the rest of my room a mini makeover, mostly just decluttering and changing a few items from darks to light, neutral colors.  Let me tell you about this rocking chair.  When my oldest was born, a friend gave it to me.  She had used it in her son’s nursery.  (He is in high school now!)  My babies and I have logged MANY hours in this chair!  The denim upholstery had become faded and worn and didn’t match anything else I had, and I thought about replacing it.  But since this little one is our last, I wanted to use it for sentimental reasons.  It’s sweet to rock my littlest fella in the same chair I’ve used to rock all my other babies.

Throwing a (wrinkled) sheet over the chair works and extended the life of my favorite rocker.  So again–cheap and easy.  I like it and that’s what matters.  I’m no designer, but I’m trying to keep open eyes for inexpensive ways to make home a pretty, comfortable place for my little family.  To me, that’s the fun of homemaking!

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Simple Summer Eating

After doing a lot of research, we recently decided to eat differently—focusing on healthy proteins, fruits, and veggies, giving sugar the boot (for real), and reducing grains, especially refined grains (moderate amounts of oatmeal and brown rice get to stay).

 {Just to clarify, this is just how we are eating at home.  I never want to be the family that is a pain to see socially because they are always on some special eating plan.  When we are out, we eat whatever is put before us.  But at home, we try to stick to our plan.}   

 I was positive that this would be SUCH a pain, but to my surprise, it has been really easy.  Seriously, how simple is it to grill meat, steam veggies, make a huge salad, and finish with fruit?  In learning to eat healthfully, it seems that baking, soaking grains to make them more digestible, and coming up with all kinds of recipes really is the most time consuming part of eating healthfully.  On the flip side, dealing with carb cravings has been the hardest part.  I think I would have just about killed for a chocolate chip cookie for a few days after we started.

 Anyway, I’ve also been pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to shop, and how much I get for my money.  At Sam’s I can get a LARGE quantity of fresh (and some frozen) fruits and veggies, plus some meat and eggs, for around $100, as compared to about 1/3 of a buggy full of packaged foods from Wal-mart.

 I made a master menu (worked on it for several weeks), and a grocery list to go along with it.  Fingers crossed—so far that part is going well, too.

 I’m excited.  This is a great start for us.  Summer was a great time to change our eating, because produce is plentiful and cheaper.  As the months progress, I hope to add other healthful foods to our diet (such as more homemade bone broths and fermented probiotic foods).  But…Baby steps!

Now if my missing blender bottom would turn up, we’ll be set!

 What about you?  Any words of wisdom?  Have you made any healthy changes lately? 

This post is part of Simple Lives Thursday.

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Simplicity: Stuff

A word I’m focusing on lately is “simplify.” The most obvious aspect of this is to simplify possessions, I realized. Organized people have told me this for years, but it takes awhile to sink in sometimes.

I wondered: Could I get rid of 50% of the belongings under my jurisdiction? (Just the things I’m responsible for; I’ll let my husband sort through his own stuff.)

I tend to think of things in categories. It’s intimidating to think about reducing my possessions by 50%, but not so much if I tackle one category at a time. I realize that in some categories I won’t be able to reduce by 50%. In others I may be able to get rid of 90% or perhaps eliminate the category altogether.

Today I sorted through stationery. Do you ever look at something and wondered why in the world you’ve kept it? There were cards in my basket that I got for free years ago. I never liked them, but they were free so I hung onto them. I threw a LOT of paper away, put a stack in the donation pile, and gave all the stickers to my little girl. What’s left is a big box of thank-you cards, a box of beautiful blank cards, and a few pieces of stationery in case I need to write a “real” letter (which I love to do, but don’t do often).

I eliminated the “pregnancy and breastfeeding” book category, making a stack to pass on to a newly expectant mommy. I also reduced my collection of parenting and family books by 50% or more (some I gave away; those that espoused a poor philosophy I threw in the trash!), as well as craft books (bartered for homemade soap on Blarter).

These are baby steps but it’s moving in the right direction. I only spent a few minutes on simplifying today, but the results are gratifying. Reducing possessions brings freedom!

What are your favorite ways to simplify? How has simplicity benefited your life?

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Housekeeping as Art


Yesterday, Virginia Knowles of Come Weary Moms shared an excerpt from her ebook.  This bit was about keeping the house clean.  Virginia is an older mom with 10 children, so I imagine she knows what she is talking about.  I started reading her blog just because of the title, which I stumbled across on a day when I truly did feel very weary in my mothering.  I’m thankful for Titus 2 women who share their insights with us newbies graciously and without legalism. (BTW, her ebook is available free–I will be downloading it so I can read more from this wise lady!)

Here’s a snippet from the post that I loved:

“View cleaning up as a form of art.  Imagine how beautiful your home will be if you stay on top of it all.  Picture clear counters, glistening appliances, neatly folded laundry in the drawers, smooth carpets, and shiny tile.”

Happy cleaning, ladies!


Quick Creativity: Pillows

For years I created daily.  Then my life got busy and I didn’t create at all.  I didn’t think I had time.  But part of me withered.

Lately I’ve decided to make time.  Even if it’s just 10 minute snatches, which it usually is.

I’ve started looking for very quick projects, with shortcuts, straight lines, pre-finished details, like hems.   I love upcycling items like cloth napkins and old clothes so I can take advantage of the hems and selvages that are already there.

I wanted to lighten up my living room for spring and summer.  What better place to start than with pillow covers?

I made this one from an old Lands’ End shirt.  Yes, I cut up a perfectly good shirt to make a pillow cover.  It was a maternity shirt, though, which I will hopefully never need again.  The fabric is SO thick and a soft, cozy jersey.  I just laid my existing pillow on top, lined up the bottom with the hemmed edges, traced, and cut around it.  Then sewed up the three raw edges and added buttons.  I really love this one!

I saw a pillow like this on someone else’s blog.  I don’t remember where.  It’s not perfect but I still love it.  I made the ruffle from scraps of the shirt, so it kinda…matches?  Coordinates?  The jersey doesn’t ravel so I didn’t finish the edges (probably wouldn’t have finished the edges anyway).  The white fabric is 2 cloth napkins that I bought inexpensively and will never use.

This one is also not an original idea.  Do you know that the S is just colored on with sharpie?  How tacky and brilliant is that?  There are people who are even selling sharpie pillows!  I made this one out of fabric I already had.  I didn’t hem it.  I just left selvages on the open end.

This one took longer.  I was scrounging for some more fabric from my stash and found this thick, oatmeal flannel that I love.  I don’t know how it will hold up though.  It’s a loose weave and I noticed that the seams are already looking strained.

I only spent a few minutes at a time working on these, and I hardly measured anything.  I just took a risk and hoped for the best.  I kept remembering that it doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.  Afterward I was so satisfied!  There was one that didn’t turn out so well (not pictured) but I’m going to work on it a little and see if it can be salvaged.  If not, oh well, I’m out zero dollars and only a few minutes of time.

How about you?  How do you manage to fit creativity into your days?


Linking to White Wednesday.

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Large Family Laundry Roundup

God must be inspiring mom bloggers to address the laundry topic these days just for me, since I’m absolutely drowning in it.

Start here:

Mount Washmore by Virginia of Come, Weary Moms

Mega Laundry Solutions by Debbie of Cheaper by the Baker’s Dozen (with her own roundup of laundry posts written by others)

How We Do Laundry by Hannah of Cultivating Home

Great, great ideas!

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2011 Home Goals

The Nester (one of my favorite ever home blogs) is having a linky party where we can share our goals for our homes in 2011.

We have a lot of things we need to do to our older home.  So many that it’s easy to get overwhelmed.

2010 pretty much whipped me in every way, so I am keeping my goals for this year very, very simple.

One is that we really want to finish laying tile throughout the house.  Last year we did our big living room and it made such a difference.  Hopefully fresh paint will be part of the makeover too, but I’m not obsessing about it.

The other is not really a decorating goal, but a home commitment.  I’m determined that the kids will learn to keep their rooms in order if it kills me.  I’m not shy about admitting that I struggle in this area, and I always laugh when people tell me how organized I am.  They have clearly never been to my house.  We have been working on this diligently over the past couple weeks, and we are all happier.  Who doesn’t appreciate order?  I still have a long way to go to get their rooms decorated and feeling “right” but I am not pressuring myself too much.  I will wait and see how much energy I have over the next months and go from there.

Last, this is a small commitment but it’s important to me.  Hopefully this week I’ll hang curtains in my bedroom instead of the makeshift coverings that are there now.  The first and last time I bought drapes it cost a bundle.  I decided to be patient this time and wait for the perfect frugal solution.  I’m employing The Nester’s concept of a “window mistreatment”. The accent color in our room is cranberry, and I found huge cranberry tablecloths on Christmas clearance at Target for $2.99.  The fabric is as pretty and heavy as many drapes, and the pattern is very subtle and not Christmasy at all (at least I don’t think so).  I may need to line them with a sheet for better light blocking, but since I’m planning to just use a curtain rod and ring clips, this should be easy.  I am so excited and happy that I held out and found a frugal solution!  Even if I spend a few bucks on fancy tie backs and tassels (cheap at Tuesday Morning or other overstock stores), I will only spend a few dollars.

Check out what everyone else is doing here!